Day 22 of 28 Days of Black Super Heroes, today’s hero is the Marvel Comics’ character Sunspot.
Sunspot was always one of my favorite mutant characters. For one because he was very worldly, and also because he had some cool powers that I often wished I could have.
WHO IS SUNSPOT?
Sunspot is Roberto Dacosta, a wealthy young Brazilian boy who discovered his mutant abilities during a traumatic situation (as is usually the case for mutants).
Roberto, at 14, was a star football player (soccer, to us U.S. Americans). Although he was born to a wealthy family and also displayed phenomenal athletic prowess, he still couldn’t escape the bigotry and racism of the other kids.
When he was assaulted on the field during a big game, Roberto’s powers were triggered and he revealed himself as a mutant to a terrified crowd, including his father.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, his powers activating brought him to the attention of one of the X-Men’s most dangerous enemies Donald Pierce, a high-ranking member of X-Men adversaries The Hellfire Club.
Despite the fact that he worked with the mutant Hellfire Club, Pierce was an anti-mutant extremist. He was targeting newly appearing mutants for the sole purpose of destroying them.
He was able to be this bold because at this particular time, the X-Men were off in another galaxy and believed dead, leaving Roberto to fend for himself.
Pierce had kidnapped Roberto’s girlfriend Juliana in order to get to him. Roberto went after her, believing he could free her with his newfound power.
Unbeknownst to Roberto, Charles Xavier had also become aware of Roberto, although with no X-Men to send to the rescue, he was forced to send two fresh-off-the-bus mutants Dani Moonstar and Xi’an Coy Mahn to help him.
Unfortunately, due to their inexperience with their powers and with each other, the trio’s battle with the super-powered kidnappers accidently led to the death of Juliana. Roberto became fueled with rage and the desire to murder Donald Pierce.
Although the young children (along with Xavier) did defeat Pierce, they still had the problem of learning to control their powers, and finding their way in a world that would fear and hate them just because they existed.
Roberto went along with the other teenagers and became one of the founding members of Xavier’s third group of students, simply called The New Mutants (actually it was Xavier’s fourth if you acknowledge the unfortunate group from X-Men: Deadly Genesis).
WHAT CAN HE DO?
Sunspot’s powers are pretty damn cool. He absorbs energy from sunlight, and when he gets enough he can convert that energy into super-strength.
When he triggers his power, he turns completely black, presumably because he’s absorbing light into himself at a faster rate. The black spots around him are just motes of dust that get caught up in his power effect.
It’s been shown that as his power grows, he’ll eventually turn completely white when using his power. I guess because his power intake is so efficient that he just starts giving off energy .
Anyway, as to his super-strength: he’s very strong, but not anywhere near the upper-echelon of strength in the Marvel Universe -meaning he won’t be going toe-to-toe with Thor or the Hulk.
Actually, Sunspot tended to get beat up a lot. The writer (Chris Claremont) really didn’t seem to like super-strong characters. Sunspot always got beat up in The New Mutants, and Colossus always got beat up in the X-Men.
Part of the dialogue in The New Mutants was always how Sunspot was strong, but not invulnerable. Man, did they say that a lot. It was obvious he wasn’t invulnerable because he kept getting punched out.
Although some of the stuff I’ve seen in the comics in recent years would suggest his durability has increased a lot since the early days.
Right at the beginning of X-Force (the team that succeeded the New Mutants), Roberto is experimented on and some new abilities resulted from them.
As time went on, Sunspot was able to use his power to fly, and also the generate blasts of heat. I didn’t really care for all of this, but I guess they wanted to keep the characters growing.
To me, flipping the switch, “going dark” and then kicking some ass with super-strength was a good enough power to me.
THE NEW MUTANTS
So the thing about The New Mutants were that they really were new. Back when they were created, there hadn’t been any new blood since Kitty Pryde joined the team many years before.
It was different back then in the early 80’s. Mutants didn’t just pop up every other Sunday. The New Mutants were a huge event, warranting one of Marvel’s new “Graphic Novel” formatted comics.
The thing that was strange was that these kids were no younger than the original X-men when they first came on the scene, but Xavier had realized the error of his ways, and he refused to let these kids off the ranch for any reason.
Again, at this time the X-Men were believed dead and Xavier was overcome with guilt. He insisted that Roberto and the other new students were not being trained to be X-Men, they were only to be trained to use their powers so they could re-assimilate back into society without hurting themselves or anyone else.
That didn’t fly of course, because well, sh*t kept happening and the kids had to always kick someone’s monkey-ass just for starting some mess.
Eventually the X-Men came back (oh yeah, they kicked The New Mutant’s asses with extreme prejudice when they came back -trust me, it was necessary). When that happened, Xavier became even more protective of the young team, even demoting Kitty Pryde to The New Mutants.
So the two teams existed in the same mansion, with entirely different goals. The X-Men were out there looking for trouble, while The New Mutants were just supposed to stick to the low-level “danger-room” exercises.
