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The Cheetah is a fictional character, a comic book supervillainess in DC Comics publications and related media. Commonly regarded as the archenemy of Wonder Woman, the Cheetah first appeared in 1943 in Wonder Woman #6 (volume 1), written by Wonder Woman creator William Moulton Marston. Since then, the character has undergone several updates as comic book continuities have evolved and shifted. Indeed, there have been four different Cheetahs since the character's premiere, including Priscilla Rich (the Golden Age Cheetah), Deborah Domaine (the Silver Age Cheetah), Barbara Ann Minerva (the modern age and current Cheetah), and Sebastian Ballesteros (a male usurper who briefly assumed the role in 2001). In 2009, Cheetah was ranked as IGN's 69th Greatest Comic Book Villain of All Time.

Golden Age and Silver Age comics history

Prior to the 12-issue DC Comics series Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1985 (which is regarded as the starting point for DC's modern continuity), 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 would possess superhuman powers, Rich and Domaine did not.

Priscilla Rich

Cover to Wonder Woman #6, the Cheetah's first appearance.
Art by Harry G.

The first woman to become the Cheetah, in Wonder Woman #6 (October 1943), was Priscilla Rich, a 1940s-era blonde Washington, D.C.marker debutante of aristocratic upbringing who also had an overwhelming inferiority complex and suffered from a split personality. After being eclipsed by Wonder Woman at a charity event, Priscilla retreated to her room and collapsed before her makeup mirror. There she saw an image of a woman dressed like a cheetah. "Horrors!" she cried, as she gazed at her evil inner self for the first time. "Don't you know me?" replied the reflection. "I am the REAL you — the Cheetah — a treacherous, relentless huntress!" The image commanded her to fashion a Cheetah costume. "From now on," intoned the reflection, "when I command you, you shall go forth dressed like your TRUE self and do as I command you..."

Priscilla was a member of Villainy Inc., a criminal association between several of Wonder Woman's female foes.

Priscilla had several run-ins with Wonder Woman before retiring to her North Shore Marylandmarker mansion. In Wonder Woman #274 (Dec. 1980), the villain Kobra attempted to recruit the villainess for his organization. His operative found the reclusive Priscilla an invalid. Priscilla's niece Deborah Domaine had come at her bidding, and the operative stayed to observe. Before Priscilla could unburden her alter ego as the Cheetah, she died.

Modern Age comics history

The original Cheetah, Priscilla Rich, was established as still existing post-Crisis when Queen Hippolyta became the Golden Age Wonder Woman. In the present, she was seen as an elderly woman when she was murdered by Barbara Minerva (the Modern Age Cheetah; see below). It was also established that she had never become an invalid post-Crisis, as Minerva mentioned how Priscilla had written books condemning her when she became the Cheetah. Rich was murdered in her home by Minerva, under the urging of Zoom. Zoom theorized that if Minerva killed Rich, she would solidify herself as the one true Cheetah and thus be a better villain.

In the first two issues of the non-continuity Super Friends comic book series, Priscilla teamed with a group of other villains (Penguin, Toyman, Poison Ivy, and Human Flying Fish) to mentor junior criminals. Priscilla's partner was a teenage girl going by the name Kitten.

Priscilla also appeared as the Cheetah in Justice, an out-of continuity series that though updated, hearkens back to the Golden Age in its presentation.

Deborah Domaine

Deborah Domaine as the second Cheetah, with Kobra.
Art by Jose Delbo.
After Priscilla Rich died, Kobra's operative returned Deborah and the Cheetah costume to Kobra's headquarters, where he questioned 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 brainwashed Debbi and provided her with an updated version of the Cheetah costume. The original suit included a cat-eared cowl and clawed, flat-soled boots. Debbi's version had an V-neck, slit to the sternum, a headband with cat-ears (concealed for the most part beneath her long, brown hair), and four-inch heeled boots. Both costumes included razor-sharp chrome steel nails, painted bright red. "You are my servant, and I, your master. You are the Cheetah!" he cried, "And you will fill the world with terror!" Debbi also had several conflicts with Wonder Woman and also served 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 was retconned out of existence due to the history-altering after effects of the Crisis on Infinite Earths (1985–1986). Debbie herself still exists post-Crisis, as referenced by a photo in Priscilla Rich's mansion inscribed to "Aunt Priscilla, Love Debbie."


There have been two post-Crisis Cheetahs: Barbara Minerva and Sebastian Ballesteros, Minerva being the more prominent of the two. While the pre-Crisis Cheetahs were simply women in costumes, the post-Crisis Cheetahs have taken on a more mystical note; actually morphing into powerfully ferocious humanoid were-cheetahs with great strength, agility and deadly claws and fangs which have made them challenging opponents to Wonder Woman in battle.

