Marvel Comics’ Nekra Sinclair first popped up in 1973, opposite to “jungle queen” character Shanna the She-Devil. She then kept returning into stories, albeit often minor ones.
Nekra is one of those numerous super-hero comics characters who seem tacky and shallow to the superficial reader, but reveal a wealth of hooks and material once researched. She’s got a lot of backstory, varied capabilities, interesting characterisation, etc. and can carry a bunch of stories.
This profile is a bit big so it was split. Here’s a link to part #2.
- Real Name: Nekra Sinclair.
- Former Aliases: Adrienne Hatros, Priestess of Darkness, High Priestess of the Cult of Hatred.
- Marital Status: Single.
- Known Relatives: Buck Sinclair (father, deceased), Gemma Sinclair (mother, deceased), former common-law wife of Jerome Beechman (aka the Mandrill), Death Reaper (real name unknown, alleged daughter).
- Group Affiliation: One-time agent of Hellstorm, member of the Utopia mutant community. Former member of the two versions of the Lethal Legion, of Black Spectre, of the cult of Kâli. Former partner of the Mandrill. Apparent stakeholder in an unrevealed narcotics syndicate. Frequent partner of the Grim Reaper (Williams).
- Base Of Operations: Mobile. Formerly Nigeria, the Black Spectre flagship, the sewers under New York City, the Hatros clinic in Los Angeles, the Hatros clinic in Shriver Cove, the Vault, a hell dimension and now Utopia.
- Height: 5’11” Weight: 140 lbs.
- Eyes: Black over a green cornea. Hair: Black
Powers and Abilities
Nekra’s most distinctive ability is to channel the power of her hatred into superhuman strength and durability. When angry enough she can :
- Lift a car (or even a truck if she’s an exceptionally intense emotional state).
- Withstand the impact of a .30-06 bullet at close range with no more than a bruise.
- See knives shatter on her skin.
She is practised at summoning her anger and experiencing violent feelings of hate. This allows her to reach the levels listed in her game stats block whenever she wishes to. Special circumstances producing unusually strong feelings of hatred can make her even more powerful (in DC Heroes RPG terms, Power Reserve).
Upon meeting her in combat, Shanna the She-Devil described Nekra as “a cross between Bela Lugosi and a Sherman tank”. The chemicals released into her blood when she’s boosted have been called “neo-adrenaline”, though that’s not an actual medical or biochemical nomenclature.
Even with practice, Nekra cannot remain in an all-out state of hatin’ forever. Her superhuman strength and durability will likely start fading after 30 minutes or so, and disappear after an hour. Furthermore, remaining in such a hateful state for that long is emotionally and physically draining.
A bit like Luke Cage, it’s her skin and outer muscles that can become very hard – not her inner physiology. Thus, Nekra can for instance be defeated by being choked into unconsciousness like any human. If her opponents is strong enough.
Moreover, she can withstand deadly extremes of heat and cold. When galvanising Mandrill’s troops she would often yell her rants whilst walking barefooted within a blazing fire.
Nekra also enjoys a natural anti-ageing factor. I would say a factor of 10 after she hit 20, or something close to that.
Nekra is a superior hand-to-hand fighter. Yet in practice it is hard to assess how much of her speed and strength comes from her superhuman abilities and how much is training. She’s also very agile (in DC Heroes terms, Acrobatics). Early on, she thought she was the most agile woman in the world,. But she’s actually far from such a lofty ranking.
Still, her movements are fast, fluid and graceful. She’s also an excellent dancer. She has occasionally been seen using her superhuman strength to perform impressive jumps, though she’s only be doing that regularly since the 2000s.
Nekra Sinclair is a skilled priestess and cult leader, running things in a way that would be familiar to Thulsa Doom or Kulan Gath. She has significant raw charisma and presence, oodles of hateful fervour, is an indefatigable dancer, and can yell and rant about the superiority of hatred for quite a while.
