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The untold truth of Sunspot

Few heroes of Marvel's X-Men mythos have evolved as much over the years as Roberto da Costa, a.k.a. Sunspot. As one of the original members of the New Mutants, Sunspot was a courageous member of the team while at the same time earning a well-deserved reputation as a hothead. Sunspot is no less heroic these days, though he's mellowed noticeably, having developed a penchant for using his head before his fists as well as becoming an accomplished leader. 

Roberto da Costa is a mutant of Brazilian birth, first appearing in 1982's The New Mutants original graphic novel. His abilities allow him to absorb solar energy and channel it. When he first appears in the panels, channeling the solar power manifests primarily as physical strength and endurability, making him one of the New Mutants' toughest bruisers. Due to a series of experiments forced upon Sunspot, he later develops more powers — though the comics aren't always consistent about whether those expanded abilities remain at any given time. 

Sunspot has been a New Mutant, an X-Man, one of the earliest additions to X-Force, and one of the very first New Mutants to be recruited into the Avengers. He's even led his own Avengers team, something few alumnus of Xavier's School for Gifted Children can say. To learn more, keep reading for the untold truth of Sunspot.

Sunspot was one of the original New Mutants

Roberto da Costa's powers manifest early in The New Mutants original graphic novel, during a high school soccer championship game in Rio de Janeiro. After tackling a player who had fouled him, Roberto is pinned to the ground. As the other player beats him, Roberto's body turns coal black as energy emanates from him, and he hurls his attacker far away. As he stands, the crowd is terrified at his appearance and almost everyone runs away. The only one who helps Roberto is his girlfriend Juliana. 

The accident is monitored by Donald Pierce, a rogue member of the nefarious Hellfire Club who wants to eradicate all mutants. Pierce has his goons kidnap Juliana in order to lure Roberto to him. The plan works, but at first it looks like Roberto will be able to overpower the Hellfire goons all on his own. His powers wane as the solar energy drains from him, however, and Roberto is saved by the arrival of the other New Mutants. Juliana, unfortunately, doesn't survive. She dies jumping in front of a bullet meant for Roberto. 

At the end of The New Mutants, Roberto returns with Professor X and his other recruits, and agrees to become a member of the junior X-Men team. He's there when the team gets its own ongoing series, and remains one of the team's mainstays.

Sunspot and Cannonball are New Mutant besties

Sunspot and Sam Guthrie, a.k.a. Cannonball, aren't particularly friendly when they first meet. In The New Mutants original graphic novel that marks both characters' first appearances, the villain Donald Pierce fools Cannonball into working for him, and he attacks Roberto and his friends. By the end of the story Sam has seen the light. When Sam shows up at Xavier's school toward the end of The New Mutants, Roberto is initially the only one unwilling to accept him, but his new friends convince him to give Sam a second chance. 

Roberto and Sam's friendship is forged early in The New Mutants ongoing series, helped in no small part by the fact that of all the founding members, they're the only two boys, though they're soon joined by Doug Ramsey, a.k.a. Cypher. Their friendship faces some difficult tests, such as when Roberto unintentionally hurts Sam in 1987's Fallen Angels #1 and later when the two feud over the affections of fellow X-Force member Meltdown (better known as Boom-Boom). 

Their friendship remains so strong that in the New Mutants revival that launched in late 2019, Sunspot insists the team's very first adventure be to blast into space so they can find Cannonball — who is living with his wife Smasher and son Josiah among the stars — and bring him back to the new mutant homeland of Krakoa (without bothering to first ask Sam if he wants to be come back). 

He was a Fallen Angel

In the late '80s, Sunspot briefly left the New Mutants for a very different kind of team. In 1987's Fallen Angels #1, Roberto accidentally hurts Sam during a friendly soccer game. His teammates don't take long letting him know how unhappy they are, and shortly afterward Roberto happens upon a document Professor X wrote about him, expressing concern he might some day go down darker paths. Ashamed, Roberto leaves an apologetic note behind and exits the mansion. 

The team the homeless Sunspot finds is about as rag-tag as you get. Along with other mutants like Boom-Boom, Madrox the Multiple Man, and Siryn, the team would eventually include Moon Boy, Devil Dinosaur, the cyborg Gomi, and Gomi's two cyborg lobsters. In Fallen Angels #8, the last issue of the miniseries, Sunspot and Warlock leave in order to return to the New Mutants. Other team members like Siryn, Gomi, and Madrox seemingly want to remain part of the team though the group is rarely heard from. 

