Centuries ago on the continent of Africa, a legend arose about the warrior Tantu, who asked the Trickster God Anansi the Spider to create a totem that would give the one who wore it all of the powers of the animal kingdom, but only if the wearer harnessed that power to defend the innocent. Tantu used this totem to become the first super powered hero of Africa, and a legend that would live on for thousands of years. The totem was later passed down to Tantu's descendants, until it reached the Jiwe family in the modern era.
Having grown up in a small African village, a young girl named Mari Jiwe was told the story of the Tantu Totem by her father, Reverend Richard Jiwe, the village priest, who raised her as a single father after a group of poachers lead by a man named Aku Kwesi, killed Mari's mother. Her father himself was later killed by his by his half-brother, General Maksai. Makasai wanted the Tantu Totem for his own evil ends, and he knew his brother had it in his possession. Once he got what he wanted, his young daughter fled from Africa, fearing for her life.
Now an orphan with no family left, Mari escaped to the United States, settling in New York City. She became a fashion model of world renown, and carved a new identity for herself under the name Mari McCabe. Now an international celebrity and a world traveler, Mari ended up back home to Africa as an adult. Once there, she managed to find her villainous uncle, and stole the Tantu Totem back from him, and began to channel its power, starting a career as the superheroine known as the Vixen.
Not long after her heroic career began, Aquaman disbanded the original Justice League of America, and began a new one in the city of Detroit. He recruited four new members to the team, and Vixen was one of them. This version of the JLA was tragically short-lived however, as two of her teammates, Vibe and Steel, were killed in action, leading to the team disbanding. After her JLA dissolved, Vixen became a solo hero, although she would find herself working with other teams on occasion, like the Birds of Prey, Checkmate, and the Suicide Squad, during which time she briefly dated her teammate the Bronze Tiger. Eventually, Mari started her own successful business, creating her own line of clothing.
Vixen once again became a full-fledged member of the JLA during the time that Black Canary was its leader. But soon into her tenure with this new League, she noticed a change in her powers, as she no longer was just drawing on animal powers, but on the abilities of anyone in proximity to her, draining the powers of her fellow teammates. Black Canary dismissed Vixen from the team, but then asks the sorceress Zatanna to help her in fixing the Tantu Totem. With her help, Vixen journeys inside the reality of the totem, where she confronted the trickster god Anansi, and has him restore her proper abilities.
When the history of the universe was reimagined after the events of 2011's FLASHPOINT, Vixen became a charter member of the new Justice League International. Unfortunately, her time on the JLI was short-lived, as she was seriously injured in an explosion while on a mission, and rendered comatose. After the JLI disbanded, and Vixen recovered, she joined Batman's offshoot Justice League of America.