Saturday, February 26, 2011

Black Superheroes: Vixen

Sorry this is so late.  I’ve been sick.
No, not Vixen the porn star.
This blog is about the "good" Vixen
Name: Mari Jiwe McCabe
First Appearance: Action Comics #521 (1981)
History: Mari Jiwe McCabe is the latest in a long line of descendants of legendary African warrior Tantu.  According to legend he was given a totem by Anansi the Spider to protect innocent lives (Which doesn’t really sound like something Anansi would care that much about based on what I learned in grade school, but I digress).  The totem granted its user the power to mimic the abilities of animals.  The Tantu Totem is handed down through the generations eventually falling into the hands of Mari’s father, Reverend Richard McCabe.  However he is soon murdered by his own brother General Maksai who wanted the artifact for himself.  Fleeing to New York City Mari becomes a supermodel (Seriously?) and gains wealth and fame in the process, allowing her to travel the world in luxury.  One day she rediscovers the Tantu Totem and, despite reluctance, decides to follow in her ancestor’s footsteps and become a hero.  Taking the name “Vixen” she goes on to become a member of Justice League Detroit the Justice League of America and later the Suicide Squad.
Beta Says: Vixen was created by Gerry Conway and Bob Oksner and has a rather annoying and somewhat downplayed publishing origin; we’ll get to that, don’t worry.   Ignoring Wonder Woman the number of the ongoing series starring women under the banner of DC Comics include Supergirl, Power Girl, Batgirl and to my knowledge that’s it as of this writing.  That’s still more than what Marvel has but ask yourself what do these three characters have in common (Aside from their condescending names, I mean)?  They’re all blonde white girls.  Sure two of them are actually aliens but still DC in this way has disclosed their incredible lack of diversity by having most of their titles starring women to feature very similar looking characters (Batwoman #1 can’t get here soon enough, damn it!).
Where are the women of color?  Hidden away where we can’t see?  The obvious first choice to address and hopefully fix this problem is Cassandra Cain, of course, but there is another character who is much older and has been severely underused since before she actually debuted.  I’m talking about Vixen, the character who should have made history by being DC’s first black woman to star in a self-titled ongoing superhero book but was screwed over at the last minute.
More on Vixen and the “DC Implosion” after the jump.
Not the best hairdo ever
The DC Implosion is a tongue-in-cheek nickname for a failed marketing strategy DC used in the mid-70s.  By this point Marvel Comics had finally overtaken their rivals in DC in sales, having planted the seeds of change since the previous decade.  At the time DC concluded that the reasoning behind this was the large number of books Marvel had been publishing so in order to fight fire with fire they green lit 57 (!) new titles between 1975 and 1978, among them Black Lightning #1, and increased the number of pages printed (And raised the cover price).  This was referred to as “The DC Explosion”.  In 1978 though the experiment went south and twenty titles were canceled, plus another ten that were supposedly unrelated to the crisis, and several new series that were planned, some of them actually finished, but ultimately never saw the light of day.  The reasoning seems to be a combination of the 1977 blizzard and the rotten economy but I assume “biting off more than they could chew” played a pretty big part in the equation as well.  Black Lightning was canceled, I mentioned this before, but so was Vixen #1; despite being ready to hit shelves and making history it was instead tossed aside for financial reasons.
That’s such a bullshit scenario!  Even if it’s no one’s fault it really sucks that the character had to take the fall like that  One now has to wonder what a Vixen ongoing title would have done for superhero comics in general in 1978.  Maybe nothing, but we’ll never know.  Since that day the seemingly eternal second-stringer Vixen has not received another ongoing series, though in 2008 she did get a miniseries.  Only took thirty-odd years.  Mari wouldn’t appear properly in the comics until 1981 but by that point I’m sure no one cared.
Must!  Avoid!  Lion King joke!
Vixen is a character that almost feels like DC had forgotten about and have recently just remembered that had in the archives now that outcries for diversity seem to be at an all time high.  She made notable appearances in Justice League Unlimited and Batman: The Brave and The Bold played by veteran actors Gina Torres and Cree Summers respectively (In one of her JLU episodes Nathan Fillion also guest starred as “Vigilante” making it something of a Firefly reunion) and was a member of the Justice League during a recent high profile run, but even today she’s still being mishandled.  Vixen needs to be on an ongoing title, even if it’s not her own, but as one of the criminally few black female superheroes ANYWHERE DC should be doing something to raise her stock up.  I can’t say that, had her title debuted, she would have attracted huge numbers and have become as important as, say, Storm, but she certainly hasn’t had a chance to fail and the reward for surviving the DC Implosion seems to be being stuck as a third tier hero for thirty years.  A long time ago she was a member of the Suicide Squad where she was romantically linked to impossibly badass Bronze Tiger (I assume because they both happen to be black, or “Black Panther’s Law” as I like to call it).   She needs something like this again; she needs to be a regular feature in a book written by a writer who actually likes and respects her and have her personality and life explored deeper than it previously has been.  I say this needs to happen because we need this.  All of us.  There are simply too many people who look like Barbie running around in the DCU representing women and it really makes everyone involved look bad; DC looks bad for the implications and we as fans look bad because from an outsider’s prospective it looks like that is our ideal for women.  We do have options though, DC just needs to pull the trigger.
I’m just saying before you go and do something silly like remove Captain Atom and replace him with a “sexy black chick” only to then brutally kill her off and bring the original white guy back please try to remember that you have a perfectly good and extremely underused woman of color in Vixen.  Please utilize her!  Next time we’ll talk about one of my least favorite characters in history who has somehow, due to interference of a very bald man no doubt, become Marvel’s top black superhero during the last ten years.
And DC can't produce one of these every month...why?
For more on Vixen click here. Check out BLACKSUPERHERO.COM for a much better list of black superheroes from various companies.

