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In ancient Africa, there was a legend that 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" who Tantu met, may have been a member of the alien race who gave Buddy Baker the ability to tap the Morphogenetic field. According to the Animal Man series Mari’s Tantu totem may tap 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, Mari Jiwe McCabe heard the legend of the “Tantu Totem” from her parents. She was the daughter of Reverend Richard Jiwe, the village priest, who was her sole caretaker, as poachers, lead by a man named Kwesi, killed her mother years ago. Reverend Jiwe himself was killed by his half-brother (Mari’s uncle) General Maksai. Makasai wanted the Tantu Totem, which had been in Reverend Jiwe’s possession.
Now orphaned, she fled to America. She set up an identity for herself as Mari McCabe and used her beauty to become a well-known fashion 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 stole back the Tantu Totem, using its power to become the Vixen.
After this, Vixen made only two appearances as a solo crime fighter: once fighting poachers in India and then 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 caused it Maksai to be transformed into a raging beast. Maksai was killed in battle with Vixen. Vixen continued with that particular incarnation of the JLA until it was disbanded by the Martian Manhunter.
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.
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.
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 able to mind-control her. The Huntress tried to help her and was nearly killed by Vixen, but Vixen regained her senses and used 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 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 until they moved on to another universe.
She also managed to remain active in the fashion industry.
During the Identity Crisis mini-series she was at the side of Firestorm while battling the Shadow Thief, and Firestorm was impaled by the Shining Knight's sword, which the Shadow Thief had stolen. The magical sword ruptured the nuclear man's containment field, resulting in Firestorm's body exploding. For killing Firestorm, the Shadow Thief was prosecuted by Kate Spencer (a.k.a. Manhunter IX), and Vixen testified during the trial.
See also: One Year Later
Vixen was lured to a bar in Hub City, by a supposed note sent by the Question. When arriving at the bar, she was ambushed by the Electrocutioner and Plastique. Plastique quickly grabbed her Totem from around her waist and escaped with Electrocutioner in a Boom Tube as Plastique destroyed the bar. Mari managed to pull herself from the wreckage as she began to lose control of her powers, due to the Totem missing and unable to channel them properly.
After hours of being free with her powers, forgetting almost all her memories including her name, Vixen began to regain control as she remembered the Totem being stolen from her. Latching on to being human, she began her pursuit of finding her missing Totem. As she searched, a stinging pain hit her as Arsenal shot the android Amazo in the back, where her Totem was implanted by Professor Ivo. Vixen immediatly located it and used the powers of a falcon to tear through Amazo and grab her totem.
Before the battle, Vixen was considered by Superman to be part of the League, however, both Batman and Wonder Woman felt she was not ready for the League. Nonetheless, due to her part in defeating Amazo, Vixen was invited to be on the new Justice League of America, now located in Washington, D.C., along with the other heroes present during the battle with Amazo.
Not long after a couple of missions Vixen noticed a change in her powers which means she is no longer drawing on animal characteristics but rather the powers of those around her, matching their skill levels and, she suspects, draining powers from the owner him / herself. Superman is first to catch on to this and she subsequently reveals it to Red Arrow.
Later she seeks out her former Suicide Squad teammate Bronze Tiger to discuss her situation, and subsequently admits everything to the League. Chairperson Black Canary instructs her to hand in her credentials and removes her from the team, but then discusses with Mari the possibility of seeking Zatanna's assistance in fixing the properties of the totem.
When Zatanna attempts to find the source of the problem, she sees a mystic image of Vixen and Animal Man as puppets. When she tries to break the spell, she is repelled by an unknown force. When Vixen attempts to defeat the newly-restored Amazo by absorbing all his stolen powers, she becomes mysteriously weak. She falls unconcious, with Amazo bearing down on her. Amazo is later defeated and Vixen departs to visit Animal Man with other JLA members to seek help for her condition.
Vixen and the other JLA members along with Animal Man are taken inside the Tantu Totem, where the Trickster God Anansi reweaves history so that the current form of the JLA never came about. Vixen escapes and teams up with an alternate history JLA in order to combat Anansi only for him to change them. She uses her last gambit and threatens the destruction of the tantu totem unless Anansi fixes what he has done, he relents.
It is then that Anansi explains that while he controls the stories inside the totem, the world outside the totum is changing. The alteration of the universe worries him, as great damage can be done. He only manipulated Vixen so that he can make her into the type of person she needs to be, so that that she is prepared for what is to come. He then returns the JLA back to normal and and gives her the powers back as they were.
Vixen returns to her home village for the first time in years only to find that Kwesi, the man who killed her mother, has taken over many of the local Zambesi villages. Vixen easily dispatches a number of Kwesi's troops showing the villagers her powers in the process. Many of the villagers, now fearful of her supernatural nature, ask her to leave so that she does not bring Kwesi's wrath on the village. Vixen soon confronts Kwesi directly and is surprised to find that he has powers of his own. Kwesi shows speed power and claws that rival anything Vixen possesses. He is able to severely wound her after their initial engagement. Vixen finds that she has great trouble healing the wounds, which turn out to be poisoned. While in her injured state, her JLA communicator is activated, and the Justice League travels to Africa to assist her.Vixen later finds out that Kwesi is being funded by Intergang and that his powers are actually produced by advanced technology and chemicals. One of these chemicals, a Vodun zombie potion modified to be effective against Superman, infects the Kryptonian and Black Canary. Whisper A'Daire (New Earth) turns out to be the head of the this Intergang plot, and through the uses of the zombie potion takes control of the two heroes and turns them against their fellow Leaguers.
The Red Conduit: Allows her to tap into the Morphogenetic Field of Earth which is also called The Red. Allowing her, among other abilities, to tap into the the abilities of animals on the planet earth.
Power and Skill Absorption (formerly): She could absorb metahumans powers, as seen with Jay Garrick's speed, Geo-Force's earth based powers and Black Lightning's elemental control. She also was seen using Superman's alien powers and a Green Lantern's power ring of her own making. Anansi was the one who warped Vixen's powers because he needed to make her into the type of person she needs to be, so that she is prepared for what is to come in her future adventures. After Vixen realizes this and became the person she needed to be, Anansi restored her previous powers and took her power absorption abilities away. She no longer can absorb the powers of metahumans around her and is now in full control of her animal mimicking abilities.
Animal Behavior: 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. Meaning the longer she stays in contact with the Morphogenetic field, the less human and more animal she seems to become.
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.
Tantu Totem: Vixen wields an object called the Tantu Totem, a fox-shaped talisman, which enables her to tap into the "morphogenetic field" of the Earth, sometimes known as the Red. This allows her to mimic the abilities of any animal she can think of, by simply focusing on a specific animal abilities and then drawing it directly from the field. She has demonstrated the ability to hold onto the Morphogenetic traits of an entire forest of animals. The Totem isn't the source of her powers but rather helps her channel the power.
Vixen was the first African-American female to star in her own DC Comics title. She, along with Black Lightning (the first black male to star in his own title), were both re-added to the JLA roster when Dwayne McDuffie took the helm of the series. McDuffie, one of the founders of Milestone Comics, also featured Vixen heavily in the Justice League Unlimited episodes he wrote.
Justice League of America member
This character is or was a member of the Justice League of America, or the Justice League in any of its various incarnations, sworn by a duty to act as guardians of America and the world by using their skills and/or superpowers to protect Earth from both interstellar and domestic threats.