She also developed useful skills in the fine art of brainwashing. She uses a number of heterogeneous techniques (cult-like programming, chemicals, hypnotism, sensory bombardment, etc.).
Later on, Nekra developed a clear potency as an occultist . Her training is heteroclite, and the exact extend of her abilities is unrevealed. But she’s really good with non-standard zombie animation projects.
The dead heart (part 1)
Nekra doesn’t have much in the way of formal occultism training. But she has cobbled together a surprisingly powerful magical ritual from the traditions she has been exposed to.
It may be unique, since it draws from :
- The lore of the cults of Kâli.
- Experience with mystics from Nigeria and elsewhere (presumably Yoruba stuff).
- Creole voodoo rituals learned from the Black Talon (presumably Damballah mysteries).
The later is the main influence.
This magical hodgepodge produces zombies that combine the toughness of an animated corpse with the full dexterity and mentality of the person while they were alive. Basically, the person is resurrected mind and possibly soul into their own dead body. Nekra seems to use various secondary rituals to preserve and repair the corpse.
The dead heart (part 2)
The ritual requires months of work. The list of components includes quartz, a number of magnetised metals, and plants that only grow in deep underground caverns. Its effects are not quite amenable to being described in the game system (there is no “resurrect people” Power, for starters). Especially since this is chiefly used as a plot element and the effects seem to be somewhat variable.
The subject of the Ritual is resurrected with the feeling of having simply overslept – by how much depends on how long they have been dead. They retain all or most of their capabilities. Corpses animated by Nekra are stronger and tougher than the living, but the specifics are variable.
The first time she reanimated Eric Williams, he looked and felt lifelike (though he couldn’t feel pain). Yet he was dependent on her to keep the animation spell running. Once it broke, Williams returned to death. The second version of the enchantment was engineered not to make him dependent on anyone – though Williams clearly looked like a zombie.
The animation was powered by the draining of life force rather than by a magician. In this state the Grim Reaper had to take a life every 24 hours or return to death.
Nekra and Mandrill – mutants or mutates ?
Nekra Sinclair and Jerome Beechman are technically mutates .
They were subjected to radiation accumulated by their parents, which resulted in genetic damage and super-powers. Since they were irradiated in 1944, right as they were conceived, they arguably are among the earliest mutates of the “modern age”. For instance they predate the Fantastic Four by nearly 20 years.
However, several sources consider them to be mutants. It would seem that Nekra herself identifies as a mutant. Which, scientifically speaking, is not absurd. For instance the Beast (Dr. Henry McCoy) has practically similar origins, his father having been irradiated at an atomic plant, and is quite clearly a mutant.
Whether Nekra and the Mandrill register on mutant detectors is unrevealed, but it’s probable. Nekra was left untouched by M-Day , but this doesn’t prove anything one way or the other.
Both were physically divergent since birth. But that also occasionally happens with mutants, though transformation after puberty is far more common.
An interesting bit is that Mr. Sinister (as “Dr. Nathan Milbury”) was working for the Manhattan Project, along with the parents of Nekra, Mandrill and Charles Xavier. He is documented to have implanted genetic material into many of the children of the Project’s scientist. The goal was for them to serve as back up bodies for his consciousness to transfer into in the case of his death.
It is thus possible that Nekra and Mandrill are mutates, mutants *and* artificial mutants.
Nekra was born in 1945 in New Mexico — presumably in, or near, Los Alamos or Alamogordo.
Her mother, Gemma Sinclair, was a cleaning lady. Mrs. Sinclair was exposed to a massive amount of radiation when an early nuclear pile accidentally went critical. She apparently did not suffer from any ill effects. Given the poor understanding of radiation back then, this didn’t attract much attention.
However, some months later, her daughter was born a mutate. The baby had chalk-white skin, strange eyes, straight inky black hair and vampire-like fangs. Nekra Sinclair’s childhood and adolescence were thus a gauntlet of harassment and cruelty. Furthermore, she was a Black girl with a White-looking complexion well before the end of racial segregation in the US.
