The White Tiger is a superheroic identity held by three related Puerto Rican superheroes in the mainstream Marvel Universe.
The original White Tiger was Hector Ayala, who happened across the three mystical amulets worn by the now-obscure 1970s super-team the Sons of the Tiger. The amulets were pieces of an ancient artifact from K'un-L'un. When Hector wore all three at once, it gave him superhuman strength, speed, and agility, as well as a working knowledge of K'un-L'un-style kung fu, which he used to defend his neighborhood.
The character first appeared in Deadly Hands of Kung Fu #19 (December, 1975), created by writer Bill Mantlo and artist George Pérez. He held his own series up to issue #32 (January, 1977). It included crossovers with other heroes of the time such as Jack of Hearts and Shang Chi. The series ended in a Cliffhanger with Hector and the Sons of the Tiger finding themselves mysteriously drawn to the same location. It was never resolved.
Hector was briefly Spider-Man's sidekick in the 1970s, particularly in the early issues of Spectacular. He first appeared there in issue #9 (August, 1977) and was a regular cast member to #32 (July, 1979). All these appearances were written by Bill Mantlo. He made a few other appearances at the time, guest-starring in the title of the Human Fly and briefly joining The Defenders.
Then Roger Stern took over writing Spectacular Spider-Man. Issues #49-52 (December, 1980-March, 1981) featured what was supposed to be the last storyline for the White Tiger. Hector returns home one day to find his parents and sister murdered. He goes on a hunt for the killer and finds himself facing Cape Buster Gideon Mace and his organization. The murders and the investigation were all part of Gideon's trap and the Tiger fell into it. He gets shot twelve times and struggles to survive in a hospital bed. Once conscious enough to know what he is doing, Hector disposes of the amulet and flees New York City for good, ending his career.
The White Tiger disappeared for decades, until Brian Michael Bendis brought him back for a Daredevil storyline in 2002. According to this story, Hector eventually retired from superheroics at his girlfriend's insistence. Years later, he put the costume and amulets back on, but wound up as a suspect in a murder trial after intervening in a pawnshop robbery gone bad. Despite his innocence, Hector was convicted, and guards around the courthouse shot him dead while he was trying to escape.
The amulets then passed to Angela del Toro, Hector's niece and one of the FBI agents charged with investigating Daredevil's secret identity. She was drawn to the life of a superhero after going into action alongside Daredevil, and was the star of her own six-issue limited series written by Tamora Pierce. Unfortunately, after that Angela was killed and subsequently resurrected as an agent of the ninja clan known as the Hand.
After the events of the "Shadowland" crossover, the amulets reappeared in the hands of Hector's younger sister Ava Ayala. In the mainstream Marvel continuity, she was a student at the Avengers Academy. She also appears as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent in the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon show.
After graduating from the Academy, Ava took a job working for Luke Cage as part of his Heroes for Hire. During their first outing, during the Infinity crossover, Ava used her amulets as a mystic link to an ancient spirit called the Tiger, which represented the "First Enemy" of humanity: the predator in the shadows that early humans quickly learned to fear. The Tiger used Ava as an avatar, but soon came to regret it. Ava engaged the Tiger in a contest of wills and won, pointing out that the Tiger was no longer as frightening to humanity as it once had been, and thus gaining greater access to its power. She served as a member of Cage's volunteer-led, street-level Avengers team before the 2015 Secret Wars crossover.
She then served as a member of Sunspot's "Avengers Idea Mechanics" field team. After an adventure where she successfully managed to purge Angela of the remnants of her Hand brainwashing, Ava opted to retire and destroyed the original White Tiger amulet.
Angela remains occasionally active as a non-powered superhero, appearing in books such as Ta-Nehisi Coates' Captain America.
This series provides examples of:
- Acquitted Too Late: Daredevil was only able to prove poor Hector's innocence after he was killed.
- Amulet of Concentrated Awesome: How the White Tiger gets their power, though Ava regards it as an Amulet of Concentrated Evil.
- Asshole Victim: When Gideon Mace is eventually killed by a psychopathic Beyonder, Ava isn't exactly upset, even if she is briefly considered a suspect.
