Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Vixen #1 in Cancelled Comic Cavalcade #2 (Fall, 1978)

"Meet Marilyn Macabe. Fashion model. Business woman. A lady with places to go and things to do... In one sense, her story begins today, at a Park Avenue studio near the end of a long day's photo session... and in another sense... it began seventeen years ago, in a small African village, to a frightened eight year-old child... Tonight, past and present will come crashing together, and in that cataclysmic joining-- A HEROINE WILL BE BORN!"

Photographer Willie Lockman was trying to sweet talk foxy model Mari with some delicately chauvinistic jive, which Mari totally called him on as a ridiculous act. No future trophy bride, Mari wanted more than the cover of Vogue. In fact, she worried her temporary but lucrative modeling career might mean she wouldn't be taken seriously when she tried to do good in the world.

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Marilyn's oldest, dearest friend and business partner, Peg Potamkin, showed off the proofs for her second photo book. It looked to be as big a smash as the first. Next Mari met with Solomon Samuels, her rich boyfriend and publisher, who'd brought flowers and champagne. Their romantic moment was spoiled when footage of the president of the African nation of D'Mulla appeared on television in relation to an upcoming speech at the United Nations. The press may have lauded him as a peaceful leader and the greatest hope for a unified Africa, but Mari went into hysterics upon recognizing the face from her past. In a nicely played moment, panels switched back and forth between the speech and General C'Tanga Manitoba laughing maniacally while firing a machine gun. The woman screamed and fainted.

A few hours later, Mari woke up in Samuels' apartment after a nightmare involving menacing shapes, voices laughing or screaming, and a large knife glinting in the moonlight. These same dreams had haunted Mari as a child, and their return made Mari question her memories and her very sanity. She retrieved a tribal totem she had possessed since before her adoption as a child, from a time she had no clear recollection of. However, she could just imagine a man giving it to her... someone she had loved very much.

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Soon, Mari realized that the man from her dreams was her father, whom she had seen brutally murdered during the bloody revolution of General Manitoba seventeen years earlier. Among C'Mellu Dantogi's final acts was to give his daughter best wishes and a gift from around his neck. "Here, child... this talisman is yours now. Wear it always-- and one day, perhaps... it will give you the power to free your people. But whatever strength you find in it-- you will also find-- in yourself!" Before being butchered, Dantogi also swore to the general that "Memories can kill, Manitoba. You can stop me-- but you cannot stop my truth!" Macabe had been safe in the United States, with Manitoba unaware that she was even alive, but now Mari swore hers truly was a memory that would kill!

Mari and Peg had been friends since school with their lawyer, Andy Jackson Jones, so he was honest with Mari's chances of bringing formal charges against Manitoba. "Dealing with foreign powers--there's just not very much one person can do. Who can you go to? The U.N.? Hell, they rolled out the red carpet for Yassir Arafat..." Frustrated, Mari was reminded of her father's words about her talisman, and thought she might use it as bait to lure Manitoba into a trap. Still, she needed to know what the thing was exactly, and paid a visit to the New York Public Library.

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Following hours of study, Mari determined that she possessed the Tantu Totem, a priceless piece of African art rumored to posses mystical attributes. Supposedly, a special ceremony could allow its wearer to take on the powers of animals. "Obviously, this is an offshoot of Animalism-- the African religion that worships the spirits of animals!" Mari wondered if that was what her father meant, and felt compelled to perform the ritual. She spoke in a foreign tongue, performed prescribed motions, and called on the aid of the lion, the fox and the antelope to "Let vengeance be mine!" Mari let out a scream, collapsed, and was bathed in an unnatural light. When Mari awoke, she was immediately aware of her heightened senses and extraordinary new abilities. The world might not take a model seriously, but Mari hoped an old Halloween outfit could spook a confession out of a general she supposed was craven and superstitious.

