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Kristen Wiig’s Cheetah in Wonder Woman 1984 is an actual cheetah — here’s how

Wiig bares her fangs and shows her spots

kristin wiig as cheetah in wonder woman 1984 Image: Warner Bros. Pictures
Susana Polo is an entertainment editor at Polygon, specializing in pop culture and genre fare, with a primary expertise in comic books. Previously, she founded The Mary Sue.

Saturday Night Live alum Kristen Wiig will costar as Cheetah in Warner Bros.’ Wonder Woman 1984, one of Wonder Woman’s fiercest foes. This weekend, at DC FanDome, Warner Bros.’ sneak peek of the delayed movie gave us our first look at the totally transformed villain in a brand new trailer.

Behold, the bride of Urzkartaga!

Wonder Woman 1984’s Cheetah follows comic book tradition, depicting Barbara Minerva as a fearsome anthropomorphic feline, equipped with a lashing tail and deadly claws.

Who is Cheetah?

As one of Wonder Woman’s oldest foes, Cheetah has almost as many incarnations and retoolings as the heroine herself. In her original incarnation, crafted by Wonder Woman creator William Moulton Marston, she had no superpowers, just a burning jealousy of Wonder Woman and a spotted cat costume.

But in her modern incarnation, Cheetah has been molded into something of a funhouse mirror of Wonder Woman’s drive and origins. She is also a woman who endowed with godly power, but where Diana derives her powers from gods who she loves and respects, Cheetah sought power for more selfish reasons. And her godly patrons are anything but reciprocal to her “devotion.”

In her most recent incarnation, and — for my money — the likeliest to appear in the film, Barbara Anne Minerva is an archeologist and anthropologist, who dedicated her life to seeking the true divine in what most people consider to be legends. Under the pens of writer Greg Rucka and artists Liam Sharp and Nicola Scott, Minerva was greatly motivated by meeting and working with Diana when she first arrived in man’s world with proof that the Amazons existed. The revelation that Themyscira was truly real drove Minerva to seek out other evidence of ancient gods.

Eventually, she found it, in the form of the fictional god Urzkartaga, who transformed her body and endowed it with powers — great strength, razor claws and teeth, a predator’s hunting senses and reflexes — at a heavy price — uncontrollable bloodlust and cannibalistic urges.

Cheetah and Wonder Woman in Wonder Woman #3, DC Comics, 2016. Liam Sharp/DC Comics

Unable to escape Urzkartaga’s “blessing,” Cheetah’s self-loathing and shame twists itself into a hatred of Wonder Woman. She blames her for igniting her quest for the divine, and for not saving her from herself. In the hands of a good writer, she’s like some of the most compelling and famous Batman villains: Dangerous and tragic in equal measure.

Wiig’s Cheetah isn’t the only Wonder Woman villain appearing in Wonder Woman 1984 — Pedro Pascal is on hand to play Maxwell Lord, a powerful business mogul with suspicious motivations. (Also, in the comics, he eventually got mind control powers and went full supervillain.)

Wonder Woman 1984 is set to hit theaters on Oct. 2, 2020. Gal Gadot and Chris Pine will reprise their roles as Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor, with Patty Jenkins returning to direct.

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