Barbara Ann Minerva

Barbara Minerva as the Cheetah.
Art by George Perez.

The third Cheetah is British anthropologist Dr. Barbara Ann Minerva. Born as the heiress of a vast fortune in the ancient family site in Nottinghamshiremarker. Ambitious, selfish and severely neurotic, Barbara was raised by servants and tutors, since her parents Sir Andrew and Lady Laura Minerva spent most of their time hunting for exotic game. At age seventeen she was in a car accident that killed her parents and left her severely disabled in one leg. This did not stop her academic career; now having unlimited funds, she decided to search out a tribe in Africa who utilized a female guardian with the powers of a cheetah. A band of marauders killed the guardian and most of what remained of her original expedition party. Then Barbara, with the aid of the priest, Chuma, the caretaker of the ancient plant god Urtzkartaga, took her place after being told that she would gain immortality. Her powers were 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 was supposed to be a virgin. Minerva was not, so her transformations were part curse and part blessing, as she experienced severe pain while in her human form and blood-thirsty euphoria while in her cat form.

This version of The Cheetah came into Wonder Woman's world when Barbara discovered that Diana possessed the Lasso of Truth. As an anthropologist Barbara came to covet the lasso in the hopes to add it to her collection of historical items. She first attempted to do so through trickery, claiming that there was a matching ancient Golden Girdle of Gaea of the same kind from which the lasso was fashioned. Unfortunately, although the scheme proceeded far enough for Minerva to hold the lasso, its magical power to make people to tell the truth forced her to confess her true intentions. Diana, profoundly distraught that a fellow woman would be so treacherous, took back the lasso and returned home in tears. With the subtle approach having failed, Minerva later resorted to attacking the Amazon as The Cheetah to rob her of the lasso and their initial battle ensued with inconclusive results considering Diana's friend, Julia Kapatelis, shot the Cheetah and forced her to retreat.

Over the years, Barbara's interest in the lasso waned and she became more interested in besting Diana in battle due to her bruised ego. The two's rivalry has fluctuated at times, though. Wonder Woman saved the Cheetah's life during an adventure in the Balkan country of Pan Balgravia. The country's dictator Baron Von Nastraed, for unknown reasons, chose to aid a demon named Drax by capturing a powerful meta-human woman. The captive woman's body would be used to house Drax's alternate dimension bride Barremargux. When the Baron captured the Cheetah for this purpose Wonder Woman traveled to the country to save her. At the last moment when Barremargux was about to enter the DC dimension, Barbara closed the gateway before the crossing could be completed by jumping into the gateway instead. Barbara was trapped in this demonic dimension until the Boston mob boss Julianna Sazia had scientists open the dimensional gateway again to retrieve Barbara to serve her own ends. Barbara double-crossed Julianna though, choosing to aid Wonder Woman when she became 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 has continued in her quest to defeat Wonder Woman when it became convenient to her.

For a brief period of time, Minerva lost her powers to the businessman Sebastian Ballesteros (see below), who had convinced Urtzkartaga that he could be a more effective Cheetah than she was. Minerva later killed Ballesteros and regained her powers.

With help from Zoom, Minerva attained a level of super-speed that she previously had not possessed. She accomplished this by murdering Priscilla Rich, who previously went by the codename Cheetah. They later joined the latest Secret Society of Super Villains, and they seemed to be engaged in a sexual relationship, even though Zoom considers himself to still be married to his former wife.

One Year Later, the witch Circe placed 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 through either guise. She possessed control of three actual Cheetahs and still possessed her super-speed, which was shown by her being able 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 was seen in Salvation Run.

In the Final Crisis: Resist, she joins forces with Checkmate to rebel against Darkseid, and enjoys a brief sexual relationship with Snapper Carr.

In the pages of Wonder Woman, she was 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.

Sebastian Ballesteros

Argentinemarker business tycoon Sebastian Ballesteros became the fourth Cheetah, as well as the only male Cheetah. He was an agent of the Amazon's enemy, Circe, as well as her lover. He sought 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 made the case that the previous Cheetahs had failed in their actions and that a male Cheetah could be superior. Once Urzkartaga was convinced, Barbara Minerva's access to The Cheetah was cut off and Sebastian was given the power in her place. Later, Sebastian also proved 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 battled Bellesteros for control of the power of The Cheetah by becoming the temporary host of Tisiphone, one of the Eumenides or Furies. Much like herself, Minerva accessed this new power by stealing it from the Furies former host, Helena Kosmatos, the Golden Age Fury. This did not assist her in regaining the right to be The Cheetah, however, though Minerva was later able to kill Sebastian in his human form, regaining her Cheetah form as a result. She was later seen giving his blood to the Urzkartaga plant as a sacrifice.

