Vixen
Vixen (DC Comics character).png
Mari McCabe – Cover art of Justice League of America: Vixen #1 (January 2017).
Art by Ivan Reis.
Publication information
PublisherDC Comics
First appearanceAction Comics #521 (July 1981)
Created byGerry Conway
Bob Oksner
In-story information
Alter egoMari Jiwe McCabe
Amaya Jiwe
SpeciesMetahuman
Team affiliations(McCabe)
Justice League Detroit
Suicide Squad
Checkmate
Ultramarine Corps
Justice League International
Justice League of America II
Justice Foundation
(Jiwe)
Justice Society of America
Legends
Abilities
  • Expert martial artist and hand-to hand combatant
  • Indomitable will
  • Use of mystical Tantu Totem grants:
    • Animal imitation
    • Enhanced strength, speed, stamina, durability, agility, reflexes, and senses
    • Enhanced vision
    • Razor sharp claws
    • Accelerated healing
    • Morphogentetic field energy manipulation

Vixen is a fictional superhero created by Gerry Conway and Bob Oksner. She first appeared in Action Comics #521 (July 1981), published by DC Comics.[1] Vixen is a superheroine in possession of the Tantu Totem, which allows her to harness the spirit (ashe) of animals. She can conjure the power and abilities of any animal past or present.

Two versions of the character appeared in The CW's Arrowverse. Original comic book character Mari McCabe debuted in the CW Seed animated series Vixen, voiced by Megalyn Echikunwoke, who also reprised her role in an episode of the live-action parent series, Arrow. Legends of Tomorrow introduced a World War II-era Vixen, Amaya Jiwe, identified as Mari's grandmother, portrayed by Maisie Richardson-Sellers.

Publication history

Page from Cancelled Comic Cavalcade showing the intended cover to The Vixen #1. Art by Bob Oskner and Vince Colletta.
Page from Cancelled Comic Cavalcade showing the intended cover to The Vixen #1. Art by Bob Oskner and Vince Colletta.

Vixen was intended to be the first African female DC superhero to star in her own series, but the first issue of her series was cancelled in the DC Implosion in 1978, never to be released. The story was subsequently printed in Cancelled Comic Cavalcade.

Since her debut in Action Comics, she has primarily appeared in team books, most notably various incarnations of the Justice League and Suicide Squad.

In October 2008, G. Willow Wilson began a five-issue limited series, Vixen: Return of the Lion.[2][3]

Character biography

In ancient Ghana, the warrior Tantu asked Anansi the Spider to create a totem that would give the wearer all of the powers of the animal kingdom, only if they would use the power to protect the innocent. Tantu used the totem to become Africa's first legendary hero. The totem was later passed down to Tantu's descendants until it reached the McCabes.

Growing up in a small village in the fictional nation of Zambesi, M'Changa province, Mari Jiwe McCabe heard the legend of the "Tantu Totem" from her mother. Sometime later, Mari's mother was killed by poachers and she was raised by her father Reverend Richard Jiwe, the village priest. Reverend Jiwe himself was killed by his half-brother (Mari's uncle) General Maksai. Maksai wanted the Tantu Totem, which Jiwe had possessed.

Vixen debuts in Action Comics #521.
Vixen debuts in Action Comics #521.

Mari ultimately moved to America, where she established an identity as Mari McCabe and worked as a model in New York City. She used her newfound wealth to travel the world. On a trip back to Africa, she came across her uncle and took back the Tantu Totem, using its power to become the costumed superhero Vixen.

