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The Serpent Society is a organization of snake-themed supervillains in the Marvel Comics universe. The group was initially formed from the membership of a previous supervillain team, the Serpent Squad. The group, like its predecessor, has been made up of longtime antagonists of Captain America and his fellow Avengers. The Serpent Society first appeared in Captain America #310 (October 1985) and was created by Mark Gruenwald and Paul Neary.
The Serpent Society was the brainchild of Seth Voelker (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.
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. 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. 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.
Civil War/The Initiative
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 Civil War. After that the four villans have been identified as members of the 142 registered superheroes who appear on the cover of the comic book Avengers: The Initiative #1. But King Cobra has leater since turned up as a member of Sin's new Serpent Squad; 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 hasn'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.. The rest of the Serpent Society have not been seen since they last battled Captain America.
The membership of the Serpent Society has included:
Anaconda (Blanche Sitnizki) is a former steelworker from Pittsburgh who has superhumanly strong tentacle-like arms and legs that she uses to constrict her foes. She has gills implanted 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.
Asp ("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. She was an exotic dancer by profession, and found that physical exertion increased her venom blasts recharge time. The Asp can also move at superhuman speed, although not on par with speedsters such as Black Racer or Quicksilver. When Diamondback left the Society, Asp and Black Mamba followed, and they teamed with the African huntress named Impala to form the short-lived mercenary group called "BAD Girls, Inc." The team recently reappeared sans Impala, now calling themselves the B.A.D. Girls.
Black Mamba (Tanya Sealy), a former call-girl, 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. When Diamondback left the Society, Asp and Black Mamba followed, and they teamed with the African huntress named Impala to form the short-lived mercenary group called "BAD Girls, Inc." Black Mamba later joined the Crimson Cowl's Masters of Evil, but recently returned as a member of the BAD Girls.
Black Racer can run and move at superhuman speed. Only her first name, Ariana, is known. She was a member of the fourth Serpent Squad along with Copperhead, Fer-de-Lance, and Puff Adder.
Boomslang is an 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.
Bushmaster (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, another criminal. 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.
Coachwhip is a woman who wields metal-linked whips. Later they were "updated" with the ability to generate electricity. Coachwhip's eyes are somewhat sensitive to bright light so she wears a special visor over them.
Cobra (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.
Copperhead (Davis Lawfers) was 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. In fact, he was only seen as a member in the X-Men Annual. 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.
(Note that Copperhead is the name of two other Marvel villains, one of whom (now deceased) battled Daredevil and another who battled Spider-Man and the first White Tiger on at least one occasion. There is also a DC supervillain named Copperhead as well.)
Cottonmouth (name unknown) 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 M.O.D.O.K. on the Society's first mission. For a while, for reasons never explained, Cottonmouth assumed Bushmaster's real identity of Quincy McIver.
Death Adder (Roland Burroughs) was 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.
Diamondback (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 short-lived mercenary group called "BAD Girls, Inc." A since-destroyed Diamondback-lookalike 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.
Fer-de-Lance (Teresa Vasquez), 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.
Princess Python (Zelda DuBois), a professional criminal and snake charmer, is a member of the Circus of Crime. 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. He 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 (Gordon Fraley), a man with the mutant 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 White as often as he has been depicted as Black.
The Rattler (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.
Rock Python (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.
Sidewinder (Seth Voelker), 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": tentacular 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, now reformed, has shown up in New Thunderbolts #7. A second Sidewinder was killed in the service of Death Sting, and a third has recently been seen as part of the group under Cobra's leadership.
Several other serpent-themed supervillains rejected membership, including the Viper and the Constrictor. Slither, a mutant in the form of a man-snake who is a member of Mutant Force, was also a Society "member" for a short while when the Viper tried to take over the Society.