The Weather Goddess & The Mistress of the Animal Kingdom
Happy Black History Month! For each of the 28 days of February, we at The Mary Sue will have a post about a black woman you should know about—some you may have heard of, some a little bit more obscure, and some fictional who still deserve a lot of love.
Day Fifteen: Storm (Ororo Munroe) and Vixen (Mari Jiwe McCabe)
Happy Black Panther Day everyone!
In honor of celebrating Black Excellence in realm comic books, I wanted to showcase two of the most important black women in comics Ororo Munroe from Marvel Comics (ex-wife of Black Panther in the comics) and Mari McCabe from DC Comics.
Most people are roughly aware of Storm’s canonical history in the comics, but for those who are unaware here are the quick points. The omega-level mutant that we would come to know as Storm was born Ororo Munroe in New York City. Her mother was the Kenyan tribal princess N’Dare and her father was an American photographer named David Munroe. When Ororo was six months old, her family moved to Cairo right before the Suez Crisis. During the conflict, a fighter jet crashed into her house, killing her parents and trapping Ororo under tons of rubble. She survives but is left orphaned with PTSD and an intense claustrophobia. In more modern versions of the character, her claustrophobia has been retconned.
After the death of her parents, Ororo is taken in by the pretty nice for a street-lord, Achmed el-Gibar and becomes a boss thief. Due to a mystical influence, Ororo ends up going into the Serengeti.
In the Serengeti, Ororo first displays her mutant ability to control the weather. She met the witch-priestess, Ainet, who helps her with her abilities and becomes her surrogate mother. When their village goes through a drought, Ororo uses her powers to command rain for days to help them. However, by doing this, she throws off the natural order of nature, and desiccations were formed in numerous villages, and hundreds of animals die as a result. Realizing the damage, Ainet takes this opportunity to explain to Ororo how her power works and how she could fix the problem by properly distributing rain.
Due to her powers, she is worshiped as a rain goddess by an African tribe, practicing nudism and tribal spirituality, before being recruited by Professor X into the X-Men. Ororo receives the code name “Storm.”
Proceeded by only Misty Knight, Ororo Munroe aka Storm, was one of the first black female characters in Marvel comics created and has remained a constant staple in the Marvel universe.
Storm as a black heroine is complicated. A lot of work has been put into making her transcend the slightly stereotypical origins of the character (her nudity for example). Despite her long straight white hair and blue eyes, current artists have begun highlighting Ororo’s black features and keeping her skin tone constant. She is easily one of the most important black female characters in comics and just, in general, an important female comics character. During the DC vs Marvel series, she was so popular that fans voted for her to beat Wonder Woman in combat.
Vixen was intended to be the first African female DC superhero to star in her own series, but the first issue of her series was canceled in the DC Implosion in 1978, so the story got shelved until much later (Bumblebee aka Karen Beecher-Duncan was DC’s first African-American female superhero.)
Vixen’s power origins are rooted in African mythology. In ancient Ghana, the warrior Tantu asked Anansi the Spider to create a totem that would give the owner all of the powers of the animal kingdom, but it was a “with great power comes great responsibility” type deal, so the owner had to promise to help people. Tantu used the totem to become Africa’s first legendary hero and it was passed down to Tantu’s descendants until it reached the McCabes.
Mari Jiwe McCabe heard the legend of the “Tantu Totem” from her mother in a small village in the fictional nation of Zambesi. Mari’s mother was killed by poachers and she was raised by her father, Reverend Richard Jiwe, who was killed by his half-brother (drama) General Maksai who wanted the Tantu Totem. (I know, straight out of a telenovela right?)
Mari eventually moved to America, where she established an identity as Mari McCabe and a modeling job in New York City. She used her wealth to travel the world. On a trip back to Africa, she came across her uncle and took back the Tantu Totem and became the costumed superhero Vixen.
Vixen possesses the innate ability to make direct contact with the Earth’s “morphogenetic field” that is also known as the “Red.” This connection allows her to draw upon the abilities of any animal that has ever lived on the planet. By simply focusing on a specific animal, she can draw its talent directly from the red and mimic its abilities, thus giving herself a variety of superhuman powers including healing, breathing underwater, Wolverine-level regenerative abilities, and super speed/strength.
There is no real limit to Vixen’s powers in terms of what animals she can channel. She has been shown to channel a dragon once and there is some hint that she may be able to channel the powers of aliens if she knows about them (i.e she could totally channel a New God or Superman).
Vixen does not always get the same love that Storm does (well, most black comic book characters haven’t gotten the love Storm has gotten), but what I have always loved about the character was how her powers were rooted in African folklore. Unlike Storm, who started off as being a collection of Earth mother stereotypes, Vixen was very much a modern idea of the African woman. She was glamorous but also powerful in her own right.
Both Storm and Vixen have given wonderful representation to young black female readers of comics. I remember first seeing Vixen in Justice League: Unlimited (voiced by Queen Gina Torres) and being so enamored with her. Both of them deserve a lot more love as solo characters, and I’m hoping that with Black Panther upping the game in so many ways it will encourage writers to give both Storm and Vixen the attention they deserve as solo heroes.
( image: Fox, the CW, edited by Author )
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