Fighting crime

Vixen made only two appearances as a solo crime fighter: once fighting poachers in India[4] and once fighting against the techno-psycho criminal Admiral Cerebrus.[5] She was a reluctant hero until the Justice League of America was reorganized by Aquaman. She applied for full-time League membership and was accepted.[6] During her time with the JLA, the totem was taken from her by General Maksai, who still sought its power.[7] The totem would only grant its full power to those who would use it to protect the innocent, and it caused Maksai to be transformed into a raging beast. Maksai died in battle with Vixen.[8] When the team faced the killer android Amazo, Vixen and several of her teammates were beaten into unconsciousness and then left bound and gagged in a walled-off pit. Vixen saved the lives of herself and her fellow Leaguers by using her powers to shatter her bonds and dig to freedom.[9] Vixen continued with that particular incarnation of the JLA until two members were killed, Steel and Vibe, and it was disbanded by the Martian Manhunter.[10]

Around this time, Vixen teamed up with Animal Man. She traveled to his suburban house with knowledge of a mysterious, murderous force that was affecting Animal Man's powers. He found himself unable to access his powers correctly.[11]

Suicide Squad

Main article: Suicide Squad

Vixen returned to modeling, but a Caribbean photo session turned violent; Mari's colleagues were killed by drug smugglers. She appealed to the government, who turned the matter over to the Suicide Squad. She went undercover to capture the drug kingpin Cujo, whose appearance had been revealed by footage from the photo shoot. Along with Captain Boomerang and Black Orchid, she destroyed the operation, but not before she lost control and killed the criminal kingpin. Revolted by what she had become, she agreed to work with the Squad until her animal instincts could be curbed.[12] She worked with the Squad for some time, again seeing more teammates and friends killed. When it was disbanded for a year,[13]

Mari returned to modeling and even launched a successful line of clothing. Her failed romance with Ben Turner (the Bronze Tiger) made Vixen decline an offer to rejoin the Squad. She realized that Turner needed mental support, and she reluctantly returned.[14] She ultimately gave up on a future with the Tiger, sensing that he would never admit to needing help, and left the team.[15]

Other adventures

After the Suicide Squad's heyday, Mari continued to do undercover work. She was drafted for at least one mission for Checkmate (the Squad's brother organization).[16] At some point, she assisted Oracle and the Birds of Prey. She went undercover to investigate a strange "superhero" cult, where the leader was using mind control and wound up brainwashed by him herself. The Huntress tried to help her and was nearly killed. Vixen regained her senses by channeling the stubbornness of a mule to hold back the mind control of the cult leader. She and Huntress then rescued the other brainwashed heroes.[17]

Vixen may still have had trouble controlling her animal side while using the totem, as witnessed when she worked alongside the Flash to stop Gorilla Grodd.[18] She also served on one mission with the Justice League Task Force,[19] came to Wonder Woman's aid during a battle with Circe,[20] and helped her former JLA comrades protect Lex Luthor.[21] She then joined the loose-knit Ultramarine Corps.[22] While part of the Corps, Mari was brainwashed by Gorilla Grodd who sent her and other heroes to battle the JLA. Ultimately, Vixen and the others were freed.

Infinite Crisis

Main article: Infinite Crisis

After the murder of Sue Dibny in the Identity Crisis miniseries, Vixen rejoined her Justice League colleagues. She was present when the original Firestorm died during a battle with the Shadow Thief. Vixen adopted a new uniform in Infinite Crisis #7, similar to the one worn by her television counterpart on Justice League Unlimited.

One Year Later

Main article: One Year Later

Vixen was tricked into battle in Hub City by a currently intelligent Solomon Grundy (whose rebirth came with increased intelligence).[23][24][25] The totem was essential to Grundy's plans; he intended to use it as a catalyst to merge his perpetually reincarnating soul with the shell of the Amazo android, and thus gain further power. Grundy used the totem to increase the metahuman mimicking abilities of Amazo. Without her totem, Vixen found that her innate connection to the "Red", the 'essence' of animal life', was falling apart.[26] She managed to 'lock onto' the totem, but her mind became lost in a flock of migrating birds. After mimicking the abilities of a young boy, Vixen managed to regain her mind and quickly flew to New York to retrieve her totem.[27] Vixen literally dropped into the JLA battle against Amazo.[28] After the villains were subdued, Vixen became a charter member of the newly revamped Justice League of America.[29]

Justice League of America

Vixen's main story arc in the early issues of Justice League of America Vol. 2, centered around a change in her powers; Vixen changed from no longer drawing on animal characteristics, but to drawing on the powers of those around her. She matched others' skill levels and, as she suspected, drained powers from them. Superman was first to catch on to this and she subsequently revealed it to Red Arrow.[30]

Vixen sought out her former Suicide Squad teammate Bronze Tiger to discuss her situation, and subsequently admitted everything to the League.[31] Chairperson Black Canary instructed her to hand in her credentials and removed her from the team. Afterward, Dinah discussed with Mari the possibility of fixing the properties of the totem with the assistance of Zatanna.