A creature of shadow and stealth, the "flashing figure of ebony, silver and gold" relished the sensations she felt through her body as she covered forty blocks in under ten minutes by rooftop acrobatics. Mari realized that the talisman not only gave her the powers of the animals she requested, but an intrinsic self-assurance to use them. Perhaps this explained her willingness to break into the United Nations, stalk General Manitoba, leap onto the room of his car, and follow him all the way to New Jersey. Manitoba's men had traced the person they believed to be the last living witness to the Dantogi Massacre, the holy Reverend Peak, to a nearby monastery. Shock troops already surrounded the building, and Manitoba promised the men responsible for the capture "a place of high high honor in the new order!"

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Mari had been listening the whole time, and thought Manitoba had "taken a page or two from the Nazis!" Mari jumped clear of the limo and began making short work of this wannabe gestapo. "From the shadows, she strikes in deadly silence-- making no sound but a low throaty snarl... Her eyes are no longer human now... something feral has claimed her soul..."

Meanwhile, the Lion of Hell finally confronted Reverend Peak, who like Dantogi before him, stood firm against General Manitoba even in the face of death. "Preaching instead of prayers, no pleading? You disappoint me! For seventeen years you've eluded me. Moving from city to city within this overfed nation-- like the fox before the lion! Now I've run you to earth at last-- and you deny me the pleasure of your protests! No matter! For both of us, this is an ending! Greet your god, minister! Good-bye!" Mari burst through a stained glass window, shouting "NO! I won't let you kill again!"

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"A sleek silver tigress, she is among them in an instant, whirling and slashing, giving no quarter-- attacking with all the primitive fury of a beast of prey! Screams shatter the chapel, echoing the screech of breaking glass... The men have no chance to speak-- They can only cry out, and fall sprawling like broken dolls...! At last, she is done with them. And now she turns, light catching the eyes beneath her mask, gleaming with bestial fire..."

"So this is the mighty man-god Manitoba! A man-god so weak, he prefers to kill old men, while his troops fall like wheat before the scythe! You are nothing, Manitoba! When they hear of this-- your men will spit on your name in shame!"

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The Lion of Hell pushed Reverend Peak aside, advancing with his blade on the woman who dared speak to him in such a manner. "YOU VIXEN! I will split you like a pig!" The Lady Fox kicked Manitoba in the face, slashed his flesh, and evaded all his swipes with the machete. A cunning smile stretched across the Vixen's lips as Manitoba charged her like a bull, timing her diving roll so that the Lion rammed into a towering cross. Crushed under the cross' weight as it fell, "General C'Tanga Manitoba's last breath is a gurgled sigh... Limply, his hands grope for his treasured machete and then stiffen..."

The pair looked on at the passing, then Reverend Peak turned to the Vixen, who he eventually recognized as Mari. "It is regrettable it all had to end with another death... but vengeance was served this night... was it not?"

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The following dawn, Solomon Samuels told Mari about the death of the "dude who freaked you out on the tube... killed by someone called the Vixen!" Mari was surprised the media had bestowed a titled upon her. "From the sound of it, it seems this old town's got itself another super-hero-- as though Wonder Woman and Firestorm weren't enough!"

Solomon found Mari moody, as her mind was miles away, fascinated with the primitive completeness her new powers had given her as "almost a rebirth! I can't leave that behind! The Vixen lives-- and god help me, I love it!" Mari decided to buy her man breakfast...

"The Vixen is a Lady Fox!" was written by Gerry Conway with the aid of Carla Conway, and artist Bob Oksner was inked by Vince Colletta. George Tuska may have had a hand in there somewhere, as well. Original art linked above indicates that the Vixen was almost "The Blue Fox" instead, so at least something worked out for her in the early going.

Many of the comics tossed into the two volumes of Cancelled Comic Cavalcade were later reworked into serialized back-up features or otherwise employed in other titles. For some stupid reason, the Vixen's origin story was never offered this courtesy, even though for my money it was a fantastic first issue. The main problem with the costume was how it was colored, not the actual design, and the art was solid enough. What surprised me upon finally reading this lost tale was how strong the script was. When I manage to enjoy these '70s DC titles, I'm often being charitable with regard to their many flaws, finding potential in the germ of a good idea or some cheesy charm. Here we have an interesting protagonist with an unusual job which would afford her the income and flexibility to be a super-heroine while maintaining the requisite physique as part of her day job. Her origins are relatively unique, and she has a perfect motivation for seeking justice outside the law. A potent, well executed story that anticipated the popularity of '80s anti-heroes. If only it had been published!

