Decades ago, Gemma Sinclair was an African-American cleaning lady at Los Alamos National Laboratory. While she was pregnant, an exploding lab experiment bombarded Gemma with radiation, causing her unborn child to mutate. Nekra was born an albino with vampiric features. Loathed by her parents and community, Nekra ran away into the New Mexico desert to live alone when she was fourteen years old.
She soon encountered by chance another child who had been mutated by the same explosion. Although his parents were white, he had been born dark-skinned and had developed fur and baboon-like features, for which he had named himself Mandrill. For six years they lived by theft and scavenging, until they were attacked by a lynch mob that thought they were monsters. While filled with rage, Nekra discovered she was invulnerable to the mob's attacks. Slaying a few of their persecutors, the two escaped and come to regard each other as if they were siblings.
The two later left to Africa, as part of the Mandrill's ambitious scheme to overthrow multiple nations through Black Spectre, a cult of personality powered by the Mandrill's pheromonal control over women. This effort was thwarted by Shanna the She-Devil. The two eventually escaped, kidnapping Shanna's father in the process, and eventually killing him.
Their next plot was of similar means, whereby they used the Mandrill's powers to raise a cult of black women to overthrow America. They were eventually defeated on the White House lawn by Daredevil, the Black Widow, and Shanna. Abandoned by Mandrill, Nekra was captured by authorities.
Nekra was held captive and drugged in a S.H.I.E.L.D. hospital, until a subliminal message from Hate-Monger inadvertently gave her the rage necessary to break free. While in the New York sewers, Nekra encountered a cult of Kali, whom she persuaded that Nekra herself was the reincarnation of Kali. She then moved to the West Coast where she killed and replaced Adrienne Hatros, the reclusive sponsor of an emotional research clinic where Nekra hoped to overcome her own dependency upon emotions. This plot was foiled by the first Spider Woman.
Escaping again, Nekra fell in with the voodoo-master the Black Talon as voodoo tutor, and with the Grim Reaper as her lover. When the Grim Reaper died in combat, Nekra was able to briefly reanimate him as a zombie, so lifelike that even the Grim Reaper did not realize he is dead. When Nekra's love became greater than her hate though, the Reaper died again. Nekra took his corpse with her, in hopes of reanimating him again.
Nekra then had run-ins with Spider-Man, Henry Pym, and then Alpha Flight.
Nekra finally managed to re-animate the Grim Reaper again, but this time there was a caveat: he had to kill one person every 24 hours in order to stay 'alive.' The Reaper then promptly chose Nekra as his first victim and killed her.
Sensing the potential threat of Doctor Druid, Daimon Hellstrom used his magics to reanimate Nekra, and sent her to investigate him. First she seduced Dr Druid, which negated his powers, but he managed to regain them via sacrifice. Nekra then shot Dr. Druid in the forehead, killing him.
Nekra was donating genetic material to an M.G.H ring that had sprung up in L.A. after the death of The Pride. She was defeated by Ricochet, Darkhawk, and the third Spider-Woman. She later returned at the Loners' meeting place to get her revenge on them. Nekra easily battled and defeated all of the Loners and preceded to strangle Mickey, when she was struck from behind by a mysterious lady named "Namie".
In Chapter 1 of the "Utopia" storyline, Nekra was seen fighting alongside Frenzy. She was taken out with a sucker punch energy blast by Ms. Marvel (Karla Sofen). During the conclusion, when the mutants fought the Avengers, Nekra, Frenzy, and Bling! took down Ms. Marvel.