- Badass Family:
- Angela considers a family backyard barbecue with what looks like fifty or so people to be a "small gathering," and a lot of the kids are studying kung fu under Daniel Rand. Several of them also happen to be cops. That's going to be a very safe neighborhood in a few years.
- And that's just the Del Toro side of her family. Hector and Ava show that the Ayala family can be just as badass.
- Battle Couple: Ava and Victor Alvarez, the second Power Man. Even before they hooked up, they were landing one-two punches that could drop gods. This didn't last long, and they broke up in the eight-month Time Skip after Secret Wars (2015).
- Break the Cutie: One day, little Ava came home to find thugs had broken into her house and killed her parents. Then their leader shot her in the chest before fleeing.
- Broken Bird: Implied. Soledad Ayala intended to file for divorce immediately after her husband White Tiger (Hector Ayala) was wrongfully arrested for murder, because Hector had promised her he'd give up being a superhero. Matt Murdock convinces her to hold off divorcing him until after the trial because if she divorces him right now that would just send the message that he's guilty. She agrees to hold off the divorce, admitting both that she knows he's not guilty and that she still loves Hector. But during the trial, when the prosecuter questions their marriage, she can't stand the pressure and leaves the courthouse. Soon after, Hector is convicted despite the efforts of his lawyer, Murdock. Hector is shot dead trying to escape, shortly before evidence emerges that belatedly proves his innocence. In Soledad's last appearance in White Tiger #6, according to Hector's sister Awilda, Ayala hasn't been right in the head ever since Hector's death, implying that the death and the guilt she has for leaving the trial has destroyed her. She takes the appearance of someone as a new White Tiger as a sign from God that Hector forgives her.
- Brought Down to Badass: Ava destroyed the amulet during her time with A.I.M., but it didn't stop her and Angela going out to beat up bad guys anyway.
- Color Animal Codename: The white tiger.
- Dropped a Bridge on Him:
- Hector hadn't appeared in the comics at all for something like twenty years before reappearing in Bendis and Maleev's Daredevil. He dies six issues later.
- Angela got a miniseries all to herself, then just dropped off the face of the Earth, only reappearing to be murdered by Lady Bullseye.
- Emotion Bomb: One of the powers the Tiger Amulet grants is the ability to induce fear in others, owing to the Tiger God's status as Primal Fear personified.
- Everyone Has Standards: When White Tiger (Hector Ayala) was wrongfully arrested for murder, his wife Soledad intended to file for divorce immediately because Hector had promised her he'd give up being a superhero. Matt Murdock convinces her to hold off divorcing him until after the trial because if she divorced him right away that would just send the message that he's guilty. Realizing this, Soledad admits that she knows he's not guilty and still loves him, and agrees to hold off the divorce until the trial is over and support him.
- FaceHeel Turn: After her assassination and resurrection, Angela went from a well-meaning rookie superhero to a ruthless agent of the Hand.
- Fair Cop: Angela.
- Healing Factor: The amulets give their wearer superhuman resilience and recuperative ability. While she has the amulets, Angela heals from a broken arm in ten days, sleeps maybe three hours a night, and minor injuries are gone in less than a day.
- Hero-Worshipper: Ava has a lot of respect for Spider-Man, since he's the one who stopped Gideon Mace after the man killed her family.
- Instant Expert: Put on all three parts of the necklace, gain the equivalent of twenty years studying mystic kung fu.
- It's Personal: Gideon Mace murdered Ava's family, nearly killed her brother and sent him on the run. Yes, it's damn personal for her, so much so she almost lets the Tiger God rip him to shreds.
- Legacy Character
- Light Is Good: All White Tigers are superheroes who have worn white.
- Lightning Bruiser: A White Tiger fully empowered by the Tiger God is capable of putting She-Hulk through a wall, and scratching Luke Cage's skin. Y'know, Luke Cage's unbreakable skin.
- Logical Weakness: The Tiger God was the first thing humanity feared, which means the Tiger Amulet's aura of fear doesn't work on things that aren't human, like Atlanteans.
