Roberto Da Costa (a.k.a. Sunspot) in Marvel Comics

Is Marvel Really Going to Whitewash Sunspot Again?

Marvel may be whitewashing Roberto Da Costa (also known as Sunspot) again with the upcoming animated series X-Men ’97. X-Men ’97 is expected to hit Disney+ this fall and will serve as a direct sequel to X-Men: The Animated Series, which ran for five seasons beginning in 1992. It picks up exactly where the old series left off when Professor X (Cedric Smith) departed the X-Men for another planet in hopes of being healed from a nearly fatal injury. As a result, X-Men ’97 will follow Wolverine (Cal Dodd) and Storm (Alison Sealy-Smith) as they attempt to regroup the mutants in the wake of Professor X’s absence.

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Many viewers were excited to learn that several of the voice actors from the original series, including Dodd, Sealy-Smith, Lenore Zann, and George Buza, were returning for X-Men ’97. Additionally, it was confirmed that X-Men team members like Sunspot, Bishop, Cable, and Nightcrawler would all be appearing. The inclusion of Sunspot was exciting because he wasn’t part of the original animated series, and his presence raised the potential for an authentic casting for the character.

The last time we saw Sunspot in an adaptation was in The New Mutants film. Unfortunately, the film whitewashed the character by casting Henry Zaga in the role. While Zaga is Brazilian like Sunspot, the film ignored the fact that the character is part Afro-Brazilian and is often depicted in the comic books as having dark skin. The whitewashing of Sunspot combined with the bizarre scenes of racism (and the fact that the movie misspelled The New Mutants comic book creator’s name), meant the film was a huge, messy disappointment. However, X-Men ’97 offers a fresh opportunity to bring Sunspot to the screen.

Alleged X-Men ’97 casting whitewashes Sunspot … again

Sunspot in Marvel comics.
(Marvel Comics)

Recently, documents for the pre-registration copyright for X-Men ’97’s first episode seemingly confirmed 11 voice actors on the show and their roles. Among the listed actors/roles was Gui Agustini as Sunspot. Agustini is Brazilian-born like Sunspot, but once again, he is not of African descent like the character. Marvel has not yet officially confirmed the casting, but if the legal documents are legit, it seems likely Sunspot is being whitewashed for X-Men ’97.

This decision to continue whitewashing Sunspot is especially frustrating because of how important his ancestry is to his origin story. In the comics, Sunspot was the victim of a racist attack by the opposing team during a soccer game. It was the attack that activated his mutant abilities, causing him to turn into his mutant form where his body turns black and his eyes and teeth glow for optimal solar energy absorption. Unfortunately, his mutant activation was caught on camera, causing him to be hunted by anti-mutant hate groups. Within days, his dreams of being an Olympic soccer player were dashed and his girlfriend was tragically killed before he found refuge with Professor X and the New Mutants.

The trauma he experienced from the attack and its subsequent consequences clearly profoundly shaped Sunspot. Hence, it isn’t surprising that X-Men ’97 is already experiencing backlash for its casting choice.

After all, it’s not as if there are no Afro-Brazilian actors to choose from. One Twitter user suggests Alfred Enoch for the role instead of Agustini.

Many users also expressed their frustrations to X-Men ’97 executive producer Beau DeMayo. DeMayo is a queer Black man, resulting in more questions about his alleged complicity in the whitewashing of Sunspot.

In response to the criticism, DeMayo announced he was leaving Twitter for some time. He also indicated that the casting news was a “leak” and that he wasn’t allowed to talk about it, but he did not deny it. Unless Marvel heeds the valid criticisms of fans who want to see Sunspot’s ethnicity and origins respected, it seems likely X-Men ’97 is setting up to whitewash the X-Men member following in the footsteps of not only New Mutants, but Days of Future Past and X-Men Evolution, as well.

(featured image: Marvel Comics)

This article has been updated to note more instances of Sunspot whitewashing.


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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.