Warning: Spoilers ahead for New Mutants #30The powerful mutant Roberto Da Costa, the X-Men spirit New Mutants member called Sunspotwas introduced as a proud Afro-Brazilian man, but over the decades since his debut in the 1980s he has been consistently whitewashed and stripped of his culture in almost all forms of Marvel Comics media.
Thankfully though, modern X-Men comics are finally returning Roberto to his proper skin tone, and giving him the agency to talk about his culture and race. Roberto Da Costa was introduced in 1982’s The New Mutants as part of the first class of mutants to be trained directly by Professor X since the original 5 X-Men, and he was firmly established as a Pardo Brazilian, with an Afro-Brazilian father who was born into slavery and a white American mother, having the ability to absorb and convert solar energy, turning into an all-black being of pure energy when using his power.
Early appearances of Roberto depicted him as a dark-skinned Afro-Brazilian who was incredibly proud of his heritage and family history, a brash and slightly spoiled young man whose father had acquired vast wealth as an adult, making him the heir to a truly massive fortune. Yet as time went on artists at Marvel began to depict Sunspot with lighter and lighter skin, especially egregious given the X-Men’s history as an (often times shaky) allegory for racism, antisemitism, and homophobia, mirroring the same whitewashing experienced by the Afro -Monégasque mutant Monet St. Croix and the Romani reality warper Wanda Maximoff. The whitewashing of Roberto continued for decades, with the erasure of his identity spilling over into his appearance The New Mutants (2020) where he was played by the light-skinned Brazilian actor Henry Zaga. Finally though, in the X-Men’s newest Krakoan Era, it seems as though Marvel artists and editorial are finally taking readers’ complaints of Sunspot’s whitewashing seriously, with Roberto sporting his original darker-skinned Afro-Brazilian heritage in comics like X-Men Red and the latest 40th Anniversary New Mutants #30 special, written by Vita Ayala and Alyssa Wong with a slew of talented artists.
Sunspot’s Afro-Brazilian Heritage Has Been Whitewashed For Far Too Long in Marvel Comics.
One the “smallest,” but incredibly meaningful, changes made to Roberto’s characterization is the retcon of his nickname into “Beto” instead of “Berto,” which is the nickname that he would have actually been called growing up in Brazil. Besides that, Sunspot’s appearances throughout New Mutants spirit Secret X-Men have shown him with much darker, more accurate skin, and more textured hair similar to the style he was introduced with back in the 1980s. X-Men Red in particular has consistently depicted Roberto with a darker skin tone, thanks to the talented work of artist Stefano Caselli and colorist Federico Blee. Sunspot is also one of the main characters in New Mutants #30, a stunning anniversary issue celebrating 40 years of New Mutants stories, with Roberto hosting the anniversary party on his space yacht. Throughout the issue Sunspot is drawn with Afro-Brazilian textured hair and a dark complexion, but moving beyond that he is also a major part of a story focused on Dani Moonstar and her heritage, where he tells her, “I know what it is to feel disconnected from my culture…” a clear, strong reference to his character’s long history of whitewashing and cultural erasure. What matters most now is that these changes to Roberto’s characterization are note done as just “lip service,” but are permanent changes used in the art of this character, who serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of representation in comics.
While Roberto’s whitewashing has not been “fixed,” it is encouraging to see modern artists and Marvel Comics editorial placing a higher emphasis on making sure Sunspot’s darker skin and textured hair is consistently used in comics, especially seeing as the X-Men have always been used as a consistent allegory of the experiences of marginalized identities throughout history.
New Mutants #30 is available now in stores!