The X-Men world has never shied away from extremely
real-world issues, with the very notion of mutants being one designed to
explore the idea of people being shunted simply for being labelled “different”
by some corners of society.
After the latest trailer for Josh Boone’s long-gestating The
New Mutants finally arrived yesterday, the albeit impressive action
seems destined to steer clear of a main driving factor behind one of the
titular group’s key figures. That figure, is Henry Zaga’s Sunspot.
With Sunspot, what stands out most about his own personal
backstory – at least within the pages of Marvel Comics – is that his mutant
ability only came to the fore due to a racist attack. A highly talented soccer
player who was being tipped for a spot at the Olympic Games, Roberto da Costa
was brutally beaten by racist members of an opposing team. And it was here,
that da Costa’s powers first reared their head as he became a ball of solar
Upon being introduced by Chris Claremont and Bob McLeod in
1982, Roberto was singled out by bullies for being a black Brazilian and for having a mixed race parentage. By
casting the lighter skinned Henry Zaga, that element of the character seems to
have been taken away.
Of course, The New Mutants could explore some other form of
attack or abuse to trigger Sunspot’s powers. It’s just that the character’s unique
origin story is such a pivotal moment in comics, and it’s a prime example of
what has for so long made the X-Men characters so important in how their stories shine a spotlight on society and its problems.
From the New Mutants footage seen so far, it looks as if the
youngsters at the centre of the tale may be being persecuted for their
sexuality more than anything else. And it could well be that the treatment dished
out to them at the shady facility they found themselves at is the key to fully empowering these heroes-in-waiting with their own particular mutant abilities.