Ever since Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman film hit theaters, audiences have been waiting for more. Fans everywhere loved Gal Gadot’s portrayal of the Amazon Princess, making the movie a financial and critical success. Wonder Woman‘s primary focus on its titular heroine meant that the villains of the film, Dr. Poison and Ares, didn’t get much in the way of development or screen time, but all of that is set to change with the upcoming sequel. Now that Diana and her very special world have been introduced to the audience, the sequel will have more free time to devote to its next big villain.
But who will this villain be? Diana Prince’s rogues gallery is vast and extensive, but it isn’t filled with many “big name” villains compared to Batman and Superman’s popular foes. However, there is one Wonder Woman villain some fans know better than most, whether from the comics, various cartoon series or the Injustice video games: Cheetah. It was recently confirmed that Cheetah will be the sequel’s villain, brought to life by SNL veteran Kristen Wiig. Now that we know who the next Wonder Woman villain will be, here are 15 things you need to know about the DCEU’s next big foe.
15. THERE HAVE BEEN FOUR CHEETAHS
While the biggest Batman and Superman villains like Joker, Lex Luthor and Brainiac have each been one person throughout their long DC Comics history, there have actually been four different characters that carried the Cheetah mantle. The first was Priscilla Rich, who debuted in 1943 and was created by Wonder Woman co-creators William Moulton Marston and Harry G. Peter.
The second Cheetah, Deborah Domaine, arrived much later in 1980. Then, the most popular and well known version of the character, Barbara Ann Minerva, debuted in 1987 – and she has been a part of the DC Universe ever since. Finally, a man named Sebastian Ballesteros became Cheetah for a brief time. We don’t yet know which version of the character Wiig will play, but its widely assumed that it will be Barbara Ann Minerva.
14. POWERED BY AN AFRICAN GOD
Barbara Ann Minerva was a rich, driven and selfish British archaeologist who traveled all over the world. Her travels would lead her to Africa, where she was seeking a secret tribe whose guardian was a fabled woman with the powers of a feline animal. However, things didn’t exactly work out the way she intended. With the promise of immortality, Barbara agreed to be transformed into the Cheetah.
This power is derived from a local plant god known as Urzkartaga. However, the transformation is not simple. It rapidly turns into a curse, where Barbara is blinded by a rage-fueled lust for blood. This makes her a roaring and fearsome opponent, one with all the powers of a Cheetah. She is stronger, she has heightened senses and abilities, and she is so fast that she could rival The Flash in a fist fight.
13. SHE WAS A CLOSE FRIEND OF DIANA’S
In the DC Rebirth continuity, there was a new wrinkle added to the origin of the Cheetah, one that tied her ever closer to Diana Prince and her origin. In fact, we came to learn that when Wonder Woman first departed Themyscira with Steve Trevor, Diana actually didn’t speak English. In order to teach her to speak, the U.S. Army brought in Dr. Minerva, an archaeologist and expert on dead and ancient languages.
Diana and Barbara spent a lot of time together, the doctor teaching modern languages to the Amazon Princess. But as they did so, the two developed a friendship, a bond that would turn their eventual rivalry all the more personal and devastating at the same time. Such a strong relationship would make an interesting approach for Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman sequel.
12. SHE LOST HER POWERS TO A MAN, THEN KILLED HIM
The Cheetah has always been a woman. That is, until Sebastian Ballesteros arrived on the scene. Seeking power, Ballesteros was able to convince the plant god Urzkartaga to give the powers of the Cheetah to a man instead of a woman. As a result, Barbara Ann would come to lose her powers to this power-hungry man.
Free from her curse, however, Barbara did not rejoice. In fact, she instead went to great lengths to recover her powers. Eventually, she would come to face this male Cheetah, and emerge victorious. She killed Ballesteros, and in the process managed to regain her power as the one, true Cheetah. With the Wonder Woman film showcasing the strength of woman in the world of man, it would be possible to see such a twist occur on-screen in the sequel.
