Do you Remember: The Serpent Society?
Hello Everyone! It’s Jabroniville, again, with another trip down comic book memory lane with shout out to some of my favorite comic book characters that you might have forgotten about! Hope you enjoy this latest entry!
THE SERPENT SOCIETY:
The Serpent Society are my favorite Jobber Villains ever!
I mean, who else represents that particular brand of D-league jobber that I find so utterly fascinating?
It’s odd. These guys aren’t even well-developed as characters for the most part, and creator, Mark Gruenwald, specialized in fleshing out silly side-characters.
It’s basically just a collection of cool-ass codenames taken from real-life Snakes (who seem to have the biggest glut of cool names of the animal kingdom- I mean, you’ve got animals named DEATH ADDER and BLACK MAMBA here!), with one or two token powers attached to a costume design that is best-described as “whatever was lying at the bottom of the artist’s ‘Concept Pile’.”
These guys were not Kieron Dwyer’s finest work, though not all of them look dumb.
But… but they’re just so JOBBY! I love it!
You can put three or four of these guys in one scene, and the superhero will just dive in and kick ALL their asses while joking about how sucky they are…unless they get the drop on him and start doing better than they normally should. But for the most part, you couldn’t look any further if you wanted a group of eighteen jobbers, only a few of whom were any kind of challenge.
And this is the beauty of The Society, they can beat a hero through sheer numbers, but they’re great if you want to showcase the good guy doing something awesome and beating a ton of “name” characters (as opposed to simple Mooks), but without damaging a character with any kind of credibility to them- something that’s befallen several once-respected villains.
Plus their names are just AWESOME! I’ve tried to come up with Society-like teams inspired by them before, but there’s just nothing that has the “snap” of the various snake names out there. Anaconda, Diamondback, Black Mamba and ESPECIALLY “Death Adder” are just amazing codenames. The only thing comparable comes from Spiders (derivative of Spider-Man, however), and Sharks (there’s already a Tiger Shark, and pretty much everyone’s name ends up with “Shark” in it, which comes across as same-y).
History of the Team:
The Society originally started out as “The Serpent Squad”, and comprised of totally different guys than the jobbers we normally associate with it. The original Viper (a nobody villain), The Eel (apparently their creator was not a biologist) and The Cobra (later King Cobra) were the first team, and didn’t do much. A couple upgrades followed, adding a few members, but were also forgettable. Since Luke Cage had several crime-boss villains with snake-themed concepts, there’s some overlap of names (Bushmaster, Cottonmouth & Diamondback).
It wasn’t until The Sidewinder, former of the third Serpent Squad, organized a much larger “Society” that the true nature of the team became known.
It was basically a super villain Labor Union. They did their own thing, giving a portion of money to the Society, who then promised them resources and “Get Out of Jail Free” benefits (Sidewinder was a Teleporter). Sidewinder, Anaconda, Black Mamba, Death Adder, Asp, Diamondback, Cottonmouth, Cobra, Bushmaster, Rattler, and Princess Python formed the first team.
Their first big mission “made” their name: Killing M.O.D.O.K., and then they became recurring Captain America foes, often getting beaten in small numbers, but always escaping prison. Gruenwald gave each of them one or two minor personality traits, allowing them to stand out more than the usual “Squad of same-sounding losers” gimmick teams that came later, like The Dark Riders, The Acolytes and The Mutant Liberation Front.
Princess Python quit as a coward, and Death Adder was killed by the Scourge of the Underworld, but they were replaced by Copperhead, Black Racer, Fer-de-Lance & Puff Adder, who were working in secret with Madame Hydra aka The Viper (herself a member of the second Squad), who wanted ownership of the team. Coachwhip, Boomslang, Slither & Rock Python also joined Viper’s side, and the team split its roster, as Sidewinder’s loyalists fled the group (only Bushmaster stuck around as Slither followed Viper and never rejoined the team).
Eventually, Diamondback allied with Cap, freeing the loyalists and Viper was brought down after a silly story that involved her turning Ronald & Nancy Reagan (plus half of Washington, DC) into snake-people. She was then replaced with Cobra (later King Cobra).
The Society engaged in some other activities, but their “Jobber” status soon became prevalent, as the members no longer had their “debuted character” heat on them, and Cap arrested the whole lot of them after he & Diamondback had a big blow-off storyline with them. They tried to execute her for treason (allying with, and dating, Captain America), but she was rescued, and the Society finally brought down.
