Diamondback (comics)

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Diamondback is the name of four fictional characters appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. The first Diamondback is not related to the subsequent three versions that are all connected with each other. The first Diamondback was Willis Stryker, a childhood friend of Luke Cage who was killed not long after his debut in Luke Cage: Hero for Hire. The second Diamondback is Rachel Leighton, originally a super villain who was part of the Serpent Society. She was first introduced in Captain America #310 (October 1985) and became a series regular for years afterwards. The third Diamondback, Debbie Bertrand, was a mercenary that used equipment originally designed for Rachel Leighton and made her debut in the Secret War storyline. The fourth character to use the Diamondback was a Life Model Decoy (LMD) used by the Red Skull against Captain America.

Rachel Leighton made her debut as part of the Serpent Society and soon came into conflict with Captain America as the group carried out an assassination. Later on Leighton started to develop feelings for Captain America, drawing her away from the Society to the side of the good guys. After Captain America helped foil a takeover by Viper the two began to date. Because of her involvement with a super hero the Serpent Society voted to execute her, but her life was spared by her friends in the Serpent Society. Leighton, along with Black Mamba and Asp, formed BAD Girls, Inc. a trio of adventurers who would on occasion aide Captain America. During the Civil War storyline BAD Girls, Inc. sided with Captain America's Anti-Registration group. She later became an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., before returning to her criminal roots as part of Serpent Solutions.

The third Diamondback, Debbie Bertrand, was a mercenary that used weapons and gear designed for Rachel Leighton as well as taking the name, hoping it would help her drum up business. She was part of Nick Fury's team in Secret War and has not appeared since then. The fourth Diamondback was an L.M.D. of Rachel Leighton, used by the Red Skull to try to get to Captain America through someone he had feelings for. The L.M.D. believed itself to be human and believed that she loved Captain America, thus acting out against the Red Skull's orders.

Publication history[edit]

Diamondback (Rachel Leighton) first appeared in Captain America #310 (October 1985), written by Mark Gruenwald and illustrated by Paul Neary.

Fictional character biography[edit]

Willis Stryker[edit]

Publication information
Publisher Marvel Comics
First appearance Luke Cage: Hero for Hire #1 (June 1972)
Created by Archie Goodwin (writer)
George Tuska (artist)
In-story information
Alter ego Willis Stryker
Team affiliations Maggia (comics)
Notable aliases Diamondback
Abilities Skilled in throwing sharp knives
Skilled hand to hand combatant

The first Diamondback was a foe of Luke Cage. Willis Stryker, one of Luke's childhood friends, first appeared in Luke Cage: Hero for Hire #1. Known as Diamondback for his mastery of knives, including specially-gimmicked knives that exploded, released toxic gases or created sonic waves, he was apparently killed in an explosion in Luke Cage: Hero For Hire #2 (June 1972).

Willis Stryker was born and raised in Harlem, New York City. He grew up on the street alongside Carl Lucas, his best friend and future partner. He was recruited into one of the local gangs, The Rivals. The gang consisted mostly of Carl Lucas, Stryker, Shades and Comanche.[1] They engaged in many gang fights with The Diablos, a rival gang. He also committed petty crimes and worked for a crime lord named Sonny Caputo. Carl changed his life and found an honest job while Willis became a skilled gangster but they remained good friends.[2]

A girl named Reva Connors loved them both but was more attracted to Carl. Willis, devastated by jealousy, framed him by hiding drugs where Carl lived, causing Carl Lucas to be sent to prison. The drugs belonged to the Maggia so they hunted Willis but ended up killing Reva.[3]

Carl changed his name to Luke Cage and escaped from prison thanks to his bullet proof skin and searched for revenge. Luke Cage was attacked by hitmen hired by Diamondback. When the attack failed, Diamondback has his inventor Gadget-Man create new gimmicked switch blades to deal with Cage and kidnapped Claire Temple. Tracking Diamondback to his lair, Luke was surprised to find that it is his old friend and betrayer Stryker. Diamondback battled Cage who hoped to clear his name, however, during the fight Diamondback fell through a skylight and is blown up by one of his own trick switchblades, ruining any hope Luke had that Stryker could clear his name. Just then Claire arrived with Noah Burstein (the man who conducted the prison experiments) and the police, and Luke wonders if Burstein will turn him over to the authorities.[4]

Rachel Leighton[edit]

Publication information
Publisher Marvel Comics
First appearance Captain America #310 (October 1985)
Created by Mark Gruenwald (writer)
Paul Neary (artist)
In-story information
Alter ego Rachel Leighton
Team affiliations Avengers Resistance
The Initiative
BAD Girls, Inc.
Serpent Society
Notable aliases Diamond Girl
Abilities Skilled in throwing sharp diamond tips
Skilled gymnast