- Mistaken Identity: There's a running gag in Pierce's series that Angela's constantly mistaken for other superheroes. First it's Emma Frost, then Deadpool jumps her because he thinks she's the Black Cat.
- My Suit Is Also Super: Angela's costume was made for her by a tailor at Black Widow's request. It's stain-proof, bulletproof, and doesn't wrinkle or tear.
- Pet the Dog: Ayala allowed her sister-in-law Soledad in her house, and it is implied that she is supporting her throughout her depression after her brother's death. Despite the fact that Soledad intended to file for divorce immediately after her husband White Tiger (Hector Ayala) was wrongfully arrested for murder, because Hector had promised her he'd give up being a superhero. And part of the reason Hector had a break down after he was convicted was because during the trial, when the prosecuter questioned their marriage, she couldn't stand the pressure and left the courthouse. Despite all that, Ayala does not hold that against Soledad and still helps her. When Ayala's son Rey protests allowing Soledad in their house after how she treated Hector during his trial, she states that Soledad is Hector's widow, she's family, and she has not been well since Hector's death.
- Primal Fear: The Tiger spirit channeled by the amulet is the god of this, being representative of the first thing humanity feared.
- Put on a Bus: Angela was quietly shuffled offstage so Ava could take the spotlight, due to Ava's supporting role in the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon. Years later, Angela returned in New Avengers, where she was in high-security prison at "The Cellar," the latest in a series of super-villain prisons, and was still Brainwashed and Crazy. Thankfully, Ava manages to break the brainwashing, but at the cost of the amulets that grant their White Tiger powers. Brought Down to Normal, Angela becomes an 11th-Hour Ranger to the New Avengers.
- Remember the New Guy?: As a member of Hector's family, Angela is retconned as having known Luke Cage and Danny Rand for long enough that she considers them honorary uncles.
- Rogues Gallery Transplant: Gideon Mace and his paramilitary organization were recurring foes for Luke Cage: Hero for Hire in the 1970s. His single battle against White Tiger remains his most memorable and effective appearance to date, to the point where it overshadows any other appearance he ever made. Mighty Avengers goes as far as to show that Gideon Mace's return sends Ava on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
- Spicy Latina:
- One of the first things Ava does in Avengers Academy is go after Reptil for not representing the Latino community. Averted in her appearances in Mighty Avengers, where Ava is incredibly restrained almost all the time.
- Angela, on the other hand, is almost always even-tempered, at least before she's resurrected as a murderous ninja.
- Token Minority: Hector Ayala is very much a product of 1970s Marvel, complete with an origin that ties heavily into the then-new mystic kung-fu side of the universe, and the writers went out of their way to make sure he spoke a lot of Spanish. Angela and Ava don't tend to do the same, as Latino superheroes are much more visible in 2000s Marvel.
- Took a Level in Badass:
- In Mighty Avengers, Ava stares down the spirit of the White Tiger within the necklace and wins, giving her almost total access to its power. She is now a conduit for one of the oldest, most frightening gods in the Marvel Universe, which means she's fast and strong enough to give Thor a hard time.
- As of 2016's New Avengers, Angela has been equipped with a copy of the necklace from another dimension, complete with its own conduit to that dimension's Tiger God. When she fought Ava, both Tiger Gods decided they liked Angela better and merged, giving Angela twice the power and leaving Ava powerless.
- Undignified Death: When White Tiger (Hector Ayala) was wrongfully arrested for murder, during the trial despite his lawyer Matt Murdock's best efforts he was convicted. Hector had a breakdown and tried to escape the courtroom, but was shot down by guards. The only good thing that happened was that Matt was able to find evidence that proves his innocence after his death. And it is clear that Hector's friends and family love and miss him, and they respect his memory.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: For most of his Spectacular Spider-Man appearances, Hector was in a steady relationship with Holly Gillis. When he flees New York in 1981, Holly flees with him. When he re-appeared in 2002, Hector was married to someone called Soledad. Whatever happened to Holly?
- You Can't Go Home Again: Ava's family kicked her out on account of taking up the same lifestyle that killed her big brother and her niece.