Karma gets a new first name in Trung Le Nguyen’s ‘Karma in Love’

The Vietnamese character now has a first name more befitting of her background and culture.

A classic New Mutant received a name change — well, more of a name tweak — in a recent Marvel Unlimited Infinity Comic. Karma, whose real name was Xi’an, is now Xuân.

The Magic Fish creator Trung Le Nguyen, who is also Vietnamese like the character, wrote and drew “Karma in Love,” the story where the new name was noted. He spoke to Marvel.com about the change.

“I’ve had quite a journey around Karma’s civilian name. As a reader who spoke Vietnamese as a child, it was really difficult for me to connect with Karma because I knew her name was gibberish,” he said, noting that the “sh” sound in “Xi’an,” which was shown to be pronounced as “Shan” in various comics, didn’t exist in the Vietnamese language.

“Vietnamese written language uses a Latin alphabet,” he continued. “You don’t have to phonetically approximate the sounds because we already use letters you know. For a long time, I was very put off by it. Then, as I delved through the character’s history, I learned that she was created in 1980. The effective end of the Vietnam War was only five years earlier, in 1975. Before then, most English-speakers had never even heard of Vietnam. I’m sure, for English speakers, doing the research of simply naming her was difficult at the time, and once deadlines are thrown into the mix it becomes prohibitively difficult!”

Karma first appeared in Marvel Team-Up #100, in a story by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller, before moving on to appear in the Claremont-written New Mutants series. Xi’an is a city in China, so perhaps that’s where the creators pulled it from?

“It became clear to me that she was made from a place of consideration; that her creators were trying to bring a character into the fold who weathered a specific humanitarian crisis. Karma, like my parents, is a Vietnamese boat person. She’s a refugee. Karma is part of the Vietnamese diaspora, a việt kiều on Krakoa. In clarifying her name—or renaming her—I wanted to nod to her comic book origins by keeping her name as close to its original as possible while making it legible to readers familiar with Vietnamese. I changed very few letters, but I think it helps give her a fresh start. That’s why I named her ‘Xuân’ [pronounced “Swun”]. It means ‘Spring.’”

If you’re wondering whether “Swun” is appropriate as a first name, never fear — the artist who sometimes goes by Trungles received approval from an important source.

“One thing I didn’t mention in the interview is that when I was brainstorming her new name, I texted my mom a bunch like, ‘Mom does this name sound weird? Would a girl be named this? You’ve named humans before!’ And she very sweetly gave her feedback with absolutely no idea what it was for, bless her,” he said on Tumblr.

Karma in Love can be read on the Marvel Unlimited app.

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