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Copperhead (Chesney) (Daredevil enemy) (Marvel Comics) shooting his needler

Copperhead

(Lawrence Chesney)


Context

Copperhead (Lawrence Chesney) is an obscure Marvel Comics character. His primary appearance was a clash with Daredevil in 1975.

I found his concept, appearance and characterisation to be really cool back then, and still do. He’s convinced that he’s a mysterious killer vigilante from 1930s pulp  fiction, and he’s bloody dangerous.


Background

  • Real Name: Lawrence Chesney
  • Marital Status: Unrevealed
  • Known Relatives: Father (name unrevealed, deceased)
  • Group Affiliation: Gang of Four (post-mortem only)
  • Base Of Operations: New York City
  • Height: 6’ Weight: 225 lbs.
  • Eyes: Brown Hair: Brown


Powers and Abilities

Chesney was a competent marksman.

From one scene it would seem that he designed and built his own equipment. Our game stats assume that he was a competent technologist whose obsession about the Copperhead gave him bonuses to build equipment replicating gear from the novels.

When he wore his armour, he was a remarkable hand-to-hand combatant, and could hit even Daredevil. Being armoured, he could afford to put no effort into defending himself (Schtick (Relentless) in DCH, Power Armour Training in DCA).

Pneumatic pistol

Copperhead’s signature weapon is his needle pistol or “dart gun”. It is a handgun pneumatically shooting flechette -like projectiles called “needle-darts” in the captions. It is a shot like a semi-automatic, and makes but a faint hissing sound.

Darts carry a payload – usually a variety of snake venoms (with a preference for copperhead venom), but sometimes a lethal electrical charge. There is an undocumented mechanism that allows Copperhead to select the payload very quickly – changing ammunition takes no significant time. It might be a sort of revolver action where each chamber contains multiple darts.

Body armour

Chesney is clad in an ominous, coppery, full-body armour suit. This armour is bulletproof and will not budge when hit – even by a strong man swinging a melee weapon. It also includes some sort of exoskeleton  under the metallic plating. The wearer of the Copperhead suit thus enjoys superhuman strength, and can deliver blows with blinding speed as the motors relay his movements.

Chesney greatly trusts his body armour – with good reason. Unless he thinks an opponent might defeat it he will completely neglect defence and concentrate on offence, making him a redoubtable adversary. Copperhead could engage such formidable fighters as Daredevil, the White Tiger or the Human Fly. In DC Heroes RPG terms he’d spend some Hero Points  on AV about every odd-numbered Phase.

The suit of armour encloses him completely. It has no visible weak point (how he sees through the metal plates covering the eyes is unknown) and is waterproof and quite possibly airtight. It apparently carries a small reserve of air, though that may just be the air enclosed within the armour. It is, however, heavy, long to put on, highly electrically conductive and presumably quite hot.

Reynoldsss

For simplicity’s sake, the second man to wear the Copperhead suit can be assumed to have the same game stats as Chesney, though without the Drawbacks – he was sane and made little effort to protect his dual identity. He also lacked the Expertise with the Copperhead lore.

Reynolds’s province was greed, not fighting crime. He wanted to become a dreaded and very rich master criminal ASAP. He felt his life had short-changed him and he could now strike back with the power of… Copperhead !

Demon jussstice

The exact plan, capabilities and identity of the demon thing that claimed to be Copperhead in 2001 remain unrevealed. It could :

  • shoot bolts of eldritch force
  • trap several Manhattan blocks into an impenetrable bubble of mystical force
  • reanimate the dead as zombies
  • open gates to Hell
  • heighten and warp emotions of all persons within the bubble, even including very strong mentalities such as Daredevil and Spider-Man

In DCH terms 12 APs of Sorcery, not serving as their own AV when it comes to non-emotion-based attacks, might be a good approximation. Things were likely more complicated than that, but there’s too little data. In DCA he likely has a long Array where most applications have about 11 Ranks and the Infernal Magic Descriptor.


