34 years ago - Barbara Ann Minerva is born in Nottinghamshire, England, the heir to the vast Minerva fortune.
20 years ago - 14-year-old Barbara begins adventuring around the world looking for archeological marvels.
16 years ago - 18-year-old Barbara goes to Oxford to study archeology.
12 years ago - 22-year-old Barbara gets her bachelor's degree & begins her draguate work.
11 years ago - 23-year-old Barbara befriends Diana Prince, working together to find powerful Amazonian artifacts from around the world.
10 years ago - 24-year-old Barbara gets her masters degree, now the world's leading expert on the aquisition of Amazonian Artifacts.
8 years ago - 26-year-old Barbara betrays Diana Prince, taking a cerimonial knife to an african goddess of the hunt & performing a blood ritual with Amazonian magic to become Cheetah, stealing Diana's ability to commune with beasts. She joins Dr. Sivanna's Secret Society.
7 years ago - 27-year-old Barbara participates in Circe's Godwar, acting as an agent of her patron goddess, gaining more control over her curse.
5 years ago - 29-year-old Barbara has her power usurped by Sebastian Ballesteros. She uses her knowledge of magical artifacts to overpower him, kill him, and drink his blood, retaking her curse.
4 years ago - 30-year-old Barbara, to complete her control over her own curse, poisons Diana Prince making her slowly revert to clay, slowed only by her magic lasso. They battle within the depths of her god's domain, until Diana strips her of her curse and leaves her powerless in the jungle.
1 year ago - 33-year-old Barbara finds a way to restore her powers, now fully in control of them She joins the Legion of Doom in an effort to confront Diana Prince once and for all.
While perhaps not as popular as other classic DC villains, Wonder Woman actually has a very varied and complex villains gallery, and Cheetah is one of her most important enemies. Her heavy hitters are incredibly powerful sorceresses and gods, and while there is a mystical element to Cheetah as well she operates in a much more physical way, presenting a direct challenge to Wonder Woman's combat prowess. This is supported by an ideological conflict between the characters that makes her an excellent nemesis. Cheetah is perhaps not always recognized as one of the great villains in DC's pantheon at large, but she is absolutely one of the most important baddies there is.
Cheetah's Comic History
The original Cheetah appeared in Wonder Woman #6 back in 1943. Wonder Woman creator William Moulton Marston (along with his co-creators Elizabeth Marston & Olive Byrne) used the villains they created for Wonder Woman for very specific purposes. This original Cheetah, Priscilla Rich, was invented as a vain, spoiled debutante driven insane with jealousy. She didn't have any powers at all; instead she was shown wearing a catsuit. This idea was revisited decades later in Alex Ross's 2005 series Justice, which depicted Priscilla Rich a wearing the actual skin of a cheetah after having engaged in a ritual to assume it's power.
This visual of a human woman wearing a catsuit to fight Wonder Woman was used for another character in 1980; Deborah Domaine was a friend of Diana and the niece of Priscilla Rich who was brainwashed by Kobra to become their agent against Wonder Woman.
After the Crisis of Infinite Earths, while George Perex was retelling Wonder Woman's orgin story, He and Wolverine creator Len Wein created a new version of Cheetah. This new version wasn't wearing a costume; Barbara Ann Minerva was a british archeologist that had used a artifact the become the avatar of an african god of the hunt in much the same way that Wonder Woman was the avatar of several greek goddesses.
These stories established that Barbara was already the Cheetah by the time she met Diana, and that she was trying to add her golden lasso to her collection of artifacts. In the post new-52 continuity, her story has been altered to establish that before she became an avatar to her god's power she was actually a friend and ally to Diana. While we generally skip over most story innovations introduced after 2011 this one is particularly good.
Also, Cheetah's god, Urzkartaga, is generally described as male plant god. We happen to think it makes more sense is her patron god is a goddess of the hunt instead.
Our Cheetah Story
Like a lot of the various supporting characters and villains in the Wonder Woman mythology, Barbara Ann Minerva has seen her story restructured and reimaged a number of times to accomidate the multiple retellings of Diana's history. To make our version of the character, we wanted to make sure we focused on the elements of her story that both made her the most singular, consistant character we could, but also focused on her relationship and antagonism with Diana. Villains should always serve to make the hero better and more interesting.
To that end, we used the idea that Barbara begins her part in the story as a close ally to Diana. Making her an adventurous british heiress and archeologist gives her a distinctive Lara Croft energy, and to have her focus on collecting Amazonian artifacts from around the world easily makes her one of Diana's closest friends. The betrayal, then, when she chooses to steal on of the artifacts to make her the avatar of an african goddess of the hunt, is character-defining. Many classic Wonder Woman villains are meant as metaphors for qualities that stand in the way of the loving purity the character was meant to represent, and Cheetah was always one of the best examples of that, personifying selfishness and anger. We simply allowed that to be the focus of the character across her story.
Cheetah has actually gone through quite a few revisions to her look. Obviously, there have been more than one Cheetah, and the first several wore catsuits rather than actually being feline/human hybrids, so there is that, but even during the career of Barbara Minerva we've seen a shift. This is largely a reflection of just how in control over her curse she is being written; sometimes she appears as a beastial monstrosity that is barely in control of her actions, and other times she is completely in control and just a cunning villain.
So how do WE want to depict her? While there might be some merit in making her a more sympathetic villain by depicting her as a victim of her curse, she's overal more effective if she is actually in control. Perhaps early in her career, when she first willingly gives over to her curse, she is far more besital, appearing nude save for her fur, regularly killing and eating her victims. As time goes by, however, we see her taking more control over her curse and less beastial, wearing clothes over her fur and proving how cunning and brutal she can be when she is making her own choices. This really lets the fact that she was once a close friend and ally of Diana's really carry some narrative weight and makes her stand out as one of the greatest members of not just Wonder Woman's rogues gallery, but all of DC's.
Cheetah was always depicted as a member of the Legion of Doom, so it's important that she does so here as well. This means that as we leave our timeline, she is gearing up to appear in the storyarc where the new Justice League is confronted by the Legion. Obviously, Cheetah will be one of their front-line combatants.
Moving forward; Cheetah's focus has always been on enhancing her own power by stealing from the Amazons. She is a fantastic nemesis to Diana not only because they were once close friends, but because their ideologies seem so dimetrically opposed; Diana is focused on being compassionate towards others, while Barbara is so focused on enhancing herself at the expense of others. While you can't help but wonder what might happen if Barbara ever turned over a new leaf and allied herself with the Amazons, that seems unlikely to ever happen. Instead, one imagines that these two will simply be inable to continue to both exist in the world. Like Batman and the Joker; one day, there is likely to be a reckoning from which only one of them will walk away.