Black Mariah first appeared in Luke Cage: Hero for Hire #5 (January 1973) and was created by George Tuska and Steve Englehart.
Fictional character biography
Mariah Dillard was the leader of a gang of New York criminals called the Rat Pack. Their primary source of criminal activity was using a stolen ambulance to pick up the bodies of the recently deceased, and then stealing whatever valuables they had on their person. During one of these thefts, a widow of one of the victims hired Power Man (who was at the scene of the murder) to find her husband's body. Power Man finds the hideout of Black Mariah. This led to a clash between Mariah and her men against Power Man. Power Man defeated Mariah and her cohorts and turned them over to the police.
After some time in prison, Black Mariah started a drug-dealing enterprise. She is the primary distributor of a drug called Acid Z, a potent drug that would eventually make its users become crazy and often suicidal. When some of the drug got into the hands of Luke Cage's friend D.W. Griffith, Power Man went looking for his old friend while his partner Iron Fist tracked down the primary distributor and shut them down. Iron Fist found Black Mariah's hideout; however, he also found out that she had hired a special enforcer as protection: Iron Fist's old foe Scimitar. Power Man joined Iron Fist in battle after learning of his old foe's involvement in the drug distribution. The Heroes for Hire made short work of Mariah and Scimitar, crushing their drug operation and turning both crooks over to the police.
Black Mariah is featured in the 2016 relaunch of Power Man and Iron Fist. Here, she teams up with former Heroes for Hire secretary Jennifer "White Jennie" Royce into taking down Tombstone's empire.
Black Mariah later appears as a member of Alex Wilder's incarnation of the Pride.
Black Mariah is among the crime lords that compete with Mister Negative in obtaining the Tablet of Life and Destiny so that she can win the favor of Mayor Wilson Fisk.
Powers and abilities
While Black Mariah has no powers, her weight, estimated to be 400 lbs., enables her to strike with great force. Outside of her fighting experience, she has been known to catch her enemies off-guard.
In other media
Mariah Dillard (née Stokes) is the main antagonist of Luke Cage, and is portrayed by Alfre Woodard as an adult and Megan Miller as a teenager.
In season 1, Mariah is a New York City councilwoman and the cousin of gun runner Cottonmouth, who funds her political campaigns. The two are also the grandchildren of Harlem crime lady Maybelline "Mama Mabel" Stokes.Though Mariah attempts to avoid involvement in Cottonmouth's affairs, his obsession with Luke Cage ultimately ruins her political campaign. Diamondback later sends Shades to help them out. Mariah is present when Turk Barrett shows up demanding money for the tip-off of where Chico was hiding, which leads Cottonmouth to throw Tone to his death.After his stashhouses are attacked by Luke and his money seized as retaliation for Pop's murder, Cottonmouth condescendingly calls Mariah "Black Mariah" in one of their many on-screen arguments, which provokes her into throwing a martini glass at him. Later, in another altercation after Cottonmouth is arrested for killing Detective Scarfe, Mariah beats him to death with a microphone stand when he suggests that she actually seduced their uncle Pete, rather than being raped by him as Mariah claims. Ultimately with help from Shades, Mariah pins Cottonmouth's death on Luke.After Diamondback is arrested, Mariah redirects the blame of Cottonmouth's death on him while saying Luke's real name on television, enabling the United States Marshals Service to show up and arrest Luke. By the end of the season, Mariah runs Harlem's criminal underworld out of Harlem's Paradise while entering into a relationship with Shades.
Although Mariah does not appear in The Defenders, set in between the first two seasons of Luke Cage, it's established that she is still active in Harlem during Luke's time in Seagate Prison. In the episode "The H-Word", an ad for Mariah's New Harlem Renaissance project appears on the side of the bus that Luke takes back into Harlem. When Misty is catching up with Luke, she mentions that Mariah and Shades have been keeping a low profile. Luke initially suspects them to be behind a string of recent murders in Harlem that are being committed by The Hand, until he learns from Turk that they are the work of the mysterious "White Hat".
In season 2 of Luke Cage, Mariah is preparing to go legitimate and retire from her family's gun dealing business, while also trying to reconnect with her estranged daughter Tilda Maybelline Johnson, who was a product of her uncle Pete's rapes. She gets involved with Raymond "Piranha" Jones, a Wall Street broker and childhood friend of hers, who gives her and Shades insider information about the impending purchase of Atreus Plastics by Glenn Industries. To ensure that the buyout goes through, Mariah sets up a honey trapping scheme where she has a new hostess at Harlem's Paradise, Stephanie Miller, seduce Atreus CEO Mark Higgins, while compromising photos are taken of them together which are used to blackmail Higgins. Unbeknownst to Mariah, Stephanie is a plant by Bushmaster, the son of Mama Mabel and Buggy Stokes' late business partner Quincy McIver, who seeks revenge on Mariah for their murders of his parents. Bushmaster starts his war by killing Nigel Garrison, a Yardie that Mariah is trying to sell her gun business to, and takes over his gang. After acquiring the Stokes' arsenal, Bushmaster makes several attacks on Mariah, leaving the severed heads of Higgins, Cockroach and Ray-Ray on pikes in the entrance to her new Shirley Chisholm community center, killing Piranha after getting him to deplete Mariah's bank accounts, tying up Mariah in her brownstone before burning it down (which she only survives thanks to Luke's intervention), and lastly, attempting to kill her while Luke and Misty are sheltering her in a Rand clinic. Mariah eventually retaliates by leading an attack on a restaurant owned by Bushmaster's family, burning his uncle alive and gunning down Stephanie and several innocent patrons. Shades is disgusted with Mariah, turns himself over to the police, and decides to wear a wire to entrap Mariah. Tilda, meanwhile, is picked up by Bushmaster to brew a concoction to heal him. Having learned the truth about Mariah killing Cottonmouth and the massacre itself, she helps Bushmaster make another attempt to kill Mariah in her den at Harlem's Paradise, but Luke thwarts the attempt. Mariah is subsequently arrested and prosecuted by Blake Tower. In a last-ditch effort to save herself, Mariah orders the assassinations of anyone who might be able to testify against her, including her publicist Alex Wesley, and an attempted hit on Shades. However, her luck runs out, as Tilda fatally poisons her during a family visit. Following her death, Mariah bequeaths Cottonmouth's electric piano to Tilda, and Harlem's Paradise to Luke, in hopes that he will be corrupted trying to run the club and broker peace between Harlem's gangs.