When Zatanna attempted to find the source of the problem, she saw a mystic image of Vixen and Animal Man as puppets. When she tried to break the spell, she was repelled by an unknown force. When Vixen attempted to defeat the newly restored Amazo by absorbing all his stolen powers, she became mysteriously weak.[32] She then fell unconscious, with Amazo bearing down on her.[33]

When Zatanna and Red Tornado finally resolved the crisis, Vixen went to seek Animal Man, since he had been affected by similar power fluctuations, and was left unable to tap into the powers of Earth-borne animals. There, they were both sucked into the Tantu Totem, where, like in Zatanna's vision, they were trapped in Anansi's net. Anansi, the Trickster God of African folklore, revealed his powers and how being the King of the Stories, he changed Buddy and Mari's personal histories and sources of powers to test them.[34]

In an attempt to keep them contained, Anansi restored their connection to the Red, but altered the personal histories of the Leaguers, to prevent them from ever founding the JLA. However, Vixen escaped and sought the new Leaguers to fight Anansi at their side. Although she succeeded in gathering allies, they were still no match for Anansi's power. Vixen held a gun to her totem, even though she knew that if the totem was destroyed, they would all be destroyed. This forced Anansi to return things to normal. Anansi then revealed to Mari that the whole thing was actually a test. He explained that reality had been changed on a fundamental level, and he needed someone to act as his agent against an individual who could take advantage of the situation. He restored Mari's powers, returned her and the JLA to their homes, and said that he would one day call upon her.[35]

Return of the Lion

Vixen: Return of the Lion is a limited series detailing Vixen's return to her home village for the first time. In that series, Vixen found that a local warlord named Aku Kwesi and his men had taken over several Zambesi villages. It turned out that this was the same man who killed Vixen's mother years ago. When Vixen confronted him, she found that he had powers that rivaled, and possibly surpassed, hers. These powers were based on advanced technology and chemicals that were given to him by Intergang lieutenant Whisper A'Daire. The rest of the Justice League of America went to Africa to render assistance, only to have several members get doused with Kwesi's specially prepared Vodun zombie potion. This allowed A'daire to take control of Superman and Black Canary and pit them against the rest of the League.

Final Crisis

During the Final Crisis crossover event, Vixen was at the funeral of Martian Manhunter, and later at the Hall of Justice when Empress, Sparx, and Más y Menos came there seeking help after being attacked by Mirror Master and Arthur Light. She later participated in a massive battle with Darkseid's forces after he nearly conquered Earth with the Anti-Life Equation.

After Final Crisis

In the aftermath of Final Crisis, the JLA was in tatters, with many of its members having to leave. Mari and the remaining team members enlisted the aid of Hardware after Kimiyo Hoshi went missing in her search for Shadow Thief and Starbreaker.[36][37] With help from Superman's friend Icon, the team emerged victorious in the battle with Starbreaker, with Mari having bright hopes for the future of the team.[38]

A short while later, Vixen broke her leg in a battle between the JLA and the dangerous villain Prometheus with Hawkman's mace.[39] While she and the rest of the team tried to recover, they were ambushed by Despero, who sought to destroy the weakened League. The JLA eventually defeated Despero, only to be informed by Zatanna of the horrific events of Blackest Night taking effect across the globe.[40] After the Black Lanterns attacked,[41][42] Vixen told Kimiyo that she was taking a leave of absence from the team in order to recover from her injuries.[43]

According to writer James Robinson, Vixen was initially intended to have a significantly different exit from the team. According to him, issue #41 of Justice League of America was supposed to have Mari returning to Africa in order to help defend the continent in the wake of Freedom Beast's murder in Cry for Justice, eventually establishing a team of African superheroes known as the Justice League of Africa.[44]