This was one of the most fun comic series I ever read. Fallen Angels was a crazy, quirky series where Sunspot and fellow New Mutant Warlock took the lead.
After Sunspot accidentally injured his teammate Sam, Sunspot was ridden with guilt and ran away from the mansion.
The two encountered a whole bunch of crazy characters, including the Vanisher, Ariel, an alien who seemed to be recruiting mutants (or otherwise special people) herself. Chance (a mutant girl who could block or double a mutant’s powers), Gomi was a cybernetic boy who had two cybernetic lobsters. Oh yeah, Devil Dinosaur was in there, too.
They had some crazy adventures that frankly cracked me up. I don’t know if the goofy spirit of that comic could be replicated today.
In contrast, this all changed with X-Force, of which Roberto was again, a founding member.
The mutant Cable managed to hijack The New Mutants and turn them into a paramilitary strikeforce.
Unlike the X-Men, X-force was looking to take out bad guys before they started acting up. The X-Men were kind of reactionary, they’d only show up once you tried to take over the naval base or whatever.
X-Force didn’t care if you were just sitting around having coffee, they’d burst in and just commence to putting foot to ass just on general principle.
Sunspot had kind of a man-crush on Cable, but early on he realized that Cable only saw them as pawns and left the group.
It was then that he joined up with a former friend named Gideon. It was Gideon that experimented on Roberto and caused the new powers to manifest.
I stuck around with X-Force for as long as I could take it, which wasn’t long, but I dropped in from time to time.
In the early days of the team (with Chris Claremont writing), Roberto was a very worldly, thoughtful and intelligent person (although only 14). He was extremely passionate, but he wasn’t a fool by any means.
These traits were lost later on in the series when other writers took over. I think when some other writers with perhaps a little less ability weren’t able to capture all the nuances of Roberto’s personality.
After Claremont, Sunspot became a fairly one-dimensional character, given to rash action and always displaying what came to be known as “the Dacosta arrogance”.
During the X-Force years, Sunspot was believed to turn into a villain known as Reignfire. I only grabbed a few of those issues, but honestly I couldn’t figure out what the blue blazes was going on.
It was obvious this character was spiraling out of control.
I checked back again and then he had been telepathically force-fed a bunch of Askani religious drivel by Cable.
To me, that Askani stuff was some of the worst X-Lore there was. Incredibly boring stuff, and I didn’t really care for it being grafted onto Sunspot.
I felt like the writers didn’t really know what to do with him, so they just kept getting more and more out there until the basic core concept of the character was convoluted and eventually lost.
X-TREME X-MEN/HELLFIRE CLUB
Sunspot was never a major player in the X-verse, but I always appreciated a nod to the man from time to time.
During the X-treme X-Men comic, Sunspot was the head of a branch of X-Corporation, which was an organization that upheld mutant rights.
Now, X-treme X-Men sucked, so I only read an issue or two. Sunspot wasn’t actually on the team, but he popped up in one story. At least is was Claremont writing it so the character seemed like he was on target for once.
After that would you believe this guy ends up heading up the Hellfire Club? Huh?!?
Oh yeah, his dad was a member. It helps to be a billionaire and a mutant. I missed that entire chapter of Roberto’s career. I’ve mentioned before that to me, a lot of recent X-men stuff just blows so I don’t read it.
THE NEW NEW MUTANTS
When the New Mutants got back together last year, I was pretty happy. I loved that first series and here were the same characters all back in the same comic.
Unfortunately I had to drop it after the first story arc. I thought it was pretty bad.
I don’t want to insult the writer but I don’t think he gets Sunspot at all -or the rest of the characters, either, but Sunspot’s handling is particularly upsetting.
In the first few issues Sunspot relentlessly hits on fellow New Mutant Magma with the subtlety of a drunken frat boy. He has to be scolded by Cannonball to stop harassing her.
Sorry, but no way. Sunspot is a charmer and worldly ladies man -and not a Hugh Hefner-wannabe-smoking-jacket kind of ladies man. The guy doesn’t annoy women, he’s the silver tongued devil that makes women feel good with compliments even though they know he’s just a flatterer.
The Sunspot in the recent comics is extremely jarring to those of us who knew the character back when. Yeah maybe he could have just morphed into a shallow cad, but damn…why?
Also, the original colorist had no idea who Sunspot was, because they essentially made him white. I kept turning the pages looking for Sunspot, but then I finally realized that extra white guy that kept hanging around Cannonball was actually Roberto!
Whoa. I can’t recommend the new series at all. Avoid at all costs.
THE WRAP UP
Anyway, I have such fond memories of Sunspot. I’d love to see him go rogue again for another go-round with the Fallen Angels.
I don’t think that will happen, though. Sunspot isn’t normally seen as a leader type of solo character.
For now, anyone who wants their Sunspot fix will have to read the current New Mutants series, although I wouldn’t recommend it.
So to wrap up here’s the pencil art of Sunspot. Check back tomorrow for the next hero!