As part of 2019's Dawn of X event, a new Fallen Angels title was released for the first time in 30 years, though it's much more serious in tone and has little to do with the original series beyond the name. Sunspot has nothing to do with the team which initially is comprised only of Psylocke, X-23, and Cable. As far as we know, there isn't a single lobster. 

Sunspot becomes more than a tough guy

Sunspot's powers originally seem limited to physical strength and durability, but that changes around the time he joins X-Force. 

In 1992's X-Force #15, the team — including old teammates of Roberto's like Cannonball — rescue Sunspot from the villain Gideon who had kidnaps the hero and subjects him to experiments that increase his powers. Sunspot joins the team's ranks and learns he now has the power to release concussive blasts from his body. No longer limited to solar power, Sunspot can absorb all kinds of energy including heat and even radiation. In 1993's X-Force #28, in a moment of desperation, Sunspot learns he can fly. 

It isn't clear if the villain Gideon's experiments add powers Sunspot wouldn't otherwise have access to, or if they allow him to discover abilities he always had the potential to use. Regardless, the comics haven't always been consistent in terms of his newer powers. In some instances, after long absences, Sunspot returns with his expanded powers having disappeared or reappeared without explanation. 

For years he went to the other side

When Sunspot's powers first manifest in The New Mutants graphic novel, the only person who helps him is his girlfriend Juliana. Sadly, Juliana dies soon afterwards when she jumps in front of a bullet meant to kill Roberto. Years later, the Hellfire Club figures out away to use Juliana against Roberto, forcing him into their ranks. 

In 2000's X-Force #98, the Hellfire Club gives Roberto an offer he can't refuse. Aided by the demonic villain Blackheart, the Hellfire Club rises Juliana's soul from the lands of the dead. In return for joining the Hellfire Club as its Black Rook, Sunspot is promised Juliana will be resurrected in the body of another woman. Feeling obligated due to Juliana's own sacrifice to save him, Roberto agrees. He eventually moves up the ranks, becoming the Lord Imperial of the Hellfire Club after Sebastian Shaw is badly injured in 2005's Uncanny X-Men #454. 

Eventually, Sunspot leaves the Hellfire Club and returns to help teach a new crop of mutants in the 2008-'09 series Young X-Men.

He was one of the first New Mutants to join the Avengers

The Avengers haven't included a ton of mutants in their ranks, though they've had their share. Most of the mutants who have become Avengers were either Avengers before they ever joined any X teams like Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, or characters with long and distinguished careers with the X-Men like the Beast and Wolverine. But it wasn't until 2012's Avengers #2 that any of the former New Mutants joined the ranks of Earth's mightiest heroes — and one of them was Sunspot. 

In the 2012 Avengers relaunch, a whole host of new members were invited, including Sunspot and Cannonball. In Avengers #2 the best friends are hanging out on a beach when Sam gets a call from Wolverine and Captain America, the latter of whom invites the pair into the fold. Assuming Logan was inviting them back into active X-Men service, Roberto refuses. Once Sam tells him it's not the X-Men but the Avengers they're being invited to, Roberto instantly agrees.

The pair join the new team in the following issue for a rescue mission to Mars, where most of the core team of Avengers are being held hostage. Sunspot eventually becomes not just a member of the Avengers, but one of its leaders.

Sunspot made his big screen debut in X-Men: Days of Future Past

In 2020's superhero/horror hybrid The New Mutants, Robertos da Costa is played by Henry Zaga, but that's not the character's first appearance in a live-action film. Mexican actor Adan Canto plays Sunspot in 2014's X-Men: Days of Future Past

Speaking to HuffPost about the role in May 2014, Canto said he had a blast "becoming that little boy again... imagining anything and living it." The actor admitted he didn't like having stunt doubles and said he asked to do all of his own action scenes. Which is understandable, considering the action scenes are really the only parts of Days of Future Past when Canto gets the spotlight at all. The film's events are split between a dystopian future and the early '70s, and Sunspot's scenes are only in the dark future where the surviving X-Men try to fight off the Sentinels long enough for Wolverine to change the flow of time and stop the mutant-hunting robots from existing. 

Ironically, while the comics have been inconsistent about showing Sunspot's expanded powers of flight and energy blasts, those are the only powers the hero displays in Days of Future Past. As far as his abilities are concerned, he comes off more as a mutant Human Torch than the Sunspot of the source material.

