Barbara Ann Minerva as the Cheetah as seen on the cover of Wonder Woman #28.
Art by Aaron Lopresti.
Wonder Woman #6 (October 1943)
Wonder Woman #274 (December 1980)
Wonder Woman Vol. 2 #7 (August 1987)
Wonder Woman Vol. 2 #170 (July 2001)
William Moulton Marston
H. G. Peter
|Alter ego||- Priscilla Rich
- Deborah Domaine
- Barbara Ann Minerva
- Sebastian Ballesteros
Secret Society of Super Villains
Powers and appearance of a cheetah, granted by the plant-god Urzkartaga
Superhuman speed and strength
The Cheetah is a fictional character, created by William Moulton Marston, and appearing in DC Comics publications and related media, commonly as a major adversary and archenemy of the superhero Wonder Woman.
There have been four different incarnations of the Cheetah since the character's debut: Priscilla Rich (the Golden and Silver Age Cheetah), Deborah Domaine (the Bronze Age Cheetah), Barbara Ann Minerva (the Post-Crisis and current Cheetah), and Sebastian Ballesteros (a male usurper who briefly assumed the role in 2001). In 2009, the Cheetah was ranked as IGN's 69th Greatest Comic Book Villain of All Time.
The Sebastian Ballestreros version of Cheetah first appeared in Wonder Woman Vol. 2 #170 (July 2001)
Prior to the 12-issue DC Comics series Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1985 (which is regarded as the starting point for DC's continuity prior to the 2011 New 52 reboot), there were two women who donned spotted cat costumes to fight Wonder Woman as the Cheetah: socialite Priscilla Rich and her niece Deborah Domaine. While modern incarnations of the Cheetah possess superhuman powers, Rich and Domaine do not.
There are two post-Crisis Cheetahs: Barbara Ann Minerva and Sebastian Ballesteros, Minerva being the more prominent of the two. While the pre-Crisis Cheetahs are simply women in costumes, the post-Crisis Cheetahs have taken on a more mystical note, being champions of a god much as Wonder Woman is to her patrons; actually morphing into powerfully ferocious humanoid were-cheetahs with great strength, agility, and deadly claws and fangs which make them challenging opponents to Wonder Woman and other powerful heroes in battle.
The first woman to become the Cheetah, in Wonder Woman #6 (October 1943), is Priscilla Rich, a 1940s-era blonde Washington, D.C. debutante of aristocratic upbringing who also has an overwhelming inferiority complex and suffers from a split personality and self importance. After being eclipsed by Wonder Woman at a charity event and failing to kill her during an escapology act, Priscilla retreats to her room and collapses before her makeup mirror. There she sees an image of a woman dressed like a cheetah. "Horrors!" she cries, as she gazes at her evil inner-self for the first time. "Don't you know me?" replies the reflection. "I am the REAL you—the Cheetah—a treacherous, relentless huntress!" The image commands her to fashion a Cheetah costume from a cheetah-skin rug. "From now on," intones the reflection, "when I command you, you shall go forth dressed like your TRUE self and do as I command you..." The Cheetah frames Wonder Woman for a robbery by hiding the money in her apartment and tipping off the police, then sets fire to a warehouse Wonder Woman is in, although Wonder Woman escapes. She is presumed dead, but survives thanks to her fireproof costume.
She later kidnaps a young ESPer named Gail and uses the girl's powers to learn U.S. military secrets, which she gives to the Japanese. Wonder Woman manages to thwart the plot and rescue Gail, with Cheetah warning Wonder Woman to stay out of her affairs. She soon returns when an American military official organizes an athletic competition between female athletes from America and a group of women trained on Paradise Island. Priscilla ties up and gags an Olympic high hurdler named Kay Carlton, and impersonates her by donning her clothes. Disguised as Kay, Priscilla infiltrates the contest and manages to kidnap Queen Hippolyta and steal her magical girdle. With Hippolyta as her hostage and her own abilities boosted by the girdle, Cheetah battles Wonder Woman for control of Paradise Island. She is defeated when the Amazon manages to pull the girdle off her. Temporarily freed from the Cheetah's influence, Priscilla asks to remain on Paradise Island until she can learn to control her split personality.
Priscilla's attempt at reformation apparently failed, as she is later seen as a member of Villainy Inc., a criminal association between several of Wonder Woman's female foes.
