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Sunspot of the New Mutants (Marvel Comics)

Sunspot

(Profile #1 - Year One)


Power Level:
Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game
“O Brasil não é para principiantes.”
– Antônio Carlos Brasileiro de Almeida Jobim

Context

The New Mutants was a 1982+ spin-off of the very successful The Uncanny X-Men. It featured younger characters, who unlike the now-mature X-Men still had to learn about their powers and grow up in general.

For a whole lot of context, you should first read our team profiles for the New Mutants. The Sunspot profile assumes that you already know the basics about the early New Mutants context and events.

This profile covers Berto from the beginning up to New Mutants Vol. 1 #12, since :

  1. A surprising percentage of the major events in his biography happens during that span.
  2. The evolution of his super-powers is easier to track in small chunks, especially from a technical standpoint.
  3. The profile was getting a bit long.

Tracking sunspots

At this stage, we have three profiles for Roberto :

  1. Sunspot (Year One) (this here profile).
  2. Sunspot (1983-1985).
  3. Sunspot (Early 1990s X-Force).

Background

  • Real Name: Roberto da Costa.
  • Marital Status: Single.
  • Known Relatives: Emmanuel da Costa (father, deceased), Nina da Costa (mother), João (uncle), and possibly a sister.
  • Group Affiliation: New Mutants, former member of the Relâmpagos de Vilár Futebol Clube.
  • Base of Operations: Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, Salem Center, Westchester County, New York.
  • Height: 5’2″ Weight: 127 lbs.
  • Eyes: Brown Hair: Black
  • Note: Vitals averaged between the 1982 OHOTMU and New Mutants Vol. 1 #2.

Background note

In New Mutants Vol. 1 #5, Roberto clearly mentions a sister. She is never mentioned in secondary sources.

When Roberto mentions his “sister” again, it is clearly a joke. He covers for mild embarrassment about asking a celeb’s autograph by pretending it’s “for his sister” rather than out of personal interest.

Marvel handbooks likely assumed that all mentions of a sister where a small running gag on Roberto’s part. But the *first* mention conveyed the impression that he actually had a sister. So… fnord .


Powers & Abilities

Da Costa is a young man in good shape, who has received a upper class education and speaks fluent English. As a New Mutant he’s received additional education as well as a unique training regimen in :

  • Fitness.
  • Superhuman combat.
  • Mutant abilities use.

All New Mutants are also trained to resist mental intrusion and detection. This isn’t clearly demonstrated by Roberto during this time span, but it can reasonably be added to the game stats.

At first Sunspot is reckless and inexperienced. But he matures *very* quickly during this era, becoming a capable, observant, smart adventurer.

Roberto seems to be very serious about his classes, paying attention and memorising the lessons. His skills thus already include basic electronics. Berto may have been taking early lessons to have a head start for engineering studies. This might be related to his father’s companies.

More skills

Sunspot knows the basics of hand-to-hand combat and firearms operation. The latter likely comes from experimenting with recreational shooting. The former comes from boxing matches with his father, to teach Roberto to persevere and stay determined. At Xavier’s he also starts being trained in judo.

Sunspot of the New Mutants (Marvel Comics) (Earliest) smashing a rock in anger

Likewise he knows the basics of motorboat operation, which in turn makes it likely that he has been shown how to drive.

He occasionally uses words in Spanish. Though getting the language wrong for Brazilian characters is very common, Sunspot is known to be multilingual. So let’s be positive as usual and simply assumes he already spoke good Spanish back then. He’s also remarkably fluent in Latin, possibly from religious studies.

Most importantly, he’s an excellent soccer player, with a cool style. Priorities, here.

Solar power, part 1

Sunspot can absorb and store solar energy. When he wills it (or, sometimes, due to very strong emotions) this ability goes into overdrive. Sunspot and his clothing then appear as a sort of black body , all nearby light being sucked in. The absorbed energy powers his body, making him superhumanly strong and robust.

Roberto’s main weakness is that he can only store so much energy. He’ll soon run out and will need to recharge by sunlight… if there’s sunlight to be had. But even with his solar reserves are dry, he still has the power of futebol. Priorities, here.

Being closer to the Sun, being in a system with multiple and/or larger stars, and other exotic bits of astronomy would markedly increase his energy output.

Officially, early on, he could lift about 2.5 tons over his head (a station wagon), but this doesn’t match observed performance. By the 2010s, he will have become a “Class 50” character.

These official ratings, alas, are clearly wrong.

