Cottonmouth (Cornell Stokes)
|First appearance||Luke Cage, Power Man #19 (June 1974)|
|Created by||Len Wein |
|Full name||Cornell Stokes|
|Place of origin||Earth|
|Team affiliations||The Rivals|
|Abilities||Superhuman strength and durability|
The character first appeared in Luke Cage, Power Man #18 (June 1974) in a story written by Len Wein and drawn by George Tuska. Cornell Cottonmouth, or just Cottonmouth, started out as a drug kingpin in New York City. He was involved in the events that led to Luke Cage gaining super powers and becoming "Power Man". Cottonmouth tried to recruit Cage to his organization, but was ultimately knocked out and turned over to police by Cage. During the "Shadowland" storyline, Cottonmouth returned as part of Nightshade's gang, Flashmob where they come into conflict with Daredevil as well as a new Power Man, who, like his predecessor, knocked Cottonmouth out and turned him over to police.
Fictional character biography
Not much is known about Cornell Cottonmouth's history except that he has established himself as a drug lord in New York. When Willis Stryker wanted to frame Carl Lucas, he stole a shipment of heroin from Cottonmouth's organization.
Upon changing his name to Luke Cage, Carl decided to track down the drugs that were used to frame him. Cage used a number of informants in his search. The informant Flea was successful in his search yet his investigations were discovered. Before dying from the poisons inflicted on him by Cottonmouth's men, Flea managed to inform Cage of his discovery. Upon learning who sent Flea to infiltrate his organization, Cottonmouth got the idea of recruiting Cage to his organization. He sent his trademark snakes to Luke's office "to show him that he means business." Cottonmouth then sent his henchmen Mike and Ike to make an offer to Luke. Luke managed to take out the snakes and defeat Mike and Ike. Mike ended up snitching to Luke where Cottonmouth was located. Luke agreed to join Cottonmouth's organization (to learn where his records were kept). Cottonmouth then began to test Cage's loyalty by sending him to steal a shipment of heroin from the rival crimeboss, Morgan. After Cage's success, he earned Cottonmouth's trust and began working for him until Cottonmouth caught Cage attempting to steal his records. Cottonmouth attacked Luke and was assisted by his henchman Slick. Cage then knocked Cottonmouth into Slick who fell out a window to his death. When Cottonmouth stated that the supposed records were in Slick's mind, Luke slammed Cottonmouth into an oak desk where Cottonmouth fell unconscious. Cage then called the police to come pick up Cottonmouth.
During the 2010 "Shadowland" storyline, Cottonmouth appeared as a member of Nightshade's gang called the Rivals. Cottonmouth established a section of turf where he sold drugs and hired out prostitutes only for him to be attacked by Hand ninjas that were sent by Daredevil. However, Power Man arrived dispersing the Hand ninjas and then Power Man broke Cottonmouth's teeth. Cottonmouth later had his broken teeth replaced by gold-capped sharp teeth. When Power Man was apparently beaten and defeated by five corrupt police officers, Cottonmouth prepared to bite off a part of Power Man's face only to be leashed by Nightshade. At first, Cottonmouth was surprised when Nightshade offered Power Man to become her enforcer. Cottonmouth then became pleased when Nightshade had set up Power Man to fight Iron Fist. To Nightshade's surprise, Power Man managed to side with Iron Fist and knocked out Cottonmouth while Nightshade escaped.
During the 2011 "Spider-Island" storyline, Cottonmouth alongside Nightshade and Flashmob (consisting of Chemistro, Cheshire Cat, Commanche, Dontrell "Cockroach" Hamilton, Mr. Fish, and Spear) tried to leave a spider-infested Manhattan by crossing a bridge only to be stopped by Misty Knight and her Heroes for Hire (consisting of Black Cat, Falcon, Gargoyle, Paladin, and Silver Sable).
Cottonmouth was at some point arrested and imprisoned in Ryker's Island, which he escapes from during a riot that occurs during "Civil War II". With all of his assets either seized by the FBI or appropriated by Tombstone, a desperate Cottonmouth reaches out to Piranha Jones for help, and is convinced by Jones to side with him and Black Cat in an upcoming war for control of Harlem. Unimpressed by the duo's plans, Cottonmouth abandons them in favor of joining Alex Wilder's New Pride.
