Minorities in cartoons: Sunburst

This week’s minorities in cartoons entry is Sunburst, a Japanese superhero… or rather, two Japanese superheroes.

Takeo Sato

The original Sunburst first appeared in “The New Adventures of Superboy” #45 (September 1983). He was created by writer Paul Kupperberg and artist Alex Saviuk.

Takeo was born during a volcanic eruption. This somehow granted him with the ability to turn solar energy into light or heat, to various effects. Said abilities also allowed Takeo to fly. After growing up, Takeo became an actor in a series of popular low-budget films starring the hero “Sunburst.” Said films also became popular in the United States during Superboy’s time (about “13 years ago,” or circa 1970 when this story was written in 1983), with teenaged Clark Kent enjoying the “Sunburst” films.

While filming, an on-set accident caused Takeo’s latent powers to activate. At first, the studio kept Takeo’s abilities a secret, using them to help make his on-screen stunts look impressive. However, a group of criminals discovered Takeo’s powers. They kidnapped his parents to force Takeo to use his abilities for various robberies. Said robberies attracted the attention of Superboy, who flew to Japan.

After a series of confrontations with Sunburst, the Boy of Steel learned of Sunburst’s predicament. The two worked together to free Takeo’s parents and capture the criminals. Takeo afterwards felt that his powers were more of a curse than a good thing. Superboy used his super-hypnosis power (an enhanced hypnosis ability) to put a mental block on Takeo’s ability to use his Sunburst powers.

Superboy’s super-hypnosis presumably was either undone on purpose, insufficient, or faded over time. By Superman’s era, Sunburst had become an active superhero in Japan. Unfortunately, Takeo died while protecting Japan in 1985-86’s “Crisis on Infinite Earths.”

Later appearances

Post-Crisis stories’ continuity “replaced” Superboy (somehow) in the above story with fellow Japanese hero Rising Sun.

A Grant Morrison written story in the 2000s revealed that Takeo was a founding member of “Big Science Action,” Japan’s answer to the Justice League of America.

“Celebrity” Sunburst

Grant Morrison and Richard Case introduced a second Sunburst in “Doom Patrol” (vol. 2) #26 (September 1989). This version of Sunburst had powers similar to the original version, but was a fairly egoistical hero. That didn’t keep Sunburst from becoming popular in Japanese media, including having his own TV show. Wikipedia states this Sunburst went missing during an adventure with a living cyclone named “Frenzy.”

(Updated 11/25/16)

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