Monday, September 23, 2013

The Stubbornness of a Mule (Against Telepathic Attacks)

If you don’t follow comics, just know that Vixen is a DC superhero who is to animals what Swamp Thing is to plants, more or less, just without looking like barf. In fact, Vixen works as a fashion model when she’s not fighting crime, and her current appearance would seem to owe more than a small debt to Die Another Day-era Halle Berry.

Vixen Justice League J.G. Jones
justice league vixen art by j.g. jones
You might also say that Vixen is DC’s answer to both Marvel’s Storm and Misty Knight. While both those characters debuted in 1975, six years before Vixen sprung onto the DC scene, Vixen gets the honor of being the most prominent black female character in this particular universe, inching just ahead of Bumblebee, who preceded Vixen as DC’s first black female superhero in 1976. But easily my favorite aspect of Vixen’s existence has to be Wikipedia’s list of her powers and the animals from which she draws them. It takes a certain kind of dedicated Wikipedia dork to list all these off, with no heed for whether the level of specificity was appropriate or “encyclopedic” enough or even whether the information was being presented clearly. I actually don’t expect the list to remain on the page forever, but I’m glad it exists as it does now. Here it is, just as I found it:
In these comics, Vixen has used the following skills:
  • The flight of a hawk
  • The ability to breathe under water like a fish
  • The swimming ability and sonar of a dolphin
  • The speed of a cheetah
  • Tapped into the aggression, physical and mental abilities of Gorilla Grodd
  • The echolocation of a bat
  • The wall crawling of a spider, similar to Spider-Man
  • The jumps of a cricket
  • The constriction of an anaconda
  • The sensitive trichromatic color vision of a salamander
  • The strength of a bull elephant (about 12 tons)
  • The strength of a rhinoceros beetle (about 65 tons)
  • The hearing and sense of smell of a wolf
  • The agility of a spider monkey
  • The electrical absorption and debilitating shock of an electric eel
  • Accelerate the regenerative abilities of reptiles and earthworms
  • The ability to spit venom like a spitting cobra
  • The body armor of an abalone (which proved strong enough to withstand a punch from Superman)
  • The nocturnal vision of a cat
  • The speed of a mantis shrimp to catch a bullet
  • The kick of a horse
  • The protective hide of a rhinoceros
  • The danger sense of seagulls and terns
  • The rage of a lion
  • The eyesight of an eagle
  • The cold adaptation Methanococcoides burtonii
  • The heat tolerance of a Pompeii worm
  • The stubbornness of a mule (against telepathic attacks and mind control inflicted by Brainiac)
  • The digging abilities of a badger
There’s also a follow-up paragraph that for some reason didn’t merit inclusion in the bullet points because whatever:
Vixen's first appearance DC comics
vixen’s debut in action comics #521
She used the bioluminescence of a hatchet fish and an angler fish to produce light from her hand and to create a laser-like beam from her head. She has even been shown to be able to channel the powers of extinct animals (such as the saber-toothed tiger and the triceratops), domesticated animals (like the Doberman Pinscher), and even mystical beasts (like dragons).
And that is cool, though I can’t help myself from imagining new possibilities — the swift kick of the ostrich, the piercing yap of the Pekinese, the shellfish-cracking ability of the sea otter, the time efficiency of the horse that poops while walking.

You may be wondering about the appropriateness of giving the DC universe’s most prominent black female character a set of powers derived form the animal world. It is kind of weird, honestly, and there’s an awkward sense of needing to connect Vixen to the African savannah in order to justify her race that probably made sense to her creators at the time they dreamed her up but now lands somewhere between hokey and racist, kind of like how wrong it seems in retrospect that the one black Spice Girl had to wear animal prints and make herself the “wild” one of the group. At the very least, I’m thankful that the African totem that gives Vixen her powers can emulate all animals and not just the ones treading around Mother Africa.

Whatever the implications of her powers, Vixen endured. So long as we’re discussing superheroes that made it or not, can we please also discuss Arm-Fall-Off Boy?

Superheroes, previously:

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