Wednesday marks the release of Warner Bros. Wonder Woman 1984 here in the UK. Ahead of the film’s release we’re taking a look at two key new characters joining the DC Universe on film.
Today it’s the turn of one of Diana’s more fiercest villains: Barbara Minerva aka Cheetah. Get to know her origins and find some of the characters biggest moments from the comics to help you swat up ready for Kristen Wiig’s performance in the film.
Alias: Barbara Minerva.
First appearance: Wonder Woman (vol. 2) #7 (August 1987).
Bio: Barbara Minerva is the third character to take on the name Cheetah in DC Comics. In the comics Minerva is a British archaeologist, born as the heiress to a vast fortune in her ancient family seat in Nottinghamshire. Ambitious, selfish, and severely neurotic, Barbara develops a passion for archaeology that eventually led her to search out a tribe in Africa which has a female guardian with the powers of a cheetah. A band of marauders kill the guardian and most of what remained of her original expedition party. Barbara, with the aid of the priest, Chuma, the caretaker of the ancient plant god Urzkartaga, takes her place after being told that she would gain immortality.
Her powers are conferred to her by ingesting a combination of human blood and the berries or leaves of Urzkartaga, which gives her orange skin with black spots, a tail and claws, as well as superhuman senses and reflexes. Unfortunately for Minerva, the host of the Cheetah persona is intended to be a virgin. Minerva is not, so her transformations were part curse and part blessing, as she experiences severe pain and physical disability while in her human form and bloodthirsty euphoria while in her cat form.
Minerva’s origin was altered when the DC line was relaunched in the New 52 era. The character was re-made to be a corrupt image and antecedent to Wonder Woman. Barbara Ann Minerva (having used several aliases that happen to be the names of the various incarnations of the character) is reintroduced as the Cheetah. As part of her new backstory, Minerva is referred to as an accomplice to Wonder Woman and an expert in dangerous relics, and having previously grown up in an all-woman commune called “Amazonia”.
In the possession of a dagger once belonging to a lost tribe of Amazons, she cut herself on it. She was possessed by the Goddess of the Hunt, transforming her into a human-cheetah hybrid. Her claws can also turn Superman into a cheetah-like being.
The origin of the Cheetah is dated back to the San Tribe, who for centuries had hunted alongside the cheetahs. Every generation, one of their members is chosen to become the host of the Goddess of the Hunt, until one day a hunter killed the current host; the knife used to kill her was cursed until it fell in the hands of Minerva. The Cheetah is subdued by the Justice League and placed in Belle Reve. However, once there, she makes contact with someone telling him she is where he requested, implying her capture was staged as a part of a bigger plan.
Her origin was once again altered for the DC Rebirth era in the comics. This time around, Barbara Ann Cavendish enjoyed mythology and showed an affinity for language. Her father disparaged her interest in myth, deriding it as childish. In defiance of her father, her passion for myth and legend remained and as an adult, she took her late mother’s maiden name of Minerva. By age 26, she had mastered seven languages and earned two Ph.D.s in archaeology.
On a dig in Ukraine, she discovered proof of the existence of the Amazons, but the dig site collapsed. Minerva was able to take photos before the collapse and followed her findings to the Black Sea, only to find what she believed was an empty island. After Princess Diana of the Amazons returned U.S. Navy SEAL Steve Trevor to the United States, the Navy called Dr. Minerva to translate Diana’s language. Minerva became close friends with Diana and Lt. Etta Candy and taught Diana English, as well as other languages.
After Ares attacks the naval base and several of the Olympian Gods (in the forms of animals) assist Diana in Ares’ defeat, Minerva became even more obsessed with the divine. Seeking out proof of other deities, Minerva learns of Urzkartaga and obtains funding for an expedition to the fictional African nation of Bwunda from Veronica Cale.
Unbeknownst to Minerva, Cale was acting on behalf of the sons of Ares, Deimos and Phobos, who believed that by turning Minerva into a demigod, she would be able to locate Themyscira for them. In case of emergency, Diana provided Barbara Ann with a Wayne Enterprises GPS signaling device, which Doctor Cyber remotely disabled. As a result, Wonder Woman was unable to prevent Minerva from being wed to Urzkartaga and becoming the Cheetah.
Blaming Diana for her forced transformation and the cannibalistic urges that came with it, the Cheetah joined Cale’s Godwatch group.
- Final Crisis (2009)
- Flashpoint (2011)
- Forever Evil (2013)
- Wonder Woman (2016-) Rebirth
- Justice League: Unlimited
- Batman: The Brave and the Bold
- Wonder Woman (2009)
- Justice League: Doom (2012)
Gal Gadot returns in the role of Diana Prince/Wonder Woman in Wonder Woman 1984. The film also stars Kristen Wiig in the role of the Super-Villain The Cheetah, as well as Pedro Pascal. And Chris Pine returns as Steve Trevor. The film is directed by Patty Jenkins.
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