Serpent Society

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Serpent Society
Publication information
Publisher Marvel Comics
First appearance Captain America #310 (October 1985).
Created by Mark Gruenwald
Paul Neary
In-story information
Base(s) Various

The Serpent Society is a fictional organization of snake-themed supervillains in the Marvel Comics universe. Half of its members were members of a previous supervillain team, the Serpent Squad, while the other half were newly introduced characters.

Concept and creation[edit]

The Serpent Society first appeared in Captain America #310 (October 1985) and was created by Mark Gruenwald and Paul Neary.

Most of the villains Mark Gruenwald introduced in Captain America were created to symbolize aspects of contemporary American culture and the world political situation. In the case of the Serpent Society, Gruenwald created them to symbolize trade unions.[1]

History[edit]

The Serpent Society is founded by Sidewinder, and is a descendant of sorts from the original Serpent Squads. The first squad consists of the original Viper, his brother the Eel, and the Cobra. The second squad consists of the second and current Viper (who was also formerly Madame Hydra), the Eel, Princess Python, Cobra, and the Atlantis Warlord Krang. Voelker led the third incarnation of the Squad that included Anaconda, Black Mamba and Death Adder. They were to retrieve the fabled Serpent Crown from its then underwater grave. Voelker used his cloak and abandoned his comrades during an underwater mishap, and proceeded to collect the reward for the Crown.

Anaconda, Mamba and Adder not only survived the mishap but they caught up with Voelker. During that time Voelker had invested the money and started the groundwork for the Serpent Society. The Society was to provide its members with better access to technology, bigger access to jobs, higher pay, comradeship, safe lodging, and a host of other benefits. Most importantly, with Sidewinder's teleportation cloak, members never had to fear imprisonment again. It was, essentially, a supervillain labor union.

After persuading his former comrades of his true intention to better their lot (and paying their share of the reward plus interest), he had them contact other snake-themed criminals, these included the Asp, Diamondback, Constrictor, Cobra, Princess Python, the Viper, the Rattler, Cottonmouth, and Bushmaster. The Viper refused to attend the first initial gathering. Constrictor, unimpressed with the proceedings, walked out and tried to turn the group over to the Avengers.[2]

Sidewinder, Anaconda, Black Mamba, Death Adder, Asp, Diamondback, Cottonmouth, Cobra, Bushmaster, Rattler, and Princess Python became charter members of the Serpent Society. They headquartered at Serpent Citadel, which was an abandoned mental hospital located in upstate New York. Sidewinder sent them out to contact various criminal organizations including HYDRA, the Maggia, the Kingpin, and A.I.M.. From A.I.M. they received their first paying assignment: the elimination of their former leader MODOK.[3] The Society's success in killing MODOK quickly cemented their reputation as criminal talents of the first caliber. Captain America intervened many times during their early years but was never able to put them out of commission.

Two charter members soon left the Society. Princess Python ran out on them during the MODOK assignment and was expelled from their ranks. Death Adder was killed by Scourge when he was trying to ransom the Princess to her Circus of Crime cohorts.

Later, the Viper sent a fourth Serpent Squad (though not named as such) consisting of Copperhead, Black Racer, Fer-de-Lance and Puff Adder to infiltrate the Society with the intention of assassinating Sidewinder and putting herself as the rightful leader. When the four were taken to Serpent Citadel by Sidewinder, it was easy for the rest of the Viper's allies (Coachwhip, Boomslang, Slither, and Rock Python), to assault the place. Many of the charter members turncoat and supported the Viper whereas the Asp, Black Mamba, Bushmaster, and Diamondback remained loyal to Sidewinder.

The Viper used the Society and its resources to poison the water supply of Washington DC, which turned its citizens into snake-men. The ensuing chaos nearly destroyed the capital. Diamondback managed to escape with Sidewinder and solicited help from Captain America (who then was known as "The Captain" while another man donned the Captain America costume and identity) and his allies D-Man, Nomad, the Falcon, and Vagabond. The team stormed Serpent Citadel, rescued the Society members that were loyal to Sidewinder, and captured many others. The Viper, however managed to escape.

In the end, Cobra subdued the Viper and turned her over to the Captain on the condition that he allowed the Serpent Society 24 hours to evacuate from their headquarters. When the Captain refused the deal the Cobra turned Viper over anyway.

