Vixen

Created by Gerry Conway & Bob Oksner

NAME + ALIASES:
Mari Jiwe McCabe

KNOWN RELATIVES:
Reverend Richard Jiwe (father, deceased), unnamed mother (deceased), Mustapha Maksai (uncle, deceased), Tantu (ancestor)

GROUP AFFILIATIONS:
Justice League of America, Suicide Squad, Checkmate, Ultramarines

FIRST APPEARANCE:
Historical: Canceled Comics Cavalcade #2 (Fall 1978).
Current:
Action Comics #521 (July 1981)

+ History

Vixen's canonical debut in Action #521 (1981). Art by Curt Swan.
Also read the unpublished Vixen #1.

In ancient Africa, the warrior Tantu made a pact with Anansi the Spider to imbue a totem with the ability to confer animal attributes upon those who would use those powers to protect the innocent. It has been suggested that Anansi was in fact a representative of a benevolent alien race. These aliens periodically visit Earth to bestow a human with animal powers, to put them in touch with nature. (Animal Man 10-12) Tantu used that totem to great effect and became Africa's first legendary hero. The totem was passed down from generation to generation, and became a thing of legend.

Growing up in a small African country, Mari Jiwe's parents told her of this legend many times. She was the daughter of Reverend Richard Jiwe, a priest in a small African country. Reverend Jiwe was killed by his half-brother, General Maksai, when he refused to give Maksai the Tantu Totem, a supposedly supernatural artifact. The Tantu Totem is said to endow members of the Jiwe family with the ability to assume the powers of any animal.

Mari's mother had been killed by poachers several years previously. Her family gone, Mari fled to America. She set up an identity for herself as Mari McCabe and became a well-known fashion model in New York City and began to travel the world. On one such trip, she came across the Tantu totem and stole it from her uncle, using it's power to become the Vixen.

Revenge against Maksai.
From Justice League of America #239 (1985)
Art by Chuck Patton.

Before coming to prominence as a member of the new Justice League, Vixen was only seen operating soloon two other occasions. She met the Man of Steel himself while trying to bring down poachers in India, (Action Comics #521) and again when they saved kidnapped teenagers from the techno-psycho criminal, Admiral Cerebrus. (DC Comics Presents #68) 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 caused it Maksai to be transformed into a raging beast. Maksai was killed in battle with Vixen. (Justice League of America #234-239) Vixen was one of the last remaining members of this incarnation of the JLA; she stayed until it was disbanded by the Martian Manhunter. (#261) She served as a volunteer for a variety of world-aid organizations in Ethiopia for a year, then returned to the U.S. to resume her career as a model.

When the League disbanded, Vixen returned to modeling; but a Caribbean photo session turned violent, and Mari’s colleagues were killed by drug smugglers. She appealed to the government, who turned the matter over to the Suicide Squad. Going undercover to capture the drug kingpin Cujo. Along with Captain Boomerang and Black Orchid, she destroyed the operation, but not before she lost control and killed the criminal kingpin, too. Revolted by what she had become, she agreed to work with the Squad until her animal instincts could be curbed. (Suicide Squad #11-12)

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Breaking up. From Suicide Squad #58 (1991).
Art by Geof Isherwood.

She worked with the Squad for some time, although when it was 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; but sensing a chance to help the tortured Turner, Vixen reluctantly agreed to return and served through the end of its existence. She ultimately gave up on a future with the Tiger, sensing that he would never admit to needing help. (#58)

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). (Hawk and Dove v. 4 #2-5) And at some point, she signed on to work with Oracle. This was even a secret from Oracle's primary operative, the Black Canary. (Birds of Prey #69-72)

Vixen may still have 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 (JLTF #7-8), came to Wonder Woman's aid during her battle with Circe (Wonder Woman #174-175), and helped her former JLA comrades protect Lex Luthor. (JLA/JSA: Virtue & Vice) For a brief time, she also joined the loose-knit Ultramarines (JLA #26) until they moved to another universe. (JLA Classified #1-3)

Justice League, not Detroit

Variant cover to JLofA #4 (2007)
Art by J.G. Jones.

Even before the Justice League reassembled following the second (Infinite) "Crisis," Vixen was being considered for membership in the group again. She was unwittingly drawn into their first case after being lured to Hub City by a note which was supposedly written by the Question. (Justice League of America v.2 #1) There she was ambushed by the Bomb Squad—the Electrocutioner and Plastique—who managed to steal her Totem, leaving her disoriented. (#2) After coming to her senses, Mari committed herself to finding the Totem, which had been used by Professor Ivo to power a new Amazo. (#5) The new JLA was also on Ivo's trail. When Vixen dove at the android and retrieved her totem, Amazo became powerless. (#6)

After this case, the League officially reformed with Vixen as a member. Their new headquarters in Washington D.C. was called the Hall, and they also kept a satellite Watchtower. (#7)

