X-Men (1st series) #64

Issue Date: 
January 1970
Story Title: 
The Coming of Sunfire!

Roy Thomas (writer), Don Heck (artist), Stan Lee (editor), Tom Palmer (embellisher), Artie Simek (letterer) 

Brief Description: 

As Beast, Iceman and Angel recover from their fight with Magneto, Cerebro locates a new mutant in the city. The trio track the signal to a ceremony at the United Nations, where the mutant reveals himself as a costumed terrorist named Sunfire, who destroys a peace statue being presented by visiting Japanese delegate named Saburo Yoshida. The X-Men arrive and intervene, forcing Sunfire to flee. Unfortunately Beast is injured in the process. Sunfire returns to the hotel he is sharing with his Uncle Tomo Yoshida, brother to Saburo. The Japanese-nationalist Tomo reinforces the anti-Americanism he has taught his nephew, Shiro, forcing him to recall his past: how the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima affected Shiro’s mother, who died years later when Shiro was born. How his uncle brought him back to Hiroshima years later and a single handful of the irradiated soil activated his mutant powers, and how he trained to avenge the wrong done to his people. Afterward, Shiro and Tomo accompany Shiro’s father, Saburo, to Washington DC, where they visit the Capitol building. However, Shiro is unaware that the X-Men have used Cerebro to track him to the nation’s capital, even though they have not yet deduced his identity. As the X-Men stake out the Capitol, some in disguise and the rest in costume, Saburo walks in on his nephew in his Sunfire costume and confronts him. Undeterred, Sunfire strikes his father and takes to the sky, planning to melt the Capitol building’s dome in a display of national humiliation. The X-Men quickly show up to stop him, though Sunfire easily takes out Angel and Iceman. Cyclops momentarily holds his own, but too finds himself outmatched. Sunfire is about to destroy the dome when he is confronted by his father literally standing in his way, forcing Sunfire to kill him too if he indeed destroys the building. Uncle Tomo breaks the stalemate by shooting Saburo, who falls to the ground below. Horrified, Sunfire kills his uncle in rage and flies to his father’s side. With his dying words, Saburo begs his son to live for the future, not in the past, and to forge the tools of peace from the chains of war. With Capitol security taking charge of the grieving Sunfure, the X-Men depart, wishing they had a chance to reason with Sunfire sooner. 

Full Summary: 

Atop a building in Manhattan, a man stands clad in a costume. Almost all in red, the costume is trimmed with flames at his wrist and ankles. On his chest are upward expanding beams of white, resembling the abandoned flag of Imperial Japan. Though his head is covered by a mask, reminiscent of some mythical creature, his mouth is bare. Referring to the populace walking the streets below, the man proclaims that this is the land of ants… of smug and smirking insects. But soon, he continues, they shall know the ominous tread of… Sunfire!

At that moment, in the X-Men's townhouse, Beast loquaciously informs Angel and Iceman of an unidentified mutant Cerebro has detected, located somewhere in the heart of Manhattan. And, from the data which Cerebro is feeding back, they’d better hope he is friendly, because it’s possible he’s the most powerful mutant they’ve yet encountered!

Meanwhile, Sunfire flies to his true destination, a ceremony at the central plaza of the United Nations. There, he arrives just the speaker begins to thank the assembled honored guests and fellow delegates. His name is Mr. Yoshida and he proclaims that it is with the deepest pleasure that he flew there from his native Japan that morning… to dedicate the striking new monument of marble figures, dedicated to the youth of the world that they may know peace. Though the crowd looks on in admiration of Mr. Yoshida, Sunfire watches from afar and mutters to himself that Mr. Yoshida a sniveling, spineless fool. He should know above all men! And so, he knows what he must do!

Just as the dedication ceremonies are completed, Sunfire flies onto the scene, declaring Mr. Yoshida a traitor. Before anyone can react, he dive-bombs the statue, destroying it with flames projected from his hand. As the statue explodes from the heat, Mr. Yoshida is knocked off of his feet. Swooping over the feeling crowd, Sunfire calls them a nation of weaklings and cowards. Is there no one who will dare face Sunfire in battle?

Well, pal, now that he mentioned it… Iceman replies, sending an ice blast at Sunfire, knocking him out of the sky. Seeing this, a woman in the crowd is surprised, as she heard the X-Men were criminals. Hearing this, Beast swings around a lamppost, announcing to his fellow “halcyon heroes” that here’s where they give the X-Men’s tarnished reputation a much-needed booster shot!! With that, he tackles Sunfire mid-air, wrapping his legs around the man’s waist and holding his arms by the wrists. Of course, Beast informs his airborne prisoner, they were actually hoping that he was of a less hostile persuasion. Another few recruits and the X-Men could become the first mutant baseball team.