The Bronze Age

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #50 (May, 2007)

Arthur Joseph Curry, King Shark, and the Dweller in the Depths had defeated a new version of the Fisherman, or as Artie Joe put it, "evil jellyfish man." The Dweller wanted to continue pursuing the forces of evil, but Arthur just wanted to relax for a while. The Dweller received a premonition alerting him to a need in Atlantis, so the other two followed. En route, Arthur spied some religious zealots attacking a diminutive squid-boy, and a fight broke out. King Shark didn't like how the mouthpiece of this Purification Shoal was looking at him, so he bit the fishy jerk in half.

The survivors fled, and the Dweller pressed Shark to carry on with him, but Arthur insisted on staying behind to see to the squid-boy. "Excuse me? I am nothing so primitive as a squid. I am a coleoid humanoid, a freeborn citizen of Neos." The squid-boy kind of recognized Arthur as Aquaman, but kind of not. Introductions were made, but the squid-boy's name was a series of color changes to his face. Arthur decided to call him Topo instead. "What kind of name is that? ...It sounds like something you'd name an organ grinder's monkey!" Arthur liked it, because it felt right somehow, but wondered how Topo knew anything about monkeys or organ grinders. Topo's people were advanced enough to have their own version of the internet, and the guy was no ignoramus. The pair made off for Atlantis, with Topo believing he'd been drafted as Aquaman's sidekick.

The Molloy Basin, under waters off the coast of Greenland. The one called Narwhal attracted attention with a simple glowing staff with a sharpened tip. A massive saurian creature of the depths tried to devour him, but the power of the staff tore the creature apart from the inside out. The trap was a test put to Narwhal by Pardoner, and he asked his master whether he had passed. "Yes, my pallid fingerling. Ah, Narwhal, look at you! Why would you ever want another name, my sweet corpse-whale?" Narwhal was amnesiac, and longed to know his true identity and history.

Pardoner took Narwhal to the hidden city of Dyss for an audience with the Sea Bishop. The holy man was garbed in a purplish brown robe, his inhuman face obscured by a hood. Sitting on a throne, the Sea Bishop was served raw octopus, which he devoured whole. "Call him 'Your Grace,' my pale beauty. Don't embarrass me with bad manners." Narwhal felt he had not a name, but a "battle flag" to carry against the Sea Bishop's enemies. Narwhal was a rare warrior, so the Sea Bishop indulged him to maneuver Narwhal toward mortal combat with Orin of Atlantis, the greatest enemy of the Deep Church. Narwhal recognized the true name of Aquaman, but could not recall how. The Sea Bishop continued, speaking of how the city of Dyss had been built around the sleeping form of their deity, Urlok the Awaited, who would awaken at the death of "the wicked monarch of that debauched, cursed place..." The Sea Bishop granted the name "Issitoq, the spirit of vengeance-- Issitoq the Narwhal." It didn't resonate as Orin's name had, but Issitoq went off on his mission regardless. The Sea Bishop then discussed with Pardoner how the narwhal had not forgotten his other life, and may need to be disposed of once Orin was dead. Also, "I'm tired of octopus. Have the prison send up a heretic or two. Smallish. I don't want to spoil my supper."

Ymirsheim, an island in the Arctic Ocean, where the ship that hosts Windward Home had traveled. The ghost of Vulko was sure this place was written of in Atlantean texts, but those were out of reach, so he made do with surface world resources. Captain Jimmy Lockhart met with Elsa to discuss the energy signature detected in the area "hot as a nuclear stockpile" and getting worse. An expedition onto the ice was mounted, but a snowstorm forced its members to seek shelter in a cave. The interiors were amazing, with writings on the walls resembling ancient Atlantean. It was theorized that this place had been hidden for God knows how long, and only revealed due to global warming. However, what little could be made out of the writing indicated a warning of death...

