Sunspot (comics)

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250px XXM42 Sunspot
Sunspot (left) with former teammates Cannonball and Magma on the cover to X-Treme X-Men #42.
Art by Salvador Larroca.
Publication information
Publisher Marvel Comics
First appearance Marvel Graphic Novel #4: The New Mutants (1982)
Created by Chris Claremont
Bob McLeod
In story information
Alter ego Roberto da Costa
Species Human Mutant
Team affiliations Costa International
Hellfire Club
New Mutants
Fallen Angels
Mutant Liberation Front
Notable aliases Lord Imperial, Black Rook, Black King
Abilities Solar absorption and rechanneling,
Superhuman strength,
Projection of heat and light,
Concussive blasts

Sunspot (Roberto “Bobby” da Costa) is a fictional character, a Marvel Comics superhero most commonly associated with X-Men-related groups the New Mutants and X-Force. Created by writer Chris Claremont and penciler Bob McLeod, he first appeared in Marvel Graphic Novel #4: The New Mutants (1982)

A Brazilian mutant, Sunspot possesses the ability to absorb and channel solar power. He is idealistic and impulsive, but is considered a close friend of many of his teammates. He was an important member of the X-Men’s 1980s-era junior team and its reincarnation X-Force.


  • 1 Fictional character biography
    • 1.1 Origin
    • 1.2 New Mutants
    • 1.3 X-Force
      • 1.3.1 Reignfire controversy
      • 1.3.2 Hellfire Club
    • 1.4 Young X-Men
  • 2 Powers and abilities
  • 3 Other versions
    • 3.1 Ultimate Sunspot
  • 4 Miscellania
    • 4.1 Status as a prominent Brazilian superhero
  • 5 In other media
  • 6 Popular mistakes
    • 6.1 Linguistics
    • 6.2 Nomenclature
    • 6.3 Place of birth
  • 7 External links

Fictional character biography


Sunspot is Roberto da Costa, a Brazilian male, born and raised in Rio de Janeiro. He is the son of wealthy businessman Emmanuel da Costa and archaeologist Nina da Costa. In New Mutants #7, his father is described as a very driven man, who “grew up […] a barefoot houseboy”, and “by age 20 […] was a millionaire. By 30, an economic and political force to be reckoned with.” The relationship between Roberto and his father resembles more closely one of best friends than father and son. Nonetheless, Emmanuel constantly pushes his son to reach for both his physical and intellectual limits. Thanks to his father’s encouragement, Roberto rose to the position of star soccer player at school, and was considered by recruiters for the Olympic Games.

Shortly before his fourteenth birthday (as best can be determined; there are conflicting references) Roberto was playing a soccer game with his team (the Thunderbolts) against their arch-rivals, the Dynamos. Racist members of the Dynamos assaulted Roberto during the game, and in response Roberto took matters into his own hands, initiating a fight on the field. He proceeded to manifest his mutant powers, transforming suddenly into a creature of solid black solar energy. Surprised and terrified, people abandoned the stadium, and only his girlfriend, Juliana Sandoval, refused to abandon him.

New Mutants

Within a matter of days, a mutant-hating faction led by Donald Pierce and employing Hellfire Club mercenaries kidnap Juliana. Luring Roberto into a trap, he engages them, but is eventually defeated. Other mutants by the name of Karma and Psyche rescue him. In the course of the following battle, Juliana sacrifices her life for Robert, jumping in front of a bullet for him.

After the rescue, Roberto joins Karma and Psyche in going after Donald Pierce. The three are joined by Wolfsbane, and after the battle by Sam Guthrie, a.k.a Cannonball, one of Pierce’s misguided mutant hirelings, despite initial reservations by the others. Professor X offers to train the five teenagers in controlling their nascent mutant powers, to which they accept and become the founding members to the group known as the New Mutants, a group of junior X-Men. Although Xavier’s intentions are for them to only be students, over the course of the New Mutants ongoing series, they grow into superheroes, and they travel to such locations as space, Asgard, the Amazon, as well as the past and the future. During his tenure with the New Mutants, he and Sam become best friends.


150px Xforce46 Sunspot

magnify clip Sunspot

Cover to X-Force #46 featuring Sunspot and Mimic.