To this, Sunfire informs Beast that that’s the last feeble joke he shall make. Still able to fly with Beast on his back, Sunfire climbs higher and then lights a flame near Beast’s face. The flame is enough to blind Beast temporarily and sends him falling to the ground, but Angel luckily arrives in time to save him. Down below, Iceman sends frozen flying saucers at Sunfire, who easily dodges and taunts his foes. Fools! Don’t they see how helpless they are before his power? They play at fighting as if it were mere sport… while Sunfire fights to the death!

Back in the fight, Angel tries to reason with him, saying that he’s not making any sense! Why did he destroy that statue? Rather than answer, Sunfire dismisses his questions as futile distractions. He then notes the police on the street below, firing warning shots. As Sunfire begins to jet off, Angel pleads that he has it all wrong. They’re fellow mutant! Angel quickly finds himself outmaneuvered by Sunfire, who again taunts Angel, noting that he doesn’t have time to teach him just how superior he is to the winged one. A moment later, Sunfire is gone, leaving behind the astonished Angel, who can only wonder what Sunfire’s power source is. He then decides to go see if Beast is okay.

Soon thereafter, back at the midtown apartment which the X-Men keep as their city HQ, Angel brings in Beast, who has to lean his arm around Angel’s shoulder. Seeing the two of them and Iceman behind them, Jean thanks the heavens that the boys are back. If only they hadn’t been out shopping when they located that mutant! They heard about it on the radio, Scott explains. Then he knows Hank got the worst of the deal, Angel laments. And, as usual, the press ended up blaming the whole thing on the X-Men. Makes him wish they’d gone straight home when they got back from Ka-Zar country!

Removing Beast’s mask, Jean tells Angel to never mind that. As she examines the strange burns on his face, Hank whimsically asks if he will ever play the comb-and-tissue paper again, but Jean chastises that this is serious. It’s as if Hank was badly sunburned, so he’ll need lots of rest! The will find the mutant called Sunfire… but without Henry C. McCoy!

Meanwhile, several dozen blocks to the south, the unmasked Sunfire is congratulated by his uncle, who calls him “Shiro.” He has done well, he tells him. Shiro thanks his uncle but notes that, yet, even in the heat of battle, it all seemed somehow… wrong! Immediately angry, Shiro’s uncle asks he’s forgotten, but Sunfire assures his Uncle Tomo that he has forgotten nothing. He remembers well the scenes he never saw… the searing atomic blast which made a smoldering ruin of their native Hiroshima. Just as he remembers that it made a hopeless invalid of his mother, many miles from the center of the city… He remembers how she died a few years later, on the night he was born, and how his Uncle Tomo reared him to manhood. Most of all, he remembers a night not long ago, when his uncle took him to a certain place in Hiroshima…

Gesturing to a small area, Shiro’s uncle explains that these are all that remains of the ruins of Hiroshima. Yes, he knows, Shiro replies as he kneels to the ground. But he does not know why he wishes him to take this burnt, barren soil into his hands. He shall see! Shiro’s uncle replies.

A moment later, energy courses through Shiro, who screams in pain that the very touch of it seems to set him on fire! He feels as if… a raging furnace… burned within his breast! Elated, Shiro’s uncle announces that he was right! He then orders his nephew to listen to him, He is a mutant… as he always suspected! Point his fingers earthward, he then orders, and Shiro shall see the proof of what he says!

Doing as ordered, Shiro exclaims as the blazing fire of the sun itself hurtles from his outstretched fingertips. Then, he is a mutant, he realizes aloud, one of those born with dormant but deadly powers! Dormant no longer! Tomo exclaims. He then demands that Shiro speak the sacred oath he taught him in secret since his childhood. Speak! He will, Shiro tells his uncle. “I shall avenge the incalculable wrong done my people in this place, these many years ago! I shall smite the eternal enemy… humble him… with all the vast powers at my command. So do I, Shiro Yoshida swear!” Well said, nephew, Shiro’s uncle sneers. He always sensed that such power would be his when he were come of age. Soon he shall weird it… in a way the world shall never forget!

As time passed, Shiro’s uncle teaches his nephew through long, hidden hours of practice to use his powers: how to store and discharge the power of the sun itself, how his harnessed powers even enable him to fly. Then, after he declares himself ready, Shiro is given a costume by his uncle, who explains that, when he strikes at last, he must wear their ancient colors… and be known as Sunfire!

Make ready, Shiro’s uncle orders him, for the supreme test is at hand! The moment when America is humbled in the eyes of the world!

