Wonder Woman (various comic book titles 1943 – now)
Batman has the Joker. Superman has Lex Luthor. Wonder Woman has the Cheetah! Most people know these characters are each other’s nemeses, but out of the bad guys of the above mentioned characters which one has super powers? The Cheetah! This is another thing that makes Wonder Woman kinda more badass than her male companions.
Okay… So originally that’s a false statement. There have been three different Cheetahs for every giant era of DC Comics continuity plus a man version. The original Golden Age (Priscilla Rich) and Silver Age (Deborah Domaine) Cheetahs had no powers. Both characters were very Catwoman-like in motif, less menacing, and mostly just robbed banks. Obviously these versions aren’t the ones I want to talk about. While they do seem pretty lame, you have to understand it was a different time back then. My favorite Cheetah is the Modern Age and current one used in the New 52 context, Barbara Minerva. Minerva’s Cheetah took a huge leap into the supernatural but the one constant trait all the bearers of the Cheetah name have is their wealthy upbringings.
Barbara started out as an archeologist working in Africa amongst a tribe that had a guardian with cheetah powers. Marauders ended up attacking the tribe and Barbara’s crew killing most of them. A priest of the plant god, Urtzkartaga, convinced her to ingest human blood and berries from Urtzkartaga’s plant by promising her immortality in the heat of the moment. She was given the powers of the tribe’s cheetah guardian but the ritual was only meant for a female virgin. Barbara, being a rich European in her twenties, was not a virgin so the gift became a curse. While she is able to transform into a were-cheetah at any time, the curse causes her constant physical pain when in human form but she is euphoric while indulging in the blood-thirsty nature of her cheetah form. Basically she’s forced to be a homicidal maniac because she wanted to live a little in the past… What a drag.
Cheetah is brought into conflict with Wonder Woman through her archeological curiosity regarding her Lasso of Truth and it’s mythic origins. The rest is history. Naturally with animalistic powers she has super strength, durability, razor sharp claws, animal senses etc., etc. The one thing DC has focused on with Cheetah in recent years is her super speed. Cheetah’s are fast so naturally that’s a given. After having a sexual partnership with Professor Zoom (Flash bad guy that has equal speed powers) and murdering Priscilla Rich (the original Cheetah), Barbara was granted an even faster super speed rate in a Jet Li’s “The One” style upgrade. It’s silly but cool. I’d like to see her rival the Flash’s powers. I mean his powers are based off of a scientific accident and Barbara’s powers are derived from a deity. Why can’t she be as fast?
Barbara Minerva’s New 52 Cheetah has been slightly altered to fit more into Wonder Woman’s world. She became the Cheetah from being scraped by a long lost cursed Amazonian dagger. Instead of being cursed by an African god, her were-cheetah form takes place when she is possessed by the Amazonian “Goddess of the Hunt.” She can also infect other people like Superman into becoming possessed and were-cheetah-like by biting and clawing. It hasn’t really been explored too much yet though. Other than those minor details, she’s pretty much the same only closer to home for Wonder Woman now. Let’s get a Wonder Woman movie in the making already so we can see Cheetah in action!!!