5701 in-depth character profiles from comics, games, movies

Vixen of the JLA (DC Comics)

Vixen

(Mari McCabe)


Power Level:
Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game

Context

Created in 1978, Vixen is part of the first wave of Black super-heroines (along with Storm, Misty Knight or Bumblebee). Unfortunately, DC experienced major commercial setbacks  at that point and Vixen never got her book.

She’s had a rocky comic books career since, mostly appearing in team books where writers thought she deserved a chance to shine. She chiefly associated with the 1980s Suicide Squad, and the Justice League across multiple eras. Much of her exposure actually comes from animation  and recently live action .

Vixen’s power are themed after African charismatic fauna, because 1978 was a long time ago. But it was developed in various interesting manners.


Background

  • Real Name: Mari Jiwe McCabe
  • Marital Status: Single
  • Known Relatives: Reverend Richard Jiwe (father, deceased), Jeanne-Mari Jiwe (mother, deceased), General Mustapha Maksai (uncle, deceased), Tantu (ancestor, deceased)
  • Group Affiliation: Formerly Justice League of America, International Ultramarine Corps, Birds of Prey, Checkmate, and Suicide Squad
  • Base Of Operations: Mobile
  • Height: 5’9” Weight: 140 lbs
  • Eyes: Amber Hair: Brown


Powers & Abilities

Vixen can tap into Earth’s morphogenic field, the Red, which allows her to mimic the abilities of all animals native to Earth.

While the power appears innate to her family line, the Tantu Totem is required to activate and help them control it. It doesn’t change her nature to imitate the animal she’s mimicking, which runs the risk of her losing herself and staying like that.

Without the Totem she seems to be restricted to nearby animals, but with it she can access the abilities of even extinct species such as a sabre-tooth tiger or a triceratops.

She can only mimic the abilities of a single animal at a time, but can switch between them at a thought. She has shown the ability to mimic the superpowers of powered animals, such as Grodd’s strength and telepathic abilities.

Vixen (Mari McCabe) leaping in over a white background

By mimicking certain animal scents and sensibilities, she can communicate with animals to a degree. She has calmed some with a maternal scent, or scared a mob of cats and dogs by using the scent of a Siberian tiger (in DC Heroes terms, Animal Friendship).

She always seems to have a low degree of sensory powers available so that she usually detects threats (Danger Sense). It’s possible she also continually accesses a low degree of natural agility from some animals, which could explain her natural athletic aptitude.

She’s had combat training which makes her a skilled opponent even when not mimicking animals, making even skilled fighters like Huntress wary of engaging her in combat.

Initially transforming into commonly known animals, over the years she’s started widening her knowledge of animals, enabling her to mimic a wider array of abilities.

Apart from growing claws, which is a common trick she uses (mimicking a bear, bird of prey, or a large cat), she can’t actually physically change into an animal under normal circumstances.

Vixen (Mari McCabe) in black leather over a white background

Her powers have exhibited variations during some appearances, though, such as her changing shape to the animals she’s mimicking, or mimicking the abilities of multiple animals at a time. But these generally have other factors in effect which could explain them [other than the simple explanation of poor writing, that is], such as the Godwave, or the effects of Amos Fortune and the Wizard combining their energies.


History

The ancient African warrior Tantu asked the god Anansi  to create a Totem. It provided him with the powers of the animal kingdom in order to protect the innocent. This Totem was passed down through his descendants.

Growing up in (fictional) Zambesi, Mari’s mother taught her the legends of Tantu before being killed by poachers. Mari’s father, the village priest, took them to live in neighbouring M‘Changa where he helped establish independence.

He was voted in as President, only to be murdered the next day by his brother, General Maksai, who seized power for himself in a coup d‘État.

Continuity note

It’s never actually stated they move to another country. Zambesi is the name of her homeland in recent continuity, and M‘Changa is from her earlier appearances. The obvious explanations are either that they moved, or that the country was renamed after General Maskai’s fall.