Despite no longer working with the League, Vixen was one of the heroes hunting down Maxwell Lord at the start of Justice League: Generation Lost, and was presumably mind-wiped by him along with most of the Earth's population. She and Black Canary later traveled to San Francisco in order to help Zatanna capture a group of humans who had been transformed into Were-Hyenas.[45]

Sometime after her resignation from the JLA, Vixen traveled to the rundown neighborhood of Liberty Hill in order to recruit Tattooed Man for a new team of heroes she is putting together. However, Vixen discovered that a group of gang bangers who had formerly worked under Tattooed Man had taken control of the community and made a fortune for themselves through crime. Mistakenly believing that Tattooed Man was responsible for the acts of violence committed by his former thugs, Vixen rescinded her offer and attacked him.[46] After a brutal fight, Vixen willingly surrendered and agreed to leave and let Tattooed Man take care of his neighborhood in his own way.[47]

The New 52

In The New 52 (a 2011 reboot of the DC Comics universe), Vixen was recruited as part of the new Justice League International.[48] Her tenure with the team proved short, since she was injured in an explosion and rendered comatose.[49] Her old friend David Zavimbe later joined the team in her honor as Batwing.[50]

After the JLI disbanded, Vixen was seen as one of Cyborg's new recruits for the main Justice League roster.[51]

DC Rebirth

Vixen is recruited by Batman to join his new Justice League of America. Vixen is later seen working on behalf of the League, investigating a lead on a mysterious technology threatening America.[52]

Powers and abilities

Due to her blood relationship to the Spider God Anansi, Vixen possesses the innate ability to make direct contact with the Earth's morphogenetic field, which is sometimes called the "Red". The Morphogenetic Field/Red is a primordial force that connects all life in the universe. This contact with the "Red" allows her to draw upon the abilities of any animal that has ever lived on the planet. By simply focusing on a specific animal, Vixen can draw its talent from the morphogenetic field and mimic its abilities, giving herself a variety of superhuman powers.

Her abilities have allowed her to channel the powers of extinct animals (such as the saber-toothed tiger and the Triceratops), domesticated animals (like the Doberman Pinscher), mutated animals like Gorilla Grodd, and even mystical beasts (like dragons).[53] Her powers even allow her to twist some animal abilities, like when she used the bio-luminescence of a Marine hatchet fish and an Angler fish to produce light from her hand and to create a laser-like beam from her head.[54] Vixen can enhance the abilities of the animals she is mimicking, once when her body was destroyed, she used the regenerative abilities of flatworms to reconstruct her entire body within minutes.[55] Vixen’s abilities can also be proportional to her body, allowing her dramatic increase in strength and speed. By using the strength of a Rhinoceros Beetle she was able to increase her strength 850 times[56] and while using the flight speed of a Housefly she easily broke Mach 2.[57] Vixen's connection to the "Red" also allows her to combine the abilities of multiple animals, once holding onto the morphogenetic traits of an entire forest.[58]

Vixen's claws/nails are particularly sharp and tough, enabling her to rend through a variety of substances, such as fabric, wood, cinder block and even soft metals with ease. Her claws are magically enhanced and have drawn blood from individuals who are considered highly resistant to damage or near invulnerable like Geo-Force, Despero, and Pre-Crisis Superman.[4][59]

Occasionally, she has been known to physically transform into animals—for example, she has shapeshifted into a gray wolf, a great horned owl, and a cougar.[60] Vixen can also assume a hybrid form, in which she maintains her humanoid form but with certain animal adaptations, like when she took on the gills, fins, and missing eyes of a blind cavefish in JSA Classified and later shapeshifted into a humanoid wolf (retaining the cave fish's blindness). [61] Vixen also has the ability to communicate with animals and can override the natural predator/prey instinct found in most wild animals.[62]

While the full extent of Vixen's control over the morphogenetic field is unknown, she has on occasion drawn pure energy from it and displayed this energy as a force field and energy constructions.[63] While in cooperation with Animal Man and the woman known as "Tristess, she helped to create an entire universe.[64]