Bitter over his betrayal, Sidewinder left the Society and Cobra became its new leader, eventually calling himself King Cobra. With the exception of Slither and the Viper herself, all of the Viper's agents also joined the Society. The Society re-located to a new secret headquarters in the Bronx.

Shortly afterwards, Diamondback became romantically involved with Captain America and tried to quit the Society altogether to be with him. Despite the fact that she was a member of a criminal organization that he desperately wanted to put out of commission, Cap did not force her to betray her compatriots. The Society, however, had Diamondback under surveillance and when they realized she had been seeing Captain America socially, certain members demanded that she should be put on trial for treason.

Diamondback was found guilty... every member voted for her death except for Asp, Black Mamba, Bushmaster and Rock Python. Penalty was death by injection, but King Cobra said he would commute the sentence if she would cooperate with them by revealing the true identity of Captain America. Diamondback refused but Black Mamba secretly alerted Sidewinder, who teleported in to save Diamondback at the last moment.

Diamondback, seeking revenge against the Society, sought out the Paladin when Captain America could not guarantee that Mamba and Asp be given immunity from arrest. The two infiltrated the Society's headquarters only to be captured along with Mamba and Asp. Cap on the other hand, from his sky cycle, spotted a Serpent Saucer, piloted by Cottonmouth and Fer-de-Lance heading back to the Society's hideout. Cap entered the hideout along with the saucer and quickly subdued the two serpents. He quickly freed Diamondback, Paladin, Mamba and Asp and together they brought down the Society. All members were taken to prison with the exception of Diamondback, Asp, and Mamba (Asp and Mamba eventually were given immunity from arrest due to their help defeating their former colleagues). Anaconda, Puff Adder and Rock Python escaped capture because they were not at the headquarters at the time. Boomslang was in the hospital around this period.

After spending time in prison, the Society re-formed again, going back to their old ways. Another encounter with Captain America and the now defunct team called Force Works seemed to have permanently put them out of commission; both Puff Adder and Mamba later said that the Society had disbanded.

However, the Society re-formed yet again in the Captain America/Avengers Disassembled tie-ins. More recently, King Cobra, Rattler, Bushmaster, and a new Death Adder had aided the Thunderbolts during the Civil War storyline. After that the four villains have been identified as members of the 142 registered superheroes who appear on the cover of the comic book Avengers: The Initiative #1. Anaconda was serves with the Six Pack and later defeated by the New Warriors; Diamondback, Black Mamba, and Asp have reformed BAD Girls, Inc.; Cottonmouth hadn't been seen since he broke free from prison with Hawkeye, but was later taken back into custody by S.H.I.E.L.D..

Nova and his Nova Corps deputees helped federal authorities take several members of the Society into custody shortly after the Skrull's Secret Invasion. The Serpent Society (consisting of Sidewinder, Black Mamba, Anaconda, Death Adder II, Fer-de-Lance, and Copperhead) held a number of civilians (including their own families) hostage in a compound in the American Mid-West claiming they were protecting themselves from the Skrulls. Nova and his deputees defeated them in literally seconds. The Society never even had a chance to defend themselves.[4]

Later, several Serpent Society members including Anaconda, Black Mamba, Bushmaster and Cottonmouth, fought members of the New Avengers in a semi-tropical locale. They were seen defeated.[5]

A more recent incarnation of the Society appeared in the Avengers vs. X-Men event. The new group consisted of Asp, Anaconda, Puff Adder, Cottonmouth and Bushmaster. The Society attempted to rob a bank and took a number of employees hostage only to be defeated by Hope Summers. Cyclops and Emma Frost arrived where they stopped Hope from beating Cottonmouth to death.[6]

Leaving retirement, Sidewinder returned to lead the Serpent Society. He, Black Mamba, Anaconda, and the second Death Adder ambushed Elektra, Cape Crow, Matchmaker, and Kento Roe in the Himalayan Mountains. The Assassin's Guild had hired numerous mercenaries and criminals (including Crossbones, Blizzard, and Tiger Shark) to kill Cape Crow and his son Kento, but Elektra agreed to protect them. Having studied the Serpent Society and its members while working for S.H.I.E.L.D., Elektra was able to defeat Sidewinder, Anaconda, and Death Adder while Matchmaker defeated Black Mamba and the others escaped.[7]

Membership[edit]

The membership of the Serpent Society has included:

Member First appearance Description
Anaconda Marvel Two-in-One #64 (June 1980) Blanche Sitznski is a former steelworker from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania who received cybernetic surgery from the Roxxon Corporation that gave her superhumanly strong tentacle-like arms and legs that she uses to constrict her foes. They also implanted gills that allowed her to breathe underwater. Anaconda's throat was apparently damaged in a tournament held by Mister X. She later reappeared in healthy condition as member of the new Six Pack.

