Thursday, February 23, 2012

Spin the karmic mind control wheel

So, how about them New Mutants?

Back in 1982, riding high on the huge sales of Uncanny X-men, Chris Claremont was approached by then-editor in chief Jim Shooter to produce a spin off to the series. After all, more of the same popular thing, equals even bigger sales, right? Ah, the eighties... a stunningly innocent age, in retrospect.

Still, creating a second X-men series wasn't exactly something Claremont wasn't too sure how to do, never mind the fact that he wasn't too eager about rehashing the same formula. Still, alongside his longtime editor Louise "Weezie" Simonson, he came up with a format for a new series based around a group of young mutants studying at Xavier's school for gifted youngsters.

A perfectly legitimate notion, considering the X-men had started out as a book about teenagers coming to terms with their powers, themselves and a world that hates and fears them. But by 1982, the team only had one preteen in Kitty Pryde. The book had strayed off considerably from what Stan Lee and Jack Kirby had set out to accomplish, way back in 1963.

Still, the solution to this problem seemingly originated from Kitty Pryde as well, as a 1978 character design by John Byrne proves. After designing 'Ariel', Byrne jotted down some ideas on how she could be used in the book. Go on, you can read it yourself...

So, if it had been up to Byrne, Kitty would have been the first member of a second team of "X-men in training." Of course, things turned out differently when Kitty joined the main team and the notion of a rookie class ended up on the backburner. 

Yet, Claremont was forced to come up with a cast for his new teambook... Kitty was off limits, with the The X-men lost in space, fighting (and getting mindcontrolled by) the Brood at that point. Still, he had plenty of young mutants to choose from...the first being Karma, a character he had created a year or so earlier.


Meet Karma, Xi'an Coy Manh to friends, basically the living embodiment of Chris Claremont's mind control obsession... Karma's mutant power allows her to control other people's mind, taking over their bodies and essentially steering them to do whatever she wants them to. She discovered her powers back in her native country of Vietnam, when she instinctively tried to stop a Vietcong soldier from harming her family.

In her first appearance, she pitted the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man against one another in a somewhat enjoyable yet convoluted tale in which she jumped from hero to hero, causing Spidey and the FF to fight for a few pages. In a nuthsell: Xi'ans brother Tran enjoyed his mind control powers and used them for personal gain, even entering the employ of his uncle, the crimelord Nguyen Ngoc Coy.

What's worse, Tran had taken his two younger siblings with him, and Xi'an tried her darndest to get them back, by any means necessary... Even taking over famous heroes to help her. At the end of the tale, Karma was forced to 'absorb' her brother, into herself which caused her considerable grief.


Traumatic as it might have been, it set Xi'an on the path to becoming Charles Xavier's newest pupil, even though she was already a young adult by that time. Still, Charles can't resist a good attempt at having mutants show off their powers and causing harm to common citizens. He's like Magneto that way, with less hair and more moral fibre. Or does he?


During her initiation at the school back in Marvel Graphic Novel # 4, Xi'an was forced to give a demonstration of her power by taking over Xavier's long suffering associate Moira MacTaggert. Everyone seemed shocked at Xi'an's capabilities. 

But Xavier couldn't be happier about it and even offered her a job on the spot and promoting her to team leader of the New Mutants before the issue was through.

Having a girl in your midst who can take over your mind and body, without you even realising it? Not sure how you feel about that, but it would creep me out, to say the least. Yet, everyone seemed to accept Karma without a second thought, even when she pulled stuff like this:


Ahhh, so her very reason to be on the team was to dominate and control others, yet... she won't allow that power or anyone else to corrupt her.

Yeah, funny story.

Early on in their run, the New Mutants came across Viper and her partner the Silver Samurai. During that mission, Xi'an was mentally contacted and corrupted by the X-men's old enemy the Shadow King. For more on this disembodied mind control maniac, click HERE

The Shadow King took over Karma's body and turned her evil (and fat), thereby proving that Chris isn't above subjecting his characters to cruel twists of fate.

Having the mind controller get mindcontrolled?

I do suppose karma *IS* a bitch, after all.

... Sidenote: with a frowning, scowling look like that, turning out to be the bitchy puppet of an evil psychic overlord isn't that unlikely at all. And the hair, well... yeah. Did I mention Karma came out as a lesbian in the early 2000s? Twas a big surprise then. 

Not to her hairdresser, though. 

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