With Wonder Woman’s first official solo film hitting theaters in a few days, we thought we would go back and look at the last 75 years’ worth of memorable villains that have caused havoc, chaos, and essentially put this Amazon Princess on continual guard. The selections here reflect characters who have had some detrimental effect on Wonder Woman, not just based in strength but emotionally and mentally, as well. Do note that this list will deal with characters from pre-Crisis and post-Crisis timelines, as well as, different variants of the villains. As with all top ten lists, this is what we at First Appearance see as some of the more “potent” villains and we encourage thoughts and suggestions in the comments section! Without further ado, let us take a look at who made our list.
While Magala can be seen as a force of good for most of her career (she did help create Wonder Girl II and Donna Troy with her magic) it is her death and “revival” that is disheartening for Wonder Woman and the Amazonians. In a plan to take over the Amazon’s home, Circe utilizes her magic to attempt a devastating war and in the process Magala is killed while trying to cast magic and protect her home as it is being invaded by the Amazons of Bana-Mighdall (a race created with the help of Circe). Circe, not wanting to waste anything, allows the spirit of Ariadne to inhabit Magala’s body and from there “Magala” begins a series of small events that lead up to a civil war between the people of Themyscira and the Bana tribe resulting in multiple losses for Wonder Woman. Due to her fighting with Fury as a distraction, Wonder Woman arrives too late to help out and suffers a great deal loing some of her most valued and trusted sisters. Ultimately, it is “Magala’s” bragging that gets her in trouble and as a result her heart is torn out and delivered to Hippolyta. Why Magala remains an influence is due to the fact that while she was “good” she helped create more super heroes to help the cause of peace and justice. As a villain, with the help of Ariadne, her influence is substantial as Wonder Woman sees one of her own betray and cause such destruction, an act that causes her to “die” a second time around.
9. Dr. Poison
There are two versions, but the one that seems to deal more damage is the post-Crisis version. In actuality, the second version is the granddaughter of the original and why she is more problematic is centered around the fact that this version creates the Pandora Virus. In a nutshell, the Pandora Virus was designed to transform its victims into ancient mythological creatures where Wonder Woman battled both friends and foes alike. Even after her capture, Dr. Poison admits that the Pandora Virus is ready to be disbursed yet it seemed like an empty threat. What makes Dr. Poison quite unnerving, besides her facial features (eyelids are peeled back and her lips are in perpetual rictus), is the fact that she enjoys watching what happens to her experiments regardless of the results. It is true that she has a deep hatred for Wonder Woman, but the fact that she does not discriminate in distributing her hate is what is the most unsettling. Where Wonder Woman embodies hope, justice and peace, Dr. Poison can be considered the opposite. While Wonder Woman has stopped her several times, the good doctor returns each time with even deadlier creations, the most famous is the deadly villain Genocide. Aside from that, Dr. Poison tends to remain a background villain, however, when she does move to the forefront bad things on a grandiose level will occur.
8. Maxwell Lord
What is it about wealthy business men wanting more power? Maxwell is no different unfortunately, but in the post-Crisis universe not only is he loaded with cash, he is also loaded with psychic capabilities. While he is not the strongest of the villains, he certainly is a creative one, utilizing his powers he controls Superman who has immense potential to obliterate thousands of people. Specifically, he wants Superman to kill other meta-humans because Lord has a problem with super humans. Ultimately, Wonder Woman is the only one who can go up against Superman and upon disabling the Man of Steel for a while she learns that the only way to save him is to kill Maxwell Lord thereby releasing his mental hold on Superman. Without hesitation or true insight, Wonder Woman snaps his neck which is later broadcast to millions of people. Why does all of this matter? Here, Lord “succeeds” in a way of defeating what he feels are threats, by having his execution broadcast to the world Wonder Woman loses a lot from the people who used to see her as an important symbol of justice and fairness. While that may not seem like a lot, the mental and emotional toll it takes on Wonder Woman ultimately makes her give up the tiara and bracelets for a while. Lord also has a stable hold on Wonder Woman later when he becomes a reanimated corpse and returns to avenge the execution she once gave him. Why is he such an influence? The brashness that Wonder Woman displays in snapping Lord’s neck to save someone she cares for showcases the dark side of herself. While there are plenty of villains who have taped into her “savagery” it is Lord’s incident that pushes to a point where she herself probably never thought she would end up and neither did her readers.
7. Silver Swan
While there have been several women who have taken up the mantel of Silver Swan, it is the deeply vengeful, cybernetically-enhanced and mind-controlled version that makes this list. Vanessa Kapatelis is the third iteration of Silver Swan but she is important due to the fact that she was brainwashed by Circe, Dr. Psycho, and Sebastian Ballesteros. The trio of villains relied on Vanessa’s insecurities to make her a vengeful villainess and because of that Silver Swan accomplishes two things: she reveals the secret identity of Wonder Girl and in every event she fails, she is cybernetically enhanced even more and not of her own free will. Why this matters in terms of influence is because Wonder Woman is fighting someone whom she really does not want to and is desperately seeking a way to help her out. In a sense, Silver Swan becomes a lost cause much like Batman pushes to “rescue” Harvey Dent or Jason Todd. Her influence is important because Silver Swan is that obstacle in Wonder Woman’s life that she desperately wishes to fix and make things better, but each time she comes close her actions tend to make things worse. Ultimately, Silver Swan is rescued and her cybernetics are removed, but what is left of Vanessa is massive doubt and fear that she could become susceptible to outside influences once again.