Rachel Leighton was born in Austin, Texas. She was once a part-time sales clerk at a boutique, but later became a mercenary. In Captain America vol. 1 #319, she reveals to Captain America that she has a brother and that when she was younger was introduced by him to the super-criminal known as the Trapster. In exchange for weaponry that the Trapster provides her with, Leighton suggests that in return she prostitutes herself to the criminal. One of the members of the original Serpent Society,[5] Diamondback was a seductively sly woman with expertise in hand-to-hand combat, being trained by Anaconda at Taskmaster's academy. Her gimmick was that she threw acid-laced or poison-tipped diamonds at her enemies. After her first confrontation with Captain America while on assignment to find MODOK,[6] she was instantly smitten. Diamondback was assigned to take Captain America into custody from the Porcupine, but was reluctant to attack, concentrating her efforts on Porcupine instead.[7] She later attempted to form a partnership with Captain America to locate the Scourge of the Underworld.[8]

Viper staged a coup of the Serpent Society, causing several of her underlings to infiltrate as new members and setting Viper up to take over by force. Diamondback and their current leader Sidewinder escaped, recruiting Captain America's allies to rescue the Serpents who were still loyal to Sidewinder.[9] After a fierce battle, in which Viper was defeated, Sidewinder abandoned the Serpent Society. Diamondback stayed on for a while under the new leader, Cobra.

Rachel was later revealed to have resigned from the Serpent Society, and somehow temporarily switched bodies with the X-Man Dazzler. This led, in part, to a confrontation between the Serpent Society and the X-Men.[10] Diamondback later alerted Captain America to the Bloodstone Hunt.[11] She aided Captain America in combat with Batroc, Machete, Zaran, and Baron Zemo.[12] She also encountered Crossbones for the first time.[13] Diamondback later accompanied Captain America to the Red Skull's Skullhouse.[14]

Diamondback and Captain America eventually went on their first date, aided by Rachel's friends in the Serpent Society, Asp, Black Mamba, and Anaconda.[15] She then battled the Black Widow, and acquired a new costume.[16] Diamondback was eventually put on trial by the Serpent Society for her consorting with the enemy (most of the Society assuming, incorrectly, that Diamondback had betrayed their secrets to Captain America) and found guilty for her actions, and almost executed.[17] She escaped with Captain America and Paladin's help, and later hired Paladin to help get revenge on the Serpent Society.[18] Along with her best friends Black Mamba and Asp, she formed "BAD Girls, Inc."[19] After a failed kidnapping attempt from Anaconda, Diamondback was taken aboard Superia's ship, and joined her Femizons under duress.[volume & issue needed] While aboard Superia's ship, she was attacked by the Femizon Snapdragon, of whom Diamondback developed a phobia.[volume & issue needed] After being rescued and then being used as a test subject by the Red Skull to see if the blood packets that Crossbones brought was really Captain America's blood, the super-soldier serum enhanced Diamondback tracked down and confronted Snapdragon, who died in the fight.[volume & issue needed]

Later, there was a glitch discovered in the super-soldier serum that Cap was suffering from and Diamondback went to Superia in hopes for a cure. Using her as a test subject, there was a 50/50 chance that the cure would either work or kill Diamondback. As an added stipulation, if the test was successful, Diamondback had to serve Superia as the second Snapdragon. The experiment was a success, but she later got out of this deal when Superia was killed.[volume & issue needed]

BAD Girls disbanded after that. Some time later, Diamondback was infected with "mind-control nanoprobes" by Baron Zemo. Diamondback suffered extensive neurological damage from the experience and spent an extended period of time recovering in S.H.I.E.L.D. care.[volume & issue needed]

BAD Girls, Inc. reappeared in Cable & Deadpool, with the original lineup intact.[20]

Rachel's brother Danny is also known as Cutthroat. It was Danny and another of her brothers, Ricky, who originally fell in with a gang led by a man known as "Bing." Yearning to be included, she approached Bing alone. Upon claiming she would do anything to join the gang, Rachel was beaten and possibly raped by Bing, who years later became Crossbones, kidnapped her, starved her and abused her until she agreed, with ulterior motive, to steal packages of Captain America's blood from Avengers Mansion. Bing/Crossbones murdered Danny/Cutthroat, who was attempting to replace him as aid to the Red Skull, and also killed Rachel's third brother, Willy, when, despite being crippled in the military, he sought revenge by rifle for the brutality inflicted on his sister soon after she was originally mistreated.[volume & issue needed]

Diamondback later turned up along with Asp and Black Mamba during the "Civil War" as a member of the Secret Avengers.[21] She took part in the final battle of the "war", but did not accept the offer of amnesty that came with Captain America's surrender. Later Diamondback and the other BAD Girls were captured by the Mighty Avengers in a New York City street mall.

