5 Wonder Woman Villains (That Prove Her Villains Are The Worst)
Batman has the Joker, Superman has Lex Luthor, and Wonder Woman has ... well, the person who comes up with Wonder Woman villains, because they're mostly terrible. She's one of the most recognizable characters in the world, and her most famous baddie right now is probably the angry woman-hating dwarf with mental powers from Harley Quinn. Hell, even the ones that made it to the movies would be bottom of the barrel material for other heroes. For instance ...
Cheetah Is A Jealous Party Girl Who Turns Evil Whenever She Looks At A Mirror
Kristen Wiig plays Cheetah in Wonder Woman 1984 and, judging from the trailers, they're going with the version of the character who looks like a cast member from Cats but with rabies.
But the original Cheetah was far less intimidating. Instead of a feline mutant, she was a rich socialite who felt overshadowed by Wonder Woman during a charity event and had a psychotic break, causing her to imagine a cat version of herself in her mirror. Her evil fursona then commands her to fashion a cheetah costume out of a rug. That's it, that's her origin. No vats of chemicals or magic curses -- just "someone got more Instagram likes than me, now I'm a criminal" (or whatever the 1940s equivalent of Instagram was).
Cheetah's only superpower is that she's insane enough to go out dressed like that. Well, that and the fact that no one realizes she's Cheetah even though she covers everything but her face. She always turns back to "normal" at the end of her criminal rampages and resumes her privileged life like nothing happened, which is a powerful commentary on the flaws of the American justice system. Unfortunately, she automatically goes back into crazy cat lady mode whenever she so much as glances at a mirror:
Wonder Woman is the only one who thinks that Cheetah and the socialite with the exact same face might be the same person (looks like Batman isn't the only master detective in the Justice League). Cheetah gets around this by simply changing her hairdo and putting on a hat, which makes Wonder Woman think she's a complete stranger. Naturally, Wonder Woman agrees to let this unknown woman chain her within seconds of meeting her.
Luckily, it's not true that Wonder Woman loses her powers when her hands are bound together, because that would be stupid -- she loses them when her hands are bound together by a man, duh.
But that's the old Cheetah. The one Kristen Wiig plays is a more recent character with a much less embarrassing origin: she was an archeologist who stumbled upon a ritual to become an immortal goddess and was immediately like "Sure, sign me up, I foresee no downsides to this." Unfortunately, the ancient plant god behind the ritual was expecting a virgin and this lady didn't qualify, so he gave her a curse that turns her into a cat monster with an unquenchable hunger for human flesh whenever there's a full moon. Yes, she was slut-shamed into supervillainy. OK, we take it back, this one's dumber.
Doctor Poison Was A Crazy Japanese Princess (And Pretty Racist)
In the 2017 Wonder Woman movie, Doctor Poison is a creepy, facially disfigured woman who creates chemical weapons during World War I, making her a true trailblazer in the area of female war criminals.
About the one thing she has in common with the original Doctor Poison is the "creepy" part. In the early Wonder Woman comics, Doctor Poison was a Japanese princess who posed as a man to help the Nazis win World War II with her near-magical potions. She was only revealed to be Japanese royalty near the end of her first appearance, probably as the creators realized they hadn't filled the issue's obligatory anti-Asian racism quota.
Her potions are also much wackier than the chemical weapons seen in the movie. Her most famous one is the "Reverso" formula, which makes people do the opposite of what they're told (it's also known as "being a teenager"). The idea is that the American generals will be like "Hey fellas, let's go win the war," but the soldiers will go and do the opposite, dooming the country. The formula has unexpectedly sexy effects on the troops:
In the end, Doctor Poison's femininity is her undoing -- Wonder Woman says she realized she must be a lady in disguise because of her "delicate hands."
The fearsome Doctor Poison is eventually overtaken by Wonder Woman's dangerously sugar-addicted sidekick, Etta Candy, whose main purpose in the comic was serving as a vehicle for insensitive weight jokes.
In her next appearance, Poison poses as a Chinese nightclub dancer and easily fools Wonder Woman's pilot pal Steve Trevor, even though he'd met her before, because all of the billions of people in Asia look the same to him (racism quota: met).
This time, Doctor Poison's new formula is a gas that stops the engines of all the planes in America, which is really stretching the definition of "poison." Years later, it's revealed that this criminal genius accidentally killed herself by drinking some "Reverso" and turning into a fetus. We're not sure why a chemical that makes people do the opposite of what they're told would cause reverse aging, so we're guessing someone told her "Hey, don't turn into a fetus" and she went and did that.
Ares Had A Prison Planet Full Of Ladies In Bondage
The movie version of Ares, Wonder Woman's half-bro and the god of war, is a sinister mastermind who has spent centuries orchestrating wars via political machinations and such. He's played by David Thewlis of "weird giggling mustached guy from The Big Lebowski" fame (and probably some other stuff).