Priscilla has several run-ins with Wonder Woman before retiring to her North Shore Maryland mansion. In Wonder Woman #274 (Dec. 1980), the villain Kobra attempts to recruit the villainess for his organization. His operative finds the reclusive Priscilla an invalid. Priscilla's niece Deborah Domaine had come at her bidding, and the operative stays to observe. Before Priscilla can unburden her alter ego as the Cheetah, she dies.
DC later relaunched its continuity with the 1985 series Crisis on Infinite Earths, introducing a new Cheetah for the Modern Age, Barbara Minerva (see below). The original Cheetah, Priscilla Rich, is established as still existing post-Crisis when Queen Hippolyta becomes the Golden Age Wonder Woman. In the present, she is seen as an elderly woman when she is murdered by Minerva. It is also established that she never became an invalid post-Crisis, as Minerva mentions how Priscilla had written books condemning her when she became the Cheetah. Rich is murdered in her home by Minerva, under the urging of Zoom. Zoom theorizes that if Minerva kills Rich, she would solidify herself as the one true Cheetah and thus be a better villain.
Following DC's 2011 relaunch, Rich is retconned from continuity. Priscilla Rich is one of the many aliases Barbara Minerva uses to commit crimes as Cheetah.
Deborah 'Debbie' Domaine was introduced as the niece of Priscilla Rich. A beautiful young debutante, Debbie feels remorse for her wealthy upbringing and decides to become an ecology activist, meeting Wonder Woman and striking up a friendship with her. Later that same day, Debbie is summoned to her Aunt Priscilla's mansion and finds her there, succumbing to illness. After Priscilla Rich dies, Kobra's operatives capture Deborah and bring her and the Cheetah costume to Kobra's headquarters, where he questions her: "You didn't know about your aunt's secret life, did you? Well, you'll learn—Since we couldn't have the original, we decided to make do with a recreation. You shall be that recreation, Ms. Domaine."
Kobra tortures and brainwashes Debbie and provides her with an updated version of the Cheetah costume. The original suit included a cat-eared cowl and clawed, flat-soled boots. Debbie's version has a V-neck, slit to the sternum, a headband with cat-ears (concealed for the most part beneath her long, auburn hair), and heeled boots. Both costumes include razor-sharp chrome steel nails, painted bright red. "You are my servant, and I, your master. You are the Cheetah!" he cries, "And you will fill the world with terror!" Debbie has several conflicts with Wonder Woman and also serves as a member of the Secret Society of Super Villains in a conflict with both the Justice League of America and the Justice Society of America, before her role as the Cheetah is retconned out of existence due to the history-altering after-effects of the Crisis on Infinite Earths (1985–1986). Debbie still exists post-Crisis, as referenced by a photo in Priscilla Rich's mansion inscribed to "Aunt Priscilla, Love Debbie."
The third Cheetah is British archaeologist Dr. Barbara Ann Minerva, born as the heiress of a vast fortune in the ancient family site in Nottinghamshire. Ambitious, selfish, and severely neurotic, Barbara develops a passion for archaeology that eventually led her to search out a tribe in Africa who utilizes 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. Unfortunately for Minerva, the host of the Cheetah persona is intended to be a virgin. Minerva is not, however, 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.
This Cheetah was active before Wonder Woman's post-Crisis appearance, and confronts Catwoman in Rome during the events of Batman: Dark Victory and Catwoman: When in Rome.
This version of the Cheetah comes into Wonder Woman's world when Barbara discovers that Diana possesses the Lasso of Truth. As an archaeologist, Barbara covets the lasso hoping to add it to her collection of historical items. She first attempts to do so through trickery, claiming that there is a matching ancient Golden Girdle of Gaea of the same kind from which the lasso was fashioned. Unfortunately, although the scheme proceeds far enough for Minerva to hold the lasso, its magical power to make people tell the truth forces her to confess her true intentions. Diana, profoundly distraught that a woman would be so treacherous, takes back the lasso and returns home in tears. With the subtle approach having failed, Minerva resorts to attacking the Amazon as the Cheetah in order to rob her of the lasso. Their initial battle ends with inconclusive results, as Diana's friend, Julia Kapatelis, shoots the Cheetah and forces her to retreat.
