vixen-alrge

During the Television Critic’s Association (TCA) event that took place on Sunday it was announced that Mari Jiwe McCabe, aka Vixen, would be the next DC hero to join the CW alongside Arrow and The Flash. Expected to debut in the fall, Vixen will be the first animated series produced through the CW’s digital platform, CW Seed, which is probably most well-known for featuring Jane Espenson’s web series Husbands. Marc Guggenheim, one of Arrow‘s executive producers and co-showrunner, will oversee the project as well as the Supergirl television show for CBS. At the TCA, the CW provided promotional material for the animated series featuring Vixen staring down from the rooftops with Flash and Green Arrow flanking her as well as some character background:

Originally from Africa, Mari McCabe’s parents were killed by local greed, corruption, and wanton violence. But the orphaned Mari refuses to succumb to the terrors surrounding her. Inheriting her family’s Tantu Totem, Mari can access the powers of animals — anything from the super-strength of a gorilla to the speed of a cheetah. As Vixen, she fights valiantly to protect the world from the threats like those that claimed her family.

The dossier neglected to mention Mari’s day job as a model or that she can only use the power of one animal at a time, but it’s not exactly the job of a flyer to delve into all the little details, though Guggenheim did provide some additional information about the direction of the series:

It’s a six-part origin story, but characters from “Flash” and “Arrow” are prominently involved. It’s in the continuity and the world…The other thing is, it’s a strong African-American hero who’s, like I said, a former Justice Leaguer. It’s set in Detroit, as a nod towards those Justice League [Detroit] stories. It’s done with the same love of the source material that we bring to everything.

Vixen_JLoA4There are, however, a couple of things worth noting. One, the art style of the promotional material is the same as the animation used for Warner Bros. most recent DC Animated features, Justice League: War and Batman and Son, as well as Justice League’s forthcoming sequel, Throne of Atlantis. I’ll be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of what appears to be WB’s new signature style for the DC Animated movies mostly adapted from the New 52. It’s just not my cup of tea, especially since I wasn’t all that into Justice League: War or the book from which it was adapted. I’d ask if that means Vixen, Arrow, and The Flash all take place in the same universe as the current DCAU, but then we’re getting into Cool World/Who Framed Roger Rabbit? levels of continuity. Probably best to just keep it all separate for now.

Secondly, if Vixen is supposedly in the same universe as Arrow and The Flash, as evidenced by the characters on the promotional materials, then why is Vixen – arguably DC’s most well-known black female superhero – being introduced in animation instead of live action? Assuming Grant Gustin and Stephen Amell will lend their voices when their characters eventually show up, can we also expect Mari to make her live action debut on either Arrow or The Flash? Guggenheim has apparently been fielding this question as well, saying:Vixen_dc-comics

We always say “never say never,” and if the character resonates with people, that would be wonderful. I would love to be in a position where CW said to us, “Hey, we want a ‘Vixen’ live-action show.” That’d be wonderful. We’ll have to sort of see how things play out.

It’s not exactly the most definitive answer and it still raises the question of why Mari can’t go the way of Barry Allen or even Supergirl? It’s not like we’re lacking for superhero content in media, so I’m pretty sure the viewing audience will accept anything at this point. I mean, people are still watching Gotham, right? Animation, however. has been woefully underutilized by Warner Bros. considering it used to be their bread and butter. I’ve seen other websites speculating that Vixen could be the CW’s version of The Legend of Korra, which dealt with far more mature storytelling than anyone expected for what was deemed children’s programming. Vixen wouldn’t necessarily have the same hang-ups since the viewing audience siphoned off from Arrow and The Flash would already have an expectation for more mature content. How far do they intend to push those boundaries? Hard to say. There’s still a brand to maintain with the DC properties, but, then again, this is the CW so we shouldn’t rule out anything that could potentially draw in the 18-35 demographic.

Vixen character bioVixen will serve the secondary purpose of introducing magic into the CW/DC television universe, but again, why not bring that into the fold on a live action show? Meta humans seemed like a stretch during the first season of Arrow, but by season two we were itching for The Flash spinoff. Why not do the same for Vixen? Normally, I wouldn’t push this since the news is so fresh, but with rumors also circulating that Brandon Routh’s Ray Palmer, soon-to-be the Atom, may get a spinoff show as well, bringing Vixen in as an animated series feels like a very sluggish step forward.

Hopefully Guggenheim and the team working on Vixen prove me wrong. Really, I want them to succeed. Mari’s been sorely missed in the DCU. It’s been a couple years since she was last seen in the Justice League book and, aside from some guest spots and cameos on Batman: The Brave and the Bold and Teen Titans, it’s been over a decade since her last major appearance on television in Justice League: Unlimited (voiced by Gina friggin’ Torres!)

So, for now, let’s say I’m cautiously optimistic.

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