The original comic book incarnation of the character (called "Mars" in most issues, because the writers couldn't decide if he was Greek or Roman) shared the movie version's goal of sowing discord in humanity, but with a different method: kidnapping ghosts and turning them into slaves in planet Mars. And, because early Wonder Woman comics were just a flimsy excuse to show women in bondage, a whole section of Mars was reserved for hot, scantily clad female slaves.
One issue has a bizarre digression about Ares getting mad at one of his generals, an old creep called the Duke of Deception, and sending him to the women's slave quarters to be their slave. There's all sorts of blatant fetish stuff in these inexplicably Wonder Woman-less pages, from foot play to spanking to, uh, whatever this is called:
But the women in the prison can't resist the Duke of Deception's raw animal magnetism and start following his orders. They end up causing a riot, overthrowing Ares, and worshiping the Duke, who gets upgraded to King of Deception. Meanwhile, aside from the title page, Wonder Woman has yet to appear in her own comic.
Ares is released within a couple of panels and the actual plot of the issue starts, making it even more obvious that this whole sequence served no point other than producing fetish art. Later, Wonder Woman spreads a magic incense made by Aphrodite over the prison planet, making "love reign" between the guards and the slaves. There's no way this didn't turn into a giant, messy orgy off-camera.
Modern Ares has also had some dumb storylines, like the one where he possesses a tough guy by the perfectly '90s name of "Ari Buchanan" and becomes a ponytailed gangster. In the scene where he possesses Ari, Ares says: "I will scoop out most of you like a baked potato ... to be filled later with chili and cheese. And I will be the cheese!" It's like something straight out of an epic Greek poem.
Giganta Was An Ape Who Morphed Into A Woman
Giganta isn't in the movies (unless she's a post-credits surprise in WW84, in which case SPOILERS?), but she's been appearing in DC cartoons for over 40 years, from Super Friends to Justice League Unlimited to Harley Quinn. It's easy to see why, since the character is based around a pretty simple concept: a lady who turns giant.
But her original version is ... a bit more complicated. Giganta started out as a gorilla who was artificially mutated into a human woman by an evolution machine. She can't grow giant or anything. Her abilities are 1) above average strength (due to having been an ape more recently than the rest of us) and 2) being a jerk who tries to kill Wonder Woman unprovoked, even though WW gave her some nice clothes.
Then the evolution machine malfunctions and turns the Earth back into prehistoric times, because comics. Giganta teams up with some cavepeople to fight Wonder Woman, just to be a dick. She has no real motivation in these early stories other than "there's Wonder Woman, let's punch her." Future comics at least tried to justify Giganta's hatred of Wonder Woman by establishing that as a gorilla, she was madly in love with Steve Trevor.
Her '80s origin is also pretty convoluted and ape-related: she's a scientist who tries to steal Wonder Woman's body, but accidentally ends up trapping her own mind inside a gorilla. She's not very happy with this arrangement, so she selects a circus strongwoman as her next body-snatching target. She successfully re-switches bodies, which gives her the ability to grow giant because, again, comics.
As for the innocent circus woman trapped in a gorilla's body, she's never heard from again. We wouldn't blame HER for hating Wonder Woman. Kinda dropped the ball there, WW.
Maxwell Lord Was The Justice League's Affable Manager
In WW84, Maxwell Lord is played by a helmet-less Pedro Pascal as some sort of evil '80s businessman. According to the trailer, he somehow has the power to make people's greatest desire a reality -- in Wonder Woman's case, that would be "Chris Pine in parachute pants," apparently.
But, in the comics, Lord is best known as the charismatic guy who ran the Justice League's business operations during the Justice League International period, when the comic was basically a sitcom with capes. At that point, the League was made out of B- and C-list characters who spent more time arguing among themselves and going on dates in porno theaters than fighting criminals. Maxwell Lord was the straight man who cleaned up the messes and tried to keep the team functional (and profitable).
Later writers couldn't conceive of a businessman who wasn't evil and revealed that Lord had secretly been a supervillain all along ... which makes his silly JLI adventures even sillier in retrospect, when you think about it. It means that, while the heroes were pulling wacky stunts like the time they opened a "Club JLI" resort in a sentient island called Kooey Kooey Kooey, this ruthless hero-hating mastermind was stewing quietly and wondering how much more of this crap he's gonna have to put up with.
Incidentally, the island adventure includes a panel of League members Blue Beetle and Booster Gold jokingly talking about Lord putting a bullet through their heads when he finds out they used the team's money on their get rich scheme. That's unfortunate, because the first thing Lord did after coming out of the villain closet was shoot Beetle in the head.
That led to Lord's biggest claim to fame: being murdered by Wonder Woman. Shortly after killing Beetle, Evil Max manages to take over Superman's mind, since it's revealed that he'd been micro-dosing Supes with his persuasive powers for years. Wonder Woman sees no choice but to snap Lord's neck before he can make Superman go all Homelander on everyone (or worse yet, all Hancock).
Maybe that's why Wonder Woman doesn't have good villains. All the smart ones know they show stick to Gotham or Metropolis, where they could blow up a bus full of orphans and their necks would still be safe.
Top Image: Warner Bros. Pictures