Mari McCabe was born in Africa (though the actual country is often changed depending on the story.) She is the daughter of Reverend Jiwe who later possessed the magical Tantu Totem. This is a magical artifact, supposedly created by Anansi the Spider which bestowed the wearer the same powers as Anansi. Soon, Mari found herself as an orphan after her mother was killed by poachers and her father was killed by Maksai, his half-brother. She then moves to New York City where she began a career as a model. She later returns to Africa to reclaim the totem.
Vixen was originally slated to become the first African American female superhero to lead her own series, yet the series was canceled before its publication (though these issues were later printed in a collection.) This was during an event known as the DC Implosion. Although her series had been canceled, the character was not and eventually made her first appearance in the DC universe in Action Comics #521 in 1981 created by Gerry Conway & Curt Swan
Despite nearly being the first female African character to be featured in her own comic book series, she was subsequently characterized somewhat stereotypically as a stock African-American character for the period after her eventual introduction into the DC Universe. Undoubtedly, one of the most important moments for the character was her induction into the Justice League of America. At the time in the early 1980s, the comic book industry was dominated by youth oriented series. The main source of this was at Marvel where the X-Men were leading sales across the entire industry, but at DC the Teen Titans were equally one of the best sellers. With this formula in mind it was decided to relaunch the Justice League of America with a younger and less mainstream cast. While most of these new characters were entirely new creations, Vixen was one of the more experienced of the new members, and one with a publication history (albeit limited) prior to her joining.
Despite the attempt to give the title new life, this version of the League (dubbed by many as Justice League Detroit as it was based in Detroit) was not popular as fans did not take to the disappearance of the traditional League members very well. Soon after the series was canceled, but Vixen did not stay in the background for long as John Ostrander chose her as a member of his new Suicide Squad. This version of the character was a bit grittier as she wrestled with the fact that despite being a hero that she had killed for revenge against some drug dealers that had killed some of her modeling colleagues. Despite this she eventually found peace with her past and became a valued member of the team, and during this time developed one of her most enduring relationships, Ben Turner. After the dissolution of this version of the Squad she would stay mostly in the background, appearing only during company wide crossovers, until she rejoined the post Infinite Crisis version of the team in 2006.
Major Story Arcs
During her first appearance in the League, the team battled many threats, among the most daunting the Overmaster’s Cadre and Despero. During her time with the Suicide Squad she partook in a majority of the missions, being a major player in such story lines as the hunt for Rick Flag and Senator Cray and the Janus Directive. At one point Vixen worked with Wally West to take down Gorilla Grodd, who was using a machine to give the animals of Keystone City advance intelligence and turning them on the humans. During the battle, Grodd would use his machine on Vixen forcing to complete become useless animals, such as a slug. Luckily Wally broke free of the cage and defeats Grodd.
After her departure from the Squad she would occasionally work with Animal Man. She would return shortly to the Justice League during the events of Infinite Crisis. During the events of One Year Later the Justice League is reformed once again behind the direction of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. She was not initially considered as a member but everyone who partook in the story arc The Tornado’s Path was offered membership as the spontaneous nature by which the team came together was considered a sign. Her role in the story arc was small but key. Amazo had been using her totem to channel his energy, and as she regressed to a more animalistic nature, she sought only its return, the end state of which was her defeating Amazo almost single handedly. During her time with the team though she did take part in numerous story arcs, the most relevant one being between her and Animal Man after she had started to steal the powers of other superheroes. This was revealed to be the work of Anansi.
During the Sinestro Corps War, Vixen was with the Justice League when they tried to capture Professor Zoom, to question him about SinestroShe was also with the group on the Watchtower, in Earth's orbit when Cyborg Superman attacked. Later she was part of the team of Superheros who tried to bum rush Superboy Prime before sunrise and failed
.She was soon after featured in her own miniseries, Vixen: Return of the Lion. In this series she returns to Africa to hunt for her mother’s murderers, but discovers new focus when using her powers. It is also revealed that Intergang is interested in her. She later plays a small part in Final Crisis. Following Final Crisis the team is forced to go on without many of its key members and a smaller and less powerful team is maintained with Mari as its leader. During Blackest Night the League takes part in the action, but she is injured and takes a leave of absence. With the reboot of the DC Universe into the new 52, Vixen was a founding member of the new Justice League International. Vixen is shown as one of the many heroes chosen to join the Justice League in the latest issue of the comic.
Powers and Abilities
Originally Mari required the Tantu Totem for her powers. This allowed her to channel the abilities of various animals giving her carious abilities. The totem will only work when being used for the benefit of mankind. She has been shown to channel this power for various purposes and from various animals, though the most common applications are for speed, flight, enhanced senses and strength. It is later revealed that she does not need the totem itself, rather that it focuses her own innate power, which she later learns to control. She has been shown to channel the power of the animal abilities into pure power and create a force field, though this ability may be non-canonical. She can also occasionally use the healing abilities of certain animals and she has even been seen to transform into animals.
For a period she was able to mimic the powers of superhumans though this was due to Anansi’s influence, and she can no longer do this.
She possesses razor sharp claws which she is skilled in using in combat. She also possesses some abilities in animal control
Justice League Unlimited
Vixen was a relatively common member on the television show Justice League Unlimited, appearing for a time as the girlfriend of John Stewart. She appeared in the episodes “Initiation”, “Hunter’s Moon”, “Wake the Dead”, “Shadow of the Hawk”, “Grudge Match” and “Ancient History”. She also appeared in the television show, Batman: Brave and the Bold. An evil version called Vamp also appears in the movie Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths. She also appears in Dc Universe Online, a computer game based in the DC universe.
Teen Titans Go!
Vixen makes a cameo appearance in the Teen Titans Go! episode "Your fired" as one of the superheroes auditioning to replace Beast Boy.