Given later revelations that her mother was murdered by a local warlord as a warning to her father, I’ve assumed he moved his daughter somewhere safer, nearer his brother.

Escaping, Mari eventually made her way to America, changing her name and becoming a model. She became successful and used her business savvy to build a career in the fashion industry. Acquiring the Totem, her inherited powers were awakened and she adopted the costumed identity of Vixen.

She had a relatively low profile initially, while focussing on her career. Her first known case helping Superman battle poachers who provided illegal furs for a crooked fashion designer.

Justice League Detroit

When the Justice League of America was reorganized by Aquaman, Vixen decided she wanted to join. She abandoned her career in favour of joining what became derisively know as the Justice League Detroit. She developed close relationships with Gypsy and Martian Manhunter.

Vixen (Mari McCabe) crouching over a white background

She came into conflict with General Maksai, who used a hostage to force her to surrender the Tantu Totem. But it only worked properly for those who protected the innocent, and instead turned him into a raging beast. They fought, and even without her powers she won, Maksai falling to his death.

The League continued for a while until G. Gordon Godfrey’s campaign turned America against its heroes. This coincided with a deranged Professor Ivo taking revenge on the League. His campaign saw the death of Steel and Vibe before Mari and J‘onn found and stopped him. This iteration of the League disbanded, and Mari returned to her career.

Suicide Squad

During a Caribbean photo shoot, Mari returned from a swim to find her friends and colleagues dead. She worked with the Suicide Squad to track down the drug dealers responsible, whose boat had been in the background of some of the photos.

They destroyed the operation, but Vixen lost control and killed the drug lord responsible.

Wracked with guilt over her actions, she decided to work with the Squad in exchange for therapy to help her control her animal instincts. She grew disillusioned with the Squad, though, and Waller in particular, only really staying due to her burgeoning relationship with Ben Turner (Bronze Tiger).

Vixen (Mari McCabe) crashing through a window

After Sarge Steel tried deprogramming him, Turner fled. The Squad disbanded following Waller’s incarceration, so Mari returned to her career, building up a successful fashion house.

Waller approached her a year later, recruiting Mari to a new, freelance Squad by saying she’d found Ben. He’d changed though, still damaged from Sarge Steel’s deprogramming, and Mari was unable to get through to him.

She was severely wounded during an operation in Israel, where the Mossad assassin, Judith, caught her by surprise. When she recovered, Mari left both the Squad and Ben. Her friendship with Ben would later recover, but never again went beyond that.

On the Prowl

Vixen continued operating in costume. She helped Flash battle Grodd when he turned the animals of Keystone into an army to do his bidding. She infiltrated a cult for Oracle, unfortunately getting brainwashed by Brainiac until Huntress helped her break free. She also served as a keynote speaker at a pan-African world hunger conference.

She joined the International Ultramarine Corps, and fell under Grodd’s influence when he and the Sheeda took over the team for their own ends. The JLA stopped him, and the main Corps members were sent to guard another universe, while Vixen presumably returned to being a solo operative.

New League

Ambushed by the Electrocutioner and Plastique, Vixen’s Totem was stolen. Her powers began to go out of control, causing her to fight to retain her mind.

She tracked the Totem, finding it had been used to help merge Solomon Grundy’s soul into the Amazo android. She located it as Amazo battled the newly-reforming Justice League, and after a power dive, she smashed through Amazo and recovered the Totem.

Invited to rejoin the League, she agreed. Despite getting the Totem back, though, she found her powers no longer worked properly. She was draining her team mates’ powers instead. She kept quiet about it, initially only revealing this to Red Arrow (Roy Harper).

Vixen (Mari McCabe) flying like an eagle

She finally admitted the truth to her team mates. Chairperson Black Canary removed her from the team, and then contacted Zatanna for help working out what happened. The investigation ended with the League trapped within the Totem by Anansi, who revealed he’d been responsible for her recent power problems, which he restored to normal.

