Karma (Xi'an "Shan" Coy Manh) is a fictional superheroine from Marvel Comics created by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller. She was the first of the New Mutants to see print, first appearing in Marvel Team-Up #100 (1980). Karma is a mutant endowed with the ability to seize control of another's mind, though she has sometimes been depicted with other more extensive psionic abilities. The origin of the character relates to the Vietnam War, as she and her family were among the boat people fleeing the country shortly after the advent of Communism and in the wake of violence. Her Vietnamese origin contributes to two of her main traits—her Catholicism and her mastery of the French language, both of which stem from France's strong historical influence in Vietnam. Karma, in fact, speaks English with a French accent rather than a Vietnamese one.

Karma was one of the five founding members of the New Mutants, along with Cannonball, Mirage, Sunspot, and Wolfsbane. Being several years older than the others, and the de facto mother of her siblings from a young age, she was the most mature member of the team. Karma is significant as one of the first major lesbian characters in a mainstream comic book.

Fictional character biography


Xi'an (pronounced "Shan") Coy Manh was born in the central highlands of Vietnam. Shan's origins are rooted in tragedy. Her father was a colonel in the South Vietnamese army, who was forced to bring his wife and four children on missions. When Shan's brother, Tran Coy Manh, was attacked by a Viet Cong soldier, Shan's power of mind possession emerged to protect him. Tran soon exhibited the identical power, and relished in using it cruelly. While Tran was rescued from the throes of war by their crime lord uncle, General Nguyen Ngoc Coy, Shan escaped on a small, cramped, boat with hundreds of others, including her parents and her younger brother and sister, Leong and Nga. Shan's father was killed by Thai pirates on the way to the United States; she and her mother were raped by the pirates and her mother died shortly thereafter.

File:Karma 1.jpg

Karma explains the effect of war. Art by Frank Miller (Marvel Team-Up #100).

Arriving in New York City, a program to help Vietnamese immigrants run by the Catholic priest Father Michael Bowen (Dagger's uncle), helped Karma find work and an apartment. However, General Coy insisted she use her powers in his service, as Tran was already doing, and kidnapped Leong and Nga when she refused. "Possessing" Spider-Man, she attempted to use him to reclaim the children from a party her uncle was holding, before the Fantastic Four intervened and Tran (without realizing she was in control of Spider-Man) forced her out of Spider-Man's mind in possessing him long enough for the Thing to knock him out. With technical aid from Professor X, the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man tracked her down. After an initial misunderstanding, they agreed to help her reclaim the children, but Tran possessed the Fantastic Four and set them against Spider-Man. Finally, Shan lashed out, absorbing her brother completely and taking the name "Karma". It should be noted that at this point Karma's powers doubled after this absorption, thereby making her more powerful than she was at this point in time.[1]

New Mutants

Reed Richards referred Karma to Professor X, and she became his first recruit for his new team of mutant teenagers, the New Mutants. Karma had been working a full-time job to support herself and her siblings, and so agreed to work as Xavier's secretary to help him run the school in return for a generous salary.[2]

Karma was the New Mutants' first leader, and along them battled the Sentinels.[3] Before long, however, the team believed her dead when she became separated from them after a fight with Viper and the Silver Samurai.[4] Instead, another mutant telepath, Amahl Farouk, whose physical body was killed in a battle with Professor X on the astral plane, took Karma as a host body. Possessed by Farouk, she engaged in rampant criminal activity. She ran a gladiatorial arena, where she masterminded the Gladiators, and came to the New Mutants' attention when two of them (Sunspot and Magma) had been forced to participate in the high-stakes gladiatorial competition.[5]

File:Karma Fat.jpg

Karma bemoans her obesity... Art by Art Adams (New Mutants Special Edition #1).

Under possession of the Shadow King, she took temporary control of the minds of the X-Man Storm and most of the New Mutants. However, the Shadow King's mind fled from Karma's body, and she defeated him in psychic combat. Eventually she was rescued by the other New Mutants, but a side-effect of the possession had left her grossly obese, as Farouk was a large eater in life and had continued his voracity when using Karma's body.[6] The New Mutants and Storm took a vacation on a small Grecian island. Karma isolated herself, not even wanting to eat and angrily berating Storm, then crying in her arms.

File:Karma thin.jpg

...yet she emerges from the barren desert wastes as lithe as ever. Art by Art Adams (New Mutants Special Edition #1).