Over the years, Barbara's interest in the lasso wanes and she becomes more interested in besting Diana in battle due to her bruised ego. The rivalry between the Cheetah and Wonder Woman fluctuates, though. Wonder Woman saves the Cheetah's life during an adventure in the Balkan country of Pan Balgravia. The country's dictator Baron Von Nastraed, for unknown reasons, chooses to aid a demon named Drax by capturing a powerful metahuman woman. The captive woman's body would be used to house Drax's alternate dimension bride Barremargux. When the Baron captures the Cheetah for this purpose, Wonder Woman travels to the country to save her. At the last moment, when Barremargux is about to enter Earth-One, Barbara closes the gateway before the crossing could be completed by jumping into the gateway instead. Barbara is trapped in this demonic dimension until the Boston mob boss Julianna Sazia has scientists open the dimensional gateway to retrieve Barbara to serve her own ends. Barbara double-crosses Julianna, choosing to aid Wonder Woman when she is caught in the mob war between Paulie Longo and Julianna Sazia in Boston. Seeing her debt to Wonder Woman paid for attempting to rescue her in Pan Balgravia, the Cheetah continues her quest to defeat Wonder Woman when it is convenient to her.
For a brief period of time, Minerva loses her powers to the businessman Sebastian Ballesteros (see below), who convinces Urzkartaga that he could be a more effective Cheetah than she was. Minerva later kills Ballesteros and regains her powers.
The relationship Minerva has with Urzkartaga is strained at times for all of Minerva's intense devotion and loyalty. At one point, the god punishes her by leaving one of Minerva's hands human looking and untransformed even while she is in her Cheetah form, though it appears to still be fully empowered as the rest of her body and equally as deadly. With help from Zoom, Minerva attains a level of super-speed even greater than she previously possessed. She accomplishes this by murdering Priscilla Rich, who previously went by the codename Cheetah. They later join the latest Secret Society of Super Villains, and seem to be engaged in a sexual relationship, though Zoom considers himself to still be married to his former wife.
In the "One Year Later" storyline, the witch Circe places a spell on Minerva that allows her to change her appearance from human to Cheetah at will, even though she still remains in her Cheetah form in either guise. She controls three actual cheetahs and still possesses her super-speed, which is demonstrated by her ability to steal the golden lasso away from Donna Troy several times in battle. She is later seen in the Justice League of America Wedding Special, forming a new Injustice League alongside Lex Luthor and the Joker. She also appears in Salvation Run. Later still, in Final Crisis: Resist, she joins forces with Checkmate to rebel against Darkseid, and enjoys a brief relationship with Snapper Carr. In the pages of Wonder Woman, she is revealed as the power behind the Secret Society, responsible for the creation of Genocide. She arranges to have her ally Doctor Psycho take the place of Sarge Steel as director of the Department of Metahuman Affairs which, in the middle of Genocide's onslaught, she targets for destruction.
In 2011, DC relaunched its comic books, and rebooted its continuity in an initiative called The New 52. 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 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 and 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. 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.
During the Forever Evil storyline, Cheetah is among the supervillains recruited by the Crime Syndicate to join the Secret Society of Super-Villains. A vision that Psi shows to Steve Trevor is that Cheetah is in possession of Wonder Woman's lasso and is hiding out in Central Park. When Steve Trevor and Killer Frost arrived in Central Park to look for Cheetah, they end up ambushed by Cheetah and her Menagerie (consisting of Elephant Man, Hellhound, Lion-Mane, Mäuschen, Primeape, and Zebra-Man). Cheetah manhandles Trevor using Wonder Woman’s lasso. Steve Trevor manages to overcome the lasso and explains that only Diana could use it as she was herself truthful and pure. As Cheetah is not that, Trevor manages to get the lasso off and onto Cheetah. While Killer Frost escapes and freezes Cheetah’s Menagerie, Steve Trevor knocks Cheetah out.
After the events of DC Rebirth, Cheetah's origin is altered. As a young girl, Barbara Ann Minerva enjoyed mythology and adventure. Rebelling against her father's wishes, Minerva became an archaeologist and traveled the world. After Princess Diana of the Amazons returned soldier Steve Trevor to the United States, Minerva was the first to speak Diana's ancient Greek language and became Diana's first friend. At some point later, Minerva discovers the Cult of Urzkartaga and is transformed into the Cheetah.