Solar power, part 2

In practice, Sunspot’s early demonstrated strength level is all over the place. His first three super-strength feats were :

  • Throwing a man about 100 yards away (in DC Heroes RPG terms, STR 07).
  • Semi-ineffectually throwing a small stack of crates at Hellfire Club soldiers (STR 05).
  • One-punching large breaches through foot-thick concrete walls (EV 11).

Later on his biggest feat is to throw a lorry at a great distance – a 2-axles affair that likely weighed 4-ish tonnes. His strength seems to be steadily rising and getting more consistent during the era covered by this profile.

As he quickly learns that his time-with-strength is limited, Roberto spends most time in a crisis in unpowered form. He only transforms in short bursts when attacking, to conserve his reserves.

Solar power, part 3

Thus, when observing his performance, it’s not that Sunspot is weaker than most bricks  as is often assumed – including by the old OHOTMU. He has the strength to demolish a large house in short order.

Once he has several months of Xavier training under his belt, his peak might doesn’t seem much lower than that of Rogue or even a young Colossus.

Sunspot of the New Mutants (Marvel Comics) (Earliest) with his parents and friends, formal dinner

His actual weaknesses compared to most bricks are:

  1. He needs to flick his power on, act, then flick it off in order to save his shallow reserves.
  2. In a given fight, the number of super-strength actions he can conduct before he runs out of juice is well limited (about five punches or so).
  3. He is superhumanly resilient in his “black body” state… but not by much. It is chiefly visible when he withstands falls, explosions and the like. But flooring him can be done with peak human strength (such as a punch from Wolverine) and he could be seriously wounded by handgun rounds.

History

Roberto is the only child of the famous carioca  billionaire Emmanuel da Costa and his wife, an American archaeologist once famed for her beauty.

Emmanuel was born the son of a maid, a houseboy. Though the master of the house was very rich, Emmanuel frequently went barefoot. He also was occasionally whipped, leaving him with permanent scarring on his back. Roberto da Costa described the childhood of his father as slavery.

But against impossible odds Emmanuel da Costa became one of the richest men in Rio. By 20 he was a millionaire, by 30 he was a major player in Brazil. His son Roberto thus lived in luxury and received the best education.

The extremely driven Emmanuel da Costa also used his wealth and influence to ruin his former quasi-owner.

Adolescente

As Berto was growing up, his parents’ marriage was falling apart. O Sr. da Costa wanted his wife to be more of a hausfrau rather than work on months-long digs deep in the wilderness, and the answer was a big não. They also clashed over the impact of the da Costa resources extraction industry (likely oil or ore) on the Brazilian environment. Over time, the couple became unable to actually communicate.

Meanwhile Emmanuel promised Roberto that once he would be an adult, all of Rio de Janeiro would be his. He also kept teaching him about leadership and strength.

Even as a tween, Roberto was a gifted soccer player. He was a star within his clube, the Relâmpagos de Vilár (“Thunderbolts of the Vilár neighbourhood”). The lad was praised for his futebol arte (classy, daring manner of playing). When he was 14, some coaches started talking about Berto being seleção  material.

(Inexplicably, one scene depicts him clearly playing as a striker yet bearing the number 6 jersey (which would be the left wingback  in Brazil). Look, I can accept superhuman mutants, but there are limits to verisimilitude. Priorities, here.)

Mutante

When Roberto was 14, a tense match against their rivals of the Dynamo FC went bad. Two racist Dynamo players discreetly hit Roberto, as they hated the fact that the very dark-skinned Emmanuel da Costa was so successful. That Roberto’s girlfriend Juliana Sandoval was a pale-skinned blonde likely stoked their hatred.

Sunspot of the New Mutants (Marvel Comics) (Earliest) against a Roman chariot

Though the referee didn’t see the foul, Roberto was enraged by the racist insults. He assaulted the duo. He didn’t get the better of it as the two boys were bigger than him, but he suddenly manifested his mutant power. Roberto hurled one of his enemies across the field, and now appeared as a pitch black humanoid shape crackling with energy.

Most people in the stadium panicked. This included Roberto but not young Juliana, who rushed into the field to help him and take him to a doctor. The match being an important one, everything was televised live. That Roberto da Costa was a mutant was thus immediately known by factions competing to recruit superhuman homo superior.

Frigorífico

The Hellfire Club reacted first, sending a kill team (apparently Macon, Reese and Cole plus another bloke). Since the da Costa household was too secure, they kidnapped Juliana instead. They then told Roberto to meet them in a deserted warehouse without warning anyone.

