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Vixen from Justice League Of America vol. 2 #4, artist J. G. Jones.
|First appearance||Action Comics #521
|Created by||Gerry Conway (writer)
Bob Oksner (artist)
|Alter ego||Mari Jiwe McCabe|
|Team affiliations||Justice League
Birds of Prey
|Abilities||Mimics the abilities of any animal that has ever lived on Earth|
Vixen was one of the first African American female DC superheroes to star in her own series, but the first issue of her series was canceled 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.
Fictional character biography
In ancient Africa, the warrior Tantu asked Anansi the Spider to create a totem that would give the wearer all of the powers of the animal kingdom, if they would use the power to protect the innocent. As shown in the pages of Animal Man, it is possible that the "Anansi" that Tantu met may have been a member of the alien race who gave Buddy Baker the ability to "tap the morphogenetic field" — or, as shown in the pages of Justice League, the aliens may have been Anansi in disguise. This field allowed Buddy to imitate the abilities of nearby animals. According to the Animal Man series, Mari's Tantu totem may have tapped into that same field. 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 African 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.
Mari moved to America, where she established an identity as Mari McCabe and got a job 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 takes back the Tantu Totem, using its power to become the costumed superhero Vixen.
After this, Vixen made only two appearances as a solo crime fighter: once fighting poachers in India and once fighting against the techno-psycho criminal Admiral Cerebrus. In fact, 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. During her time with the JLA, the totem was taken from her by General Maksai, who still sought its power. 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. 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. 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.
Around this time, Vixen teamed up with Animal Man again. She traveled to his suburban house with knowledge of a mysterious murderous force. Animal Man's own powers were affected because of this force, as he found himself unable to correctly access the right powers.
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, who had been revealed by footage shot during 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 can be curbed. She worked with the Squad for some time, again seeing more teammates and friends killed. When it is disbanded for a year, 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 needs mental support, and she reluctantly returned. She ultimately gave up on a future with the Tiger, sensing that he would never admit to needing help, and left the team.
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). At some point, she signed on to work with Oracle's Birds of Prey. She went undercover to investigate a strange "superhero" cult, where the leader was using mind control and winds 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.
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. She also served on one mission with the Justice League Task Force, came to Wonder Woman's aid during a battle with Circe, and helped her former JLA comrades protect Lex Luthor. She then joined the loose-knit Ultramarine Corps. While part of the Corps, Mari was brainwashed by Gorilla Grodd who sends her and other heroes to battle the JLA. Ultimately, Vixen and the others were freed. The main Corps members moved on to another universe. Through all of these adventures she managed to remain active in the fashion industry.
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
Vixen was tricked into battle in Hub City by a currently intelligent Solomon Grundy (whose rebirth came with increased intelligence). 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. 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. Vixen literally dropped into the JLA battle against Amazo. After the villains were subdued, Vixen became a charter member of the newly revamped Justice League of America.
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 to drawing on the powers of those around her. She would match others' skill levels and, as she suspected, would drain powers from them. Superman was first to catch on to this and she subsequently revealed it to Red Arrow.
Vixen sought out her former Suicide Squad teammate Bronze Tiger to discuss her situation, and subsequently admitted everything to the League. Chairperson Black Canary instructed her to hand in her credentials and he removed her from the team. Afterward, he 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. She then fell unconscious, with Amazo bearing down on her.
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 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.
In an attempt to keep them contained, Anansi restored their connection to the Red, but altered the personal histories of the Leagues, 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 will one day call upon her.
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 is the same man who killed Vixen's mother years ago. When Vixen confronted him, she found that he has 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.
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 Darksied'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. 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.
A short while later, Vixen broke her leg in a battle between the JLA and the dangerous villain Prometheus with Hawkman's mace. 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. After the Black Lanterns attacked, Vixen told Kimiyo that she was taking a leave of absence from the team in order to recover from her injuries.
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.
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.
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. After a brutal fight, Vixen willingly surrendered and agreed to leave and let Tattooed Man take care of his neighborhood in his own way.
The New 52
Following the events of the Flashpoint crossover, Vixen was recruited as part of the new Justice League International. Her tenure with the team proved short, since she was injured in an explosion and rendered comatose. Her old friend David Zavimbe later joined the team in her honor as Batwing.
Powers and abilities
Vixen possesses the innate ability to make direct contact with the Earth's morphogenetic field, which is sometimes known as the "Red". This contact with the "Red" allows Vixen to mimic the abilities of any animal, by simply focusing on a specific animal's abilities and then drawing it directly from the field. Vixen's connection to the "Red" is so deep that she could use the abilities of multiple animals at one time. She demonstrates the ability to hold onto the morphogenetic traits of all the animal in a forest. Vixen's natural range for mimicking animal abilities is about 150 feet.