Brace yourselves for a weird one, but the Giganta you may know somewhat from recent comics is not the one we are looking at here. This Giganta is the second version found in the pre-Crisis universe of Earth-1. Here, a deranged man named Professor Zool and his Electronic Evolutionizer transform a female gorilla into a voluptuous built blonde woman (see, told you this one was weird). However, this Giganta is slightly more important than the one found in the post-Crisis universe due to the fact that she has an early team up with Gorilla Grodd of Flash fame and the two attempt to take over Gorilla City. In the process of this, Giganta and Grodd construct a miniature version of Zool’s Evolutionizer, one in which gorillas would retain their form but have more intellect. The creation works and allows the two to start a rebellion that involves not just Wonder Woman but the entire Justice League to step in. While Giganta can and often is written off as a strongwoman character (yes, pun intended) her potential to be recruited by several villainous groups makes her dangerous and taken more seriously. Her strength alone has enough potential to knock Wonder Woman out in one punch and she has bested Wonder Women in several plots only to be foiled because of the other characters she is working with at the time. Regardless, whether human or gorilla, Giganta certainly has held her own toward the many fierce and frustrating battles with Amazon princess. Why is she an influence? Within the early comics, not many women characters were able to go toe-to-toe with Wonder Woman on a strength based level. Giganta figuratively broke that mold combining beauty, strength, intelligence and placing her as an equal to Wonder Woman. It also showcased that much like men, women have two sides and Giganta represented the woman who could attain her be dedicated to achieving her goals in a more dominating way.
One would think that the God of War would make it quite high on the list, but in reality, he serves more as a guide, albeit a shady one, for Wonder Woman and her crew. However, his initial reasoning for hating Wonder Woman comes from the fact that Ares feeds on the psychic energy of anger, hatred and barbarity toward others. Unfortunately for him, his sister, Athena, helped create Themyscira, an island dedicated to the ideals of defense, strategy and peace. Obviously, this did not sit well with him and in one of his first acts of hatred Ares planned on infiltrating a US military silo in an attempt to launch nuclear missiles and start World War III. However, Wonder Woman’s appearance, and with the help of the Lasso of Truth, she was able to show Ares the future, one in which no one was left alive to worship him. In that moment, Ares halted his plans and actually encouraged (yes, you read correctly) Wonder Woman to promote peace so that no one fully embraced Ares’ power unless they were hell-bent on life ceasing to exist. While Ares has from time to time been problematic, he truly has not returned to his “destroy peace” kind of mentality, but he also is not above turning things in his favor no matter how devious they may be. Why is he influential? Ares representation of male masculinity requires the perfect balance to his egotism and bravado and Wonder Woman is that equal. Ares shows what can happen if men are not kept in check when it comes to power and corruption and Wonder Woman’s interaction allows readers to see that life cannot be dominated by one gender. Much like life and all forms of relationships, Wonder Woman’s and Ares is definitely in the classification of love-hate but at the core boils down into a balance.
4. Dr. Cyber
Another cybernetically-enhanced despot, Cylvia Cyber was an international crime lord who operated with an all-female staff. Due to her having many connections throughout the world, her running into Wonder Woman was bound to happen, and has many times since. As the two continued to cross paths and fight, things tended to go from bad to worse for Dr. Cyber, notably being burned and electrocuted by Wonder Woman to a point where she needed to alter her look to one that encompassed her name. While Dr. Cyber has done some heinous things to Wonder Woman, the biggest has to be being responsible for Steve Trevor’s death in the pre-Crisis universe. The emotional toll on Wonder Woman was far reaching and she almost lost her life in the process. Ultimately, Dr. Cyber is the type of villain who seems to perish under mysterious circumstances only to return later with upgrades and more hatred for the Amazonian, each time raising the stakes for not only herself and Wonder Woman, but a vast array of others. Why is she so influential? Dr. Cyber is one of the few mortals without super powers that can hold her own against Wonder Woman. Her ability to battle Wonder Woman stems from gadgets and her genius, proving that anyone can go against the Amazonian Princess with the right means to do so no matter the cost to themselves.