Powers and abilities
Cottonmouth has super-strength that rivals Luke Cage. He also has sharp teeth that he had sharpened to resemble fangs; combined with his jaw-strength they are capable of piercing Cage's "unbreakable" skin. Cottonmouth also has a good knowledge of different poisons.
Cottonmouth appears in the Marvel Comics 2 series The Amazing Spider-Girl as the head of The Bronx branch of Black Tarantula's criminal empire. When a new villain called the Crimelord acquires and attempts to sell the Kingpin's files, Cottonmouth attends the auction for them in Black Tarantula's stead. The auction being crashed by the Hobgoblin and Spider-Girl leads to Cottonmouth and most of the other criminals present being arrested by the NYPD.
In other media
Cornell Bertram "Cottonmouth" Stokes appears in Luke Cage, portrayed by Mahershala Ali, while his younger appearance is portrayed by Elijah Boothe. His nickname "Cottonmouth" comes from an incident in his childhood when several of his teeth were knocked out. He despises this nickname, snapping with rage at its merest mention, and insists upon being addressed as by his legal name. Cottonmouth is known to kill people with his bare hands and is capable of crushing a victim's skull while suffering nothing more than a few cuts on his knuckles. In his youth, Cottonmouth was part of a gang alongside Pop. In public, Cottonmouth is the owner of the nightclub Harlem's Paradise, but in private is a major arms dealer, working with his cousin, city councilwoman Mariah Dillard. During his time, he was assisted by Diamondback's minion Shades. Similar to Wilson Fisk, Cottonmouth also has several corrupt police officers on his payroll including Lt. Perez and Misty Knight's own partner Rafael Scarfe.
Cottonmouth first appears on Luke's radar after a couple of street thugs decide to rob a gun deal between him and Domingo Colon. In the course of eliminating the thieves, Pop gets killed in a botched hit on the last thug, Chico Diaz. As retaliation for Pop's death, Luke attacks Cottonmouth's stash houses, costing him 80% of his money. Scarfe finds out about Luke's actions from Chico, kills him, and sells Luke out to Cottonmouth. Cottonmouth tries to kill Luke by blowing him up in Genghis Connie's with a rocket launcher, but Luke survives the building collapse. Outraged at Luke's refusal to die, Cottonmouth orders his men to begin shaking down local businesses for what he calls a "Luke Cage stupidity tax" in hopes of driving Luke out of Harlem, but Luke rallies to help the victims recover their money and possessions.
Meanwhile, Scarfe, who has found himself under investigation internally by the NYPD, decides to blackmail Cottonmouth for $100,000. Cottonmouth instead shoots him and leaves him to bleed out. Scarfe dies that night, but not without first telling Luke and Claire everything he knows about Cottonmouth's operation. Cottonmouth is subsequently arrested and perp-walked out of Harlem's Paradise, but the Stokes' family lawyer Benjamin Donovan bails him out. While dealing with the fallout, Cottonmouth gets into a heated argument with Mariah about their upbringing, in which Cottonmouth shames Mariah for her rapes at the hands of their uncle Pete. Mariah, whose secret daughter Tilda is a product of said rapes, does not take the insinuation well, and throws Cottonmouth out his office window before beating him to death with a microphone stand. Mariah pins the blame for his death on Luke. At the end of the season, she later shifts the blame of Cottonmouth's death onto Diamondback.
Despite Cottonmouth's death, his presence is not forgotten in season 2. It is revealed that Cottonmouth was close with Mariah's daughter Tilda. She is seen laying a rose at his grave prior to working with Bushmaster to help him take out Mariah at Harlem's Paradise. The attempt fails, and Misty is able to arrest Mariah for Cottonmouth's murder among other crimes, although she's poisoned in jail by Tilda before she can be tried.
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- Cottonmouth I at the Appendix to the Handbook of the Marvel Universe