Mari faced true mortal danger when she and Red Arrow were trapped inside the Watergate Hotel after Dr. Polaris threw it into the water. Vixen's arm was broken and she revealed to Roy that ever since her fight with Amazo, her powers had changed. She found that now she could only mimic the powers and abilities of other people, not animals (not unlike Amazo himself). After nearly giving up hope of escape, the pair realized that they had been suspended upside down, and deduced a way out. (#11)

Her power switch hadn't gone unnoticed. Superman confronted Vixen about the power change, but reassured her that it was all right to confide in her teammates. (#13) Despite this, Vixen kept the secret from the team's leader, Black Canary, who expelled her from the JLA but encouraged her to solve the problem. (#22) This tour of JLA duty also brought Mari back into contact with her former lover, the Bronze Tiger. As part of the new Suicide Squad, the Tiger clashed with Vixen (#17-18), but she later also sought his advice about her powers. (#22)

Mari's quest led her first to Zatanna, who ascertained the her powers were being affected by magic. (#23) A visit to Animal Man revealed that his powers were similarly awry. (#24) She soon found the r–eason: her secret benefactor, the god Anansi was testing her in preparation for an impending threat. Anansi drew Vixen and her teammates inside the Tantu Totem, where he creating a whole reality where there was no Justice League. (#25) Ever resourceful, Vixen recruited her own JLA from within this reality and led them to defeat Anansi. Having passed his challenge, Anansi restored reality but warned Mari about another individual who may threaten to alter reality. (#26)

Revenge against her mother's killer, Aku Kwesi.
From Vixen: Return of the Lion #5 (2009). Art by Cafu

Her soul-searching continued after the JLA took down an Intergang warehouse. There, they found evidence that Aku Kwesi, the man who killed Vixen's mother, was still alive. She immediately returned home to Zambesi to find him. (Vixen: Return of the Lion #1) It was easy to find Kwesi, but Vixen found herself unprepared to counter his considerable power. She took refuge with Brother Tabo, a priest whose chapel of St. Amica turned savage beasts into docile friends. Tabo taught Mari how to use her powers without the Totem. (#2-3) The JLA followed Vixen to Africa but Superman and Black Canary succumbed to the magic of the Vodun, becoming a zombie slaves. (#4) Vixen freed her teammates with anti-poison and Intergang (and their leader, Whisper A'daire) were taken into custody. She then returned to her village and bested Kwesi as well; it appeared he was powered by a vest from Intergang which gave him powers. (#5)

Notes

Vixen also played semi-regularly on the Justice League Unlimited cartoon. She had a starring roles in Season One's "Wake The Dead," and also in Season Two's "Hunter's Moon." In this series, she was romantically involved with John Stewart (Green Lantern).

The story which is usually cited as her first appearance (Action #521, July 1981) involved the pre-Crisis Superman. It is unclear whether this tale stands in post-Crisis continuity. In truth, Vixen was set to debut in her very own series before DC's 1970s "implosion" ruined that. However, Vixen #1 was printed in Canceled Comics Cavalcade #2. Regardless, the Vixen was DC's first black super-heroine.

In the canceled story, she was Marilyn McCabe, still in the fashion world, but with a more mundane back story.

Justice League of America v.2 #4 (2007) featured a variant cover of Vixen by J.G. Jones.

SOURCES: Who's Who #9 (May 1991) • The Belle Reve Sourcebook, Mayfair Games, 1988.

+ Powers

Mari McCabe first used the Tantu totem to acquire any one animal ability at a time. Since then she has learned that her powers are inherent, not in the totem (though she is still its guardian). She can use that power for an unlimited amount of time but must abandon one ability before assuming another. Vixen does not need to be near an animal to use its ability and can use any animal she has knowledge of.

A beautiful woman, Mari has two successful careers going and has used her intelligence to create a lasting international business she can return to whenever she tires of crimefighting. While serving in the JLA and Suicide Squad, Vixen has trained in other forms of combat but she usually prefers to rely on her animal instincts.

Appearances + References

» FEATURED APPEARANCES:

  • Action #521
  • Animal Man #10-12
  • Birds of Prey #69-72
  • Day of Vengeance #1
  • Day of Vengeance: Infinite Crisis Special #1
  • DC Comics Presents #68
  • JLA/JSA: Virtue & Vice
  • JLA: Classified #2-3
  • Justice League Task Force #7-8
  • Martian Manhunter v.3 #3
  • OMAC Project #6
  • Villains United: Infinite Crisis Special #1
  • Wonder Woman v.2 #174-175
  • Wonder Woman v.3 #13

» SERIES:

  • Suicide Squad v.1, 66 issues (1987-92)
  • Justice League of America v.2, current (
  • Vixen: Return of the Lion, 5-issue limited series (2008)