Who Is Sunspot? X-Men '97's Newest Mutant Recruit Explained

In the original "X-Men" animated series, we're introduced to Marvel's mutant characters by way of Jubilee, a teen girl who has just discovered that she has mutant powers, which puts her in danger of being pursued by the dangerous Sentinels under the Mutant Registration Act. Rescued by the X-Men, Jubilee becomes a young new recruit on the team, and she acts as a proxy for the audience to be introduced to the world of Professor Charles Xavier and his School for the Gifted.

However, when "X-Men: The Animated Series" came to an end with the fifth season, Jubilee had become a full-fledged member of the team. Her wardrobe even changed to reflect that she'd grown up a bit, and the episode "Jubilee's Fairytale Theater" affirmed that the rest of the X-Men viewed her as an equally formidable mutant. Thankfully, "X-Men '97" provides a similar entry point for new viewers (who may need a recap about where "X-Men: The Animated Series" left off) as we pick up from the original show's ending.

In the opening episode, the anti-mutant organization known as the Friends of Humanity has kidnapped a teen boy named Roberto da Costa. As he pleads to be released, he mentions that he's the heir to the da Costa fortune. But that doesn't matter to these guys, because Roberto is a mutant, and that's all they need to know. They've fitted him with a collar that inhibits his mutant abilities, but then the X-Men come to save the day, introducing da Costa to the team just like Jubilee. But who exactly is Roberto da Costa? Thanks to the history of Marvel Comics, we have some answers.

Meet Sunspot

Though we only get a hint of Robert da Costa's mutant abilities and we never hear his mutant name, Marvel Comics fans will know him as Sunspot. Introduced in "Marvel Graphic Novel #4: The New Mutants," da Costa is a Brazilian kid whose mutant powers manifest when he's beaten up by an opposing soccer team. After this pivotal moment in his life, he's lured into a trap by a mutant-hating faction led by Donald Pierce, which results in the death of his girlfriend Juliana. With the help of mutants named Karma, Psyche, and eventually Wolfsbane, they pursue Donald Pierce in an effort to bring him to justice. After the battle, they're joined by one of Pierce's misguided mutant henchmen, Sam Guthrie, aka Cannonball.

This garners the attention of Professor X, who offers to train all five of the teenagers, and they become the New Mutants. The team grows into their powers, ultimately traveling to the Amazon, Asgard, and beyond. But when Cable later takes over the New Mutants and turns them into X-Force, Sunspot leaves the team and embarks on a new journey under Gideon of the Externals, a rare subspecies of mutants. His other exploits include an encounter with a protoplasmic mutant symbiote that becomes a villain known as Reignfire, a road trip reunion with X-Force (sans Cable), landing a seat at the table of Hellfire Club, reforming the New Mutants, and eventually using his family's fortune to take over Advanced Idea Mechanics and turn it into Avengers Idea Mechanics after Roberto and Sam are offered spots on the Avengers roster. 

But what does all of this mean for "X-Men '97" and his journey in the animated series revival?

Sunspot's future in X-Men '97

Considering this is an X-Men series, we're not likely to see the New Mutants come to fruition, at least not the iteration that Sunspot would be joining. After all, we've already seen Cannonball and Wolfsbane, albeit briefly, in the "X-Men" animated series universe during the original show's run, and they certainly weren't teenagers. That doesn't mean Sunspot couldn't become part of a new version of New Mutants, since the team has seen many iterations over the years. But more than likely, we'll watch Roberto da Costa grow into his Sunspot hero status as "X-Men '97" continues, just as Jubilee came into her own throughout the original series. After all, the two seem to be striking up a friendship in the series premiere.

However, one storyline that could easily play out in "X-Men '97" is the encounter with Reignfire. With shades of the Dark Phoenix saga storyline, the comic arc finds Sunspot mysteriously disappearing before the appearance of Reignfire, a villain who looks remarkably like Sunspot. It turns out that Reignfire is actually a protoplasmic mutant symbiote injected with Sunspot's blood, and it's eventually reduced to its original state and claimed by SHIELD. That's the kind of storyline that could easily play out in a single episode of "X-Men '97" and create a dramatic conflict between Roberto da Costa and the X-Men.

At the same time, I wonder if there's a storyline that will eventually involve da Costa's family fortune. After all, the premiere episode has da Costa going out of his way to reveal that detail about him, so it must be important. I doubt that it's hinting at some kind of introduction of the Avengers in the X-Men animated universe, but with Marvel Studios expanding the Marvel Animation banner, I suppose anything is possible. As of now, the Avengers don't share a universe with the X-Men, though Spider-Man does (there's even a Daily Bugle Easter egg early in the first episode of "X-Men '97"), but creating a crossover would be a rather enticing prospect.

Of course, we're getting ahead of ourselves, because we're only just beginning the "X-Men '97" revival, and there's a lot of other ground to cover first, so stay tuned.