Wonder Woman travels to Africa in search of Cheetah. She is met with aggression from Cheetah's forces, and ultimately Cheetah herself. The battle continues until Wonder Woman reveals to Cheetah that she is unable to locate Themyscira and needs her enemy's help. In exchange for Minerva's help in finding Themyscira, Wonder Woman agrees to kill the god Urzkartaga and end Minerva's curse. The pair battle their way through Urzkartaga's Bouda (werehyena) minions, the Bouda, and defeat Andres Cadulo, a worshiper of Urzkartaga that planned to sacrifice Steve Trevor to the plant god. Once reverted to her human form, Minerva agreed to help Wonder Woman find her way back to Paradise Island. In this version, Barbara was revealed to have been turned into the Cheetah not because she was not a virgin, and that Urzkartga lied to her – Cheetah and the women before her were actually his wardens, charged with keeping the evil plant god imprisoned. Also, despite being enemies, Diana is shown to still care for her former friend and genuinely wants to help her.
Argentine business tycoon Sebastian Ballesteros becomes the fourth Cheetah, as well as the only male Cheetah. He is an agent of the Amazon's enemy, Circe, as well as her lover. He seeks the plant god Urzkartaga to become a new version of the Cheetah, a supernatural cat-creature like Barbara Ann Minerva. Appealing to the plant god's ego, Sebastian makes the case that the previous Cheetahs have failed in their actions and that a male Cheetah could be superior. Once Urzkartaga is convinced, Barbara Minerva's access to the Cheetah is cut off and Sebastian is given the power in her place. Later, Sebastian proves responsible for turning Wonder Woman's old friend, Vanessa Kapatelis, into the third Silver Swan. Angered at the loss of her powers, Barbara Minerva eventually battles Bellesteros for control of the power of the Cheetah by becoming the temporary host of Tisiphone, one of the Eumenides or Furies. Minerva accesses this new power by stealing it from the Furies former host, Helena Kosmatos, the Golden Age Fury. This does not assist her in regaining the right to become the Cheetah. Ultimately (off-panel) Minerva finally kills Sebastian in his human form, regaining her Cheetah form as a result. She is later seen giving his blood to the Urzkartaga plant as a sacrifice.
Like Rich and Domaine, DC appeared to remove Ballesteros from continuity in the wake of its 2011 reboot. In Justice League comics, the name Sabrina Ballesteros is shown to be one of many aliases Barbara Minerva uses to commit crimes as Cheetah.
Minerva, Ballesteros: Powers and appearance of a cheetah, granted by the plant-god Urzkartaga.
Minerva: Superhuman speed and strength, capable of going toe to toe with Wonder Woman.
An alternate version of Cheetah (Priscilla Rich) briefly appears in the final issue of DC: The New Frontier.
Another alternate version of Cheetah appears in Wonder Woman: The Blue Amazon.
A modernized version of Priscilla Rich appears as one of the primary antagonists of the Wonder Woman feature in Wednesday Comics. Here, she is portrayed as a young archeologist from a wealthy Baltimore family, who relies on enchanted artifacts to grant her superhuman abilities. She initially befriends a young Diana, (before she has become Wonder Woman), after meeting her, but soon reveals her treacherous nature when she kidnaps Diana's friend Etta and uses her as bait for a trap set by Doctor Poison. In the end, both Priscilla and Poison are defeated by Wonder Woman.
The Priscilla Rich version of the Cheetah appears as a member of the Legion of Doom in Alex Ross' Justice maxi-series. Here, she is shown to have fashioned her costume from the fur of her pet cheetahs, which she violently killed and skinned in an ancient ritual (likely reminiscent of the Barbara Ann Minerva version). This version also appears to have retired at some point before the events of the series, as Wonder Woman mentions that Priscilla returned to the side of the "Dark Gods" and having been friends with her at some point. She is first seen at the opening of the series as one of the many villains suffering from nightmares about the end of the world, and the Justice League's inability to stop it. Priscilla reappears in the fourth issue, attending a peace conference held by Wonder Woman with her cheetahs, but kills them once in her hotel room before performing an ancient ritual and donning a costume made from their pelts. When Wonder Woman leaves the conference, Cheetah attacks her in the hall, slashing her several times before she escapes. It is later revealed over the course of the series that Cheetah's claws were infected with Centaur's Blood, and was turning Diana back into clay. Priscilla's attack is apparently the most successful, as Wonder Woman was slowly crumbling to the point that her face had become black and cracked by the time the Justice League attacked the Hall of Doom, relying on the powers of her lasso to keep her from crumbling apart. It is mentioned by a citizen that Cheetah ruled over a city filled with those deemed "ugly" by society. After the League attacks the Legion of Doom, Priscilla is one of the few villains to escape the initial attack, retreating to her city in wait for Wonder Woman. When Diana follows Cheetah with several other JLA members, they quickly realize Cheetah is stalking them and Wonder Woman tells them to leave so she can face Priscilla herself. Almost immediately after they leave Cheetah ambushes Wonder Woman, who removes her protective mask to expose that Cheetah's Centaur blood had almost killed her. Diana tells Cheetah that she has lost all patience for her before violently slamming her head into Priscilla's, breaking her Cheetah mask in half and knocking Priscilla out.