Due to a previous defeat at the hands of the X-Men, the Asgardian Trickster God Loki sends the Enchantress to kidnap the X-Men. Thinking, because of Storm, the New Mutants were the X-Men, the team and Karma are taken. Magik attempts to teleport everyone away, but her powers interact badly with the Enchantress' spells. Everyone but Magik is tossed through space and time. Karma ends up in a desert wasteland, where she decides to lay down and die. However, she happens upon a young child being pursued by a monster native to the wasteland. She uses her powers to drive the monster away and decides she must live for her sake. Karma uses her powers to stun the wildlife, allowing them both to survive. By the time she meets up with the other New Mutants again, she had lost all the additional weight (and in fact was shapelier than ever) and her hair had grown to waist-length. The child had vanished, a twist of fate manifested by the Norns.[7] After an encounter with — and temporary death at the hands of — the Beyonder, she and her fellow New Mutants were briefly transferred to the Massachusetts Academy, and joined the Hellions. Alongside the other New Mutants, she battled the Avengers and then returned with the New Mutants to Xavier's school.[8]

Father Bowen, Karma's confessor, cared for Leong and Nga during Karma's absence, but she resumed caring for the youths upon her return to the New Mutants. During the Mutant Massacre, though, Karma fears for her siblings' safety after witnessing many Morlock casualties at the hands of the Marauders. Leong and Nga had in fact gone missing and Karma's apartment was mysteriously bombed — in fact, she was nearly killed by the Marauders's bomb.[9] The Xavier School’s current headmaster, Magneto, was unable to locate the missing children, even with the resources of the Hellfire Club at his disposal. Believing she must be more proactive in finding the kidnapped children, Karma left the New Mutants to return to General Coy's service to find her missing siblings.[10]

Searching for Leong and Nga

Karma reluctantly accepted work for her uncle, General Nguyen Coy, in Madripoor in exchange for help in locating her siblings. In Madripoor, she officially opposed, but often covertly helped the X-Man Wolverine who she knew from her days at the X-Mansion. She saved Wolverine and Tyger Tiger from Roughouse and Bloodscream.[11] General Coy strung Karma along for several months with promises of finding the children, but she eventually left him for his lack of scruples.

Karma continued her search independently, and as it turned out, the children had been abducted by Shinobi Shaw and sold to Viper and Spiral, intent on sending the children through the “Body Shop”. With the aid of Cannonball and Beast, Karma finally located and freed Leong and Nga,[12] while learning that her brother's essence was still alive, though dormant, within her.

Karma reunited with the original New Mutants for a minor adventure in which they met their past selves traveling to the present.[13] Karma evidenced expanded telepathic powers in this appearance, specifically removing the memories of the older New Mutants from the minds of the younger ones. These abilities have not been seen since. Karma later met many New Mutants friends, in the form of X-Force at a desert rave, where she had dyed hair, body piercings, and revealing clothing, a surprising difference to the image held by many of her former teammates.[14]

She soon moves to Chicago with Leong and Nga and took a job as a librarian for the University of Chicago while attending classes.[15] There, she ran into Kitty Pryde and assisted her in her mission against the anti-mutant hate group, Purity. Around this time she publicly came out as a lesbian and confessed her undying love to Kitty. According to Shan, she had tried to speak to Kitty about her feelings, but desisted when she felt that Kitty could not reciprocate her feelings.[16]

Teacher at Xavier's

File:Karma (comics).jpg

Karma performing administrative functions. Art by Michael Ryan.

Months afterwards, Danielle Moonstar, another ex-New Mutant, dropped by the University of Chicago while trying to recruit Prodigy to the renamed Xavier Institute. Her siblings became friends with Prodigy, even trying to run a harmless scam on him. Prodigy was not fooled, due to his powers. Ultimately, Karma decided to return to Xavier's, where she served as the librarian and mentor to the students less than fifteen years of age (thus too young to be assigned to squads). She was specifically chosen as a mentor by the younger student Anole.

When Rahne Sinclair left the Xavier Institute due to a romance with a younger student, her position as advisor of the Paragons squad was left to Karma. Upon the (temporary) death of Northstar, Karma also became the advisor to his squad, the Alpha Squadron. Magma eventually took over duties as the advisor of the Paragons, yet that still left Karma as the librarian, French teacher, and adviser to the Lower School and Alpha Squadron.


Karma retained her powers after M-Day. The school's population was drastically reduced and the squad system was abolished. She continued to reside at the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning, though she was not part of an X-Men team. As of Decimation, the whereabouts of her younger brother and sister, Leong and Nga, are unclear.

She is present when Apocalypse returns and tries to stop some of the 198 from accepting his offer to join him.

Divided We Stand

After the school is closed down following the events of Messiah Complex, Karma is said to belong to the newest incarnation of the Brotherhood along fellow former New Mutants Danielle Moonstar, Cannonball, Sunspot and Magma. However, Cannonball tells Sunspot that he is unable to contact her.