3. Dr. Psycho
There is hate, there is loathing, and then there is this maniac. Dr. Psycho at the first and foremost is one of the most malicious villains toward women in general. Due to his short stature, wide eyes, and his uncanny ability at hypnotism, his mistreatment by everyone, especially women is the fuel for his misogyny. His extremely unique ability is the fact that through hypnosis, he can extract ectoplasm from his willing participants and use that to create a vast array of things, even surrogates of whomever he desires. What makes him so dangerous is due to the fact that his level of hate towards women never truly subsides, even when things go his way. There are several points where Wonder Woman genuinely tries to be nice and show affection to the good doctor only for him to misconstrue the meaning or the intention and cause more pain and strife. The other dangerous aspect was his psychotic belief that he ultimately could defeat Wonder Woman by creating the persona Captain Wonder using a part of Steve Trevor’s ectoplasm and having a male version be her equal. Captain Wonder’s abilities did match that of Wonder Woman’s and placed her in real danger for a time. Despite all this, Dr. Psycho continues his quest to dominate the female gender yet Wonder Woman remains a powerful obstacle in his way. Why is he such an influence? While Ares represents the balance between men and women, Dr. Psycho represents the extreme case in what potentially lies in all men. Despite his inability to be physically imposing, his representation of what men can mentally do to women is what makes him so unnerving. The ability to manipulate, dominate, and under appreciate the female gender places him so high due to the fact that this belief about how women should act still occurs in not just the Wonder Woman comics, but others within the DC universe. Dr. Psycho represents the epitome of oppressive male power, something that can figuratively and literally crush and ideas of hope out of any woman.
British anthropologist Dr. Barbara Ann Minerva may be the third to wear the Cheetah crown, but she is second on the list due to her continual interactions with Wonder Woman. Minerva’s transformation into Cheetah comes in the post-Crisis universe due to a ritual that goes awry, cursing and blessing her at the same time. While she gains super human abilities, such as speed, agility and razor sharp claws that slice through metal, her ability to think logically and intelligently is greatly diluted in her transformed state. In the beginning, Cheetah’s only goal was the Lasso of Truth and only her hatred for Wonder Woman served as her drive. Yet as the years went on and the plots became more developed, Cheetah moved from a thorn in the paw to an honest to goodness vicious villainess who was not afraid to show her spots. Capable of murder and of having little remorse for her decisions, Cheetah remained a threat due to the fact that she continually worked with Circe in order to undermine and overwhelm Wonder Woman. As well as Circe, Cheetah at one point became lovers with Flash’s nemesis, Zoom, who bestowed upon her the ability to increase her speed making Wonder Woman’s life even more difficult. The increase in speed was not the only thing Zoom helped her with, by persuading Cheetah to kill the original Cheetah from the 1940’s, one Priscilla Rich, it allowed her to not only strengthen her (symbolically) it also impressed Circe enough that she created a spell making it so Cheetah could revert back to her Barbara Minerva form. Why is she so influential? Cheetah’s dedication to seeing Wonder Woman fail and her many interactions along with close calls are important enough, but her representation of hate towards someone better than herself is what is so impressive. While Dr. Psycho is the ultimate form of hate in the form of man towards women, Cheetah is the representation of women hating other women for who they are and what the aspire to be. In most interactions, Cheetah’s fighting is hate-filled and bloodthirsty, seeking nothing more than the utter destruction of the symbol she tires of seeing flaunted day in and day out. Whether readers see it as a form of pettiness or understanding on Cheetah’s part, Cheetah shows that she will not rest until Wonder Woman is six feet under.
No other woman has caused so much pain, heartache and annoyance than the sorceress Circe. Originally a follower of Hecate (goddess of the moon and sorcery) Circe made a deal with her in order to gain raw power but in the process, she learned through a very riddle-laden prophecy that Wonder Woman, at some point, would attempt to steal her power (Macbeth, anyone?). Due to this revelation, Circe goes on a never-ending quest to harm, maim, destroy and obliterate everyone close to, and attempts to do the same to, Wonder Woman. Circe was also directly and indirectly responsible for empowering enemies of Wonder Woman such as Cheetah, Dr. Psycho, and Giganta as well as actually becoming Wonder Woman herself for about a year. As the mantle wearer of the tiara and bracelets, Circe focused her destruction on those who had wronged women in savage and barbaric ways. She was ultimately stripped of the costume and title, but before doing so, placed a curse on Wonder Woman removing her Amazonian powers when in her Diana Prince form. As if that were not enough for her, one of her more memorable acts was to punish the gods of Olympus for taking away her daughter. In a display of vengeance, Circe started a war between the United States and the Amazons and by doing so she disgraced the most devoted of followers toward those gods. Why is she so influential? Circe remains at the top of the list because of her dedication. While Cheetah is dedicated to destroying Wonder Woman based on jealousy, Circe’s dedication relies on staying in power. Much like men and power, Circe encapsulates the desire to not lose what she has owned for so long. As well, her misplaced fear about the prophecy pushes her ability to be more pre-emptive than any other villain that has lasted as long as her. Circe is the physical representation of what power looks like and what can happen when someone attempts to remove that power. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.
While the pantheon of villains has only been scratched here, we are sure there are some we may have missed. Let us know if your Wonder Woman villain made it as one of the most influential and do not miss Wonder Woman in theaters on June 2nd!