I actually have this entire story arc now (it’s part of Gru’s The Captain story, where John Walker takes the Cap role while Cap wears the black outfit that Walker later wore as “U.S. Agent”), and it’s fairly good. The Serpents go down one-on-one with any of Cap’s Allies (Nomad, Falcon & D-Man), but they can do okay if it’s an uneven fight.
The Serpent Society didn’t last much past the ’90s, as later versions were really just groups of jobbers in throw-away story lines, getting pounded on by various heroes. One time, they ended up fighting The X-Men in an Atlantis Attacks cross-over, and the mutants made a joke out of them, with some really one-sided beatings.
After they left the Society, Diamondback, Asp & Black Mamba formed “B.A.D. Girls, Inc.” and engaged in some mercenary activities off-and-on, though they only got used a few times. Diamondback was then seen in a Hellions Limited Series, and dating The Constrictor in The Initiative, while the others fought Deadpool as generic baddies.
The girls were part of the “Women’s Warriors” when “The Avengers Initiative” went down, which is how DB got linked to Constrictor. The REST of the team only showed up a handful of other times in great numbers. They allied with Mr. Hyde in the Cap arc that debuted Free Spirit & Jack Flag, who were supposed to be his trainees. But Gru was off the book shortly (he had REALLY started faltering on the book by this time, sadly), and he passed away, leaving most of his “babies” orphaned as Marvel went a different direction.
Their “legacy” as such is pretty minor. They were just recurring villains in the Captain America series aside from the Red Skull & his cronies, and they produced the “Diamondback” years of Cap’s relationships with the ladies (a beloved era, but not even his main one. Sharon Carter trumps her in importance, especially since Ed Brubaker took over the line).
Most of the team never went on to big things. Anaconda got something in the “Six Pack” run in a few books as a mercenary, and she’s attained some notoriety as the most-well-known Big Ugly Woman on Marvel’s roster.
Many of the others though were treated like the jokes they are. It’s only on the internet, where weird little side-characters and jobbers can get way more famous than they deserve, that they ever get to mean anything.
The whole line-up:
1) Sidewinder– originator, Teleporter.
2) Boomslang– Joke even for THIS team. Boomerangs. Has been defeated by common Thug gang members.
3) King Cobra– Failed 1960s villain who later got an upgrade as a KING. Took over the team when Sidewinder quit/was kicked out.
4) Diamondback- A recurring Captain America girlfriend, because this once-Bad Girl took a liking to the big lug and went straight for him. Uses gimmicked diamonds and is a REALLY low-tier super, but under Ron Lim’s pencils, she was HAAAAAAAAWWWWWTT!
5) Asp- Stripper-turned-Supervillain (and again, it’s hilarious that Marvel has at least three or four characters with that origin story), uses low-yield Venom Bolts.
6) Black Mamba- Sexy black-haired chick who uses Darkforce Images to choke people while taunting them with images of their loved ones.
7) Black Racer- Nobody member- just a speedster.
8) Coachwhip– Another nobody. Uses fancy Whips.
9) Puff Adder- Big guy with light Growth powers and poison breath.
10) Anaconda- One of the most-famous members: a big burly chick with elongated limbs and super-strength.
11) The Rattler- Crappily-designed snake-guy with a Vibration-Shooting Tail.
12) Death Adder- Inhuman-looking aquatic villain with a poisonous tail.
13) Bushmaster- Snake-like lower body and pointy wrist-blades. One of the more elaborated-upon male members. (no not the the now more famous Luke Cage villain)
14) Slither- A forgettable Viper minion and former ally of Magneto and his Animal Men. He only stuck around for a bit.
15) Cottonmouth- Has the distinctive trait of wanting to bite off people’s heads. Like most insta-kill weapons in comics, it never hits. (no…again…not the now more famous Luke Cage villain)
16) Fer-de-Lance- Forgettable semi-strong chick with wrist-blades.
17) Princess Python– Circus of Crime reject who was kicked out of THIS TEAM for being TOO JOBBERY. That says it all. She’s a Snake Charmer with a big python.
18) Rock Python- Gimmicked egg-thrower. In the funniest bit of the X-Men/Society fight, he voluntarily gave up the Plot Macguffin once he saw that the X-Men beat up his friends.
19) Copperhead- Blaster, usually in the background.