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 according to recent stories, it merely prevented Vixen's natural link to the morphogenetic field from overwhelming her mind. It was assumed that the totem also increased her range for mimicking the abilities of animals, as she has been known to mimic the abilities of animals on the other side of the world.
In these comics, Vixen has used the following skills:
- The flight of a hawk.
- The ability to breathe under water like a fish.
- The swimming ability and sonar of a dolphin.
- The speed of a cheetah.
- Tapped into the aggression, physical and mental abilities of Gorilla Grodd.
- The echolocation of a bat.
- The wall crawling of a spider, similar to Spider-Man.
- The jumps of a cricket.
- The constriction of an anaconda.
- The sensitive trichromatic color vision of a salamander.
- The strength of a bull elephant (about 12 tons).
- The strength of a Rhinoceros Beetle (about 65 tons).
- The hearing and sense of smell of a wolf.
- The agility of a spider monkey.
- The electrical absorption and debilitating shock of an electric eel.
- Accelerate the regenerative abilities of reptiles and earthworms.
- The ability to spit venom like a spitting cobra.
- The body armor of an abalone (which proved strong enough to withstand a punch from Superman).
- The nocturnal vision of a cat.
- The speed of a mantis shrimp to catch a bullet.
- The kick of a horse.
- The protective hide of a Rhinoceros.
- The danger sense of seagulls and terns.
- The rage of a lion.
- The eyesight of an eagle.
- The cold adaptation of Methanococcoides burtonii.
- The heat tolerance of a Pompeii worm.
- The stubbornness of a mule (against telepathic attacks and mind control inflicted by Brainiac).
- The digging abilities of a badger.
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. She has even been shown to be able to channel the powers of extinct animals (such as the saber-toothed tiger and the Triceratops), domesticated animals (like the Doberman Pinscher), and even mystical beast (like dragons).
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 durable like Geo-Force, Despero and Pre-Crisis Superman.
Occasionally, she has been known to physically transform into animals—for example, she has shapeshifted into a wolf, a great horned owl, and a cougar. Vixen can also assume a hybrid form, in which she maintains a humanoid form but with certain animal adaptations, like when she took on the gills, fins, and lack of eyes of a blind cavefish in JSA Classified and later shape shifted into a humanoid wolf (retaining the cave fish's blindness). The totem also allows her to heal bruises and wounds within seconds by simply touching it.
While the full extent of Vixen's control over the morphogenetic field is unknown, she has on occasions drawn pure energy from it and displayed this energy as a force field and energy claws. While in cooperation with Animal Man and the woman known as "Tristess", she helped to create an entire universe.
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. The longer she stays in contact with the morphogenetic field, the less human and more animal she seems to become. Vixen also has the ability to communicate with animals and can override the natural predator/prey instinct found in most wild animals.
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. 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.
After being forced to tap into the human template as a matter to purge herself from pure animalistic sensations, Vixen is briefly left by the God Anansi 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. 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 a recent issue of Justice League of America, suggesting that she has gained powers similar to that of Amazo.
It is revealed that this is actually trickery on the part of Anansi. Upon confronting him within the Tantu Totem, Vixen learns the truth about her powers: For unknown reasons, Anansi has made the Tantu Totem his current home. Vixen's family are custodians and guardians of the totem, which they have passed down through the generations. While Mari doesn't need to be wearing the totem to use her powers, she is expected to keep it safe for Anansi. Anansi restores Vixen's original animal powers, then, after testing her abilities as a hero, he states that she is his "champion".
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. Vixen and Oliver have a daughter who tries to assassinate her father, but is killed by his security team.
An alternate version of Vixen is shown as part of the Justice League of Earth-23.
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. In retaliation, John kills Shadow Thief, resulting in his expulsion from the Green Lantern Corps.