He took over one of Marvel's oldest bad guy groups

Sunspot leaves the Avengers after conflict breaks out between the Avengers and the Illuminati — a secret group of superheroes manipulating events behind closed doors. But in 2015, the Marvel Universe finds itself heading towards destruction due in part to a growing number of so-called "incursions" in which different, alternate Earths are colliding and being destroyed. Not willing to be a part of the war between the Avengers and the Illuminati but also not willing to stand on the sidelines, Roberto uses his family's wealth to buy A.I.M., aka Advanced Idea Mechanics. 

A.I.M. has been around in Marvel for decades, and Roberto has some serious housecleaning to do after taking over the organization. Soon, most of the worst elements in A.I.M. are gone and it's renamed Avengers Idea Mechanics. He uses the vast scientific resources of the once evil group to research and stop the incursions. To this end he forms his own team of Avengers, including other heroes not interested in the Avengers/Illuminati conflict like Odinson, Hyperion, Nightmask, Abyss, Starbrand, Smasher, and Manifold.

Unfortunately, in spite of everyone's best efforts, the end comes with the 2015-16 event Secret Wars, in which the Marvel Universe is reduced to a single world ruled by Doctor Doom, but eventually the multiverse is restored. In the post-Secret Wars Marvel, Sunspot has at least one more Avengers team to lead.

He led his own Avengers team

Not long after the events of Secret Wars, Sunspot leads a new team of Avengers, though not using the name "Sunspot." Roberto's A.I.M. is absorbed by S.H.I.E.L.D., becoming its intelligence division. At the same time, Roberto forms the U.S.Avengers, including new versions of Red Hulk and Iron Patriot, his best friend Cannonball, and the cybernetic hero Engima. 

Roberto acts mostly as the leader of the team and rarely goes into the field himself. He takes on the alias Citizen V — a superhero name reaching back to the Golden Age of comics when Marvel was still called Timely. The name originally belongs to the World War II superhero, but became more well known when the villain Baron Zemo took it to disguise himself as a hero in the '90s series Thunderbolts

In spite of a huge promotional push including a first issue with over 50 variant covers (for the 50 states), U.S.Avengers would only last 12 issues; the team didn't survive the events of the 2016-17 event Avengers: No Surrender. 

He died heroically during the War of the Realms

In the 2019 line-wide Marvel Comics event War of the Realms, the Dark Elf Malekith leads his armies to Earth, a.k.a. Midgard, to bring the final of the ten realms under his rule. Avengers and even street-level heroes like Daredevil and Punisher rise to protect Earth against against hordes of dark elves, trolls, frost giants, and more, and they aren't alone. In the miniseries War of the Realms: Uncanny X-Men, mutant heroes lead civilian survivors to a baseball stadium in Queens. Unfortunately, Sunspot doesn't survive the final battle. 

The villain Sabretooth allies himself with Malekith's armies and captures the mutant Magik earlier in the miniseries, saddling her with a mystical gem that stops her from using her powers which include her mutant ability to teleport herself and others. In the third and final issue of the miniseries, as Sabretooth and his forces overwhelm the stadium's defenders, Sunspot grabs the magic gem and absorbs its energy, fearing it will hurt him but also hoping the act will allow Magik to use her powers. Roberto's powers work on the gem, but the hero's body explodes moments later. 

Soon after, Sabretooth pays for his treachery. Magik decapitates the villain and, perhaps worried about his healing factor, teleports his head to points unknown.

Sunspot returned to the New Mutants in Dawn of X

A long list of Marvel mutants die in 2019's comics. Wolfsbane is beaten to death, Banshee is crushed, Havok explodes, Vanisher melts, Chamber is stabbed from behind, and sadly Sunspot joins the list in War of the Realms: Uncanny X-Men #3. The young hero sacrifices himself to save both his friends and civilians from the armies of Malekith. But thanks to the 2019-20 event Dawn of X, death means a lot less than it used to for Marvel's mutants. 

In Dawn of X – started with the twin miniseries House of X and Powers of X — the mutants of Earth found a new nation on the sentient mutant island of Krakoa. One of the advances possible on Krakoa because of the mutants' powers is the resurrection of mutants. Through the efforts of a group known as the Five, any mutant can be brought back from death, provided they have access to that mutant's DNA. 

So in the New Mutants revival launched in late 2019, Roberto is there to team up with his old friends along with other recently deceased and resurrected heroes Wolfsbane and Chamber. Sunspot demands the friends' first mission be to blast off into the void to bring his best buddy Cannonball — who is living in the Shi'ar Empire with his wife Smasher and their son Josiah — back to Earth so he can be a part of the new mutant utopia.