When the time travelling antihero Cable takes over the New Mutants and turns them into the paramilitary group X-Force, Sunspot parts ways with the team. During this time Sunspot is tutored by Gideon of the Externals, an old business partner of Roberto’s father (who has since died). Suspecting Sunspot to be a fellow External, he takes Sunspot under his wing. Gideon ends up experimenting on Sunspot, granting him new powers such as flight and the ability to fire blasts of solar energy. For a time Sunspot becomes lost in space-time continuum after interfering with the teleportation powers of Locus. During this time, a villain called Reignfire comes onto the scene, showing a remarkable similar appearance to Sunspot.

Reignfire controversy

The villain Reignfire first takes over the Mutant Liberation Front by force, and in a battle with X-Force, even removes his mask to reveal the face of Sunspot. Cable ‘heals’ Sunspot of this persona dominating his body, transferring some of his Askani knowledge into Sunspot, allowing Sunspot to speak the Askani language and know of their meditation techniques. All seems well until X-Force finds out that someone resembling Sunspot has attacked and kidnapped their friend Skids. Upon investigation it is discovered that Reignfire is alive and separate from Sunspot and thus not simply an aspect of his mind. Supposedly Reignfire was a protoplasmic cellular construct that had patterned itself after Roberto when it had received a cell sample from him (a plot element introduced by John Francis Moore, who thereby retcons Nicieza’s original intentions). Reignfire was essentially made into an evil clone of Sunspot. Reignfire gained a new ability though, and could now forge a telepathic link with his progenitor, thereby explaining the times that Roberto would switch to a more evil persona. Shortly after this story, Reignfire met his demise.

Roberto later joins in the rest of X-Force in an extended road trip, separating themselves from Cable. Along the way, they meet several problems, including Roberto’s money being tied up in legislation, forcing the team into doing a variety of odd jobs. One included protection for a small businessman being hassled by elements of the mob. During this time, Roberto has a short fling with Sam’s girlfriend Tabitha Smith, a fellow teammate.

Hellfire Club

Later during his X-Force career, Roberto is approached by members of the Hellfire Club. They tell him that since his father Emmanuel had a seat in the Club so does he, as the seats are inherited genetically. Selene promises Roberto that she will resurrect Juliana if he joins and he agrees. Selene keeps her part of the bargain, but only to a certain extent. She does bring back the spirit of Juliana, but inserts it into the body of a comatose girl. Possibly because he felt obliged to fulfill his promise, Roberto decides to stay, becoming Selene’s Black Rook.

With no explanation given, Roberto next surfaces in the title X-Treme X-Men as the head of the Los Angeles branch of X-Corporation, along with former New Mutant Magma and former Hellion Empath. Roberto’s ties to the Hellfire Club are not however severed, as Sebastian Shaw approaches, having taken over the position of Hellfire Club’s Lord Imperial and wanting Roberto as his Black King. Shaw claims that he is trying to turn the Club into a force of good, so Roberto accepts, though he keeps his involvement with Shaw a secret.

Soon after, Shaw is injured in battle by Donald Pierce. His injuries make him incapable of overseeing the Hellfire Club. Roberto takes over as Lord Imperial. At his side is Sage who leaves the X-Men to make sure Roberto is not corrupted by the power he wields. After the events of M-Day, Cyclops calls for the shutting down of all branches of the X-Corporation to better pool the resources of the X-Men. In Endangered Species, Sebastian Shaw seems to be thinking of reclaiming his place and to be quite mad at Sunspot.

Young X-Men

Sunspot, who remains Lord Imperial of the Hellfire Club, along with Danielle Moonstar, Cannonball and Magma are revealed by Cyclops to be the newest incarnation of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. However, while battling members of Cyclops’ new team of X-Men alongside Cannonball, there is much confusion after Rockslide makes reference to the two mutants’ membership in the Brotherhood. During the course of the battle, Sunspot is seriously wounded by Wolf Cub, who slashes Roberto’s face and stomach with his claws. It is eventually revealed that “Cyclops” is in reality Donald Pierce, the former White King of the Hellfire Club, who is posing as the X-Men leader using an image inducer. Pierce’s reasons for recruiting these “X-Men” is currenly unknown, but it appears that his primary focus is to eliminate the Lord Imperial and utilized the ruse that Sunspot and his allies formed a new Brotherhood in order to convince the former Xavier students to attack their former teachers and allies.

