With the release of Black Panther, it’s offered a window into the world of ethnic superheroes and demonstrated that they deserve to be recognised as important characters. It’s inspired me to look into other heroes of colour, such as DC’s Vixen, who represents and African perspective that spans generations. She was intended to be DC’s first African female superhero to appear in her own ongoing series, though it was cancelled during the DC Implosion of 1978. Despite this, Vixen went on to become an integral member of the Justice League. The character also received her own TV series within the Arrow verse, which displayed her relevance to a modern audience. With the ability to harness the powers of the animal kingdom, Vixen is an intriguing superhero that’s worth looking into.
Vixen’s backstory is linked to African mythology, as her powers come from the Spider god Anansi. In ancient Ghana, a warrior known as Tantu asked Anansi to create a totem that granted the wearer all the powers of the animal kingdom. Tantu utilised to the totem to protect Africa, becoming a great hero. The totem was passed down from generation to generation, until it reached the family of Mari McCabe. Mari grew up in a village in the nation of Zambesi, with her mother having possession of the totem. After her mother was killed by poachers, Mari was raised by her father. She moved to America, became a model and on a trip back to Africa, the Tantu Totem passed onto her.
Vixen’s uncle, General Maksai wanted the totem’s power for himself, but it wouldn’t work for him because it could only be used to defend the innocent. He turned into a mad beast, which ultimately led to his death in a battle with Vixen. From that point on, Vixen dedicated her life to helping others, joining the Justice League. At one point, Vixen went undercover to work with the Suicide Squad to capture a drug kingpin. However, her animal instincts caused her to kill the target. Shaken by what she was capable of, Vixen stayed with the Suicide Squad until she could regain control of herself.
Mari’s battle to control the animalistic side of her personality became part of her daily struggle. She has access to the ‘Red’ – Earth’s morphogenetic field that contains all the abilities of the animal kingdom. This includes all kinds of animals, ranging from extinct to mystical. For example, she’s used the bio-luminescence of an Angler fish to create a blinding light and heal herself by using the regenerative abilities of a planaria flatworm.
At first, it was believed that the Tantu Totem was the source of Vixen’s powers, yet her natural metahuman abilities allow her to tap into the Red. The totem is a buffer to stop her mind from being overwhelmed by the bestial nature of the creatures that she mimics. Vixen has been shown to be versatile with her powers, calling on the abilities of an entire forest. In addition to her animal powers, Vixen’s claws are mystically enhanced to the point they can damage superhumans as powerful as Superman and Despero.
Vixen’s identity as an African superhero not only makes her a culturally significant character, but she’s also a strong woman who can be placed on the same level as other heroes like Wonder Woman and Black Canary.