Desperate to save her and hoping his power would suffice to turn the tables, Roberto complied. He also selfishly hoped that saving Juliana would mean people wouldn’t see him as a mutant monster but as a hero.

Help was coming, but due to police interference only the teenagers X’ian Coy Manh and Danielle Moonstar reached the scene in time. Since it was night-time Roberto ran out of energy before he could do much.

Dani and X’ian did take down the Hellfire mercenaries in a surprise attack. However, Juliana was shot dead while reflexively shielding Roberto. The lad was devastated, but agreed to immediately join the other youths to avenge Ms. Sandoval.

The youths successfully confronted their tormentor Donald Pierce of the Hellfire Club. They also freed the captured Professor Xavier. The lot then all agreed to form a new class under Professor Xavier, becoming the New Mutants.

For the history of the New Mutants as a team see, well, our New Mutant team profiles. This here History section focuses on events of particular relevance to Sunspot at the time, rather than what happened to the team as a whole.

Marriage counselling

Early during the New Mutants’ career, Xavier decided to send them away for their safety. After some incidents, he was trying to determine which powerful psychic was after him and his charges. Xavier arranged with Roberto’s mother to have the kids accompany her on her next expedition into the Amazon rainforest.

Sunspot of the New Mutants (Marvel Comics) (Earliest) with a green business suit

Sunspot objected as he wanted to stay in the US and help with the search for the missing Karma. Xavier reacted in his usual authoritarian manner, and Sunspot left the New Mutants in anger. However that did not change much in practice, since he welcomed an opportunity to join his mother in her field work. And Roberto was apparently soon convinced by his friends to rejoin the team.

Howbeit, said expedition was getting in the way of a major Da Costa International mining project. Embittered by his marriage’s failure and his wife’s independance, Emmanuel da Costa agreed to an offer by the Hellfire Club. The Club’s heavies would intimidate and delay Nina and her crew. This abduction was foiled by the New Mutants, with Sunspot defeating the mercenary Axe.

What have the Romans ever done for us ?

A second attempt to stop Mrs. da Costa left the New Mutants stranded deep in the Amazon. In short order, they were captured by English-speaking Imperial Roman centurions, as tends to happen in Brazil.


Description

Berto is right short for his age, but will mostly catch up in his late teens and reach 5’8″.

The depiction of his skin tone has varied to an amazing extent over the decades, which is especially unfortunate in a Brazilian context. He’s of darker-skinned pardo (mixed) heritage. His mother is European-style branca (white), and his father is either a dark-skinned mulato (mixed black and white) or lighter-skinned preto (black).

Emmanuel’s skin tone also considerably varies from appearance to appearance.

Sunspot’s English is nigh-perfect. In fact he’s got a markedly larger vocabulary and better diction than most adult native speakers. The word balloons do not attempt to render a BR accent, so presumably his accent is very light. It seems likely that Roberto was taught for years by a well-educated American private tutor living in Rio.

Out of uniform he dresses in expensive clothing. It has the general “young, attractive sportive upper class carioca” vibe one might expect. It’s probably all tailored. When he’s wearing sunglasses, I would assume that these are Ray Ban Shooter shades  (like Thomas Magnum’s).


Personality

Roberto is just 14, but he’s unusually assertive, courageous and determined. He wants to become a big man, a charismatic leader, a fighter of courage and integrity. He :

  • Practically never backs down.
  • Wants to be the one handling his problems even when others are better-equipped for that.
  • Will avenge harm done to him or his friends.

Early on da Costa wanted to kill Don Pierce. But he soon realised that it would make him a bad guy too. Likewise he harboured anger at always being shorter than the other boys and thus easily manhandled. But gaining superhuman strength put this resentment to rest.

He was raised a Catholic. Thus, Roberto’s grief over Juliana’s death was greatly eased by his certainty that she was now in Heaven.

O jovem líder

His certainty that he’s a natural-born leader also helps him move on after grievous mistakes, such as attempting to save Juliana alone. Less positively, one could view this as narcissistic tendencies from a massively privileged upbringing. For instance, while he took the loss of Karma very badly, a large chunk of his distress seemed caused by the fact that *he* had failed.

But these do not result in toxic behaviour, as Roberto wants to be a good person and a hero. At worst he occasionally brags a bit about his dad being soooo rich and influential. And this should also be seen in the light of the racist resentment father and son have to deal with.