11. SHE ONCE HAD A RELATIONSHIP WITH REVERSE-FLASH
Who says supervillains aren’t allowed to experience love? Superheroes aren’t the only ones who can find it within the ranks of their allies. In fact, as the Cheetah, Barbara Ann Minerva found both a teacher and a lover in the evil speedster villain Zoom. With his help, Barbara learned to fight and strike even faster, which contributed to making her an even more formidable opponent for Wonder Woman.
Their relationship reached another level when the two became intimate with one another after they both joined the ranks of a new version of the supervillain team, the Secret Society. While we don’t expect a Flash villain to show up in Wonder Woman 2, the fact that a Flash movie is also in the works in the DC Extended Universe means that we could see a whole lot more of Cheetah outside of the sequel.
10. SHE HELPED JOKER AND LUTHOR FORM THE INJUSTICE LEAGUE
The DC Universe is in no shortage of supervillain teams. There is the Secret Society, the Crime Syndicate, the Legion of Doom, each more dangerous than the last. But there is one that rivaled the Justice League in terms of numbers and powers: the Injustice League, formed of the main Justice Leaguers’ respective villains: Joker, Lex Luthor, Gorilla Grodd, Killer Frost, Parasite and many others.
But Joker and Lex Luthor weren’t the only founding members of this new supervillain team. There was also a third villain and founder: Barbara Ann Minerva, aka the Cheetah. Therefore, Batman’s biggest villain, Superman’s biggest villain and Wonder Woman’s biggest villain all united to form a team of their own. Considering that we have seen Luthor start to form the Injustice League in the DCEU, this could only be the beginning for Cheetah.
9. SHE HELPED CREATE ANOTHER BIG WONDER WOMAN VILLAIN
Not only is Cheetah cemented as Wonder Woman’s biggest villain, she also inadvertently helped create another dangerous foe from Diana’s rogues gallery, a devastating enemy by the name of Genocide. This new villain was created by Ares, who arrived from the far future in possession of Wonder Woman’s dead body. Then, he manipulated Barbara, who was at the head of the Secret Society at the time.
He tasked her and other scientists with gathering soil samples from all over the world, where horrific acts of genocide had been committed in the last century. These samples were magically fused to the future body of Diana, creating a living monster and direct opposite of Wonder Woman. Perhaps this could be a way for Cheetah to set up the villain of the inevitable Wonder Woman 3.
8. THE GODDESS OF THE HUNT
During the New 52 Reboot, the DC Universe’s continuity was streamlined and condensed. Now, there were no longer any previous Cheetahs before Barbara Ann Minerva. She was the sole villain to bear the mantle, and she had a tweaked origin that tied her closely with the mythology of the Amazons. Like Diana, she had grown up in a place made up entirely of women, a place called Amazonia.
Instead of succumbing to an African curse, this version of Barbara came to cut herself on an ancient and cursed Amazonian dagger that allowed her to become possessed by the Goddess of the Hunt. This is what turned her into the Cheetah, and enemy of Wonder Woman. Since the New 52 has guided a bit of the direction of the first Wonder Woman film, Cheetah’s big screen origin could also follow suite.
7. A DIFFERENT ORIGIN IN THE JLA CARTOONS
It’s too early to tell what origin Kristen Wiig’s Cheetah will have in Wonder Woman 2. Will the movie opt for the African or Amazon curse route, or will it go for a more grounded approach? If the latter is the case, then the movie could look to the Justice League of America animated series, which offered a very different origin for Barbara Ann Minerva’s transformation into the Cheetah.
In the animated series, Barbara was not an archaeologist, but a genetic scientist. When she became desperate, she decided to run her extensive experiments on herself, resulting in her transformation into an anthropomorphic feline creature. This based her transformation in a more real, modern world, which could always end up serving as inspiration for the upcoming movie if that is the intended route.
6. HER CLAWS CAN INFECT OTHERS
Barbara Ann Minerva not only has all the strengths of the Cheetah, including ferocious speed, strength and fangs, she also has razor-sharp claws to hunt with. But those claws aren’t just lethal, they can also infect others with a dangerous poison. In fact, the New 52 version of Cheetah’s magical curse was so strong that she managed to scratch and infect Superman.