Another person had been present during the atomic pile accident – a White engineer, Mr. Beechman. The Beechmans’s baby, born roughly at the same time as Nekra Sinclair, was also a mutate with an unusual appearance. He had a dark brown skin with tufts of fur-like hair. His physique would soon become markedly ape-like, complete with facial features similar to those of mandrills.
Experiencing a childhood not unlike Sinclair’s, Jerome Beechman was eventually left to die in the desert by his father.
Sinclair found Beechman in the desert after running away from her home. They became friends ; both were about ten at that point. The runaways wandered the Southern US, surviving through stealth and theft. They avoided human contact as much as possible. They actively educated themselves by listening to lessons from outside schools – and by stealing books.
When they were 16, the odd duo was finally spotted outside outside a high school. An armed mob surrounded them. Overwhelmed by hatred toward their persecutors, Nekra savagely lashed out. This is how she discovered that hatred made her superhumanly strong and invulnerable.
Shortly after this incident, Mandrill discovered his pheromonal abilities. With the power at their disposal, the pair decided to strike back at a world that feared and hated them.
Mandrill and Nekra came up with an idea of building a terrorist movement out of disenfranchised women mind-controlled by the Mandrill. They would then exacerbate ethnic hatreds among society until the chaos would allow them to step into power. The duo decided to start their movement in Western Africa. Perhaps they reasoned that governments were easier to topple in many countries of that area.
Though the Shanna the She-Devil adventures are always said to occur in Dahomey (which would soon become Benin), I’ve long assumed that they in fact took place over the border in Western Nigeria, mostly for linguistic reasons. Nekra is thus listed as having operated there rather than in Dahomey.
(Another note – though the story attempts to address racial issues it does so in a super-dated, super-White manner. Keep in mind that the material was written in 1973 and 1974. It also seems to have been written with a parodic intent, which as often is difficult to grok decades later. In this profile I present this as a consequence of Nekra and the Mandrill being young outsiders with too much powers on their hand, but this is spin.)
An attack against Nigeria
Thus, they started their “religion of hatred” in Nigeria, with the goal of collapsing the governments of “three African countries” (I would assume Dahomey (soon to become Benin), Nigeria and Cameroon). Nekra was the great priestess of the cult-like organisation, preaching the power of hatred.
They assembled a fanatical militia made up of local women. They then started approaching local figures to persuade them, through violence if necessary, to join their faction.
One of the notables they approached was Shanna O’Hara, best known as Shanna the She-Devil. O’Hara turned against them, and overcame the inexperienced Mandrill and Nekra. Still, they did quite a bit of damage. Though S.H.I.E.L.D. arrested Mandrill, Nekra escaped after killing a close ally of Shanna, Patrick McShane.
Sinclair also took Shanna’s father hostage, and fled to Capetown with him. After she forced him to will his shares of mining companies to an alias of the Mandrill, she killed her captive.
Building Black Spectre
Nekra apparently retained control of some of the Nigerian cultists, though they were no longer under the Mandrill’s pheromonal control. She even had the ominous giant mandrill statue that was in her Nigerian temple moved or rebuilt.
She further managed to hire superhuman muscle to bust Mandrill free of the S.H.I.E.L.D. gaols. Namely the Silver Samurai, in his first documented mercenary mission.
Mandrill and Nekra, with the Samurai on retainer, came back the US. The plan was to build a new power base and try to take over the country. The terrorist organisation they founded, based to a small extent on their Nigerian one, was called Black Spectre. It was mostly made up of African-American women mesmerised by the Mandrill and indoctrinated by Nekra.
Apparently, part of their financing was derived from the South African diamond mines formerly owned by Shanna O’Hara’s dad.