8 comments:

  1. you are a modern day black supremacist moron

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  2. Thanks! Though more accurately I'm a "Equal Human Rights Moron". They're similar but I wear a lot less leather.

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  3. that's funny dude, great answer. Vixen has never been my favorite female character but always in my top five behind Storm, Wonder Woman and Giganta with Red Sonja coming in at number five. I used to love Vixen but right now she is the Halle Berry of comics spread out at the monsters ball at her every appearance. How many different men has she had now? Her appearance in the Brave and the Bold was an insult, Bwanna Beast really?

    Vixen being mishandled is an understatement as is the failure of the DC implosion, explosion and what ever the new 52 is suppose to be for Black Superheroes.

    admittedly vixen is the most popular Black Woman superhero at DC comics and has had her fair share of screen time but she has been subjugated at every turn to the point of making me want to vomit when I see her. the relationship with the Bronze Tiger was and should be again a subject of focus. They were the perfect match. the Love between Vixen and Bronze Tiger should have continued thru DC books and animation showing them strugging and fighting to be together in Love or in friendship; not whore her out at every turn. DC destroyed mari's image just like Marvel has done with Misty Knight.

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  4. I can't really argue with all that. Still at least she's in an ongoing title right now as opposed to being in limbo. Sure, the new Justice League International book is not that great but it's better than nothing.

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  5. Always loved Vixen. 1 of the few heroes to actually knock the wind out of Superman, and make him bleed...she was Naomi Campbell in modeling pre Naomi Campbell. Other great ethnic heroes? Indias Arani Caulder lead Doom Patrol. Katana & Tsunami from Japan...but Vixen is the supermodel super hero...ICON

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    1. She's great. I'm hoping that her popularity will enter an upswing soon.

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  6. how do you feel about her animated series?

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    1. I haven't had a chance to watch it. I do like how she was portrayed on Arrow and am mostly good with how she/her grandmother/Who Knows is portrayed on Legends of Tomorrow.

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