Manifest Destiny

Karma moves to San Francisco along with all the other X-Men. She trains with Emma Frost in the use of her powers only to disappoint Emma, who states that Karma has one of the greatest mutant abilities in the world, but is losing her edge and cannot control her emotions. Karma later reflects on this and her life and grieves over Kitty's sacrifice on the Breakworld. Later, Leong and Nga play around with a picture of "Aunt Kitty," and Karma loses control of her powers and accidentally possess them in a fit of anger and realizes Emma's words were right. She becomes determined to become in control of her life, her emotions, and her powers.[17]

Later when Pixie shows up beaten badly by a human group known as the Hellfire Cult, Karma works with the X-Men as bait to lure them into a trap.[18] They capture one of the members and extract the information they need.

Powers and abilities

Karma is a mutant with the ability to take possession of the minds of other people or animals. She projects a psionic energy surge that overwhelms the consciousness of another; this renders the victim unconscious, while placing her own mind in command. It allows her to alter the victim's perceptions and memories, command entranced opponents to divulge information, and/or operate their bodies as if they were an extension of her own.

When Karma first takes possession of someone, she can only move her subject's body awkwardly until she acclimates herself to her new host. If she remains in possession of a host for too long she will begin to think and act as her host would, and eventually her own personality would become subordinate to one identical to the host's. Although Karma can possess multiple subjects simultaneously, her control over her subjects is fragmented as she shifts her attention from one to another.

Karma had also begun developing other telepathic abilities that were either latent or triggered by her use by the Shadow King. She is also able to generate a psionic deflector shield that disrupts incoming psi-signatures, protecting her from all manner of psychic assaults.[19]

Karma is also a capable combatant with medieval weapons (particularly swords), due to the extended period of time she spent in Asgard. She is also familiar with first aid and firearms owing to her time in Vietnam.

Other versions

Age of Apocalypse

In the Age of Apocalypse, Karma is Angel’s assistant, helping him manage his nightclub called Heaven, and keeping a neutral stance in the civil war between Apocalypse’s loyal followers, openly resistant mutants, and the human population. Part of Karma’s job is to use her mental powers to gather information from their guests, and also to make sure none would remember anything suspicious they might have witnessed. Eventually, Karma is kidnapped by Apocalypse’s troops to be interrogated on matters regarding the X-Men. Karma keeps quiet as long as she can, but when the Shadow King is released on her, she gives away the desired information. She is then discarded outside Apocalypse's stronghold.

Learning of his assistant’s fate, Angel goes searching for her. Warren is blinded by rage at the time, and when an Infinite guard calls out to him, he shoots the guard with his gun. Too late, though, he recognizes the guard's voice as Karma's. As he pulls her dying body from the suit of armor, she apologizes for having let him down.

Days of Future Past

In the Days of Future Past continuity, Karma is part of Pete Wisdom’s resistance force in Great Britain in the year 2013. She only answers to her codename, and has apparently suffered terrible losses. Trying to cope with her situation, Karma displays a dark sense of humor and has refined her powers to the point where she can perceive things through a person's eyes without really possessing him or her.

Ultimate Karma

In the Ultimate Marvel continuity, Karma is seen as a much darker character, working as one of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Psi-Ops agents. She is called in by Nick Fury to find out whether or not the President was being mind-controlled by Charles Xavier, based on his recent pro-mutant stand. Upon the request of the President, she is added as the final member of the government sponsored New Mutants to observe the group. She is later instrumental in gaining evidence against a high-ranking government official who is the head of the anti-mutant conspiracy, arresting both high-ranking officials involved in attacks on the 'New Mutants' on the Capitol steps. Whenever she uses her powers, her eyes glow a dark pink color.

Other media


  • Karma could be seen in the X-Men animated series of the mid-1990s as one of Apocalypse's captive psychics in the final episode of the multi-part storyline, Beyond Good and Evil, wearing her green costume.


  • In the film X2, her name appears on a list of names Mystique scrolls through on Stryker's computer while looking for Magneto's file, but her surname is spelled incorrectly as "Mahn".

Video games

  • In the video game Marvel: Ultimate Alliance she is mentioned as preventing Colossus from beating up Weasel.


  1. Marvel Team-Up #100
  2. Marvel Graphic Novel #4: New Mutants
  3. New Mutants #2
  4. New Mutants #5-6
  5. New Mutants #30-31
  6. New Mutants #32-34
  7. New Mutants Special Edition #1; Uncanny X-Men Annual #9
  8. New Mutants #38-40
  9. New Mutants #46
  10. New Mutants #54
  11. Wolverine #4
  12. Beast #1-3
  13. New Mutants: Truth or Death miniseries
  14. "X-Force #75"
  15. Mekanix #1
  16. "New Mutants (2nd Series) #4"
  17. X-Men: Manifest Destiny #1
  18. Uncanny X-Men #501
  19. New Mutants: Truth or Death #2

External links