Entertainment

The Surprising Origins of Wonder Woman and Her Nemesis The Cheetah

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Wonder Woman

Superheroes come from all kinds of origins – exploding planets, radioactive spiders, dead parents, you know the drill. But there’s only one character in funnybook history that sprang from the mind of a bondage-obsessed psychiatrist who was into threesomes.

William Moulton Marston was a 1940s proponent of the educational powers of comic books, and when hired by Max Gaines’ National Periodicals line he came up with a supercharacter who would defeat evil not with fisticuffs, but with love and a magic lasso.

Moulton based his heroine on his wife Elizabeth, as well as on his live-in mistress Olive Byrne. You heard me right – Willy Mars was getting it from two ladies in the same house. No wonder he loved women so much.

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The Amazon princess Wonder Woman made her debut in 1941, and has been published near-continuously for over sixty years since. Gifted with strength and endurance beyond mortal men, Wondy is also easily recognizable by her trademark weaponry – indestructible bracelets that she uses to deflect bullets, a golden lasso that forces whoever is snared by it to tell the truth, and an invisible plane. I bet that’s fun to find when you’re on a bender.

She started out battling the usual suspects of gangsters, Nazis, and vampires, but quickly branched out to more formidable foes. The early Wonder Woman stories are also notable for their treatment of the heroine’s hidden weakness – in keeping with Aphrodite’s Law (note: not a real law), she loses all her powers if a dude ties her up. The early adventures had a lot of that in it. Good clean fun, of course!

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As the character has aged, there have been tons of retcons and reinterpretations of her story, but the basics are that Diana was formed out of clay by the queen of the Amazons and gifted with the power of the Greek gods. This intense connection to ancient mythology has informed many of the character’s most memorable adventures.

What makes Wonder Woman such a compelling figure isn’t just her gender, it’s her unique personality – as part of DC’s “Trinity” (with Superman and Batman), she is a symbol of absolute truth, no matter what the consequences are, and her unflinching moral vision has resulted in the character performing actions that no other superhero would dare attempt, up to cold-blooded murder.

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The Cheetah

The Female Fury has no shortage of foes – the malevolent Dr. Psycho, mystical White Magician and moronic Angle Man, to name just three. But if we were to pick one enemy that has given Diana the most trouble over the years, it would have to be the Cheetah.

Feral and vicious where Wondy is regal and disciplined, she represents power left unchecked to wallow in bestial savagery. Oh, and she wears a really tight costume.

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The first Cheetah was Priscilla Rich, a debutante who Wonder Woman accidentally upstages at a charity event. This social humiliation brings out her dark alter ego, a cat-suited criminal who revels in chaos. Naturally, a crazy broad in a leopard-print jumpsuit isn’t really much of a match for a heroine with the strength of Hercules, so later iterations of the Cheetah got a kick up in the power department.

The current Cheetah is Barbara Minerva, a ruthless and cunning anthropologist who gained immortality after bonding with a pagan goddess in the jungles of Africa. In her human form, she’s a frail middle-aged woman in constant pain, but when she morphs to the Cheetah she’s a lightning-fast predator with claws that can even cut Wonder Woman’s steel-tough hide. Later on, she was also gifted with superhuman speed to rival that of the Flash.

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The Cheetah has been responsible for many of Wondy’s harshest defeats, including most recently the creation of the abomination known as Genocide. What makes the Cheetah so deadly is that within the animal rage lies a cold, calculating woman’s heart, who will stop at nothing to get revenge. Yeah, I think I dated her back in the 90s.

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