Her snake motif is based on the anaconda.

Asp Captain America #310 (October 1985) Cleo Nefertiti is a mutant who generates a paralytic energy which is fatal to those who remained in close contact with her for prolonged periods of time. She can channel this energy into electrical blasts, which she called her "venom bursts" or "venom bolts" that can stun or paralyze living beings. An exotic dancer by profession, she found that physical exertion increased how quickly her body recharged its store of bio-energy. When Diamondback left the Serpent Society, Asp and Black Mamba followed. They teamed with the African huntress Impala to form the mercenary group called "BAD Girls, Inc." The team recently reappeared sans Impala.

Her snake motif is based on the asp.

Black Mamba Marvel Two-in-One #64 (June 1980) Tanya Sealy is a former call girl. She has a limited form of telepathy that enables her to scan the thoughts of nearby individuals, usually to find an image of someone that the person holds dear. She then manifests the Darkforce into the image of that cherished person, which in turn, almost hypnotically seduces its target into embracing it. Once physical contact is established, Mamba then lets the Darkforce constrict her victims to death, or at the very least, to unconsciousness. Often the victim is in too deep a state of ecstasy or euphoria to even notice. One or both of these powers (telepathy and darkforce control) is due to a chip implanted in her forebrain, provided by the Roxxon Corporation. When Diamondback left the Society, Asp and Black Mamba followed, and they teamed with the African huntress named Impala to form the mercenary group called "BAD Girls, Inc." Black Mamba later joined the Crimson Cowl's Masters of Evil, but currently alternates between working with the Serpent Society and BAD Girls, Inc.

Her snake motif is based on the black mamba.

Black Racer Captain America #337 (January 1988) Black Racer can run and move at superhuman speed. Only her first name of Ariana is known. She was a member of the fourth Serpent Squad along with Copperhead, Fer-de-Lance, and Puff Adder.

Her snake motif is based on the black racer snake.

Boomslang Captain America #341 (May 1988) Boomslang is an unnamed Australian criminal who uses snake-shaped boomerangs which he called his "serpent rangs". He is also a skilled unarmed combatant. After he was shot by gang members in Captain America #372 (and eventually recovered), Boomslang attended a weapons expo with several fellow Society members but otherwise hasn't been seen in the company of the Society since.

His name is an odd choice, since a boomslang is not indigenous to Australia and is actually only found in sub-Saharan Africa.

Bushmaster Captain America #310 (October 1985) Quincy McIver is a quadriplegic who possesses cybernetic limbs: two arms and a tail in the place of the lower half of his body. He lost his arms and legs in a boating accident while trying to evade the police underwater. Shortly later, the Roxxon Oil Company equipped him with bionic arms and a snake-like tail. He took the name "Bushmaster" from his fallen brother (who used the same name where he died in battle against Luke Cage). Years later, Sidewinder enlisted Bushmaster to join the criminal trade union known as the Serpent Society. Bushmaster was grateful for the unity and the steady employment; he considered himself to be a freak, and the Society was his best chance in life. He made a friend in Diamondback, a fellow Society member who saved him after MODOK severed his artificial appendages. After the Viper took over the Society, Bushmaster remained loyal to Sidewinder. However, Sidewinder, disillusioned by the betrayals of some of the Serpents, turned over control of the guild to the Cobra, and Bushmaster served him next as his second-in-command. At Diamondback's trial, he voted to spare her life from a death sentence. After the trial, Bushmaster fought Diamondback, and next, Captain America. He was finally taken into custody. Bushmaster remains with the Serpent Society.

His snake motif is based on the Bushmaster.

Coachwhip Captain America #341 (May 1988) Beatrix Keener is a woman who wields metal-linked whips with the ability to generate electricity. One of the more vicious members of the team, she also engaged in a relationship with King Cobra when he took over the team.