The Aquaman crew reached the ruins of Atlantis, where Arthur was introduced to the Sea King's former kid partner. Garth had been found wandering without memory of where he had been the past year, his hair gone white and his ability to breath either air or water compromised. Cal Durham had found Garth, and fitted his with a breathing apparatus before presenting him to Queen Mera. Cal had been presiding as mayor over those who had not risen with Sub Diego when it was restored to San Diego, and welcomed the excuse to reestablish ties with the remains of Atlantis. Garth asked after his wife and child, but received no answer. Topo spotted a Thorny Crown symbol on the back of Garth's neck, and the mere mention sent him into convulsions. Garth could hear only the beating of savage drums, and prophesied that only the Sea-King could stand against Urlok before passing out. Mera argued with the Dweller who exactly the champion Sea-King should be, until the Dweller swam off.

Topo explained that the people of Neos were refugees from Dyss fleeing religious persecution from the Deep Church. "...We fled with Dr. Arkelon and Lady Pelikaia-- but barely escaped from the Bishop's Punishment Shoal..." Arthur ignorantly referred to Neos as "Squidville," to which Topo sternly replied that there were a variety of peoples there, and it was technologically advanced. The topic of Topo being a well informed super hero geek was broached, and Topo kept wondering why people of Atlantis would swim great distances when there were "hatches" all over.

Elsewhere, prideful Atsiul led a company of guards in search of a monster that had made a massacre out of a caravan. Atsiul was the lieutenant of Mera's who kept fighting with Arthur Joseph Curry, and now had the misfortune of crossing the path of Issitoq the Narwhal. Demanding he stop and give an accounting of himself, Atsiul joined all but one member of his party in being killed to death in short order. The lone survivor had access to a power-sled meant for supply transport, and used it to reach Atlantis just ahead of Issitoq.

Arthur met up with King Shark, who revealed that he had only stuck around on orders to kill the new Aquaman when the time was ripe. "I wasn't going to do it-- I don't think I was going to, anyway." King Shark liked Arthur, but hated the Dweller now that he knew that he was really the previous Aquaman responsible for spearing him on a trident. King Shark didn't want to stick around Aqua-Town, where everyone wanted a second chance to gut him, but promised that he would have his final reckoning with the Dweller at a later date. Until then, King Shark had decided to leave the group. "And when you see that Vulko spook again, you tell 'im I was paying attention to what he said. See you around, pink boy." Before long, King Shark managed to find the Dweller alone, but the former Aquaman's confusion about his present nature perplexed Shark, as well. King Shark swam away to "go kill something I'll want to eat afterward..."

The survivor warned Queen Mera about Issitoq, "more powerful than anything I have ever seen-- even the king himself, in his prime! He slaughtered dozens of us!" Rodunn was to assemble the Atlantean guard at the ruins of the Great Gate, while Arthur set out to find the Dweller. Topo inked himself.

The Dweller could sense the coming of Issitoq, specifically to kill him, and warned Arthur to save himself before the Narwhal's arrival. Issitoq dealt death at the gate, and reaching Arthur, made short work of the young fool. The sword of Atlantis broken, Issitoq approached the Dweller, who recognized him. "You do not know me! Do not try to trick me!" Issitoq stabbed the Dweller in the chest, then swam away. Arthur woke up later to find and cradle the Dweller's body. "I failed, damn you! You tried to make me a hero, but you failed. But I'll avenge you." Arthur picked up the shard of a sword he still had left by the hilt, and drove it into a nearby rock to serve as a tombstone. "I don't need the sword of Atlantis... to be the sword of Atlantis!"

"Cold Water" was by Tad Williams, Shawn McManus, and Walden Wong. Kurt Busiek and blogger Scipio Garling were thanked in the credits. Quite the sea change, no? Tons of stuff going on, recent supporting cast members out, old and new ones in, completely different art, coloring with colors instead of slathering everything in murky blue. This has already been a long entry, so more next week.

Brave New World

Friday, August 26, 2011

2011 DCU Movie Fan Casting: Robbie Amell as Steel: The Indestructible Man II

With Hank Heywood III, I didn't need a big name, but I did want a decent sized young guy with a good build and an All-American quality. Since most of the actors of note who fit any of that bill seem to be too lean, shortish, or English, I went with the six foot Canadian. I tried to find a good blond, but Robbie Amell had the sweet-natured wholesomeness and lack of self-awareness that I was looking for, and at 23, I figure he can still play 18-19. Grandpa Steel had black hair, but I suppose a modest dye job to red could do for utmost authenticity.