Diamondback appears in Camp Hammond, as an official recruit for the Initiative, along with Ant-Man, Crusader, Melee, Geldoff, Dragon Lord, Geiger, and Red Nine. All of them were defeated by K.I.A., a rogue clone of Michael Van Patrick.[22] She later joined other members of the Inititative in battling the Skrulls in New York during the Secret Invasion storyline.[volume & issue needed]

When Norman Osborn assumes control of the Initiative during the Dark Reign storyline, Diamondback agrees to work for him.[23] Diamondback is revealed as a member of the Initiative's new team for the state of Delaware, the Women Warriors.[24] After the Constrictor saves her life from a crashing plane, the two begin a sexual relationship.[25] However, Constrictor discovers that she is secretly working for Gauntlet's "Avengers Resistance".[26] Constrictor decides not to say anything but worries about what would happen if she were found out. Both Diamondback and Constrictor are part of the invasion of Asgard. Diamondback tries to contact the Resistance but cannot get through. She debates whether or not to help Thor when Osborn and several others gang up on him. When Maria Hill comes to Thor's defense by firing a rocket launcher at Osborn's men, Diamondback adds to the explosion by dropping some explosive diamonds. Constrictor saves her and the two argue about her reckless behavior. They witness Sentry killing Ares and Diamondback sees Steve Rogers entering the battlefield.[27] As the Avengers begin to turn the tide in the battle, Diamondback tries to get Steve Rogers's attention and make sure he knows she and Constrictor are on his side. Constrictor misinterprets her actions and think she's abandoning him. She turns to find him but at the same time Sentry attacks Asgard's foundations on Osborn's orders. As Rachel and Constrictor reach out to each other, Asgard falls to the ground.[28] Rachel is dug out by Steve Rogers. Constrictor sees this and thinking Rachel does not love him, flees the scene with Taskmaster. After Osborn's defeat, Rachel attends a party at Avengers Tower where Rogers asks her to coordinate the remaining Fifty State teams. She tells him she'll think about it.[29]

Later, Rachel is shown working as an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. and sporting a new costume.[30]

As part of the All-New, All-Different Marvel event, Captain America caught on to Viper's plans with the Serpent Society (who are now operating under the new name of Serpent Solutions) and visited Diamondback (who had retired from mercenary work) in order to find out more information on the group. Their meeting was interrupted by Cottonmouth, Black Racer, and Copperhead. During the ensuing battle, Black Racer stabbed Diamondback in the gut. After Captain America defeated the three villains, he rushed to Diamondback's aid. Diamondback immediately betrayed Captain America revealing herself to be a member of the Serpent Society once again. Captain America awoke in the Serpent Society's lair, greeted by Viper and the entire Serpent Society.[31] During the Serpent Society's fight against Captain America, Joaquin Torres, Misty Knight, and Demolition Man, Diamondback turned against Viper and helped the heroes defeat the Serpent Society.[32]

Debbie Bertrand[edit]

A third Diamondback appeared in the "Secret War" storyline. This Diamondback was Deborah "Debbie" Bertrand. Debbie attended the University of North Carolina on an athletics scholarship, becoming an All-American Olympic athlete and gymnast. For undisclosed reasons, apparently quitting this career to try her hand as a mercenary, she purchased equipment from the Tinkerer, which he had designed for Diamondback (Rachel Leighton). Perhaps hoping to use Leighton's reputation to boost her own fledgling career, Bertrand adopted the same code name, despite Leighton still being active in that identity. Nick Fury thought to himself that when Rachel found out, she would "kick the impostor's butt".[33] Bertrand teamed with Scorcher to attack Daredevil in his apartment. They didn't count on Spider-Man being there and had to retreat. She took part in the battle at Mount Sinai Hospital and was apprehended after the heroes won the day.[34]

Rachel Leighton LMD[edit]

A fourth Diamondback, apparently the real Rachel Leighton, resurfaced as a S.H.I.E.L.D. operative, trying to rekindle her romance with Captain America, while in fact she was working undercover for the Red Skull.[35] Truly loving Steve Rogers, but still willing to follow the plot, she was confronted and killed by the Red Skull himself only to "resurrect" herself with a biomechanical form able to take over pieces of technology, like the empowering armor worn by the Nazi villain. Nick Fury then explained that the "new" Rachel was an advanced Life Model Decoy, in fact so advanced as to believe itself to be human, and kept her in storage while working at a way to restore her proper programming. Before "she" could be restored, the Iron Maniac wiped out all her memories, and reshaped her body in a new neurokinetical armor for himself.[volume & issue needed]

