Thursday, March 1, 2012
YEAR 1943: THE CHEETAH
Continuing somewhat in the feline themes seen in years 1940 and 1942, I give 1943 over to the Cheetah, often framed as Wonder Woman's most recognizeable antagonist, almost the "Joker" to WW's "Batman."
Some fans have wondered if Cheetah received so much attention in later retcons of the Amazon's feature because Cheetah was prominent in the 1970s SUPER FRIENDS cartoon. However, Giganta was in that cartoon as well, and hasn't seemed to make as much of an impression. It's at least interesting that within the sphere of the Golden Age Marston-Peter WONDER WOMAN comics, Cheetah is the only major foe who wears a "supervillain costume" as such. As best I remember, most Wonder Woman foes are either attired in mundane clothes (Paula Von Gunther) or in garments appropriate to some exotic locale (Clea, Zara).
In addition Cheetah's backstory possesses an elemental simplicity that's a bit more appealing than, say, a gorilla being turned into a spiteful human. Given the emblematic name "Priscilla Rich" as a way of showing her as a "poor little rich girl," Marston's script portrays the villainess as a woman tormented by an inferiority complex, resulting in a split personality and the separate persona of the Cheetah. Though she was never anywhere near the equal of the heroine in terms of sheer power, her bestial savagery made her a tough opponent in a battle, and to some extent the polar opposite of the sophisticated Diana's core value of self-restraint. The Golden Age battles of the two antagonists were necessarily restrained by the market of the times, though many later versions of the Cheetah have been more ferociously impressive.