Her snake motif is based on the Coachwhip.

Cobra Journey into Mystery #98 (November 1963) Klaus Voorhees is a longtime Thor foe and partner of Mister Hyde. He possesses superhuman speed and a great degree of flexibility, can contort his body into almost any shape, and is a skilled wrestler. He also supplements these abilities with an array of weaponry, mainly his wrist launchers that fire anything from knockout gas to poisoned darts. After Sidewinder retired, the Cobra became King Cobra and led the group.

His nephew Peit Voorhees became the second Cobra.

Klaus' snake motif was based on the cobra, but later based his motif on the king cobra.

Copperhead Captain America #337 (January 1988) Davis Lawfers is the leader of the so-called fourth Serpent Squad (consisting also of Fer-de-Lance, Black Racer, and Puff Adder), and one of the Viper's most loyal minions. On a mission for her, he helped to contaminate Washington D.C.'s water supply with a chemical that could transform people into human/snake hybrids. During this assignment, friction existed between the Cobra and himself. When the Cobra became the new leader of the Society, Copperhead did not remain for long making only one other appearance. Copperhead has no superhuman powers but is equipped with a pair of gauntlets which fire power blasts and poisoned darts. For protection he wears a suit of copper-colored scale mail.

His motif is based on the copperhead snake.

Cottonmouth Captain America #310 (October 1985) Burchell Clemens is a supervillain that hails from Mobile, Alabama. He has bionic jaws and steel teeth. He can extend his lower jaw up to a foot from his upper jaw. His jaws possess superhuman strength and extremely sharp fangs. Cottonmouth and Death Adder killed MODOK on the Society's first mission. For a while, for reasons never explained, Cottonmouth assumed Bushmaster's real identity of Quincy McIver.

His motif is based on the cottonmouth or water moccasin.

Death Adder Marvel Two-in-One #64 (June 1980) Roland Burroughs is a mute killer. He possessed extended talons which contained deadly venom, he was bioengineered with a poison-spiked bionic tail, and was totally amphibious. Death Adder was friends with Sidewinder and Anaconda. As a member of the third Serpent Squad, he fought the Thing, Stingray and Iron Man. As a member of the Serpent Society, he battled Captain America. On the Society's first paying assignment, Death Adder (along with Cottonmouth) viciously murdered MODOK. He was slain by the Scourge of the Underworld, but was later somehow revived by Hood. Roland was later killed again by Venom when he was a member of Crime Master's Savage Six.

A new Death Adder named Theodore Scott recently appeared and joined both the Serpent Squad and the Serpent Society. Unlike Roland Burroughs, he is not mute.

His motif is based on the death adder.

Diamondback Captain America #310 (October 1985) Rachel Leighton is an acrobat who uses diamond-shaped throwing blades, many of which are equipped with anything from poison, explosives, narcotics, and acid. She defected from the team and eventually became the partner and lover of Captain America. Asp, Black Mamba, Diamondback, and the African huntress named Impala formed a mercenary group called "BAD Girls, Inc."

A since-destroyed Diamondback look-a-like android was recently seen as an ally of the Red Skull. Diamondback herself has returned to mercenary work as both a member of the BAD Girls and as a freelancer.

Her motif is based on the diamondback snake.

Fer-de-Lance Captain America #337 (January 1988) Teresa Vasquez is a professional assassin hailing from Latin America. Fer-de-lance has a pair of retractable "fangs" similar to that of Bushmaster's. She has no qualms about killing when it comes to completing an assignment.

Her motif is based on the fer-de-lance.

Princess Python The Amazing Spider-Man #22 (March 1965) Zelda DuBois is a professional criminal and snake charmer. She is a member of the Circus of Crime who has control over a large python. Sidewinder invited her to become a member of the Serpent Society, and she accepted. When the Society was hired to kill MODOK, the Princess lost her nerve and abandoned her peers during the assignment to track him down. Eventually, the Society caught up with her, and Sidewinder (most disappointed in her performance) had her mind-wiped and expelled from the Society's ranks despite her explanations. Sidewinder tried to ransom her off to the Circus of Crime, but the Scourge of the Underworld stepped in, slaying Death Adder (the one handling the transaction). The Princess re-joined her old cohorts.
Puff Adder Captain America #337 (January 1988) Gordon "Gordo" Fraley is a mutant with the power to breathe various debilitative gases (in one instance the gas was able to eat away a metal lock) and inflate his body mass to a certain extent. He also has superhuman strength and increased physical durability. There seems to be a confusion of what race he is, he has been depicted as Caucasian as often as he has been depicted as Black. Although he was believed to have been depowered on M-Day, that has been revealed to be untrue as he recently appeared with his mutant powers intact.