Other media


Challenge of the Super Friends

The Priscilla Rich version of Cheetah appears in Challenge of the Super Friends and was played by Marlene Aragon vocally.

South Park

In the "Krazy Kripples" episode of the TV show South Park, the Legion of Doom is spoof. The Legion has a member that looks like Cheetah (Priscilla Rich).

Cartoon Network commercials

Cartoon Network periodically spoofs the Super Friends cartoon series in a variety of commercials using the original voice actors. Speculating that Marlene Aragon reprised her role as The Priscilla Rich Cheetah as a background character.

Wonder Woman (audio book)

In 1982, the Wonder Woman audio book story "Cheetah on the Prowl" was released with actress Sonia Manzano vocally portraying the Deborah Domaine Cheetah.

Attack of the Show

In an episode of Attack of the Show a short listed problems with being Wonder Woman listed #3 as "Your Villains are Lame," and featured Blair Butler (who also wrote the short) dressed as Cheetah attacking Olivia Munn (who was playing Wonder Woman), only to be easily beaten. Butler would then reprise the role in a second short entitled "Wonder Woman's Guide to Office Safety," in which Cheetah emerged from a refrigerator after being formed from an old lunch containing correct chemical components essential to creating her.

Justice League

Cheetah, as she appeared in the Justice League's animated series.
In the Cartoon Network's Justice League, there is a new Cheetah played by voice actress Sheryl Lee Ralph. The producers have said she is Dr. Minerva, but she has a different form and origin. This Dr. Barbara Minerva was once a biologist who was doing valuable genetics research, but her funding was running out, and was unable to perform proper experiments. In a last ditch effort to prove the value of her research, she tested her theories on herself. The result was a mutation into a half-human-half-cat hybrid. She was shunned by the scientific community for her recklessness and ostracized by humanity as a freak. With no alternatives, she turned to crime to fund further research to undo the change.

Her first appearance was in the episode "Injustice for All" as a member of the Injustice Gang, and it was supposed to be her last; producer Bruce Timm intended for Cheetah to die. She joins Lex Luthor's Injustice Gang for the same reason she became a criminal in the first place: money - but unlike the others, she has little criminal intent, and merely wants to be normal again. When the Injustice Gang succeeds in capturing Batman, he realizes that Cheetah isn't like the others, and offers her a way out, in exchange for helping him topple Lex Luthor. However, Cheetah hesitates to take up Batman's offer. Instead, another disgruntled member betrays them. When Luthor realizes they have a traitor in their midst, he points the blame toward Cheetah, thanks to a clip from a security camera showing her and Batman kissing. She is defeated by Joker, and then Solomon Grundy takes her away, where he supposedly kills her by petting her to death — a reference to Lennie in Of Mice and Men.

Because she was killed in a typical comic book death — namely being dragged off screen to be executed — some assumed that Cheetah was not really dead and might come back. The series producers argued the point; James Tucker wanted to bring the sympathetic character back, while Bruce Timm insisted that she was an "ex-Cheetah." Cheetah was saved by the most unusual of saviors: an animation error. At the end of the episode, she appears alive and well in the back of the paddy wagon with the other members; once the producers saw the error, they decided it was easier to say she wasn't killed, but still haven't said how she got away from Grundy.

Justice League Unlimited

Sheryl Lee Ralph reprised her role as Cheetah in Justice League Unlimited. She has made minor appearances in the series after this, and was only heard speaking again in "Kid Stuff".

Cheetah joins Gorilla Grodd's Secret Society in the 2005–06 season of Justice League Unlimited, though she remains a minor character. Despite the original intent of the producers to have her killed in her first appearance, Cheetah actually ends up one of the few Legion members to survive the resurrection of Darkseid in the series finale.

Public Enemies

Cheetah appears in the animated movie Superman/Batman: Public Enemies where he is one of the many supervillains trying to collect the bounty on Superman.


Cheetah appears in a cameo at the end of the 2009 DC animated film Wonder Woman where she steals an artifact from a museum and is attacking the police. At which point, Wonder Woman changes into her costume, jumps over the police cars, wraps Cheetah with the Lasso of Truth and tugs Cheetah towards her, and just as she is about to deliver a punch, the film ends.

Video games

Justice League Task Force

The third comic book version of Cheetah (Barbara Ann Minerva) also appears in the Justice League Task Force video game as a playable character for the SNES and Sega Genesis.

DC Universe Online

Cheetah is set to appear in the upcoming video game DC Universe Online.

See also


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