Unleashing Black Spectre, part 1
Black Spectre then launched a terrorist campaign in the US. Howbeit Mandrill’s and Nekra’s plans were still… naïve. Some of the weird highlights of this campaign included :
- Topping the Washington monument with replica Nazi regalia.
- Adding a laser-sculpted head of Hitler to Mount Rushmore.
- Triggering race riots on Liberty Island.
- Drugging avant-garde theatre actors so they would hurt and kill each other during the premiere.
- Stealing money-printing plates from the government.
- Showering New York City streets with stolen cash to create chaos and near-riots.
Despite the strangeness of it all, Black Spectre was leaving corpses behind and causing unrest throughout the nation. They also apparently started a gang war in New York. District Attorney “Foggy” Nelson investigated this, but was nearly killed by a sniper for his interference.
Unleashing Black Spectre, part 2
Nekra and the Mandrill also managed to ambush the Black Widow and turn her into a Black Spectre agent. Yet, the Widow was not as useful as an agent as she could have been. Her constant attempts at resisting the Mandrill’s influence made her sluggish and muddled. Still, she did tell them that Matt Murdock was Daredevil.
Daredevil and the Thing boarded the Black Spectre flagship. However, they were repulsed and almost killed.
Mandrill and several Black Spectre agents later ambushed Daredevil in Matt Murdock’s flat. They failed to kill him. But they succeeded in their next operation – to destroy the towers atop the Empire State Building (then a key telecoms hub) and send them crashing in the street below.
Black Spectre’s endgame
Black Spectre captured Shanna the She-Devil, who had come to New York to pursue the assassins of her father. Daredevil managed to board their flagship again, only to be captured. Thankfully, the Black Widow broke the Mandrill’s mesmerism at this point. She freed Daredevil and Shanna.
At this point, the Mandrill and Nekra launched the last part of their plan. They threatened to blow New York City up with an atomic bomb, and invaded the White House. The A-bomb bluff worked, and the lawn of the evacuated White House was soon occupied by the giant mandrill statue and Black Spectre warriors. These shed their protective gear to operate in their pseudo-African ceremonial clothing.
Daredevil, the Black Widow and Shanna engaged Nekra and the Mandrill in combat in the Oval Office. The Mandrill was seemingly killed, but immediately escaped. Nekra was defeated when the Black Widow broke her concentration with an explosion. This left Nekra deprived of her hatred-enhanced physical abilities long enough for the She-Devil to punch her out.
Nekra soon escaped. S.H.I.E.L.D. kept her drugged and restrained to counter her super-strength, but the television in her room broadcast a speech that was part of the Hate-Monger’s campaign of chaos in the US. The Monger’s power allowed Nekra to overcome the tranquillisers and she broke free.
While she was hiding in New York City’s sewers, Sinclair stumbled on something very much to her liking. It was a genuine Thuggee cult venerating Kâli-Ma. This cult was being led and redeveloped by the Living Goddesses Shaya and Ushas – actually mortal priestesses with superhuman powers.
Nekra offered herself as sacrifice. When the sacrificial kriss failed to pierce her skin, she affirmed that it was divine protection from Kâli. Nekra demanded that the other two priestesses be subjected to the same ordeal, apparently resulting in the death of Ushas and Shaya. Nekra took over the cult as its new priestess, and later had everybody move to Los Angeles.
Cults of Kâli
Based on Caliban’s work at marvunapp , here are the main bands of Thuggee killers that are relevant to this writeup:
- The Cult in the Himalayas which gave the Shroud his powers, then vanished. It was presumably the same cult that was dismantled by Shanna the She-Devil. It had links with Nekra since tracking them down eventually led the Shroud to her clinic.
- The Cult headed by the Living Goddesses (Ushas and Shaya), which was taken over by Nekra. It was often called the Cult of Kara-Kai. Nekra rebuilt it in her manner in Los Angeles since she needed the manpower.
