27 years ago - Mari Jiwe McCabe is born to an affluent family in sub-saharan Africa.
10 years ago - 17-year-old Mari witnesses the death of her parents at the hands of her uncle & flees to America, finding her way to Detroit where she begins a modeling career.
9 years ago - 18-year-old Mari begins to access her shamanic powers to summon animal totems, and starts using them to help people all over Detroit as VIxen.
6 years ago - 21-year-old Mari Jiwe McCabe finally finds the location of her uncle, who is using his samanic powers to terrorize their homeland. She confronts and usurps him, claiming her birthright. She leaves the Justice League to focus on her home.
1 year ago - 26-year-old Mari is recruited to represent all of Africa in the Global Guardians as they take stewardship of Superbia.
Vixen is a very widely-referenced character, appearing all the time in a wide variety of books, although she has only rarely had an established role of her own. Generally, this has been as a member of certain versions of the Justice League, although for whatever reason she's not usually counted among the League's must-include characters. This is more than a little unfortunate, because she really is a cool character, she just needs a particularly good writer to a) make sure her sometimes-conceptual powers are given their due, and b) give her a place where she can really thrive, because when she gets one she's generally one of the best characters in the book.
Vixen's Comic History
Technically, VIxen's first appearance is in 'Cancelled Comic Cavalcade' from 1978, a xeroxed collection of the work being done on all the series cancelled during the infamous DC implosion, when over 31 books were removed from DC's publication slate. Vixen was meant to be a brand new series featuring a femme fetale named Marilyn McCabe who used her families totem to summon animal spirits to assist her as a new superheroine, Vixen.
In 1984 when Gerry Conway created his new Justice League (now reffered to as the 'Detroit Era'), he included a re-imagined Vixen. Now Mari Jiwe McCabe, with a new costume that was clearly meant to evoke a certain clawed brawler from an incredibly popular Marvel comic. Vixen and the rest of the Detroit Era Justice League continued for a further 28 issues before the series was finally cancelled. While most of the new characters were more-or-less left alone, VIxen became a long-time member of the Suicide Squad, and would continue to make brief appearances in a wide variety of series like Animal Man, Infinity Inc, The Flash, Birds of Prey, and Morrison's JLA. She was even heavily featured in the animated series Justice League Unlimited. She was clearly a character that we all wanted to include and acknowledge, but who just never seemed to find her own role. When Brad Meltzer created a new Justice League and attempted to build a lineup that honored all the team's previous incarnations VIxen was a major player, establishing herself as a character with very well-defined ties to the League.
Our Vixen Story
When Mari's powers are being used and written well, she becomes an INCREDIBLY powerful character. While other animal-based characters will turn their body into the animals they're adapting (like Beast Boy) or just magically adapt the abilities of the animals (like Animal Man), Vixen's powers are at their best when we see a spectral manifestation of whatever animal she's manifesting. It's more that she's summoning and wielding a variety of animal totems rather than just using her own body, and when she does this cleverly she becomes more than capable of holding her own against practically anyone.
This is why we tried to keep her story focused on building her up and giving her space. Yes, she flees her home country after the death of her parents, but we quickly allow her to find her power and become a hero in her own right before she's invited to join the Justice League; the ONLY character of that the Detroit Era we're including on a team that otherwise is entirely veteran members, because she's just that powerful. She only leaves the League because she has a grander calling; to serve as the lone hero over her homeland, because she is actually that powerful.
She does return to the League when it is reformed to honor the team, but after the battle of Maggeddon, when the city of Superbia is suspended over Africa and the Global Guardians take stewardship of it, She joins the team to again represent her homeland. Whenever she makes a change it's an act of stepping forward, accepting new challenges, because she CAN.
Vixen's original look is pretty obviously influenced by Wolverine, which says a lot about the role she was meant to fill on the team. As the years passed and she appeared more often in a purple jumpsuit and with either long dreadlocks or short-cropped hair, you can kind of tell that there was some sort of disconnect in just how to present her. I don't want to suggest that this was specifically a result of mostly white male creators not having access to a lot of strong women of color characters in wider mainstream media, but her developing look and design really did seem to follow the expanding visibility of non-white female characters in the larger world of entertainment, to the point where you really start to get a clear sense of her style right around the same time actresses like Halle Berry & Jada Pinkett start showing up in action movies.
The most popular rendition of her costume that has coalesced over the years is her skintight yellow costume with the deep v collar, gloves, and jewelry. It's a look that COULD seem overly sexual, but given that Mari is a supermodel it actually works. Her ability to move and fight is mostly due to her manipulating her summoned animal totems, so it actually doesn't even seem impossible for her to be wearing heels.
Some of her later looks, particularly after her appearance in the CW arrowverse (which includes her own animated series on CW seed) add a lot of animal print accents to her costume. We're certainly not against this, but the clean single-color costume can look SO good when done well.
Vixen is a character that has always been tied to the Justice League, but the particular lineup she came from just isn't one that's viewed favorably, so she presents a strange challenge when trying to rebuild our timeline. We want to make sure she is given space to thrive, but without deliberately including the Detroit Era we needed to work out just how this was going to work. The answer, really, came from just acknowledging how cool this character can be when she's written well. Of course, she's the sole new character invited to join the League when it's membership changed. Why wouldn't she be? The reason she isn't on subsequent lineups for the League? because she's busy taking over the huge role of being the hero of her home country. I can actually imagine a wide variety of her stories being told in this era.
In order for our new lineup of the Global Guardians to really feel relevant and powerful, We took the idea of Superbia from the pages of Morrison's JLA, where it was already suggested that Vixen became one of the characters stewarding this independent city-state. She just becomes such an obvious addition to this team, and immediately makes it all feel so much more legitimate and powerful. This is a very cool character, and the most important thing we need to do here is make sure we're always giving her as grand a stage as we can.