One of Wonder Woman’s oldest and most formidable enemies is Chita. In fact, Chita has been around in one form or another since the 1940s, when it was created by Wonder Woman creator William Moulton Marston, along with illustrator HG Peter.
Of all the characters who collide with Wonder Woman, it’s hard to think of one that has caused the Amazon warrior more conflict than the feline Fatal Woman. Only the God of War, Ares, has a longer and more connected history with Wonder Woman. But with Chita, things are personal in a different way. That being said, there have been numerous versions of Cheetah over the years, just as there have been multiple reboots to the DC continuity, which has resulted in a number of versions of this villain, not all the same.
6 Sebastian Ballesteros
One of the things that makes the dynamic between Chita and Wonder Woman so compelling is that they are two strong women who defy each other’s worldviews. Sebastián Ballesteros, the only male to wear the Chita mantle, undermines this dynamic.
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Created by Phil Jimenez and Joe Kelly, this version of Cheetah, called by some fans « He-tah, » debuted in 2001 in Wonder Woman # 170. Like Barbara Ann Minerva, Sebastian Ballesteros became Cheetah by making a pact with the evil plant god Urzkartaga. Sebastian fights Wonder Woman and rises up as a new threat, but after only a handful of appearances, he is assassinated in issue # 206. Sebastian had a compelling story involving military dictatorships and corrupt business practices that went too far, but To gain his powers as he did, much of the established DC canon was ignored.
5 Deborah « Debbi » Domaine
The second Chita is Debbi Domaine, a wealthy socialist and environmentalist who discovers that her aunt Priscilla was the villain Chita. Even when she discovers the costume at her aunt’s house, she is kidnapped by the Kobra cult. Suspended in midair and electrified, Debbi is bombarded with images of environmental devastation, brainwashing her into becoming the Cheetah (and giving her a new costume).
Created by Gerry Conway and José Delbo, Debbi is an obvious attempt to update the villain, especially since it was getting hard to believe that a woman from the 1940s could keep running around committing crimes dressed in a cat costume. Having no powers or agency, Debbi is not as impressive as a villain, and would be replaced a few years later.
4 Priscilla Rich
The original cheetah is Priscilla Rich, who appeared in Wonder Woman Magazine Issue 6 from 1943. After being overshadowed by Wonder Woman in front of a crowd during a public theatrical show, Priscilla tried to kill the Amazons during the performance. Diana was about to perform an artistic act of escape while chained and underwater, but Priscilla tied Wonder Woman’s noose around her – the only item the Amazons couldn’t get through. Wonder Woman narrowly escapes by chewing on her hood and sneaking out of the ties.
William Marston created both Cheetah and Wonder Woman. Her stories and characters were deeply symbolic of the issues that mattered to her, and Priscilla Rich is an example of the monstrosity of jealousy. Although he has no powers, he begins to dress up as a cat to attack Wonder Woman.
3 Barbara Ann Minerva (New 52)
Barbara Ann Minerva is the version of Cheetah that most fans probably know. Appearing after the Crisis on Infinite Earths storyline, Dr. Minerva was created by George Perez and Len Wein and made her debut in 1987’s Wonder Woman # 7. Unfortunately, that’s not the version of the character featured here.
The New 52 was the result of DC Comics restarting all its continuity once again, as it had previously done with Crisis on Infinite Earths. Some characters were updated and improved. Wonder Woman and the characters linked to her were some of the most mishandled. While the character’s bare bones remained, this new reinterpretation of Dr. Minerva was brought up by her aunt, the head of a female supremacist cult who worshiped the Amazons as goddesses of the hunt. Although this gives her pathos, it undermines the force that makes Chita so compelling. Also, she empowered herself by intentionally stabbing herself in the chest with a god-possessed knife because Wonder Woman laughed at her, which seems unnecessary.
2 Barbara Ann Minerva (Post-Crisis)
Dr. Minerva’s original version of the post-crisis world is the one most fans know about. This brilliant scholar tried to trick Wonder Woman into thinking she had a second version of the Lasso of Truth. When the scam failed, Dr. Minerva made a pact with the blood-drinking plant deity Urzkartaga, marrying the god in exchange for primal predatory powers.
Given the strength of the gods, Dr. Minerva was able to wound Diana, whose own gods-given abilities were not enough to defend herself against this predator. Time and time again, this new cheetah proved to be as smart, strong, fast and tough as Wonder Woman, without lacking the morality or restraint of the Amazon princess. She also shares the Amazons’ understanding of history and mythology, turning them into dark mirrors of each other.
1 Barbara Ann Minerva (Post-Birth)
As with Crisis on Infinite Earths and The New 52, 2016 saw another reboot of the DC Universe known as Rebirth. In fact, while it was technically a soft reboot, the Renaissance was made in response to the backlash against The New 52 who mistreated so many characters, and no example of this is better than the ways in which Wonder Woman had been dramatically altered.
Writer Greg Rucka was tasked with fixing the continuity of Wonder Woman, which involved remaking her origins. When Wonder Woman entered the world of men, Dr. Minerva was the brilliant classical linguist and archaeologist who helped translate the ancient Amazonian language into English and taught Wonder Woman to speak English. They developed a deep friendship, and Dr. Minerva fell in love with Wonder Woman’s dear friend, Etta Candy. When she succumbed to the influence of the god Urzkartaga, it was a tragic fall, leaving her not merely transformed, but cruelly deformed by an abusive god who mistreated her. The post-rebirth version of Chita has a pathos and intelligence not seen in previous versions of the character, and a personal connection with Diana that infuses each of her encounters with emotion. They care for each other, and neither can save the other. This is Chita at her best.