- A resurrection of the first Cult, which was battled by the Shroud years after Shanna did. No known connections with Nekra, but there’s nothing to rule contacts out either.
- The ersatz cult Nekra assembled in Massachusetts, made of brainwashed New Englanders dressed and armed like very old-fashioned Indian thugs. It seems to just have been a glorified militia.
- After she returns from Hell, Nekra mentions running what seems to be a serious and competent effort at a Kâli-based cult of death with strong influences from several kinds of voodoo. For instance, animating zombies is part of some initiation-into-higher-mysteries cycles. It is unrevealed whether this cult actually existed or was just invented as part of Nekra’s cover.
Of interest in Los Angeles was the Hatros Clinic, specialising in emotions research. It was run by Adrienne Hatros, the reclusive widow of Dr. Hatros. Based on Dr. Hatros’s research, the clinic was well-regarded and benefited from a huge buzz on the LA social circuit.
A Thuggee killer murdered Mrs. Hatros, and Nekra stole her identity. Few people had actually met Adrienne Hatros in recent years. Controlling the Hatros Clinic likely allowed Nekra to refine her ability to summon her hatred. She also turned it into a base of operation for her cultists.
Along came a spider
One of the persons interested in the clinic, named Jessica Drew, attracted Nekra’s attention. Drew had abnormal pheromonal secretions arousing subtle but tenacious hatred in women. On Nekra, Drew’s biochemicals had the opposite effect. They made her feel trust and affection toward Drew.
Nekra hated feeling that way. But she realised that by having her doctors study Drew she could learn to gain immunity from Drew’s and the Mandrill’s pheromones. That was important to her as she had grown to hate Mandrill for having forsaken her. Nekra craved a revenge that his pheromonal powers made impossible.
“Adrienne Hatros” had her lackeys offer Drew a job as a receptionist to keep her nearby. Unfortunately for Nekra, Drew was actually Spider-Woman. Furthermore another costumed hero, the Shroud, an enemy of Kâli cults, zeroed in on the clinic and the cult it hosted. Lastly, S.H.I.E.L.D. also stumbled on her operations.
Clinics and prisons
Nekra’s thugs ambushed a pair of S.H.I.E.L.D. investigators and captured them, but Spider-Woman and the Shroud freed them. They did not manage to arrest Nekra. Neither did they recognise her thanks to her bulky, hooded priestly robes.
The situation ended in a ferocious fight between Spider-Woman and Nekra, as Sinclair tested her antidote to Spider-Woman’s pheromones. Spider-Woman only narrowly survived and won the fray. Nekra was hospitalised and presumably returned into S.H.I.E.L.D. custody.
Nekra was next seen — in 1983 — as a prisoner of Locksmith. How she ended up there is unrevealed. When Spider-Woman and other prisoners managed to get out of their cells and take out Locksmith, Nekra seized the opportunity to escape.
Nekra Sinclair met the Grim Reaper (Eric Williams) as he was assembling a new Lethal Legion. She fell in love with the psychotic, hateful, neurotic, fanatical Reaper. They started a passionate relationship. Nekra felt that Williams was at least as a good mate for her as the Mandrill had been. The violently racist Williams decided that Sinclair was not really Black due to her mutated complexion.
One of Williams’s recruits for the Legion was a voodoo occultist, the Black Talon. He had been recruited since the Reaper’s plot hinged on reanimating his brother Simon. Though she was at first contemptuous of his magics, Nekra acted as a ritual assistant and dancer in the Talon’s rituals. She gradually developed skills in the dark arts.
While the Legion was initially successful, it fell apart due to Williams’s racism and the opposition of the West Coast Avengers. The Grim Reaper ended up jumping to his death whilst confronting his brother Simon and his quasi-brother the Vision.
Nekra escaped from the Avengers and hid in caverns. She then recovered the Reaper’s corpse and fled with it. Not having witnessed his death, she erroneously thought that he had been murdered by the Vision. Nekra then used the mystical knowledge she had gleaned from the Black Talon to reanimate Eric Williams as a zombie, with an intact mentality and capacities.
