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Wonder Woman 1984: everything you need to know about the villainous Cheetah


Themysciran hero Wonder Woman is back next year in Wonder Woman 1984. While details of the sequel are sparse at the time of writing, we do know that Patty Jenkins is returning to direct, with Gal Gadot reprising her role as the title character.

The sequel will also see the return of cast members Chris Pine (somehow), Robin Wright and Connie Nielsen, as the film jumps forward in time from World War I to the era of leg warmers and big hair.

Wonder Woman 1984 Gal Gadot movie poster

We also know Oscar-nominated actor Kristen Wiig will be joining the cast as popular Wonder Woman nemesis Cheetah. But who exactly is this fearsome foe? Here’s everything you need to know about her...

Which Cheetah will appear in the film?

Originally created by William Moulton Marston and H.G Peter, Cheetah first made her comic book debut all the way back in 1946 in Wonder Woman #6.

She first emerged as Priscilla Rich, a deeply troubled and emotionally complex aristocrat who, after becoming jealous of Wonder Woman, dons a cheetah outfit to become her “true self” to enact vengeance.

However, in the years since, there have been three more incarnations of the character: Deborah Domain (Priscilla’s niece), Barbara Ann Minerva and the short-lived Sebastian Ballesteros.

But which version of the character will we see next year? While initially keeping details close to her chest, director Patty Jenkins tweeted a teaser image of Wiig on set back in June, revealing that she will be playing Barbara Minerva.

Who is Barbara Minerva?

Now that we’ve established which Cheetah will feature in Wonder Woman 1984, who exactly is Barbara Minerva? This incarnation of Cheetah was imagined by Lein Wein and George Pérez, making her comic-book debut in 1987’s Wonder Woman (Vol 2) #7 as part of the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” story arc.

An English archaeologist born into a wealthy family, Dr Barbara Minerva possessed an insatiable appetite to acquire mythical artefacts, but was also lacking in a moral compass.

It was this lust for adventure that saw Barbara travel to Africa in search of a lost tribe. They were said to be protected by a cheetah guardian – and this is where Barbara is ultimately transformed into her criminal counterpart.

Cheetah’s flower power

Unlike Barbara’s predecessors, whose only superpower was dressing in cheetah outfits (seriously), she was the first version of the villain to get her claws on some snazzy abilities of her own, courtesy of a plant god named Urzkartaga.

Although Barbara’s aforementioned expedition was successful, the tribe, as well as her own crew, were killed by a group of bandits who tailed her. At this point, Barbara was offered to partake in a ritual to become Urzkartaga’s bride – by drinking a concoction of blood and berries from the god’s plant.

What Barbara didn’t know, crucially, was the ritual was intended for virgins only. While Barbara gained the power to transform into a human-cheetah hybrid with superior strength, heightened senses and razor-sharp claws, she was also cursed: enduring excruciating pain as a human, and a sensational bloodlust in her bestial form.


Cheetah and Wonder Woman: best frenemies

Like Batman and Joker, Spider-Man and Venom, and Superman and Lex Luthor, every arch-nemesis and hero requires a complex relationship. And the twisted union between Wonder Woman and Cheetah is no different.

They first cross paths when Barbara discovers that Diana Prince (Wonder Woman’s alias) possesses the Lasso of Truth. Barbara, being an incredibly jealous archaeologist, intends to add the artefact to her collection. But after failing to trick Diana into relinquishing it, Barbara becomes obsessed with besting her newfound foe.

Their relationship becomes increasingly complicated after Diana attempts to save Cheetah’s life when she’s captured for the purposes of a demonic ritual. From here onwards, the pair would occasionally join forces whenever it suited Barbara.

Barbara killed two other Cheetahs

If ever you needed proof that Barbara is the definitive Cheetah, she slayed not just one, but two of the other incarnations of the character.

The first to meet their end was original Cheetah, Priscilla Rich. By this point an elderly woman, Priscilla was killed in her home when Barbara was goaded into murdering her by DC villain Zoom, under the pretence that she’d cement herself as the one true Cheetah and become more powerful as a result.

Next to go was business tycoon Sebastian Ballestreros. In 2001 issue Wonder Woman (Vol 2) #171, he became the only male incarnation of the character, albeit briefly, after convincing Urzkartaga that he’d make a better villain than Barbara. After having her powers transferred to Sebastian, Barbara eventually reclaimed her role when she defeated Sebastian in his human form.

Cheetah’s rebirth

In 2016, Barbara’s origin was slightly altered as part of DC’s ‘Rebirth’ series. This time, Diana and Barbara were close friends, working closely together to learn more about the Amazons.

This newfound fascination with the existence of the divine led Barbara to seek out the lost tribe in search of Urzkartaga. This time, however, she was forced into the ritual against her will, with Wonder Woman failing to rescue her after the latter’s signalling device failed to work. Believing that she had been betrayed, Cheetah turned her back on her former friend.

Given that the teaser image of Wiig shows her in an African museum exhibit, it seems likely that these origins will feature in Wonder Woman 1984. It would also make Wiig and Gadot’s onscreen relationship a lot more compelling.

Wonder Woman 1984 is released in Cineworld cinemas on the 5th of June 2020. Will Kristen Wiig become a classic comic book villain? Let us know your thoughts @Cineworld.

Andy Murray is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.