Anansi had been testing her. He gave her a chance to escape into an alternate universe he’d created, where Vixen gathered it’s version of the League to face him. Despite his power, she won by threatening to destroy the Totem. Satisfied, he admitted to testing her worthiness to act as his champion in an upcoming challenge he sensed to reality.

Return of the Lion

The League discovered notes of an Intergang operation in Zambesi. Vixen also learned the truth about her mother’s death. She’d actually been murdered by local warlord, Aku Kwesi, an operative of Intergang. Electing to investigate alone, Vixen returned to her home village, which she found under Kwesi’s rule.

She challenged him, but learned he had powers, and he left her for dead. She was found by Brother Tabo, keeper of a local shrine (whose pet lion was Anansi in disguise). He helped her see that she’d evolved to the point where she didn’t need the Totem to help her control the animal instincts which had once threatened to overwhelm her.

The League arrived to fight Intergang, only for Superman and Black Canary to fall victim to drugs which put them under Intergang’s power. Vixen found the antidote, and the source of Kwesi’s power, then flew to the League’s aid.

Standing up the Superman’s attack, she managed to administer the antidote. Intergang quickly dealt with, Vixen challenged Kwesi to a rematch. They fought, and she ripped off the vest which had given him his powers, leaving his fate to the villagers he’d terrorized.

League’s End

When the League fought Starbreaker, Anansi warned Vixen they needed to protect Dharma from him in order to battle the threat to reality.

They succeed in beating Starbreaker, but the League had already begun to disintegrate by this point. Green Arrow (Oliver Queen) and Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) assembled their own, more proactive, version of the team. Vixen remained on the main team, even encouraging it’s continuation after Black Canary disbanded it.

Vixen (Mari McCabe) flying among red birds

The other League’s campaign came back on them when the remains of the League were drawn into Prometheus’ plot. He broke Vixen’s leg in a few places. She was the one who had to let him go when they acceded to his threat to destroy other cities as he had Star City if he wasn’t released.

Her confidence damaged by this, Vixen was ready to call it a day for the League. The only ones who responded to her call for a meeting were Doctor Light, Firestorm, and Plastic Man. The meeting was interrupted by Despero, rampaging with Gypsy as his hostage.

He was winning when he mysteriously disappeared, and Zatanna arrived to recruit them to deal with the Blackest Night incident. Vixen and Gypsy had to face the reanimated Vibe and Steel, which proved enough for her, and Vixen left the team.


Personality

Calm, confident and level-headed, Vixen is determined hero, used to working in teams. While she has poise and can appear reserved, she gets along with most people, although only gets close with a few. She’s reluctant to share her problems with others, preferring her independence.

The nature of her powers used to make her susceptible to animalistic urges, especially without the Tantu Totem to help her focus. She could occasionally fly into a rage in combat. This side of her nature was a concern to her, and an occasional source of guilt when it overwhelms her.

While she’s come to control this side-effect of her powers, in her early days she was still heavily subject to it, and could be feral, sexually forward, and prone to animalistic traits.


Quotes

“The innocent beasts your men have slain demand revenge !”

“Elephant… thunder of the forest… give me your strength !”

Vixen (Mari McCabe) licking her fangs

“Monkey… shadow in the tree… give me your speed !”

Vixen: “I smell the bullet. And fresh blood.”
Huntress: “Figured it’d be something awful. Speaking of odious smells… I bought a bottle of your personal scent. I figure you owe me $120 plus tax.”
Vixen: “Glamor slides right off some people, I’ve found.”

Naja naja sputatrix, Geo-Force. Beware the spitting cobra.”


Marvel Universe History

T’tantu, ancient Warrior-King of the small Wakandan tribe, made a pact with Anansi to imbue a totem with the powers of the animal kingdom. In exchange, the Wakandans agreed never to harm one of Anansi’s “children”, the spiders.