The poison transformed Superman into a mindless cheetah hybrid, just like Barbara, turning him into a weapon against the Justice League. Her claws also infected Wonder Woman in the animated film Justice League: Doom, although they did not transform Diana into a cheetah. Instead, it made Diana see cheetah beings everywhere, when they were in fact mere citizens. Both of these powers could easily find themselves on the screen.
5. SHE HAD A CAMEO IN THE CW’S FLASH SHOW
While Cheetah has appeared in comic books, video games, animated movies and cartoons, she has actually never made a live-action appearance. Well, almost. On The CW series The Flash, an Easter egg did appear to tease the Cheetah’s existence in the Arrowverse in the Season 3 episode “Infantino Street,” when Barry Allen and Captain Cold infiltrated Amanda Waller’s A.R.G.U.S. facility.
They walked past many cells containing Waller’s Suicide Squad members, each marked with the various criminals’ names on a screen. One of them read “Cheetah,” meaning that the villain is a member of Task Force X in the television universe. While many fans would come to expect Cheetah to appear in an upcoming episode, her appearance in Wonder Woman 2 means we likely will never see her on the small screen.
4. SHE WAS CREATED BY ANOTHER WONDER WOMAN VILLAIN
During the DC Rebirth re-telling of Barbara Ann Minerva’s origins, many new details were revealed about the circumstances that led to her transformation into Cheetah. While she still became cursed by the plant god Urzkartaga, her trip was funded by a woman named Veronica Cale. What Barbara didn’t know, however, was that Veronica was only using her for her own nefarious purposes.
Veronica Cale is a rich and devious businesswoman and long-standing enemy of Wonder Woman. She is an important presence in the comics, and her alliance with Ares’ children led to Barbara being manipulated into becoming the Cheetah so Veronica could try to find Themyscira. We don’t yet know if Veronica Cale will have a presence in Wonder Woman 2, but this would also be a nice way to set up a third film.
3. SHE WAS ONCE A NAZI ALLY
The Legend of Wonder Woman, by the husband-and-wife team of Renae de Liz and Ray Dillon, told a different origin of Wonder Woman outside of the current DC continuity. This version was inspired by the older stories of Wonder Woman co-creator William Moulton Marston and took place during the days of World War II. While Cheetah did not have a main role on the series, the first version of the character did make an appearance.
In this limited comic series, Priscilla Rich, the very first Cheetah, briefly appears. However, she is not yet a cat-like foe. Instead, she is allied with the Nazis. Since this is similar to Dr. Poison’s allegiances in the first Wonder Woman film, and since we don’t yet know what era the sequel will take place in, a World War II-set film with a Nazi-allied Cheetah could certainly be a possible direction for the sequel.
2. SHE DEFEATED BRAINIAC
The Barbara Ann Minerva New 52 version of Cheetah appeared in a starring capacity in the Injustice 2 video game. Her story saw her join Gorilla Grodd’s Secret Society in an alliance with the game’s main antagonist Brainiac. She fought against such enemies as Reverse-Flash, Supergirl and Wonder Woman, but she eventually cut ties with the Secret Society.
This change of heart came when she discovered Brainiac’s true intentions for Earth. While there were many heroes fighting against Brainiac in the game, Cheetah ended up being the one to defeat him. This is quite an ending for the character, who showed how she hovers the line between good and evil. This complex nature will make her a fascinating villain for Wonder Woman to fight against on the big screen.
1. SHE ONCE HAD A FLING WITH CLARK KENT
Relationships are always complicated, especially when it comes to the world of superheroes and supervillains. Fans of Superman were dealt a stunning surprise in the Superman: America Alien comic, a miniseries that recounted various adventures from Clark Kent’s days as a younger man. During a party aboard a yacht, a young adult Clark Kent meets a young woman who he falls for.
But it’s not Lois Lane – it’s Barbara Ann Minerva, who talks about her dreams of becoming an archaeologist. This fling between hero and villain actually took place years before either would become Superman and Cheetah, but it does give the pair a bit of shared history. If the movie would go that route, it would certainly be fun to see Diana poke fun at Clark for having dated her newest enemy.
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