A version of the Cheetah appears in the "Odyssey" storyline, which involves the Gods altering Diana's history so that Themyscira was destroyed when she was a child. The new Cheetah is created from the corpse of a murdered Amazon after it is lowered into a mystical restoration pit and infused with the spirit of Magaera by the Morrigan (the villains who are hunting Wonder Woman). Alongside new versions of Artemis and Giganta (both of whom are also created from dead Amazons), the new Cheetah is tasked with hunting down and killing Wonder Woman. After tracking down the safehouse where Diana lives with the last surviving residents of Themyscira, Cheetah brutally ambushes and slays a young Amazon as she steps outside. Cheetah is then shown carrying the woman's body away from the scene, muttering about how she too will be reborn soon.
The Barbara Ann Minerva version of Cheetah appears in Injustice: Gods Among Us comic, she was in the villains bar World's End in Keystone City, watching another villain play darts when the Flash and Wonder Woman suddenly burst in. Cheetah is in disbelief, her claws ready, though Wonder Woman says they are only here for Mirror Master and they don't want trouble. When Cheetah approaches menacingly, asking, "And what if we want trouble?" Wonder Woman advises her against it, revealing the rest of the Justice League is outside and Cheetah backs off.
In the digital-first crossover with the cast of Scooby-Doo, Cheetah disguised herself as a ghost to attack the Hall of Justice alongside the rest of the Legion of Doom. Together, the Legion captured and shrunk each member of the Super Friends until only Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy, and Scooby-Doo were left. Scooby and his gang were able to hold off the Legion of Doom until the miniature Super Friends broke free from their captivity. After Scooby and Shaggy became Yellow Lanterns and restored the Super Friends to their normal size, Cheetah and the rest of the Legion of Doom were defeated.
Cheetah appears in several stories in the anthology series Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman. She battles Wonder Woman briefly in "Taketh Away," where it was revealed Doctor Psycho had been telepathically controlling Wonder Woman. In "Generations," she seeks out a mythical phoenix egg which is said to grant immortality. After a lengthy battle with Wonder Woman, Cheetah retreats. In "The Problem with Cats," a little girl plays with her sister's dolls, one of which is dressed up to look like the Priscilla Rich version of Cheetah. In "Island of Lost Souls," Barbara Minerva requests help from Wonder Woman to retrieve the plant to save Cheetah's life.
An illusion of Priscilla Rich appears in the second story arc of the comic book based on the Wonder Woman TV series, though she did not have any appearances in that television series. She, along with several other enemies, was created by Doctor Psycho in order to battle Wonder Woman. Cheetah exclaims, "I've waited decades for this moment," implying that she had battled Wonder Woman in the 1940s. Later in the series, Barbara Minerva becomes the Cheetah in an origin similar to that of her New 52 counterpart. Her source of power is revealed to come from the Egyptian goddess Mafdet. After a battle with Wonder Woman, she is taken into custody. Later, she reappears having escaped imprisonment. She convinces Clayface to attack Wonder Woman in order to restore his health. Cheetah is then seen working alongside the Riddler, Killer Croc, Clayface, and Mr. Freeze as part of Ra's al Ghul's League of Shadows. Together, the group ambushes Wonder Woman, Batman, Catwoman, Batgirl, and Nightwing in Arkham Asylum.
Barbara Minerva appears in Superman: American Alien as a young socialite aboard a birthday yacht intended for Bruce Wayne. There, she meets Clark Kent, and the two begin a brief romantic fling. She expresses interest in becoming an archaeologist, a nod to her main DC counterpart.
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