Powers and abilities

Sunspot is a mutant whose cells have the ability to absorb solar energy and convert it to various purposes. At will, he is able to take on a superhuman “powered up” form that is entirely nonreflective black, save for his eyes which turn a solid bright white. Though the color black optimizes solar absorption, he absorbs solar power at all times, not only when he is in his “powered up” form — indeed, if he has not absorbed sufficient amounts of solar energy in normal form, he will be too weak to “power up”. When in his solar form, Sunspot also has a corona effect, an aura that has been depicted in multiple ways, though two predominant conventions exist for its portrayal: one is that the air in close proximity to him manifests black globes of various sizes, reminiscent of Kirby Dots, and the other is a unified field glowing a bright yellow or white.

The “solar form” sometimes blackens Sunspot’s clothes as well, and sometimes the clothes appear normally colored on top of his blackened skin. Often, Marvel superheroes explain such effects away as sometimes wearing clothing made from unstable molecules that adapts to super-powers. However, there are many incidents in which Roberto would not have been able to prepare with unstable molecular clothing.

Originally, Sunspot’s superhuman power was limited solely to superhuman strength, and then only in his solar form. Unlike many superhumanly strong heroes, Sunspot was unique in that he had no superhuman resistance to injury, and was not bulletproof by any means. The phrase, “Careful Bobby, you’re strong, not invulnerable!” or variations was seen many times. In addition, Sunspot’s powers have radically changed and grown since the character was introduced.

Significantly, Sunspot maintained his original powerset for roughly the first ten years of his existence, remaining a super-strong but vulnerable individual throughout the entire New Mutants series. During the mid-1990s in X-Force his powers began to change, under writer Fabian Nicieza. Nicieza had the supervillain Gideon capture Roberto and subject him to experimentation where the limits of Roberto’s power absorption were tested by feeding him immense amounts of solar power. Roberto was rescued by X-Force, but the overload had permanently altered his powers in such a way that he was now able to release concussive blasts of solar energy, with a considerable heat projection component.

The fact that the solar blasts were concussive in origin led directly into X-Force #28, where Sunspot thinks of using them as a means of propulsion, and thus fly by blasting in the opposite direction of where he wanted to go – initially leaving a slight trail behind him, but in later years, Roberto would learn to use the propulsion more subtly – to appear to hover in place with no blast wake at all other than his usual “powered up” corona effect.

Sunspot also had the rituals and ideas of the Askani inside his head, due to a telepathic contact with Cable. While being strongly influenced by it for a while, the memories seem to have faded.

Significant non-superhuman abilities include business administration as he owns and runs a multi-billion dollar international conglomerate, Olympic class athlete and having been trained in combat by the X-Men, languages (see below) and an assortment of other more minor talents such as piloting.

Other versions

Ultimate Sunspot

Sunspot, a.k.a. Roberto da Costa, is an angry vigilante mutant of Brazilian descent. He originally came from Harlem in this continuity. He sees the Ultimate X-Men as decadent Uncle Tom-like figures and has accused them of living in an ivory tower, considering themselves separate from “second-class muties” like himself. He also harbors a deep hatred for Magneto and his followers because of the anti-mutant hysteria that followed the destruction of the Brooklyn Bridge at the hands of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.

Afterward he has joined Emma Frost’s Academy of Tomorrow, a school for gifted beings. Initially Roberto is confused as he understands his grades are not impressive. Emma assures him that grades (or even mutant powers) do not always classify a person as ‘gifted’.

Roberto is accepted into the school and soon gets into trouble. Fellow student Lorna Dane is framed and imprisoned for the murder of several dozen people he is approached by Alex Summers, her boyfriend. He is convinced to help assist in breaking her out. He works with Northstar and Cannonball. Unfortunately the team relies on Roberto’s knowledge of New York, which gets them lost as Roberto had rarely been outside of Harlem. While lost, the X-Men attack and Roberto is subdued and taken out of the fight.


Status as a prominent Brazilian superhero

Sunspot is arguably the most famous and prominent Brazilian superhero in American comic books. His only significant challenger is Fire of DC Comics. Fire, interestingly enough, shares Sunspot’s surname, as her full name is Beatriz Bonilla da Costa. Also, she shares with Sunspot a somewhat fiery nature in both superpowers and personality. These two are the only prominent Brazilian superheroes in American comics.

