Barbara Ann Minerva
Dr. Barbara Minerva was an archaeologist who had garnered a reputation to go to any lengths to secure a find or artifact. Her life would change dramatically following an expedition she led into a dense African jungle. She was searching for the legendary lost city of the Urzkartagan tribe. Deep within the jungle, her team was betrayed by their guides and ambushed by the Urzkartagans. Only she and one other, Dr. Tom Leavens, escaped by diving in a river. The two of them found the lost city while it was in the midst of a ritual. One of the other members of there team was sacrificed by the high priest, Chuma. The ritual had been intended to restore to health the ailing woman who was regarded as an avatar for their cheetah god. Before the ritual could be completed, outsiders attacked the village, slaughtering everyone. Everyone but Chuma, who was saved by Minerva. The two were buried within the cave that was the temple to the Urzkatagan god by a grenade blast.
Chuma explained that the ritual would have turned the old woman into a cheetah god. The ritual, which could only be performed on the full moon and required a blood sacrifice, restored the woman to youth as well. She had been centuries old at the time of her death. Minerva demanded the ritual be done to her so she could have her chance at power and immortality. When Chuma explained there must be a sacrifice, Minerva murdered Dr. Leavens, who had returned just long enough to free them from the cave in and forfeit his life. After she had killed him and drank his blood, the ritual began. Even as Chuma worked tirelessly, the invaders who had destroyed the temple were returning. The ritual complete, Minerva was transformed into Cheetah and slaughtered all the invaders. After the slaughter and she had reverted to human form, she took Chuma with her and returned to England. Unfortunately, there was an unforeseen side effect to the transformation. The sacrifice had called for a virgin and Minerva did not qualify. Hence, rather than grant her youth and vitality, after the transformation she became weak, frail. Only on the night of the full moon, when she became Cheetah, was she strong again.
After Wonder Woman made her debut in Boston, Minerva learned of the Golden Lasso that Diana wielded. She coveted the lariat and tried to trick Diana into losing it but to no avail. Since she failed to gain it as Minerva, she tried to seize it by force as Cheetah. Still inexperienced at fighting such a powerful adversary, Diana might have lost if not for the intervention of her friend, Dr. Kapatelis. Minerva would not be deterred, however. Following the Invasion! crisis, Minerva used two Khunds to steal the lasso from Diana.
Once in her possession, Minerva became obsessed with the history of it. Knowing that Diana would soon figure out that she and Cheetah were one and the same, she left Chuma to poison the princess while leaving for Africa. Leaving a trail of bodies in her wake, Cheetah finds the city of Bana-Mishdall, home of the rogue Amazons. Wonder Woman pursues her there. When Minerva reverts to human form, she is worse off than ever. The plant from which an ingredient is gathered for the ritual transformation began to die. Chuma arrives and finds his mistress at death's door. He guesses that the god is jealous of divided loyalties he perceives in Minerva and proclaims that the only way she will be healed is to kill both Diana and the queen of Bana-Mishdall. Becoming Cheetah once more, she kills the queen and gets into a fierce battle with Wonder Woman in the midst of an all out assault by the rogue Amazons. Diana defeats her and Chuma is killed by the Amazons. Minerva survives the destruction of the city and is taken into custody.
While in prison, still wracked with pain, Minerva is approached by a messenger of Circe. He gives her a potion that transforms her permanently into the Cheetah. Whereas before she had worn a suit and was not totally in control while in Cheetah form, now she was totally transformed and remained in complete control. Unfortunately for Minerva, the potion had made her a slave to Circe and her schemes (who was instigating the WAR OF THE GODS crisis). Hoping to betray Circe, Cheetah goes to the Gotham City Grand Hotel trying to steal the goblet that Circe was going to use against the Amazons of Themyscira. All hell broke loose that night (see Hippolyta, Wonder Woman) and after killing Hellene and wounding Philippus, two Amazons, Cheetah fled. She turned up to tell Inspector Indelicato the whole truth and where Diana could find her missing mother, hoping Wonder Woman would defeat Circe.