Sometime later, the X-Men are flying over the area near the UN, scanning for Sunfire with a portable Cerebro. Suddenly, Cyclops announces that they’ve just struck pay dirt and orders Angel out to check. However, the moving car Angel is supposed to check out is a diplomatic vehicle, which Marvel Girl points out that they’ll be in international hot water if they interfere with one of those. Marvel Girl ponders if Cerebro could be mistaken, but Cyclops assures her the chances of that are “one in a zillion.” He also tells Marvel Girl to order Angel telepathically to follow the car for the time being, while the rest of the X-Men drop back out of sight. She can keep Angel in mental contact.

As the car arrives at the JFK airport down below, from a high altitude Angel’s eagle-like eyes spy Mr. Saburo Yoshida, along with his brother and his “number-one son,” Shiro, exit the car. He recognizes them from a spread on them in last week’s “Life.” However, amongst the crowd, Angel loses sight of them as they must have boarded a plane. Angel figures it’s easy enough to check each plane out after they’re airborne but, as he flies underneath one, he suddenly feels a pulling sensation. Watching as this happens, Iceman realizes with horror that Angel is too near the jet’s intake, but luckily he and Marvel Girl bail out Angel with an ice barrier and a telekinetic tug. Meanwhile, only a few metal-plated feet away, one pilot swears he say a masked man outside with wings. His co-pilot mocks that maybe it was the Lone Ranger’s guardian angel. He then points out that there’s a shrink flying back in tourist class…

Within the hour, the sleek, skyborne cruiser reaches its destination, the spiraling domes and towers of the nation’s capital. Following from a distance are the X-Men, in their flying craft. Due to Angel’s luck at remembering the article he read on Yoshida, the team knows that he’s due in D.C. today to give a special speech before Congress. When asked about his “long face,” Cyclops worries aloud of the international fallout if one of Yoshida’s party is really out for American blood.

And soon, in a suite in one of the city’s plushest hotels, Tomo Yoshida reminds his nephew that out there is the enemy… and that this is the hour! Sunfire agrees that today is the day that the soft and the decadent shall tremble, as they did decades ago… before the symbol of the Rising Sun!

Suddenly, Sabura Yoshida enters the room, demanding to know what kind of unreasoning treason does Shiro speak? Before Shiro can reply, Sabura slaps his son, ordering silence! He dares not guess at the meaning of his words, he tells Shiro, but the old quarrels are dead and must be forgotten. Does he hear him, ungrateful one? Haltingly, Shiro replies that he does, but finds himself nevertheless tempted to attack his father. With a single blow… he thinks. No! he then decides. He is his father… it would be blasphemous. But, Shiro then considers, his father shall change his mind… later!

Later, in the Capitol building, the grim forms of Scott and Jean mingle with the high school classes and the visiting ladies clubs. Suddenly, Jean spies Sabura Yoshida following his son into a sealed-off wing of the building. She informs Scott, but Scott fears there is nothing they can do until the one who’s Sunfire tips his hand. And then, he prays it isn’t too late.

As they speak, Sabura enters a nearby cloakroom, finding his son putting on the costume of Sunfire. So, that which he feared is indeed true! Sabura yells. His son is the dog they call… Sunfire! With his Uncle Tomo looking on nearby, Sunfire orders his father to stand aside, but Sabura refuses to let him disgrace him and their country. Quickly, Sunfire strike his father, calling him too soft to understand that, what he does, he does for his country. With Sabura down, Tomo tells his nephew that he will see to his brother. Now he must go… and do what he came to do!

As he takes to the air above the Capitol, Sunfire can’t help but think that, though he has called his father a traitor, in his heart he knows he is only confused… mistaken! He has dwelt too long among the Americans and has forgotten the evil they did… both to their homeland… and to his mother. But, his uncle has not let him forget since he was but an infant upon his knee! And now, he has the power to erase the stain on his nation’s honor. Regarding the Capitol building itself, Sunfire notes that when the proud dome stands in smoking ruins, the Americans shall know the full fury of the Rising Son!

However, just as Sunfire is about to send one single, sun-born blast straight into the Capitol building below, he is surprised by the winged American mutant he encountered earlier, Angel. Angel dodges Sunfire’s first fire blast, though not without having his wings singed. Iceman halts the next fiery blast with an ice shield, much to Sunfire’s frustrating. Angered at having his attack twice diverted, Sunfire vows the one called Iceman will never do so again, sending a fiery blast at him. Iceman manages to through up an ice shield at the last second but can’t stand the heat of it as it melts into red-hot steam. With Angel and Iceman both down, Jean states how it’s just Cyclops and Marvel Girl left to take on Sunfire. Cyclops, however, wants Jean to stay out of this, and commands to be levitated up to the Capitol dome, as she takes care of Angel.