DC’s Jaguar is one of the few other Brazilian superheroes, but she is extremely obscure to the general public. Technically, Sunspot’s teammate Magma could be considered Brazilian under some definitions of the term. Magma was born in an isolated ‘land where time stood still’ that the New Mutants discovered in the Amazon. However, since Magma’s native society bore no relationship to or interaction with Brazilian people or culture, she is often not considered Brazilian, even though she was born (quite likely but not conclusively established) on Brazilian soil.

In other media

  • Sunspot, voiced by Michael Colemon, appears in several episodes (Growing Pains, Retreat, Mainstream, and Blind Alley) of X-Men: Evolution as a minor character. In the series, he is a member of a “junior team” of X-Men, roughly equating to the New Mutants. Born in Brazil, he moved to the Institute, together with the other recruits, at Xavier’s request. This version of Sunspot is something of a showoff, and sometimes got into fights with his fellow teammates, especially Berzerker. In this version Roberto is a seventeen-year-old boy.
  • In the film X2, his name appears on a list of names Mystique scrolls through on Stryker’s computer while looking for Magneto’s file.

Popular mistakes


Chris Claremont portrayed Sunspot’s ethnicity accurately. Subsequent writers have often forgotten (or never bothered to learn) the distinction between Brazil and the rest of Latin America, and sometimes describe him as a Spanish speaker, instead of Portuguese. Common mistakes were:

  • As opposed to Buenos dias! (Spanish), Roberto should say Bom dia! (Portuguese), meaning “good day”.
  • Yes is sim, not si.
  • A gentleman is senhor, not señor.
  • You thank someone by saying obrigado, not gracias.
  • Also, Claremont did occasionally have him speak Spanish, such as in “Madre de Dios” instead of “Mãe de Deus”, for “Mother of God” (or similar interjective phrases with the same meaning, like “Mãe do Céu”)

Sunspot has spoken Spanish on numerous occasions in the comics. This can be ascribed to writer error; however, as a well-educated jet-setter who has travelled extensively in Latin America (or even just somebody who lives in Brazil, since it borders with several Spanish-speaking countries), it is quite plausible that Sunspot would be able to speak both Portuguese and Spanish (although it is highly unlikely he’d exclaim things like “Mother of God” in a language that’s not his native one). This becomes even more likely when his other linguistic skills are pointed out: Sunspot speaks fluent Classical Latin (as seen in the Nova Roma story arc in New Mutants #8-12), he speaks fluent English, and he also speaks fluent Chinese (as seen in X-Force Annual #3, although it is unspecified whether this is the Mandarin or Cantonese variety). Finally, through a mindlink Cable once established with Sunspot to erase his possession by Reignfire, Sunspot became capable of speaking Askani (a language spoken in Cable’s future timeline). As such, Sunspot confirmedly speaks with proficiency, if not fluency, in at least six languages: Brazilian Portuguese, English, Chinese, Classical Latin, Askani, and (if the presumed errors are accepted as canon) Spanish.


One of the most common mistakes writers make with Sunspot is the spelling of his last name. It has been spelled in at least four variations: daCosta, DaCosta, da Costa and Da Costa. Many writers have used several of these four and have failed to be consistent even within their own writing. The most common Brazilian spelling separates the article and noun into separate words and leaves the article uncapitalized as seen in the name of the Brazilian president Lula da Silva. Methods of compounding the article and noun into the same word daCosta and DaCosta are not used in Portuguese. A further complication is that in the realm of comics (until recently), all letters are capitalized.

See also: Portuguese names

Place of birth

The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, a guide to Marvel characters published in the mid-eighties, written mostly by Marvel Editor Peter Sanderson, lists Sunspot’s place of birth as Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This is consistent with the fact that the da Costa family estate is located in Rio. However, in the late nineties, John Francis Moore during his tenure as writer of X-Force mentioned once that Sunspot was born in São Paulo. Sanderson’s case is backed by the implications of in-story facts like the family estate’s being in Rio. Emmanuel’s roots are in Rio and it is known that Roberto went to school in Rio.

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