If there is any woman that embodies the Chaka Khan song “I’m Every Woman”, it would be Mari McCabe. Successful fashion model. Talk show host. Passionate animal rights activist. She’s also a superhero who can summon the powers of any Earth animal that ever existed through an ancient talisman created by the African god Anansi. But more on that in just a bit…
Creation and Debut
Vixen was created by writer Gerry Conway and artist Bob Oksner. Instead of becoming the first African American female superhero to lead her own series, her initial series was canceled before its publication due to the DC Implosion. This event in the late 70’s saw the cancellation of many DC titles due to low sales.
The story of Vixen begins in ancient Ghana. A warrior called Tantu called on the god known as Anansi the Spider to create a totem that would give him all of the powers of the animals of Earth as a tool to protect the innocent. With his wish granted by Anansi, Tantu used the totem to become the first known superhero of Africa. His exploits become legendary and the totem is passed down to Tantu’s descendants generation after generation. It soon reaches his modern day descendants, the McCabes.
Growing up in the M’Changa province in the fictional nation of Zambesi, Mari Jiwe McCabe learns of the “Tantu Totem” from her mother before she was killed by poachers. Mari was then raised by her father Reverend Richard Jiwe, the village priest. Reverend Jiwe was then killed by his villainous half-brother General Maksai. Maksai wanted the Tantu Totem for his own purposes but Mari took the Tantu Totem back.
Mari ultimately makes the move to America. She establishes herself as a world class model in New York City and uses her newfound wealth to travel the world. With the Tantu Totem in her possession, Mari begins using its power as the costumed superhero Vixen.
Vixen’s first multimedia appearances were on the Cartoon Network series Justice League Unlimited. Vixen is given no origin on the show other than being a world famous supermodel. To activate her powers, she touches the totem on her necklace. When she does, a ghostly image of the animal she is mimicking is projected from her necklace, and temporarily envelopes her body. Her powers are shown as such:
- Mimicking a tiger: She grows particularly sharp claws that can slice through concrete and metal.
- Mimicking a spider: She is able to cling to a wall.
- Mimicking an elephant: Her mass and strength increases by several tons and she can hit much tougher opponents like Solomon Grundy.
Vixen first appeared on the episode “Wake the Dead” where she is shown to be Green Lantern’s girlfriend (often addressing him as her “Boo” to his embarrassment). She also appeared in the episode “Grudge Match” where she and Shayera Hol team up with Black Canary and Huntress in a forced battle against a brain-washed Wonder Woman.
Despite a time travel incident that shows John Stewart will eventually father a child with Shayera, John and Vixen were still a couple at the end of the series.
The CW Arrowverse
In January 2015, The CW announced that a limited animated web-series based on Vixen would be debuting on the CW Seed app in the fall of 2015.
Set in the Arrowverse, Vixen: The Animated Series is shown as a companion series to the other CW Arrowverse series Arrow and The Flash. While based mainly in Detroit, Michigan, the show featured a number of crossovers of Mari McCabe with other Arrowverse characters like Green Arrow, The Flash and Cisco Ramon. If successful, the cartoon was meant to lead up to a live-action adaptation of the character. Vixen was voiced by actress Megalyn Echikunwoke. The animated Vixen also appeared in the second season of the CW Seed Arrowverse animated series Freedom Fighters: The Ray.
After the success of the animated series, two different versions of the Vixen character appeared in The CW Arrowverse. Echikunwoke reprised her role as Mari McCabe in the episode “Taken“ during Season Four of the live-action series, Arrow. It is shown here that Mari is an experienced vigilante with great knowledge of mysticism and helps Oliver fight Damien Darhk.
The CW series Legends of Tomorrow introduced a second Vixen from portrayed by actress Maisie Richardson-Sellers. This version is named Amaya Jiwe and is shown to be Mari McCabe’s grandmother. Amaya is a member of the Justice Society of America and fought against the Axis forces.
She then enters into a relationship with JSA leader Rex Tyler (Hourman) until he is murdered, She then joins the Legends to find his killer. Legends member Ray Palmer worries of changing Mari’s destiny by the group getting involved with Amaya. Still, she remains with the Legends for the time being, At the end of her run with the Legends, Amaya decides it is time to return to her village in 1942 with her knowledge of what she learned as a Legend remaining in her memories.
NEXT TIME: MONICA RAMBEAU: THE OTHER CAPTAIN MARVEL!!