In other media
- Vixen has made numerous appearances on Cartoon Network's Justice League Unlimited animated series voiced by Gina Torres. Vixen powers aren't given any explicit origin; she merely needs to touch the totem on her necklace to activate them. She is apparently unable to fly, but can use animal abilities without any proximity to the actual creature, and at one point does so while on a different planet. She is commonly shown mimicking an elephant to increase her mass by several tons to hit much tougher opponents. While her appearance does not change, a ghostly image of the animal she is mimicking is projected from the totem on her necklace, and temporarily appears in front of her. Also, it is shown that her claws are particularly sharp as she is able to temporarily cling to a wall with them.Vixen first appeared on the episode "Wake the Dead." Her first scene was on the catwalk, and she was later revealed to be Green Lantern's girlfriend, to the jealousy of his former lover Shayera Hol, who still harbored strong and perhaps requited feelings for him. When she and John face Solomon Grundy, she uses the strength of an elephant to temporarily down Grundy, but is unable to stop Grundy's onslaught. John and Vixen are unable to stop Grundy but she proves herself when she manages to save John while also pushing him back. Though not a regular on the show, her brief exposure resulted in her becoming a fan favorite and Vixen was later featured in "Hunter's Moon," where she, along with Vigilante, came to terms with Shayera Hol's actions in the Thanagarian invasion of Earth. Despite their mutual affection for Stewart, they even established a friendship (more like a friendly rivalry) of sorts. In "Grudge Match," she and Shayera teamed up with Black Canary and Huntress in a forced (and unsuccessful) battle against the powerhouse Wonder Woman. As the series ended, John Stewart and Vixen were still a couple, with John stating that he would not be destiny's pawn, even though he met his own son with Shayera in the future. However, the durability of their relationship is called into question by the creators' post-show comments and the existence of a possible future son, Warhawk, between Shayera Hol and John Stewart. In her appearances, Vixen is seen using the strength of an elephant, the speed of a cheetah, the regeneration of a lizard, the color-vision of a salamander, the wall-crawling of a spider, the kick of a horse, the constriction of an anaconda, and the electric shock of an electric eel.
- Vixen appears in the Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "Gorillas in Our Midst!" voiced by Cree Summer. This incarnation of Vixen wears an outfit similar to her modern JLA costume, but with long black boots and gloves. Batman requests her help when Gorilla Grodd replaces the human population with gorillas. She appears to have a relationship with B'wana Beast. She helps B'wana Beast stop a jewelry store robbery by Killer Moth, using the kick of a kangaroo to knock him out. She later confronts B'wana Beast to talk about their relationship, but is cut off by Gorilla Grodd's invasion of Gotham. She uses a hawk's ability to fly to confront Grodd's aerial assault, but is netted by one of Monsieur Mallah's missiles. She's saved by B'wana Beast's snake/pigeon hybrid and soon escapes taking the charge of a rhino to plow through apes. Vixen is soon stopped by Gorilla Boss and knocked out by Gorilla Grodd's electrical gauntlet. Her Tantu totem is taken away by the gorillas and she and B'wana Beast are locked up in the Gotham Zoo, where B'wana Beast tells her she should just leave a "D-list" superhero and boyfriend like him and find someone better. They are soon joined by Batman and Detective Chimp, the latter beginning to hit on her before being combined with a bee by B'wana Beast's powers to help them escape, also helping regain her totem. She uses the agility and speed of a cheetah to fight Gorilla Boss, who captures her, but shocks him when he's distracted by B'wana Beast and his crocodile/ostrich hybrid with an electric eel's electricity. She later knocks out Gorilla Boss with the strength of an ant. In the end, Gorilla Grodd and his army are defeated, and Batman and Detective Chimp leave, allowing Vixen and B'wana Beast to talk about their relationship. B'wana Beast tells her he knows he's not the perfect man, but she cuts him off with a marriage proposal, which he gladly accepts. In "The Siege of Starro!", Vixen is one of the many heroes taken under the control of Starro, and B'wana Beast desperately tries to save her. After she is freed from the Starro parasite's control, she notices B'wana's absence. After B'wana sacrifices himself to defeat Starro, she is seen grieving at his funeral.
- An evil version of Vixen named Vamp appears as a member of the Crime Syndicate of America in Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths. Unlike her counterpart, Vamp actually transforms into different kinds of animals rather than just taking on their traits. She was seen taking the form of a lion, a snake, and a bear. Her powers are somewhat similar to Beast Boy's powers, where she is brown in all her forms and has gold protrusions coming from her eyebrows. A notable fact about Vamp's shape-shifting abilities is that she takes on the form of a male lion (having the mane of one).
- Vixen appears as a playable character in the portable version of Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes.
- Talking to G. Willow Wilson - Air, Vixen and More, Newsarama, August 29, 2008
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- World of Black Heroes: Vixen Biography
- The Unofficial Vixen Biography
- Unpublished Vixen #1 from Cancelled Comics Cavalcade
- Vixen—JLA Watchtower Profile
- Vixen—Blacksuperhero.com Profile
- Vixen—JLU Profile (World’s Finest)
- Vixen—JLU Profile (Burning Knights)
- The original Australian Vixen comic book creation. Created in 1970