The 'reborn' Cheetah that may appear in 'Wonder Woman 1984'
The new villain of the 'Wonder Woman' sequel just got a modern reimagining in the comics.
For millions of fans around the globe, 2019 will mark not only the concluding chapter in the most recent "Star Wars" trilogy, but also the return of one of the most beloved superheroes to ever grace the silver screen. Directed by American filmmaker Patty Jenkins and starring Israeli actress Gal Gadot, the "Wonder Woman 1984" aims to build upon the origin story of the first film with something wholly original and exciting.
"There’s so much to explore with this character who has 75 years of legacy, there’s so much material and so many ways and I’m psyched about it," Gadot, whose character portrayal inspired women all around the globe, told EW earlier this year.
While little is known about the sequel's plot line, Jenkins and Gadot have confirmed that they will be joined by American comedian Kristen Wiig in the role of the villain Cheetah. In late June, Jenkins even gave us a peek at Wiig as Dr. Barbara Ann Minerva, gazing at what we can only assume is her future spirit animal.
First appearing in the October 1943 issue of "Wonder Woman," Cheetah has been rebooted several times over the decades by various writers as a formidable and complicated foe to the warrior princess. The latest, which kicked off in 2016, came as part of DC Comics' "Rebirth" series, a line-wide relaunch of every hero from Batman to Superman to Wonder Woman.
Below are some highlights of this modern take on the famous DC Comics' cat and the possible subplots and character traits that could find their into Wiig's portrayal.
A larger focus on archaeology
While the character of Dr. Barbara Ann Minerva has always had roots as an archaeologist, American writer Greg Rucka and Brazilian artist Bilquis Evely really do an impressive job of building on this backstory in "Rebirth."
As a child, Minerva expresses a deep interest in mythology and language, an affinity that eventually leads her to master seven languages and earn 2 PhDs in archaeology. You can think of her as a kind of Lara Croft for the DC Comics world who just happens to one day turn into a cat with superpowers.
"This story is very thoughtful and human,” Evely said, "and I'm trying to bring this to the pages as well. We visit a lot of different places and archaeological reference points, which means I get to have a lot of fun! I think the readers will never see Barbara Ann in the same way again, after what Greg has been doing here!"
Giving Wiig a meaty backstory that's not just immediately about her fall into villainy will add some humanity to a character that later turns extremely vicious. Following Rucka's blueprint in "Rebirth" would be a welcome addition, especially for those already fans of Indiana Jones, Croft or the Uncharted video game series.
Minerva and Diana start off as friends
Minerva's backstory in "Rebirth" also features another intriguing subplot that makes her more than just the typical archetype villain: she and Wonder Woman were first and foremost close friends.
In "Rebirth," Minerva's develops a close relationship with Diana after being chosen by the U.S. military to help translate her language and teach her English. When Wonder Woman defeats Ares in a later battle, Minerva becomes intent on traveling the world to discover gods she now knows exist. This search leads her to launch an expedition to the fictional African nation of Bwunda to track down a powerful plant deity called Urzkartaga. Before she departs, she's given a GPS signaling device by Wonder Woman in case of trouble.
Unfortunately, the emergency device is sabotaged by the villain Dr. Cyber, and Wonder Woman fails to rescue Minerva from the clutches of Urzkartaga. She unknowingly blames Diana for never coming to her rescue and failing to prevent her from transforming into the vicious and inhuman Cheetah.
"You can see how becoming Cheetah, she would look at Diana and say, 'This is your fault. You did this to me. You did this to me. Until you came along, none of this was possible,'" said Rucka. "The second you get that, how does your heart not break for her a little bit? Especially when she says, 'We were friends,' and Diana says, 'Yes! And I still am. And I warned you. I said don’t, and you did it anyway.' That, to me, is far more compelling."
Enter the plant god
With the first "Wonder Woman" featuring no less than three villains (Ares, Doctor Poison, and General Erich Ludendorff), it's very likely that Jenkins will continue that theme in the sequel. To that end, we really hope the African plant god Urzkartaga is brought to life from the pages of "Rebirth."
Urzkartaga is an ageless, ancient male deity who draws power from women and blood sacrifices. He also takes brides, transforming them into a powerful demigod known as the Cheetah. In "Rebirth," Minerva is forcibly wed to Urzkartaga and turned into Cheetah.
"You missed my wedding, Diana... but you're still in time for the feast," Cheetah says in the comics. "You said you would come. You lied."
Rounding this possible trifecta of villains from "Rebirth" is Colonel Andres Cadulo, who attempts to free Urzkartaga from his jungle prison by sacrificing Steve Trevor. With Trevor already being dead and all from the first film (though rumors speak of a possible return), we're not sure if this particular storyline has any chance of playing out in the film.
A hunger for human flesh
While the pages of DC Comics have never shied away from showing blood, we'll see how they handle Cheetah's taste for it on the big screen. As part of her curse for becoming the cat, Minerva is faced with a near insatiable desire for human flesh. Her claws and teeth are so sharp they can even slice through Wonder Woman's near-impenetrable skin and armor.
Undoubtedly, Cheetah is a tortured soul, someone who went looking for the gods and was unintentionally transformed into a murderous feline as a result. That Minerva still lies buried inside her is something Wonder Woman is determined to find out, and risk it all in the process. Should this play out in the sequel, Wiig is going to face an immense challenge to pull off the animal and human sides conveyed so well in the comics.
A possible alliance
After decades of fighting Wonder Woman, Cheetah did the unexpected in "Rebirth" and finally teamed up with the warrior princess. This unlikely alliance came about after Wonder Woman lost her memory and sought out Minerva's help in locating her home island of Themyscira. Based on the archaeologists' obsession with the Amazons, she came to the conclusion that she alone could help point the way.
After a prolonged bloody battle, Cheetah agrees to assist if Wonder Woman in return will help defeat Urzkartaga and break her curse. The pair are successful in their mission and Minerva is returned to human form.
While this happy ending is not one that lasts for long in the comics, it's still something we can see Jenkins and Co. weaving into the sequel. The franchise is big on emotion and the power of love and the relationship between Minerva and Diana in "Rebirth" certainly qualifies. We'll just have to wait until Nov. 1, 2019, to see how this anticipated cat fight will play out on the big screen.
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