Bow to me.
a.k.a. Mari Jiwe McCabe

The comic book nerds have been complaining about the steady lightening of a black female superhero called "Vixen."  She was supposed to be the first one ever, but her comic was canceled.  But before I even begin to weigh in on the situation, I figured I better do some research considering I never even knew this character existed.

SuperHeroines.Tribe.Net: 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 #??) 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.

She was only active on two occasions as a solo operator, fighting poachers in India (Action Comics #521) and 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 #239) Vixen continued with that particular incarnation of the JLA 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)

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) Most recently, she has come 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) And she joined the loose-knit Ultramarines (JLA #26) until they moved to another universe. (JLA Classified #1-3)

As if she weren't busy enough, she does manage to also remain active in the fashion industry.

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." However, Vixen #1 was printed in Canceled Comics Cavalcade #2. Regardless, the Vixen was DC's first black super-heroine.  SOURCES: Who's Who #9 (May 1991) • The Belle Reve Sourcebook, Mayfair Games, 1988.

Mari McCabe uses the Tantu totem to acquire any one animal ability at a time. She can use that power for an unlimited amount of time but must abandon one ability before assuming another. Man does not need to be near an animal to use its ability and can use any animal she has knowledge of. A beautiful woman, Man has two successful careers going and has used her intelligence to create a lasting international business she can return to whenever she gives up crimefighting. While with the JLA, Vixen was trained in various forms of combat but eschews them today, preferring stealth and animal skills.

Okay, I'm educated now.

So...African heroine, a la Storm and Uhura, is being whitened by fans, (and now the artists themselves) also a la Storm and Uhura.  Is anyone else beginning to wonder why these white comic book creators even bother with characters of color anymore?  Oh, that's right...they need these characters otherwise no one will buy their books.

By the way, while creating his "dream cast", blogger Neo-Prodigy envisioned Gabrielle Union as Vixen.

Needless to say, I agree.


  1. I highly recommend the graphic novel: Vixen- Return of the Lion. Definitely worth checking as is Dwayne McDuffie's run on the Justice League comic.

    On the tv series, Justice League, Vixen was voiced by Gina Torres and sister had plenty of screentime, character development and kicked ass like no one's business.

    I should also add that during Dwayne McDuffie's run, Vixen's powers evolved where she was able to duplicate the powers of her teammates and became a one woman Justice League. We're talking the powers of Superman, Wonder Woman, the fighting ability of Batman and the Green Arrow and Green Lantern all at once.

    Suffice to say they eventually depowered her but I still re-read those trades because it was worth seeing her in action.

  2. Welcome back, and thanks for the suggestions!

  3. I loved Vixen. My god, she was beyond hotness in JLU, and still beyond hotness in the comics. I just remember thinking as a kid watching JLU that it was bull that she had to kind-of-sort-of play second fiddle to Hawkgirl (I was like, "C'moooooon, Green Lantern, like you reeeeaaally want to go back to THAT when you've got THAT! Seriously? Quit trippin', dude").

    Another comic book favorite of mine is Misty Knight. Really awesome WoC if you're looking for anymore.

  4. @EDGray
    I watched JLU and believe me I felt the same, Hawkgirl had nothing on Vixen but I can't help but feel that Latern played that stereotypical role. He has a beautiful black woman but he is still pinning over his white ex and they made it seem as though he would drop Vixen in a heartbeat if Hawkgirl asked him to do so.

  5. I really have been missing out and need to get caught up. I never knew there were so many awesome black female characters in the comic book world.

  6. I used to love Vixen's utter dismissiveness of Hawk Woman on JLU. She knew she was all that and was not afraid of losing her man to another woman. She was a BAMF of the highest order.

  7. @Amanda. I had the same concerns and it was interesting to hear the late Dwayne McDuffie and Bruce Timm discuss the Vixen/John Stewart/Hawkgirl love triangle on the JLU dvd.

    After Stewart breaks up with Hawkgirl, they discover that in the future, they have a son: a superhero by the name of Warhawk who appeared in Batman Beyond and later in a future episode of JLU.

    Stewart makes it clear to Hawkgirl that if the two of them are truly meant to be in the future, then it'll happen but he was staying with Vixen and pursuing a relationship with her.

    subtext: I'm not leaving Vixen for your ass so get that shit out your damn head right now.

    McDuffie and Timm explained that after the series ended, Stewart and Vixen stayed together for many years, lived together and even got married. Eventually the relationship ran its course (like most relationships do) and the two parted ways and a single Stewart and Hawkgirl found their way back to each other but they made it clear that Hawkgirl was not a factor when Stewart and Vixen broke up.


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