Thursday, September 22, 2011

Action Comics #521 (July, 1981): “The Deadly Rampage of the Lady Fox”

A cover blurb queried: “Superman meets The Vixen! Is she heroine or villainess?”

“Night in New York City… it’s like night nowhere else in the world! This night promises to be particularly special… for tonight, a She-Fox is on the prowl!” An African-American woman in a gaudy blue and yellow costume leaped across rooftops. One featured a billboard advertising Superman’s appearance at Madison Square Garden to benefit the National Diabetes Foundation on April 10th (a twelve hour charitable engagement.) “Like the sleek, sly creature that is her namesake, she pauses in the darkness to scent the air… Then, satisfied that she’s still on the track of her prey, she springs with the grace of a gazelle… and lands as silently as a jungle cat…” The Vixen set down upon the roof of a moving van behind Shandor Furs, where uniformed workers were being paid overtime to haul exotic coats from one warehouse to another in the middle of the night. Wordlessly, the Lady Fox leapt at the men feet first, catching two square in the chest, knocking them into the third.

Fifteen blocks away, Superman was being congratulated for raising nearly a quarter of a million dollars in ticket sales alone at the charity event, but the Man of Steel was distracted by his super-hearing picking up a cry for help. Superman swiftly reached the dock workers, who were stunned but relatively unharmed, as they alerted the hero to the van’s theft by “some dame in a costume!” The Man of Tomorrow pursued the red van as it sped toward the Hudson River. The Vixen spotted him in her side mirror.

“Superman? I can’t let him stop me from what I have to do! I’ll lash the wheel in place with these scraps of rope… and then try to delay Superman for the precious few seconds I need to complete my plan!” The She-Fox climbed out of the van and leapt at Superman. “What in Rao’s name! Incredible! I’m actually being knocked back… feel as though I’ve been hit by a bull elephant! And her claws… one managed to scratch me?! What’s happening to my invulnerability? How can this slim young woman do what hardly anyone has ever managed to do?” Superman pulled Vixen’s claw off his forehead and, still wrestling in midair, blasted her away with a bellyful of super-breath. Regardless, he was too late to prevent the furs from being ruined as the van hit the drink, and Vixen’s whereabouts were lost in the attempt.

Later, Mordecai Mule, owner of the fur company, bemoaned the ruination of his special shipment from India. A black police detective took the Man of Steel aside, warning that before Superman offered any information on the lady perpetrator, he hear information on Mule. It seemed the furrier exploited animals illegally in their native countries to sell legally in the States, and the officer thought perhaps this lady was a vigilante touching the untouchable. Superman was suddenly unsure of her description, and claimed he’d get back with the police after giving the matter some thought.

The next day, WGBS head honcho Morgan Edge called top reporters Clark Kent and Lana Lang in to pursue a story suggested by his old friend Solomon Samuels. The African-American high fashion magazine publisher talked Lang out of her protestation about the relevancy of fur poaching in India, arguing that rendering animals extinct for the fur trade was a threat to “ecology and the dignity of life!” Kent was suspicious of the timing, and noted Samuels’ leaving the offices with a very attractive black woman. Solomon wonder why Mari Macabe wanted to keep her joining the investigation in New Delhi a secret. “As far as most people are concerned, I’m simply a high-priced fashion model... which is another term for empty-headed beauty! …I’ll go on this trip incognito, as planned! It’ll work out better this way, I promise you!” Macabe’s true motivation, unrevealed to her “only love,” was to be able to act as the Lady Fox unhindered by her true identity’s fame.

In the overcrowded and squalid Indian metropolis, Clark Kent vanished, leaving Lana Lang in the care of a guide. Lang was spotted by Mordecai Mule, who felt that she may need to be eliminated if she planned to report on his criminal affairs. Mule and his driver were soon following Lang’s jeep, unaware that the Vixen had also hitched a ride. Clark Kent caught sight of the She-Fox lying in wait, and began his own superhuman pursuit. Superman swooped down and scooped Vixen off the roof of Mule’s ride with the villain none the wiser. Mordecai himself pulled up to an elephant herd. Aware that Lang would soon stumble upon his poachers, Mule decided it was best that everyone die in a stampede provoked by his sharpened spear.

Superman held fast to the Vixen’s behind. “Uh-uh, young lady, not this time! I’m not letting you near me with those claws of yours!” The Man of Steel wanted an explanation, and got it. The Vixen had driven Mordecai Mule to the brink financially, and knew that he would personally supervise a ramping up of poaching to make up for his losses. Vixen had arranged for reporters to be present to catch Mule in the act as a warning to other unscrupulous fur exporters. However, Vixen was worried that Mule was capable of anything in the heroes’ absence. True enough, she sniffed out the elephant stampede on the wind, and the pair sprang into action.

Just as Lana Lang and her party were about to be trampled, super-breath gently corralled the pachyderms until a makeshift stockade could be made from uprooted trees turned stakes. Meanwhile, the She-Fox declared, “You can’t get away this time, Mule! The innocent beasts your men have slain demand revenge!” Mule tried repeatedly to skewer the Vixen with his spear, but she easily evaded his with her acrobatic prowess until he was too exhausted to go on. Mule’s driver gave up without such a fight.

The Vixen left the two men bound up for Superman to find, complete with a note stating, “Here’s a mule I left for you to skin.” It was signed, “The Vixen.” Also, during the brief moments before being called away by the stampede, Superman had learned that the Lady Fox derived her animal-based powers from the Tantu Totem she wore around her neck. “Magical powers—that explains how she could hurt me! I’m vulnerable to magic!” So too would be Aquaman, in another three years…

“The Deadly Rampage of the Lady Fox” was written by Gerry Conway, with art by Curt Swan and Frank Chiaramonte. “Featuring the dynamic debut of the Vixen created by Gerry Conway.” The widely circulated one, anyway...

The Bronze Age

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