Mariah Dillard (Black Mariah)

blackmariahfilmAnother character seen in the recent trailer for Luke Cage is (allegedly) one of the bad guys, and a prominent presence in the show: Mariah Dillard, portrayed by Alfre Woodard (and also by Megan Miller in some flashbacks featuring a younger version). As far as we know, she’s a politician who’s trying to clean up the streets of Harlem, but being also Cottonmouth‘s cousin doesn’t help her at all in doing so. From the description she seems to be a good person, but in the comics we know her as a vicious villain, going by the moniker Black Mariah: the appearance is certainly different, as the tv version is not the giantess we know from the comicbooks, but she may have secret plans on her own nevertheless. Let’s just wait and see: in the meanwhile, as usual, let’s take together a look at the original, massive Black Mariah.

Mariah Dillard was born and raised in New York City, a black woman who refused to lay down and let men decide of her destiny. Characterized by an impressive bulk, Mariah started a personal career in the streets of Harlem, and gathered a number of criminals desperate enough to follow anyone, and scared enough to obey her orders (she personally beat to death anyone who disobeyed, so that part was pretty easy). Mariah’s gang started calling themselves the Ratpack, and they became specialized in a particular kind of robbery. Dillard had managed to put her hands on an old ambulance (and that’s where she earned her nickname “Black Mariah” from, and everybody referred to her with that), and she used them for quite an ingenious sting: whenever somebody died on the streets, intercepting the emergency with the stolen ambulance’s radio, Black Mariah and her men intervened, taking the body on the ambulance and fleeing. They stole whatever valuable was on the bodies, and if they found any keys and ID, they cleaned up the deceased one’s residence blackmariahcomics1immediately after. Later, they disposed of the body, dumping it somewhere. This method brought to the Ratpack a lot of money in an easy and relatively safe way, not bothering with armed fights or police, protected by the fake ambulance that allowed them to come and go completely unchecked. The only problems in the Ratpack were the inner ones, as sometimes some of Black Mariah’s men accused her of “eating their profits” (not without reason), and she usually reacted by killing with her own hands the unfortunate one who tried to have his share. Everything went awry the moment the Ratpack picked up the wrong guy: Frank Jenks, a gambler murdered in the Gem Theater.

Black Mariah did her usual with Jenks, collecting the body and robbing it from everything it had… but the man had a wife (a widow), who hired Luke Cage to find out what had happened to her late husband’s body. Cage used his informant, Flea, who pointed him to the Ratpack’s headquarters. The bulletproof hero was spotted by Black Mariah from afar, and she sent against him all her men… just to see them completely overpowered by Cage. The woman finally decided to take the matter in her own hands, and she personally faced the super-strong hero… finding out that he had some reluctance in hitting a woman. Taking advantage from it, Black Mariah used her impressive strength to actually hurt Cage, until the hero decided he had had enough and that he could made an exception for her. The moment Luke Cage started hitting her back, with much more strength that she could endure, Mariah escaped, trying to run away with a motor boat she had kept for emergency situations. Her massive weight caused the boat to capsize, and she was left floating in the bay… so much for her escape route. Black Mariah was arrested, and spent some time in prison… but she was released soon after, and she moved to Chinatown, trying to start a brand new life. Well, not exactly, as she remained a criminal. She obtained a new kind of drug, called Acid Z, able to send anyone who took in blackmariahcomics2an intoxicating frenzy (and killed them in a matter of hours). She even hired a personal bodyguard, Scimitar, so that she wouldn’t have had problems even from the street heroes… but this time she crossed paths with Iron Fist, who was more than able to defeat Scimitar. Mariah, using both her own strength and some of her drugs, managed to defeat Iron Fist, but the hero was saved by his partner, Luke Cage, and the Heroes for Hire together managed to capture Black Mariah once again. Of course, it was just a matter of time before she got out of prison again… and she surely wasn’t short on ideas on how to resume her activities.

Mariah Dillard is a determined and unscrupulous woman, willing and able to walk on as many corpses as she needs to take care of herself and to obtain the wealth she dreams of. As Black Mariah, she doesn’t possess any superhuman ability, but her strength and durability border inhuman levels (mostly due to her massive bulk and weight), and she’s an accomplished hand-to-hand combatant; she usually fights with a gun and with a pair of poison knitting needles meant to stun and disorient her opponents. Just as fearful as she looks, Black Mariah is a woman who earned the fear and the respect of everyone in a world of men, a crime boss who never shows pity nor reluctance, and who always gets what she wants. Well, almost.