On the other hand he tends to assume that he’s naturally a moral compass, a man of destiny, the person qualified to make the tough calls, the one who’s to bear the world on his shoulders. He fully believes what his father’s creed of a leader being the heart of an organisation. He even upheld this belief when he had to turn against his father.

The moustache ! The moustache !

Whom Berto is striving to be is his idol, Magnum, P.I. – as played by Tom Selleck on the telly. Cool, smooth, laid-back, heroic, smart, charming, strong, loyal, charismatic, dedicated, sexually appealing, honourable, cunning, noble, chivalrous, etc.. Da Costa yearns to be a real man even though he’s just 14, and Thomas Magnum is his role model – along with his father.

As a result, Roberto does everything he can not to seem 14. He manages to come across more like a mature 16-year old. He also resents people seeing the New Mutants as “X-babies”. Roberto even clashed with Xavier over the Professor’s policy not to expose this class to danger. Sunspot *wants* to be a super-hero like the X-Men. He *demands* it.

Roberto also has something of a temper problem. But he’s very good at keeping it under control, especially given his age. Thus he’s a bit on the impulsive, gung-ho and direct side, but by many action hero standards that’s actually reasonable.

There are also multiple instances of him playing his cards close to the chest rather than being flashy. One example is never mentioning that he knew Latin so he could overhear what Nova Romans were saying.

Relationships

The New Mutants quickly developed robust ties of friendship. They have no qualms in taking huge risks to help each other, trust each other, and enjoy being together. There can be adolescent drama, moodiness and infighting, but the underlying fundamentals are strong.

Roberto and Samuel are still becoming BFFs by that point. As this profile ends, they have clearly become that.


Quotes

Caraca !” (“blessed saints !” in the actual comics. It is my assumption that Roberto is actually exclaiming in Portuguese)

“Hey ! Watch the claws ! This is a brand-new outfit !”

“Besides… this idea worked on last week’s Magnum, P.I..”

“My father has planes much bigger than this, Dani — jets, too — but nothing anywhere near as much fun to fly !”

“Do your worst, evil one ! With my last breath, I’ll defy you !”


DC Universe History

See our old Kansas Jim’s Secret Marvel Age in the DC Universe article.


Sharing

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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Sunspot (very early)

Dex: 03 Str: 02 Bod: 02 Motivation: Responsibility
Int: 04 Wil: 04 Min: 03 Occupation: Student
Inf: 04 Aur: 03 Spi: 03 Wealth: 005
Init: 013 HP: 020

Note:
These are when depowered. See “Solar Power” below for full explanations.

Powers:
Iron will: 01, Mind blank: 02, Mind field: 01, Skin armour (Structural damage only): 00

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Iron Will, Mind Blank and Mind Field are all Skilled Powers.
  • Mind field is Self Only is a Skilled Power.

Skills:
Accuracy (Futebol, 1980s arcade video games): 04, Acrobatics (Dodging): 03, Gadgetry: 02, Martial Artist (incl. Techniques): 02, Vehicles (Land, Sea): 02, Weaponry (Firearms): 02

Advantages:
Credentials (Da Costa International, Low), Expertise (Futebol, episodes of Magnum, P.I.), Familiarity (episodes of Star Trek TOS, 1980s arcade video games, other bits of 1980s light nerd culture), Language (Brazilian Portuguese, Spanish, Latin), Rich Family, Schtick (Burst of Strength), Misc.: O que Magnum faria ? (see below).

Connections:
New Mutants (High).

Drawbacks:
MIA (making dramatic action entrances when in combat), Mistrust (Mutant), Misc.: Roberto da Costa is occasionally targeted by racists.

Equipment:
NEW MUTANTS UNIFORM [BODY 05, Cold Immunity: 01].


Design Notes

His STR could be a 01 early on. As a 14-year old, 5’2″ tall person he can be overcome by most adult men, and the two Dynamo FC players seemed stronger than he was. I’ve eventually erred toward 02, but this is chiefly a “STR 01 is very rare in Mayfair writeups, so there’s a higher standard of proof” choice.

Once the New Mutants start undergoing the Xavier training regimen, Sunspot’s unpowered strength is definitely a 02. And both Roberto and Samuel start being drawn with heroic, ripped physiques.

Likewise, his INT, WIL and INF were lower by one AP at the very beginning. These scores raise at the very latest when he returns to Brazil.

Technically Roberto has the Public ID Drawback, but in practice it plays no role in the “campaign” so it’s not on his character sheet.


Solar power

This is going to be a bit detailed but heh. If playing early Sunspot (or somebody much like him) that’s useful. Plus in practice that’s simple to use – roll up the level of strength, manage a small Ammunition score.

