First Appearance: (Dr. Barbara Ann Minerva) Wonder Woman 7 (1987)
Creators: George Perez and Len Wein
Abilities: In addition to her archaeological expertise, claws, fangs, and bloodlust, she is a skilled fighter possessing superhuman strength, speed, and durability— with the intellect to match, making her a uniquely fierce adversary.
Backstory: Three women have held the title of the Cheetah: first, Priscilla Rich, then, Deborah Domaine, both of whom served as enemies of Wonder Woman in the Gold, Silver and Bronze Ages. Then came British Archaeologist Barbara Ann Minerva, an alternating enemy and ally to Diana, forever in search of balance between her human and animal natures.
Dr. Minerva always had a determined reputation for going to any lengths to retrieve historical artifacts—no matter the dangers. Unsurprisingly, this eventually resulted in tragedy. After growing increasingly obsessed with mythology and divinity, Dr. Minerva took her team deep into the wilderness of Africa, only to become trapped and forced to take part in an arcane, ancient ritual that cursed and transformed her into a human-cheetah hybrid with a primal lust for blood.
From Cheetah’s inception, the character has represented conflicting dual personas, but upon reintroduction of the character in the 1980’s, this conflict was given even greater nuance. Barbara Minerva would become less a classic mettlesome villain and more the victim of her own ambition and flawed attempts to break free from the confines of a curse and cure her agonizing physical condition. Still an archaeologist at heart, she is tempted by ancient artifacts like the Lasso of Truth, or the Godkiller sword; But her relationship with her patron Urzkartaga is often strained, and Barbara is punished by the god in cruel or usual ways that only deepened her hostility towards herself and others. As added turmoil, Barbara is unable to come to terms with her romantic relationships with women, (like Etta Candy at one point) which makes her self-loathing and descent even more tragic.
Once a friend of Wonder Woman’s, Barbara Ann blamed her transformation and torment on Diana’s inability to save her, and harbored an impassioned grudge against the superhero that drove her to madness. In spite of this, Diana, like the true warrior for love she is, never yields in trying to help her friend Barbara find peace.