His motif is based on the puff adder.

Rattler Captain America #310 (October 1985) Gustav Krueger is a Polish criminal with a bionic tail that can generate vibrations. Perhaps as a result of his powers, he is 85% deaf in both ears and requires a hearing aid. A ruthless villain, he tried to kill Captain America alongside his fellow Serpents. He even betrayed Sidewinder to support the Viper's power bid to seize control over the Society.

His motif is based on the rattlesnake.

Rock Python Captain America #341 (May 1988) M'Gula is a metallurgist that served the terrorist known as the Viper. His body is as hard as his namesake and he throws "snake eggs" that burst upon impact, sending out entangling strands of metallic tendrils. He also seems to have a small measure of superhuman strength: he once hung Captain America over the edge of a building by his ankle with only one hand; his body has the density of rock. He assisted the Viper in taking over the Society. After her defeat, Rock Python (along with Puff Adder and Coachwhip) tried to steal the Falcon's costume, seemingly on behalf of the Society, but they failed. Whatever the circumstances, Rock Python is now a member of the Serpent Society.

His snake motif is based on the rock python.

Sidewinder Marvel Two-in-One #64 (June 1980) Seth Voelker is the creator of the Serpent Society who possessed a cloak that allowed him to teleport himself and a companion. Later, Sidewinder displayed an offensive capability which he called his "side effects": tentacle-like constructs that he cybernetically controlled which shoots charges of electricity. He was the group's leader until Diamondback defected and the Viper's Serpent Squad infiltrated the Society, after which he retired and left leadership to the Cobra. Sidewinder turned himself in and cooperated in his own prosecution in order to secure medical treatment for his ill daughter. Having served his term and gained parole, Sidewinder has shown up in New Thunderbolts #7 having reformed when he was seen in an interview. However, years later, he donned the Sidewinder costume once again and took leadership of the Serpent Society.

A second Sidewinder was killed in the service of Death Sting.

A third Sidewinder named Gregory Bryan has recently been seen as part of the group under Cobra's leadership.

The motifs of each of the Sidewinders is based on the sidewinder.

Slither Captain America Annual #4 (1977) Aaron Salomon is a mutant in the form of a man-snake who is a member of Mutant Force. Slither was also a Society "member" for a short while when the Viper tried to take over the Society.

Other versions[edit]

Exiles[edit]

Another alternate version of the Serpent Society appeared in Exiles #89. The Exiles team had to restore Earth #27537. The Exiles had a hard time defeating the Society, which consisted of Cobra, Anaconda, Bushmaster, Death Adder, Cottonmouth, Diamondback, Rattler, Sidewinder, and an unnamed woman, but eventually the Exiles did manage to win and moved over to another reality. What the Serpent Society was doing on this Earth exactly was not revealed, though it was revealed they had previously killed the Spider-Man of their reality.

Marvel Adventures[edit]

The Marvel Adventures features the Sons of the Serpents as the Serpent Society. However, the actual group eventually appeared, consisting of Sidewinder, Cobra, Anaconda, and Cottonmouth, and battled Spider-Man. They plotted to turn the civilians of the city into snake-like creatures by poisoning the water supply. However, Spider-Man's interference led to the Lizard drinking the poison himself, becoming a giant reptilian creature. The Serpent Society, satisfied with their success, teleported away, leaving Spider-Man to battle the Lizard.

In other media[edit]

Television[edit]

Video games[edit]

  • In the video game adaption of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the Serpent Society appears as major antagonists. King Cobra leads the team, and Diamondback and Puff Adder also appear in the game.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Zimmerman, Dwight Jon (January 1988). "Mark Gruenwald". Comics Interview (54) (Fictioneer Books). p. 15. 
  2. ^ Captain America #310
  3. ^ Captain America #313
  4. ^ Nova vol.4 #19
  5. ^ Wolverine vol.3 #73
  6. ^ Avengers vs. X-Men #0
  7. ^ Elektra vol.3 #6

External links[edit]