Solar might

When powered up, Sunspot has :

  • STR 07.
  • BODY 05.
  • Martial Artist (incl. Techniques): 06.
  • Skin Armour (Structural damage only): 02 (Contingent Upon STR).

Technically, Roberto is considered to have all of those as his baseline scores, and a complex Power Loss that applies whenever he isn’t powered up.

But for clarity’s sake the stats block instead uses a notation where his APs are listed at their depleted levels, and he boosts them as he activates his power. This is not technically correct, but is probably more intuitive for readers.

Solar durability

For convenience’s sake, consider that his Current BODY Condition when powered up and when powered down are two separate quantities.

This means the player might choose to power down to have a higher BODY Current Condition if Sunspot has been badly battered in powered form. But in narrative terms this is just interpreted as Sunspot running out of juice and reverting to human form. Plus, with only 2 APs of BODY unpowered…

Solar charge

The simplest way to handle Roberto’s energy charge early in is to consider that his enhanced capabilities have an Ammunition score. Each Ammunition allows him to take an Action (of either kind) with his enhanced levels.

Outside of this Action, he’s at Power Loss levels – the scores noted in his main stats block.

Each Ammo has a R# of 03 at this stage – or R#05 at night, or R#07 if underground without sunlight. If the Dice Action he attempts using this Ammo rolls under this R#, it is conducted using his unaugmented scores and the Ammo is wasted. If attempting an Automatic Action, do a 2d10 roll as a R# check.

Early on he has Ammo: 05. One Ammo is automatically lost when the sun sets. ”Reloading” times, using simple and arbitrary values, are one hour per Ammo of solid sunlight, or two hours in overcast weather or indoors. As Sunspot gains a better control of his power the time to recharge each Ammo rapidly trends toward 8 minutes or so (7 APs of time), assuming a bright day in Equatorial weather.

Roberto can regain Ammo without solar exposure by spending Hero Points to tap into his deep reserves. The fee for each Ammo thus regained is half the Desperation Recovery fee (round up).

Solar strength

The level of STR he receives for this Dice Action is randomised around its nominal value of 7 APs. Roll to determine his exact STR level when he spends an Ammunition. At night, the roll is lowered by 2 points before checking the table.

This score will be his powered-up STR level until he starts regaining Ammunition. This means that, during a given scene/encounter/fight, his STR level will be constant from Ammunition to Ammunition, barring an exotic circumstance replenishing his Ammunition score during the scene.

2d10 STR
1-4 05
5-7 06
8-13 07
14-16 08
17-20 09

This table is his earliest one. If you want to be really, really detailed the table changes with almost every issue he appears in. First it becomes easier to roll high APs, then higher APs start appearing in the table. So for instance once the New Mutants reach Nova Roma, we’d have something closer to :

2d10 STR
1-2 05
3-4 06
5-8 07
9-13 08
14-16 09
17-18 10
19-20 11

Later on his power output becomes more predictable, and a random table is no longer needed. See the next writeup for more.

Solar wrecking ball

When manhandling immobile obstacles (walls, furniture…), Sunspot :

  1. Uses his STR both as an AV and OV for this Dice Action.
  2. Receive a +3 bonus to his STR APs, for either a Dice or Automatic Action.

The latter is a linear addition where, for instance, 7+3=10, rather than an AP addition.

Must be the Kirby spots…

As a minor perk, spending an Ammunition and assuming his powered form counts as a Force Manoeuvre for Character Interaction purposes, using his new STR score.


O que Magnum faria ?

Once per adventure, Sunspot’s player can invoke a sort of instant mini-Subplot by coming up with a plan. This brings a 5 Hero Points reward. The requirements are :

  1. The player must explain how this is directly inspired by/cribbed from a Magnum, P.I. episode.
  2. All these HPs must be spent on conducting the Magnum-inspired plan.

Note that the player doesn’t need to refer an actually existing episode of Magnum, P.I.. It is possible to completely make things up as long as it all sounds Magnum-ish enough. Let’s just assume that there were more seasons on Earth-616. 🙂

As time passes and 5 HPs becomes but a minor amount, Sunspot will use this custom Advantage increasingly rarely.

By Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: Marvel Comics from late 1982/1983, plus germane flashbacks.

Helper(s): Jackson, Alex Hunter, Greg Kerner, Chris Cottingham, Pufnstuff.

Writeup completed on the 3rd of November, 2016.

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