Unable to cope with his new state, Williams claimed that he was still alive and that his death had just been a bad dream. Out of love, Nekra did not contradict his delusion, and played along. She also created a zombie henchman, using the corpse of a hitman left over from their previous scheme.
Sinclair and the Reaper then resumed Williams’s obsessive pursuit of his brother.&emspo;But they ended up fighting Wonder Man and Magneto. Though they burned every Hero Point they had, the outcome was never in doubt. Wonder Man realised that his brother was now a zombie, and Magneto proved it.
Shocked at the realisation that he was undead, the Reaper turned against Nekra. After a last attempt at killing Wonder Man with her bare hands, Nekra had a nervous breakdown over the Reaper rejecting her. This breakdown destroyed her spell, and the Reaper reverted to being an inanimate corpse.
Somehow, Nekra managed to break free and escape with the corpse of the Grim Reaper. She then proceeded to reconstruct her Adrienne Hatros cover, restart a Kâli cult, and reopen the Hatros Clinic. She did so in Massachusetts, far away from California. The new site was a sinister building in Shriver Cove, near Cape Cod.
Wishing to expand her power base, Nekra used the clinic to brainwash the locals into feeling all-consuming hatred toward outsiders. The town became increasingly isolated. She also bought a specialised high-tech sarcophagus to preserve the Reaper’s body as she worked on a better reanimation ritual.
However, photographer Peter Parker came to Shriver Cove. He was on a promotional tour for his best-selling photobook Webs. As Spider-Man he noticed the local oddities. After he called the West Coast Avengers for information, Dr. Pym flew in. The two heroes defeated Nekra (and the New Englanders clad as Indian cultists) and undid the brainwashing, but Sinclair managed to flee.
Some months later, in late 1989, Nekra was one of the villains mystically drawn to Canada as part of the Acts of Vengeance conspiracy . She rationalised this impulse as fleeing from the current round of superhuman registration laws.
As she wondered why she was in frigid Manitoba rather than, say, Mexico City, Nekra was assaulted by Vindicator (Heather Hudson). Hudson had been alerted by mystical spirits and thought the American was going to cause massive damage.
The fight between Nekra and Vindicator degenerated as other US-based supercriminals were mystically drawn to it. The violence became uncontrollable. Vindicator realised what was going on, and had the mystic Witchfire cut the villains from the mystical influence of Llan the Sorcerer.
The villains recovered their free will. But most of them (including Nekra) were extradited back to the US to be imprisoned. It was presumably at that point that Williams’s corpse was confiscated and properly inhumed by the authorities.
While Nekra was held at the Vault super-prison there was a massive attempt at a breakout. However, she and Mr. Hyde seemed more interested in catching up with all the sex they had missed while in prison than in escaping. Presumably Nekra had been condemned to a short sentence, and rebelling was not worth it.
The breakout failed thanks to the Avengers’s and Freedom Force’s arrival.
All the while, Nekra has been perfecting new voodoo rituals. Her goal was to raise Eric Williams from the dead once more. Her main improvement allowed the zombie to maintain the spell by himself (by taking a human life every 24 hours) rather than be dependent on her. She thought that it would please him.
Nekra dug up the Grim Reaper and turned the corpse into an undead creature. Though Williams’s was still a heinous psychopath and now clearly looked like a walking corpse, she was overjoyed by her success. This didn’t last long. The Reaper impaled her with his scythe and cruelly drained her of her life force to feed the enchantment.
Nekra was killed and reduced to a desiccated corpse.
And yet this profile is continued in part #2. What witchery is this ?
Source of Character: Marvel Universe.
Helper(s): Darci, Frank Murdock. The information about the different cults of Kâli in the MU was assembled by Caliban on Marvunapp.com.