For more, check this clipshow from 2008's Picture This.

Diabolic Movie Fan Casting

Thursday, August 25, 2011

2008 The Vixen art by President Nelson

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"I didn't like her at first when I started reading the JLA but recently they made her have Rogue's powers (tech. Peter Petrelli's but why be picky) now of course I'm all aboot her......"

Sorry about another dang art post, but I'm playing through a crossover that will run here tomorrow involving a long neglected Detroit Leaguer, and I just needed to get the weekly allowance of Vixen in. How about next week we cover the original 1970s Vixen #1?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Top 10 Aquaman Covers of the 1960s

I felt like I gave the Sea King short shrift by summarizing seven decades of comic covers into one top 20 list. Since I'm trying to do some more of these after a lengthy hiatus, and the other Detroit members lack the library to offer more expansive lists, I thought I'd revisit Aquaman for some countdowns by decade.

Honorable Mention:
Showcase #30 (February, 1961)

The first Aquaman solo cover, but mediocre all the same.

10) Superman's Girl Friend, Lois Lane #29 (November, 1961)

Aquaman is an obvious romantic lead of choice, so of course after more than a decade as a loner, they saddle him with an adoptive son, followed by a wife. I love seeing the Sea King pursuing other options, and it's no wonder he's so anxious to make time with Superman's best girl.

9) Aquaman #3 (June,1962)

I've heard all the same "talks to fishies" jokes as you, but seeing all those finny fans leaping into the air to catch arrows like Frisbees is wacky fun.

8) Aquaman #46 (August, 1969)

You can only have Aquaman holding an unconscious Mera so many times, but this is one of the better renditions, so it makes the cut.

7) Aquaman #44 (March, 1969)

I hate that there are so many Aquaman in Peril covers, but they really sell the danger, don't they?

6) The Brave and The Bold #82 (March, 1968)

The Somnambulist Surfer! How can you resist?

5) Aquaman #18 (November,1964)

Everybody loves a wedding.

4) Aquaman #34 (February, 1968)

There's such concern on Arthur's face, and this is the first of many covers of Aquaman cradling Mera.

3) Aquaman #30 (November,1966)

Aquaman covers are kind of morbid, aren't they?

2) Aquaman #45 (May, 1969)

So many of the great Aquaman covers involve our hero defeated or otherwise in the underdog position. Given his shaky reputation, I'm not so sure that's a good thing.

1) Aquaman #42 (November, 1968)

If there was ever any doubt Black Manta was Aquaman's arch-foe, this should have removed it. Eisner-style lettering incorporated into a dramatic, moody whole.

Top Character Covers Countdown

Thursday, August 18, 2011

2006 "A Call to Arms, Part 5" by Darryl Banks

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I've leaned pretty heavily on amateur devianART of the Vixen for a while now, so if I haven't got a story post together yet, the least I can do is go pro on the pin-ups. This one even has personal relevance, since it was commissioned by friend and former customer Damon Owens as part of his "The Brotherhood" series featuring dream teams of African-descended super-heroes...

"This is part 5 of a 5-part commission featuring the Brotherhood answering a call to arms. This one features the Black Panther, Icon, and Vixen, beautifully penciled by Darryl Banks."

You can see the complete image here, adding Storm, Cyborg, the Metropolis Guardian, Hardware, Black Lightning, Mister Terrific, Technique, Triathlon, the Falcon, Green Lantern John Stewart, Mister Miracle, and Captain Marvel/Photon.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

2011 DC Movie Fan Casting: Paul Walker as Aquaman

I did not want to cast Paul Walker as Aquaman. Back in the late '90s, I fan casted a prospective Martian Manhunter with actors in or fast approaching middle age. I reposted the same cast a few years later, and was embarrassed to realize that just in that span of time, almost all of the actors were over forty, and today many are in their fifties. We have a young fresh Aquaman liable to demand top ten sales in September, a massive sea change from what one would expect from the Sea King. I tried going really young to match that fresh energy with Zac Efron, but the dude is just too small and, frankly, seems to be fading as a star already. Chris Pine, the new Captain Kirk, seemed a lot more viable. However, besides being a dye blonde, the guy has a rather nasal voice that just didn't have the stuff for a monarch.

