How Wonder Woman 1984’s Final Cheetah Version Is Different To The Comics
The latest trailer for Wonder Woman 1984 reveals Cheetah in all her glory, but how does the Kristen Wiig design compared to the DC comic books?
Kristen Wiig’s Cheetah in Wonder Woman 1984 has been fully unveiled at last, but how does she compare to the comics? Gal Gadot’s second solo outing as Diana Prince will feature a familiar face in Chris Pine’s returning Steve Trevor, but the film’s villainous duo will be entirely new. While Pedro Pascal dons a slimy power suit and schmoozes it up as Maxwell Lord, Kristen Wiig will play arguably Wonder Woman’s greatest nemesis, Cheetah, a.k.a. Barbara Ann Minerva. Wonder Woman 1984’s marketing has played its Cheetah cards close to its chest until now, holding back from fully revealing Wiig’s transformation.
The Wonder Woman 1984 cast kicked off DC’s FanDome event in style, welcoming several special guests in Lynda Carter and er, Venus Williams, but the real highlight of the panel was the second official trailer. The footage shows Lord promising citizens their deepest desires, Barbara wishing to be an “apex predator,” and Steve Trevor trying on a range of outfits that weren’t even acceptable in the 1980s. But the jewel in the new trailer’s crown is undoubtedly the first proper look at Kristen Wiig’s Cheetah in her full feline glory, since clips and images released previously only partially showed the Wonder Woman 1984 villain.
Now Cheetah’s completed look has been revealed, it’s worth comparing the character to the original Wonder Woman comics, since the Wonder Woman 1984 trailer doesn’t just show Barbara transformed into Joe Exotic’s worst nightmare, but also spotlights her fighting capabilities and gives strong hints as to her origin story. Here’s how Kristen Wiig’s Cheetah compares to the DC comics.
Wonder Woman 1984’s Cheetah Design
The furry villain swings wildly as she battles Diana, her long tail following behind. While many live-action villains based on animals attempt to tone down the original design or ground a character in the real world (think Michael Keaton as Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming) Kristen Wiig’s Cheetah design is incredibly faithful to the comic books. The first thing to notice is that Cheetah’s body is completely transformed. The fully-morphed Barbara Ann Minerva is covered in speckled fur across her whole body, while her limbs have taken on a more cat-like shape to accommodate her four-legged fighting style. If anything, this version is even more animalistic than the majority of Cheetah’s designs in the comic books.
One of the most striking elements in Cheetah’s design is her hair, as Kristen Wiig’s golden blonde locks flow freely from Cheetah’s head as she leaps through the air. While some comic designs have extended Cheetah’s fur all across the villain’s head to mimic the real-world animal, most versions retain Barbara’s human hair, so once again, Wonder Woman 1984 is taking big cues from the source material. One element Wonder Woman 1984 does change is Cheetah’s traditional darker hair, with the character’s mane usually brown or red, where Wiig’s is obviously blonde. In the grand scheme of comic book movie character designs, this is a fairly minor alteration.
A more significant difference between live-action Cheetah and her comic counterpart,however, is the predominant color shade of the villain. Cheetah is usually a striking orange complexion in most comics, with a pale underbelly below. Although it could be the lighting of the scene, Kristen Wiig’s Cheetah appears to be sporting paler fur all over. This could be to better suit the natural blonde of the actress, or Patty Jenkins may be attempting to make a human woman turning into a cat somewhat believable by toning down the bright fur of the comics. Another alteration is in Cheetah’s face, which Wonder Woman 1984 had made distinctly more human and evil-looking. The intention here is likely to bring more of Wiig’s performance and facial expressions into the character, while the darker lines are possibly a symptom of Barbara’s deteriorating condition.
Cheetah’s Fighting Style In Wonder Woman 1984
Cheetah appears to have two distinct fighting styles in Wonder Woman 1984 – one in her human (or part-human) guise, and a completely different approach when fully transformed into a cat. Barbara is seen fighting Diana in an ornate hallway and she spins violently through the air towards the Amazonian princess like something out of Street Fighter. The same sequence sees Barbara catching Wonder Woman’s lasso around her forearm and dragging her opponent across the room, showcasing superhuman strength even in her civilian identity. When the fully-transformed Cheetah is doing battle with Wonder Woman (this time in her snazzy new golden armor), the villain’s movements are much more feline. Cheetah is seen swinging from cables and bouncing off rock faces with impressive speed, rivaling Diana’s own super-powered jumps. Like her namesake in the animal kingdom, Cheetah uses all four limbs to move, running across walls and adopting a low center of gravity. It’s certainly no stretch to say that Cheetah appears to fight more like a genuine animal than a regular supervillain.
The fighting style Cheetah adopts in Wonder Woman 1984 is, again, very close to the comic books. Both iterations use their claws and immense speed to do battle, and both have the qualities of the animal they take their name from. The latest trailer doesn’t show any abilities that aren’t present in the comic books, and Wiig’s Cheetah shouldn’t have any surprises up her sleeve in terms of additional superpowers. The one big difference comes when Barbara faces off against Diana while still in her high-heeled human state. In the comics, Barbara didn’t possess superpowers without first transforming into Cheetah, and the classic incarnation of the character sought a way to ensure she could make the transformation at will, rather than relying on potions. As evidenced by the scene where Barbara hurls Wonder Woman across a room by her lasso, the villain clearly has some degree of superhuman strength even without morphing.
How Wonder Woman 1984 Changes Cheetah’s Origin Story
In the DC comics, the Cheetah name has been bestowed upon several different characters with a wide variety of origin stories. Barbara Ann Minerva’s history alone has been altered several times over the years, but Wonder Woman 1984 appears to be adapting the DC Rebirth Cheetah origin, the most recent of her assorted backstories. In this comic book continuity, Barbara is a friend and colleague of Diana’s, and she’s interested in mythology and gods but jealous of the Amazonian’s power and greatness. She travels to Africa and is imbued with divine Cheetah powers by a God known as Urzkartaga, paying the price with a cannibalistic hunger. This only strengthens her hatred of Wonder Woman, as Barbara blames Diana for the transformation.
Exactly how Barbara Ann Minerva becomes Cheetah in Wonder Woman 1984 hasn’t been laid out, but it’s clear that some elements from this comic origin have made their way into live-action. Kristen Wiig’s Barbara certainly has a connection with Diana, as the pair are seen at a lab together and talking over a drink. At some point in the sequel (perhaps even from the beginning) Barbara becomes aware that Diana and Wonder Woman are the same person. The trailer features the revealing Barbara line “you always had everything, while people like me had nothing… now it’s my turn.” This evokes the same kind of envy toward Diana that has always been at the heart of Cheetah in the comics.
In a significant departure from DC lore, however, the actual mechanics of Barbara’s transformation appear to have more to do with Maxwell Lord than meeting an ancient god of plants in the African jungle. Lord promises the world whatever their hearts desire, and this ability seems to bring Steve Trevor back from the dead. Barbara’s interest is also piqued by Lord’s announcement, and she can be heard saying “I don’t want to be like anyone, I want to be an apex predator.” This line would seem to imply that Maxwell Lord is the one responsible for turning Barbara into Cheetah, although her motivations for wanting to transform in Wonder Woman 1984 remain loyal to the comics.