Powers and abilities[edit]

Rachel Leighton is an athletic woman with no superhuman powers. She has skill in gymnastics, and at pitching small ballistic objects with great accuracy, and at piloting small aircraft. She also has knowledge of general street-fighting techniques, and some jujitsu. Leighton wears a costume of synthetic stretch fabric backed by Kevlar weave, with two biceps-belts and two thigh-belts for carrying throwing diamonds, concealed pockets in the boot tops, boot-heels, glove tops, and brassiere for other throwing diamonds, and throwing diamond earrings. Her personal weaponry consists of throwing diamonds, which are actually 4-inch (100 mm) hollow zirconium octahedrons (though not made of diamond, they are shaped like diamonds) containing various substances; spent uranium, plastic explosives, nitric acid, tear gas, smoke, curare-derived narcotics, etc. Her equipment was originally designed and manufactured by the Trapster, but her later design and manufacture was by the Tinkerer.

Other versions[edit]

House of M[edit]

In the House of M reality, the Willis Stryker version of Diamondback is a mutant with reptilian features.[36]

Marvel Noir[edit]

Willis Stryker appears in Luke Cage Noir, where he is a former friend of Luke Cage, and a Harlem crime boss.[37]

Ultimate Marvel[edit]

The Ultimate Marvel iteration of Rachael Leighton appears as a teenage street punk by the name of Diamondback. She is a member of the Serpent Skulls gang and an enemy of Spider-Man and the All-New Ultimates.[38]

In other media[edit]


  • Willis Stryker appears in Luke Cage, played by Erik LaRay Harvey.[39] He appears as the main antagonist in the second half of the first season, often quoting the Bible in a number of his speeches. This version is depicted as the half-brother of Luke Cage, as a result of an affair that Luke's father had with his secretary. When they were younger, they were best friends until Stryker was arrested for a crime both he and Luke committed. But Luke is sent to military school while Stryker served juvenile detention and then jail when forced to kill in self-defense. This event, along with his mother dying of cancer after his biological father abandoned her, made Stryker swear a vendetta on Luke. He eventually gets revenge by framing Luke and sending him to Seagate. After the death of Cottonmouth, he assists Mariah Dillard in framing Luke and continuing Cornell's criminal empire. He uses Justin Hammer's technology that helps him go toe to toe with Luke, such as shrapnel bullets that can penetrate Luke's skin, and a suit that provides him with superhuman strength. He is eventually defeated by Luke and placed in police custody with Noah Burstein (the doctor who gave Luke his superpowers) tending to his wounds.
  • The Rachel Leighton version of Diamondback appears in Marvel Disk Wars: The Avengers, voiced by Naomi Shindō.[citation needed] She is seen as the partner of Rosetta Riley.

Video games[edit]


  1. ^ Shadowland: Power Man #2
  2. ^ Cage #3
  3. ^ Hero for Hire #1
  4. ^ Hero for Hire #2
  5. ^ Captain America #310
  6. ^ Captain America #313
  7. ^ Captain America #315
  8. ^ Captain America #319
  9. ^ Captain America #341
  10. ^ X-Men Annual #13
  11. ^ Captain America #357
  12. ^ Captain America #358–361
  13. ^ Captain America #362
  14. ^ Captain America #370
  15. ^ Captain America #371
  16. ^ Captain America #373–374
  17. ^ Captain America #380
  18. ^ Captain America #381–382
  19. ^ Captain America #385
  20. ^ Cable & Deadpool #20
  21. ^ Civil War #5
  22. ^ Avengers: The Initiative #8
  23. ^ Avengers: The Initiative #25
  24. ^ Avengers: The Initiative #26
  25. ^ Avengers: The Initiative #29
  26. ^ Avengers: The Initiative #30
  27. ^ Avengers: The Initiative #32–33
  28. ^ Avengers: the Initiative #34
  29. ^ Avengers: the Initiative #35
  30. ^ Captain America (vol. 6) #11
  31. ^ Captain America: Sam Wilson #4
  32. ^ Captain America: Sam Wilson #6
  33. ^ Secret War #3
  34. ^ Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A-Z Volume #3
  35. ^ Captain America Vol. 2, # 29
  36. ^ House of M: Avengers # 1
  37. ^ Luke Cage Noir #1-4
  38. ^ All-New Ultimates #1
  39. ^ "Luke Cage Set Photos Reveal a Villain for the Netflix Series". 25 May 2016. 
  40. ^ Sep 8, 2009 12:00 am (2009-09-08). "Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 NPC Spotlight: Equinox and Diamondback | Marvel Heroes Games | Games News | News". Marvel.com. Retrieved 2011-01-10. 

External links[edit]