Inside the Capitol building, an intercom asks the panicked people to please leave the building in an orderly fashion. However, one visitor cries out how he heard there’s a madman outside, bent on blowing up the place, and anyone who’s orderly is dead! Back outside, Marvel Girl lifts Cyclops onto the rim of the Capitol dome, even as he tells her again how she can’t join him. From here on, it’s Cyclops’ show, he tells her. From his precarious position on the dome’s rim, Cyclops spies Sunfire arcing from the far side.

Oblivious to its defender, Sunfire sends out a heat blast from the power of the sun at the Capitol dome. However, in the next soul-scorching instant, a new force beam from Cyclops repels Sunfire’s solar blasts. Sunfire recognizes the one called Cyclops but doesn’t take him seriously, as he believes no American dog shall deter his purpose – not man and not mutant. Cyclops’ force beams continue to cancel out Sunfire’s blasts, though just barely. However, these actions are only phase one of his plan. To get at him, Cyclops knows that, to get at him, Sunfire is being forced to come closer… closer… until…

Now! Cyclops yells as he leaps from the Capitol dome, grabbing hold of Sunfire by his wrists. Calling the X-Man a fool, Sunfire asks if he thought he’d be unprepared for one last, desperate leap? For a moment, Cyclops believes that it will be over as soon as Sunfire drops him. However, a moment later, Sunfire feels a strong force pulling his head back. Cyclops realizes it’s Jean, who now lowers him safely to the ground.

Recovering quickly, Sunfire announces that “the girl” has achieved nothing and the Capitol shall yet go up in sun-spawned flames. Before he can attack, however, Sunfire finds his father standing atop the Capitol building balcony, daring him to do as he claimed… but only if he also murders one who stands upon it! Sunfire tells his father to leave this place, as he does not wish to harm him. His Uncle Tomo has shown him how the Americans are their foes. To this, Sabura yells that Tomo is a sick man, feeding the fire of his hatred with the embers of a long-dead war. He asks his son to renounce him, lest his dreams of glory become a waking nightmare for two nations. The words of Sunfire’s father make his head spin in confusion and he pleads with his father to not make him choose between two men, two worlds.

When Sabura demands his son choose now, Tomo shows up and tells Sunfire he need not choose. He shall make the choice for him. With that, he shoots his brother, who falls from the Capitol dome balcony. Sunfire flies to his falling father, but nothing can stop the limp form which topples from the high balcony. In anger, Sunfire sends a white-hot burst to snuff out the life of his Uncle Tomo, and thus ends a life which had fed on hatred and holocaust.

Then, below, Sunfire unmasks himself and tells his father how he did not mean for this to happen. His father understands and tells him to live only for the future, not for the past, and to forge the tools of peace from the chains of war. The police have arrived on the scene, but wait to the side to allow Shiro a last moment with his dying father.

Watching from a distance, Marvel Girl tells the X-Men they may as well go, as there’s nothing more they can do. Angel realizes that Sunfire’s mother being caught in the Hiroshima blast must be what made him a mutant. Angel also wishes that they could have reasoned with him and reached him in time. In agreement, Cyclops can only hope that maybe they can save the next one. Iceman agrees as the team disappears into the woods, leaving Sunfire behind with the police and his deceased father. 

Characters Involved: 

Angel, Beast, Cyclops, Iceman, Marvel Girl (all X-Men)

Saburo Yoshida (Sunfire’s father)
Tomo Yoshida (Sunfire’s uncle)

United Nations delegates & visitors
New Yorkers

Bill & Fred (jet pilots)
Unnamed flight crewman

Tomo Yoshida (Sunfire’s uncle)
Citizens of Hiroshima during bombing

Story Notes: 

First appearance of Shiro Yoshida, aka Sunfire.

On the second page, Beast erroneously calls Angel “Scottie.”

The Japanese city of Hiroshima was detroyed by the first atomic bomb used in combat on August 6, 1945. Nicknamed "Little Boy" it was followed by "Fat Man," which was dropped on Nagasaki three days later. Though contriversial still today, both bombs hastened the end of the war in the Pacific and World War II in as a whole.

“Ka-Zar country” refers to the Savage Land, where the X-Men recently did battle with Magneto. [X-Men (1st series) #62-63]

“Life,” the magazine in which Angel read about Saburo Yoshida, was a magazine which ran in several incarnations. For most of it’s main existence, it served as a companion magazine to Time magazine, with a greater emphasis on photojournalism and general interest.

Beast’s reference to playing a “comb-and-tissue paper” refers to the creation of a simple, homemade harmonica, by placing tissue paper over a comb and then humming through it.

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