wonder woman 2 villain cheetah

Wonder Woman has done battle with the gods. What could possibly be next?

One of Diana of Themyscira’s most famous foes: Cheetah. Sometimes she’s a villain of Diana’s own making, sometimes she’s a friend turned into Diana’s worst enemy, and sometimes she’s the corrupt, twisted foil to everything Wonder Woman stands for.

And with Kristen Wiig officially confirmed to star as Cheetah in Wonder Woman 2, it’s time to dive into this character. Who is Cheetah? What does she want? And what version of her will we see on the big screen come 2019?

Who is Cheetah?

Cheetah is one of Wonder Woman’s biggest adversaries. She’s had four incarnations in the comics — the vengeful debutante Priscilla Rich (the Golden and Silver Age Cheetah), Priscilla’s niece Deborah Domaine (the Bronze Age Cheetah), Barbara Ann Minerva (the post-Crisis and current Cheetah), and the one-time male Cheetah Sebastian Ballesteros.

But the one we’ll be focusing on is Barbara Ann Minerva.

Dr. Barbara Minerva is an ambitious, greedy British archaeologist who seeks out a tribe in Africa protected by female guardian imbued with powers of a cheetah god. After the guardian is killed, Barbara convinces the high priest to make her the female guardian after learning that the ritual would make her immortal. She drinks a potion mixed human blood and mystical leaves, and transforms into a part-cheetah, part-human figure with superhuman abilities. But because she was not a virgin at the time of the ritual, Barbara becomes weak and crippled when in human form, and euphoric and bloodthirsty in cheetah form.

Barbara’s origin story has been tweaked in recent runs to make her a more sympathetic character. Both the New 52 reboot in 2011 and the DC Rebirth relaunch in 2016 reworked Barbara’s origin to being a close friend of Diana’s before her transformation. While the New 52 version transformed herself after she was humiliated by Diana, the Barbara in Rebirth unknowingly becomes cursed with the cheetah powers by a nefarious group trying to find Themyscira. Barbara blames Diana for her forced transformation into a cannibalistic demigod, and the pair became lifelong foes.

What Are Cheetah’s Powers?

Barbara can transform into the Cheetah, which gives her superhuman strength, physical durability, greater speed than Wonder Woman, enhanced agility and senses, and claws and fangs that can cut through almost anything. While at first Barbara can only transform into Cheetah during a full moon, she later gains the ability to change at will.

As an archaeologist with several PhD’s, Barbara also has an intellect that can rival Wonder Woman’s.

What is Cheetah’s Relationship to Wonder Woman?

The original Barbara Minerva became Diana’s archenemy after becoming obsessed with her Golden Lasso. She attempts to steal it several times to add to her collection of historical items, but soon becomes more interested in Wonder Woman herself.

But the Rebirth version of Barbara is perhaps the most intriguing and tragic take we’ve seen on the character. Her identity is intrinsically tied to Wonder Woman, having been obsessed with myths of the Amazons since childhood. She is even one of the first people to befriend Diana and teach her English when she leaves Themyscira. But she is also one of Diana’s greatest failures.

The expedition that transforms her into Cheetah was funded by another female villain, Veronica Cale, who was attempting to locate Themyscira. Diana fails to save Barbara, and Barbara in turn blames her. Her cheetah form’s cannibalistic impulses renders her a danger to the world, but Diana can’t fight the monster without trying to save her friend within.

Which Cheetah Could We See in Wonder Woman 2?

There’s no question that the Cheetah we’ll meet in Wonder Woman 2 will be Barbara Minerva. But the question remains whether Kristen Wiig’s depiction will be the cold-blooded intellectual of the first iteration, or the tragic character of Rebirth. Since Wonder Woman‘s strength was its emotional core and Diana’s uncontainable compassion, it will likely be the latter.

The Cheetah in the comics has also frequently been overly sexualized — wearing few clothes, or sometimes none at all. With Patty Jenkins at the helm and Wiig set to play the character, Cheetah will probably be reinvented into something truly special.

Wonder Woman 2 is set to hit theaters on November 1, 2019.

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