T’tantu used this T’tantu Totem to become Africa’s first legendary hero, securing a homeland for his beleaguered people in the process.

Unfortunately, T’tantu’s eldest son was killed by the bite of a black widow spider. The enraged King killed the arachnid. Anansi appeared, stripping T’tantu of the Totem and decreeing its power lost to the Wakandan royal line until a Monarch of Wakanda saved the life of a child of Anansi.

T’tantu was horrified. Without the power of the totem, the Wakandans were in danger of being overrun by their more powerful neighbours. He prayed to the animal spirits of Africa who, as one, turned their back on the oath-breaker. All except the Panther God, who looked with pity on the small tribe.

The Panther God came to T’tantu and told him where he would find a strange heart-shaped herb. Eating this root would empower T’tantu and his line with the abilities of the great jungle cat. T’tantu found the herb and became the first Black Panther.

The Justice League in Detroit (Gypsy, Vibe, Steel, Vixen)

When the modern Black Panther, T‘Challa, came to the U.S. to speak before the United Nations, he took the opportunity to visit his younger sister, Mari, who was enrolled at NYU.

Travelling to the U.N. with him, their limo was struck by the unconscious body of Spider-Woman (Jessica Drew), who fell while fighting Thanagarian fugitive, Byth the Vulture. Mari got Spider-Woman to safety while T‘Challa fought Byth.

Byth evaded T‘Challa, but Mari refused to let him at Spider-Woman, and time stopped for everyone but her as Byth attacked. Anansi appeared and wordlessly placed a golden necklace around her neck. Mari, uncomprehending, looked into his face. A pair of night-black eyes stared at her from a smiling face.

He touched her forehead and she knew the history of the T’tantu Totem. Anansi left and time restarted. Faster than the eye could follow, Mari’s hand streaked out and deflected Byth’s attack.

Calling on a bewildering number of animal powers, she battled Byth; the animal mimicker vs. the shape-shifter. Spider-Woman regained her senses in time to join in and the Thanagarian was forced to flee.

Adopting the identity of Vixen, she began fighting crime in America, and followed her brother in joining the Avengers. She also fought her uncle, General Masaki, who, after briefly trying to use the Totem, was transformed into the Man-Ape.

She’s worked a few times with the young African hero Anansi, apparently empowered by Anansi with powers similar to his own as his champion on Earth. Or he may actually be Anansi, playing games with her.

After her most recent stint with the team she returned home to Wakanda shortly before T‘Challa was seriously wounded. Forced to assume his role, she became the new Black Panther.


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Vixen

Dex: 08 Str: 03 Bod: 05 Motivation: Responsibility of Power
Int: 05 Wil: 05 Min: 06 Occupation: Fashion Designer/Model
Inf: 06 Aur: 06 Spi: 06 Resources {or Wealth}: 008
Init: 023 HP: 060

Powers:
Adaptation (ML): 18, Animal Mimicry (ML): 18, Danger Sense (ML): 06, Detect (Tantu Totem): 12, Empathy (ML): 02

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Adaptation, Danger Sense and Empathy are all Contingent on Animal Mimicry (-1)
  • Adaptation uses APs of Animal Mimicry (-1), can only be used on non-human animals native to Earth (-3)
  • Animal Mimicry can mimic natural weaponry (+1), can also mimic Advantages and Drawbacks at a cost of 2AP each (+1), and allows her abilities to be boosted by AP maths (+1, see below)
  • Empathy only works on animals (-1)

Skills:
Acrobatics: 07, Animal Friendship: 08, Martial Artist: 06, Thief (Stealth): 07, Vehicles (Land): 04, Weaponry (Melee, Missile)*: 08

Bonuses and Limitations:
Animal Friendship is a Powered Skill (-1), is Contingent on Animal Mimicry (-1), and uses APs of Animal Mimicry (-1)

Advantages:
Attractive, Expertise (Fashion, Zoology), Languages (Swahili), Lightning Reflexes