It is unknown what would happen if Vixen tried to use her magical abilities on an alien animal, or if she would gain access to the morphogenetic field of another planet. While assisting Hawkgirl during a mission on a distant planet, she was able to access her abilities. During the time when Vixen was mimicking human abilities, she was able to mimic the extraterrestrial abilities of Superman. This might indicate that she is able to mimic the abilities of aliens as long as she is aware of them.[65] One apparent drawback of Vixen's powers is that she is not always able to control the inputs from the morphogenetic field. Sometimes, she has absorbed unwanted animal behavior, such as instinctive rage or killing frenzy. The longer she stays in contact with the morphogenetic field, the less human and more animal she seems to become.[66]

Vixen wears a mystic artifact called the Tantu Totem, a fox-head shaped talisman given to her ancestors by the African trickster god Anansi. It was previously thought that the totem was the source of her powers but later stories,[67] have shown that it merely prevents the morphogenetic field from overwhelming her mind. It can be assumed that the totem increased her natural mimicking range of 150 feet to worldwide, as she has been seen taking on the traits of animals from around the world. The full capability of the totem is unknown but Vixen once used the magic of the totem to heal bruises and wounds within seconds by simply touching it.[68] The power of the totem has also allowed Vixen to tap into the Red and make mental contact with the "Wishers", a group of people around the world who were granted wishes by the Queen of Fable.

After losing the totem, Vixen was forced to tap into the human template as a way to purge herself of pure animalistic sensations and regain her humanity. Afterward, Vixen is left with a crippled connection with the morphogenetic field, unable to reach any animal except the human animal. In this state she shows the ability to mimic metahuman powers, such as Jay Garrick's speed, Geo-Force's earth-based powers, and Black Lightning's elemental control, as well as the Kryptonian superpowers of Superman, an extraterrestrial.[69] Her abilities are not only limited to that of metahumans, as she was able to duplicate Red Arrow's archery skills and even Green Lantern's ring in an issue of Justice League of America, suggesting that she gained powers similar to those of Amazo. It is revealed that this is actually trickery on the part of Anansi the Spider God. Upon confronting him within the Tantu Totem, Anansi restores Vixen’s animal powers. For unknown reason, Anansi has made the Tantu Totem his current home and considers Vixen’s family the custodians and guardians of the totem. While Mari doesn't need to wear the totem to use her powers, she is expected to keep it safe for Anansi.

Other versions

Flashpoint

In the alternate timeline of the Flashpoint event, Vixen is a member of Wonder Woman's Furies and one of the former lovers of industrialist Oliver Queen.[70] Vixen and Oliver have a daughter who tries to assassinate her father, but is killed by his security team.[71]

Earth-23

An alternate version of Vixen is shown as part of the Justice League of Earth-23,[72] a world in which black superheroes hold prominence in the superhero community.

Justice League Beyond

Vixen appears in a flashback in an issue of Justice League Beyond, which is set in the DCAU. It is revealed that on the night John planned to propose to her, Mari was killed after being impaled through the stomach by Shadow Thief.[73] In retaliation, John then kills Shadow Thief, resulting in John's expulsion from the Green Lantern Corps and his marriage to Hawkgirl.[74]

Injustice 2

In the Injustice universe, Vixen works with Ra's al Ghul, she is seen taking care of endangered species alongside Animal Man.

DC Bombshells

In the DC Bombshells continuity set in World War II, she is a lesbian, and helps the Bombshells with her lover, Hawkgirl, who is a technological genius and archaeologist.

In other media

Television

Live action

Vixen on Arrow.
Vixen on Legends of Tomorrow.
Megalyn Echikunwoke as Mari McCabe from the animated web series in the live-action Arrow (left) and Maisie Richardson-Sellers as Amaya Jiwe in DC's Legends of Tomorrow (right).

Main article: Vixen (web series)

Animation

Vixen as she appears in Batman: The Brave and the Bold.
Vixen as she appears in Batman: The Brave and the Bold.

Films

Video games

See also

References

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