Comics on Film: Wonder Woman vs. Her Arch-Nemesis in 2019's Sequel, Played by ... Kristen Wiig?!

Comics on Film: Wonder Woman vs. Her Arch-Nemesis in 2019's Sequel, Played by ... Kristen Wiig?!

Mar 02, 2018

It's as natural as the sun shining during daytime: a superhero always has that one, primary villain who is such a constant thorn in their side that it establishes an iconic rivalry resulting in an epic clash of thoughts, ideas, and fisticuffs (and sometimes more).

Superheroes versus their most iconic enemies in superhero film adaptations have evolved a lot over the past 40 years, but when the time comes, the introduction of the arch-nemesis — the baddest of the bad for those heroes' respective rogues galleries — brings a lot of anticipation.

 

Cinematic Trends in Joining the Battle Between Hero vs. Arch-Nemesis

It used to be the common thread that when a superhero movie released their first entry in a series, they would automatically face off against their nemesis. In Superman: The Movie, the Man of Steel clashed with career criminal Lex Luthor. In 1989's Batman, the Caped Crusader immediately locked proverbial horns with the Joker. Magneto showed up immediately in the first X-Men film (actually being the first mutant you see in that movie), and Spider-Man cut his teeth as a hero against the Green Goblin in Sam Raimi's first film with those characters.

Nowadays, superhero movies are seen more broadly as episodic entries within longer film series, and they usually — with a few exceptions, of course, like Captain America: The First Avenger — make an attempt to work up to the most iconic villain for a film's featured hero, leaving that villain out of "movie 1." In the rebooted Batman Begins, for instance, director Christopher Nolan only briefly hinted at the Joker at the end of his "movie 1" before unleashing the most definitive cinematic depiction of the timeless Batman/Joker conflict in the sequel, The Dark Knight.

Superman faced off first against General Zod in the similarly rebooted Man of Steel before staring down Lex Luthor for the first time in a new continuity in that movie's direct follow-up, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. On the front of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Mordo (not yet "Baron Mordo") appeared as a supporting hero in Doctor Strange, and will likely be ready to take his primarily villainous place against the good Doctor in that film's sequel. Beyond that, several movies in, Iron Man has yet to face off against the real Mandarin!

That brings us to Wonder Woman, where in her first film, she fought against the machinations of Ares, the God of War, and how he had sowed chaos globally during the First World War. Her second film is fast approaching with Gal Gadot returning alongside director Patty Jenkins and we may now have an idea about who she'll be facing off against: her arch-nemesis, the Cheetah.

 

Cheetah: Bringing Out the Nemesis for Wonder Woman 2

While there's some reasonable debate among Wonder Woman comics fans about who exactly Diana's arch-nemesis is, the candidates are usually not in question: it's either the sorceress Circe, or it's Cheetah. In terms of the most well-known rogues' gallery in comics, it can likely be generally viewed like this: Circe is a high-level foe who is much more of a physical and mental match for the hero, like Ra's al Ghul is to Batman. When it comes to the personal, constantly-present adversary, though? That's the Joker in Batman's world, and it seems like that's the role Cheetah fulfills in Wonder Woman's realm.

That's not to say Cheetah is anything like the Joker, though. Where the Joker's danger comes from his unpredictability and general mental instability, Cheetah is brilliant, vicious, neurotic and ambitious. While there have been at least four versions of Cheetah across DC Comics' publication history, the incumbent seems to be the most potent, especially for an upcoming cinematic sequel: archaeologist Dr. Barbara Minerva. While the first version of the Cheetah appeared as far back as 1943, Dr. Minerva's incarnation came with the large post-Crisis on Infinite Earths reorganization of DC Comics continuity, was created by Len Wein and George Pérez, and first appeared in Wonder Woman (vol. 2) #7 from 1987.

Since then, Cheetah has appeared in a plethora of terrific Wonder Woman stories by high-profile comics creators like Pérez, Greg Rucka, Phil Jimenez and Gail Simone, and even in some high-profile animated projects like the Justice League TV series, as well as in a few of the various straight-to-disc (and digital) Justice League and Wonder Woman films that have been regularly released by Warner Animation since 2007.

She even made a pretty big splash in comics recently, as one of the primary characters featured in writer Greg Rucka's first year of Wonder Woman stories from DC's "Rebirth" event: Wonder Woman: Year One (which we've recommended in this column before), and Wonder Woman: Lies.

So, that's all well and good. Cheetah, as an adversary, makes perfect sense to be the villain in Wonder Woman 2. So...who might play her? That part of the equation is pretty interesting.

 

Could Kristen Wiig Play Cheetah?

According to an exclusive at Deadline, comedienne extraordinaire Kristen Wiig is up for the role of Cheetah in Wonder Woman 2. Reaction online was immediate and mixed, largely because of Wiig's longtime association with strictly comedic roles. Chances are, though, that if you look a little deeper, you might see the potential this choice could have for brilliance.

One thing not often touted about primarily comedic actors is their overall range. When comedians transition to drama, sometimes the results can be astounding. The late Robin Williams provides a perfect example of this, particularly for a pair of chilling appearances in 2002: in Christopher Nolan's Insomnia alongside Al Pacino, where he played a murderer on the run, as well as in Mark Romanek's psychological thriller One Hour Photo, where he played a lonely, detached photo technician at a big box store.

While the equation of "comedic actor + comic book movie" might be one to make people scream "BUT WAIT" in unison, it should be encouraging that Patty Jenkins is returning as director, which likely means the sequel to the highly successful first film won't somehow take a hard turn into more lighthearted, comedic territory. Wonder Woman was a film that was truthful to the characters it was representing, while also breaking barriers — in multiple ways — with its execution and storytelling. If Wiig is good enough to fit into the world of the characters that Jenkins established, then that's more than good enough for this writer and comics fan.

Wonder Woman 2 is currently being developed at Warner Bros. by Jenkins and DC Comics' Geoff Johns, and will return Gadot to the role she played in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Wonder Woman, and Justice League. It's scheduled to be released in November 2019. What do you think of this possible casting news? Leave a comment below, and we'll see you right back here with a new Comics on Film next week.


Chris Clow is a comics expert/former retailer, and pop culture critic/commentator. He hosts two podcasts: Discovery Debrief: A Star Trek Podcast and Comics on Consoles. Find his column "Comics on Film" weekly at Movies.com, and follow along on Twitter @ChrisClow.

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