Connections:
Martian Manhunter (High), Bronze Tiger (High), Gypsy (High), Animal Man (Low), Amanda Waller (Low), Justice League (High), Birds of Prey (Low), International Ultramarine Corps (Low), Fashion Industry (Low)

Drawbacks:
None

Equipment:
Tantu Totem [BODY 08, SPIRIT 08, Miscellaneous Advantage (suppresses the MIA and Minor Rage its wielder might suffer, which Vixen has lost); Misc. Drawback (only works for a member of the Jiwe family, and only in the cause of justice, otherwise their Rage is increased to Catastrophic)]


Animal Magic

With access to the Red, Vixen can mimic the abilities of any animal native to Earth, even extinct ones. She doesn’t change shape when mimicking animals, apart from growing claws, and so cannot mimic Growth or Shrinking. She can, however, duplicate the weight of something as large as a triceratops.

Certain powers are more efficient for Vixen than for the animals she’s mimicking due to her size, such as movement Powers (and others at the GM’s discretion, although birds’ Flight is unaffected as her poorer aerodynamics counter the benefits of size).

In these cases the APs of Shrinking the animal has are added to the APs of the Power to determine the mimicked APs of the Power.

The opposite doesn’t seem to be true, though, and while she can use the proportionate strength of some insects, she uses the actual strength of some larger mammals, such as elephants, as though she had Growth or Density Increase (without actually growing).

For example, she can mimic the durability of the rhinoceros by adding its APs of Growth (05) to its APs of BODY (04), giving her an RV of 09 AP.

She can also mimic the natural Advantages and Drawbacks of animals, such as the blindness of a cavefish or the cold-bloodedness of a reptile. These can sometimes be useful, but can also be triggered by enemies exerting mental control over her.

Some mimicked abilities wouldn’t seem to offer any actual benefit, such as mimicking a monkey’s climbing, when her own Acrobatics Skill is higher than a monkey’s. In this case the APs may be combined using AP maths, but the total APs are used as the APs of Animal Mimicry assigned to the ability.

She’s also exhibited traits of animals which don’t necessarily correspond to actual Powers, such as the viciousness of a wolverine, and traits which give her Powers the animal doesn’t have, such as the stubbornness of a mule bolstering her resistance to Brainiac’s mental domination (represented by Iron Will).

Any non-standard effects like this would need to be agreed by the GM.

Here are some of the Powers she’s known to have used from mimicking
certain animals:

  • Abalone – Skin Armor: 05
  • Anglerfish – Flash: 05
  • Armoured Beetle – Skin Armor: 08
  • Bat – Sonar: 06
  • Bear – STR 06, Claws: 07
  • Boa Constrictor – Self-Link (Snare): 06
  • Cat – Ultra Vision: 04
  • Cheetah – Claws: 04, Running: 06
  • Cricket – Jumping: 03
  • Doberman – Analytical Smell/Tracking Scent: 07, Extended Hearing: 03, Super Hearing: 03, Ultra Vision: 03
  • Dolphin – Swimming: 05, Water Freedom (doesn’t allow breathing underwater): 06
  • Eagle – Flight: 05, Telescopic Vision: 09, Sharp Eye
  • Earthworm – Regeneration: 01
  • Electric Eel – Energy Absorption (Electricity): 08, Lightning (No Range): 08
  • Fish – Swimming: 05, Water Freedom: 08
  • Elephant – STR 09
  • Fox – Ultra Vision: 03
  • Frog – Jumping: 05
  • Gazelle – Running: 06
  • Hatchetfish – Flash: 02
  • Hawk – Flight: 06, Telescopic Vision: 07
  • Lion – Analytical Smell/Tracking Scent: 05, Claws: 06
  • Mantis Shrimp – Superspeed (Adding to Init and Subbing for DEX only): 11
  • Methanococcoid burtonii – Cold Immunity: 06
  • Mole – Digging: 04
  • Monkey – Acrobatics: 04
  • Mule – Iron Will: 05
  • Odontomachus – Enhanced Initiative: 07
  • Peregrine Falcon – Flight: 07
  • Pompeii Worm – Flame Immunity: 06
  • Rhinoceros – STR 07, Physical RV: 09, Claws: 08
  • Rhinoceros Beetle – STR 12
  • Snake – Thermal Vision: 02, Regeneration: 01, MPR (Cold-Blooded)
  • Spider – Cling: 04
  • Spitting Cobra – Poison Touch (1AP Range): 05
  • Triceratops – Density Increase: 06
  • Wolf – Analytic Smell/Tracking Scent: 07