Paul Walker is about to turn 38, and has been popping up in Aquaman fan casts for years, in no doubt due to his cut body and appearances in movies like Into The Blue. He seems too old and too obvious, but the latter can't be helped, because he really is perfect for the part. He's handsome with a winning smile, piercing blue eyes, a fantastic body, and a voice that could believably command the sea. Prophylactic agism is no excuse for being dumb, so I'll pick the right Aquaman with a clear conscience.

Diabolic Movie Fan Casting

Thursday, August 11, 2011

2009 The Vixen by Jim Kilpatrick

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The Justice League's Vixen, Mari. I was never keen on her original design, back in the Detroit Justice League days. But she's kinda neat now, so thought I'd try a pic of her.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #45 (November, 2006)

Those underwater mechs? Sea Hammers. They tore up the freed Atlanteans and Aurati Raiders. Ocean Master? Talked mess about sending a boy to do a man's job, and how only the strong survive in the ocean, yadda yadda. Arthur Joseph Curry? Really was gutted, and had to be pulled to safety by King Shark. Mera? Used her hard water powers to destroy a sea hammer, but then fainted out from the expenditure of her compromised energies. Dweller in the Depths? Half his body was animated ocean, and he used his magic to heal Artie Joe.

Arthur led the escapees into a narrow cavern, and they were pursued by the sea hammers. The pilot of one was a black man dressed in purple, so he surely worked for Manta at some point in the '70s. Dane Dorrance was supposed to set off some charges to cause a rock slide the agile swimmers could avoid, but Ocean Master kicked his ass. Somehow, the rock slide still took place though? Ocean Master ripped out Dane's throat and left the Sea Devil as a distraction while Daki helped him escape. The Dweller healed him too, so Dane was totally cool while still leagues under the ocean in a compromised suit, which I'm sure is how science works. As it turned out, whales had caused the rock slide, alluding to Artie Joe having additional powers without actually having to cop to talking to fishies.

Mera was worried about Orin's transformation into the Dweller, but her husband felt that this was part of a destiny he needed to fulfill. I guess talking like a wizard or the Phantom Stranger or whatever instead of like Aquaman was part of that metahuman cosplay destiny. It was revealed that King Shark's father had compelled him to stick close to Arthur into such time as he should pull a Brutus, but only to the reader. Arthur Joseph Curry recognized the oceans needed a hero, and that he didn't need shoulder pads, so he accepted the role of Aquaman. Finally, Tri-Dent Industries, the guys who had hired Ocean Master, had managed to resurrect Arthur's father through extraordinary measures as a tool for their schemes.

"Watery Grave" was by Kurt Buisek and Butch Guice. It wasn't as deathly dull as the prior five issues, and the art was much more dynamic this time, but I still wouldn't exactly call it good. Artie Joe was thoroughly punked by Ocean Master, and the way that works isn't making Orm look tough, but Aquaman Jr. look wimpy. I thought the point of this series was to get away from Aqua Dolittle, but the real heroes were the whales. Despite her weak constitution, Mera was still the closest thing to a badass with her water wedge. I guess the Dweller got to show off, but that just reminded me that he should have been the hero of this story, seeing as he was the star of the first thirty-nine issues of this series. Ah screw it, I'm just glad to have read this story for the second and final time, hopefully of this life. As soon as I get around to it, we'll jump ahead five issues to Tad Williams' vastly superior yet still just okay run.

Brave New World

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

2009 The Vixen Digital 3-D Pin-Up by Gustavo

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I don't know what would possess someone to render the original eyesore Vixen costume in 3D computer graphics, but between the textures and the liberties taken, I think it looks outtasight.

By the way, I should start having more substantial Vixen posts within the next couple of weeks. No flies on some of the fantastic art featured here over the last several months, but I want to get the stories and biographies out this year, as well.