People Magic

Early in her second stint with the Justice League, her powers were manipulated by Anansi so she could only mimic the powers of humans, not limited to natural powers (she used Red Arrows archery skills, Superman’s alien powers, and duplicated a Green Lantern Ring).

During this period she had 25 APs of Adaptation, but none of her other Powers, apart from Detect.


Zoo-logical

Some of the animals she mimics give her abilities far superior to others, yet these tend to be the more exotic animals, such as the mantis shrimp, or the rhinoceros beetle. Even having used their abilities, she commonly mimics more familiar, but less efficient, animals.

Okay, so we all know this is due to different writers handling her, but if you want to try and rationalize it in games terms, here’s some options:

  1. In story terms her knowledge of zoology has grown over the years, explaining the more exotic animals mimicked in recent times, but in tense situations she can still revert to more commonly known animals simply from familiarity.
    In game terms she has to succeed at a Check of her zoological knowledge if she has the time, or pay the fee for a Minor Marginal Power if she doesn’t have the time. An exotic animal can be defined as any which isn’t covered by the Animals File entry on WORG, or one that you’d need to look up to find what it does;
  2. It’s easier for her to mimic the abilities of mammals, since they’re closer to her natural form (statistically, she has mimicked mammals a lot more than non-mammals in her appearances). When mimicking non-mammals she makes an Action Check with her APs of Animal Mimicry acting as AV/EV and OV/RV, and a +1CS modifier to OV/RV for birds and fish, or +2CS for insects;
  3. The physiological difference between her body and that of the animal she’s mimicking could cause difficulties, such as mimicking flying without actually having wings (except when a writer or artist is apparently unaware she doesn’t physically change shape), or moving as fast as something with more legs than she possesses. For the Action Check above this could add an extra 1CS to the OV/RV;
  4. Mimicking the proportional abilities of an animal, such as the strength of a rhinoceros beetle, puts an extra strain on her (although mimicking the exact abilities of a larger creature, such as an elephant’s strength, doesn’t have the same strain). Again, this would add 1CS to the OV/RV (although the last three options don’t need to be combined);
  5. If you don’t want to waste time with a Check, it could be replaced by taking up 1 AP of her Animal Mimicry per CS, or paying the fee of a Minor Marginal Power (increasing the severity for further CS’s would probably get too expensive to be workable).

  6. Previous Stats

    During her time with the Suicide Squad she was working off the Guilt she felt about killing the drug lord.

    Earlier in her career, Vixen was subject to the animalistic behaviour the contact with the Red left her vulnerable to, which often saw her lose control of herself, and made her vulnerable to attacks focussing on her animal urges.

    Prior to her testing by Anansi, she had Minor Rage, MIA (Animal behaviour), and Attack Vulnerability (-1CS against mental domination which targets her animalistic impulses), which could be suppressed by the Tantu Totem, and her Animal Mimicry was limited to animals within 5 AP unless she wore the Totem.

by Gareth Lewis

Source of Character: DC Comics

Helper(s): Wikipedia, Sébastien Andrivet, Azrael, VBTusky, Roger, Peter S Piispanen, Adam, Chris Cottingham, William Chamberlin

Writeup completed on the 7th of June, 2012.

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