History

“Richard Crandell, millionaire playboy, lived his life to the fullest. He had everything going for him – looks, money and charm. He also had enemies. One dark night, while escorting two young lovelies home, acid was murderously thrown into his face. Though fantastic will-power alone, he survived. But six months later, he was released from the hospital, his face hopelessly disfigured for life. Embittered, demanding revenge, Crandell fashioned a bizarre costume, and created the most deadly weapon of all time : his venomous dart-gun. Thus was born the Copperhead ! Enemy of crime, the Copperhead stalked all criminals — and granted them the justice they deserved !”
— Boilerplate intro to Copperhead crime novels during the 1930s.

The Copperhead was a pulp vigilante in 1930s dime novels published in the Marvel Universe. He was a sort of loose cross between the Spider and the Shadow. The novels, mainly written by one Walter Kranz, sold very well. The Copperhead was reportedly almost as popular as Doc Savage for a while. However, by the early 1960s it faded into obscurity and specialised used books stores, and the lengthy series was cancelled.

Another person closely associated with the Copperhead from the 1940s to the end was Mr. Chesney, an artist’s model. He posed as the Copperhead for all the covers, presumably using a prop mask and the like. Like Kranz, Chesney devoted a large chunk of his life to the Copperhead pulp mythos but earned little in return, as the publishers were rapacious.

Obsssesssssion

Unlike Kranz, Mr. Chesney suffered from schizophrenia. He came to believe that he really was the Copperhead, and that the stories were novelisations of his actual adventures as a killer vigilante. He kept telling his son Lawrence that he was the real Copperhead, and Lawrence, who had presumably inherited psychiatric problems from his father, believed him.

Copperhead (Lawrence Chesney) works on his pistol

One person mentioned that Lawrence Chesney worked in a museum to restore antiquities. Presumably that was his salaried career, and his other technical skills were a hobby. Secondary sources have described Lawrence Chesney as an art historian.

When the Copperhead books were cancelled, the elder Mr. Chesney exploded in anger. He started threatening Milton Mexler, the publisher, accusing him of having made a fortune selling accounts of his life as the Copperhead. However, Mr. Chesney never acted on this, and he died in the early 1970s.

Lawrence remained certain that his father had been a great foe of evil whose name had been exploited by profiteers. When he learned that Mexler had sold the rights of Copperhead to be republished in trade paperbacks, he snapped.

Jussstice isss the Copperhead

It was apparently Lawrence Chesney who built fully functional replicas of the equipment used by Copperhead in the books. These included light power armour  and a vicious handgun. Now that the Copperhead was real, Chesney had two objectives – acting as a vigilante killing evil men because that’s what the Copperhead did, and punishing those who had robbed his father.

The Copperhead’s activities as a vigilante were somewhat warped. Unlike the fictional character, he was no detective. What he did was patrol mid-1970s New York City and murder small-time street criminals he caught committing small crimes, such as stealing purses. He occasionally ran into cops, whom he shot with venom-tipped darts putting them asleep to stop them from interfering.

Copperhead (Lawrence Chesney) vs. Daredevil

As to his quest for revenge, it was likewise dissociated from reality. Not believing that Kranz had also been paid very little, he shot the impoverished, elderly writer dead for refusing to pay him the vast sums Chesney imagined he had.

Implacable vengeanccccce

Chesney then approached Mexler, who also refused to pay and was shot dead with a dart tipped with copperhead venom. The implacable — if deluded — Copperhead then set his sights on one Martin Foster, who had bought the rights to Copperhead for republishing.

Meanwhile, Daredevil clashed several times with the Copperhead, trying to stop his murders and investigating his background. Daredevil deduced what was going on in time to save Foster, then confront Chesney in the graveyard where he was talking to the tomb of his father.

Chesney, who always had had the upper hand in their fights and twice thought that he had killed the crimson-clad combatant, decided to kill Daredevil once and for all. However, standing in copper-plated equipment in the middle of a storm, Chesney was struck and killed by a lightning bolt.

The ssstolen visssage of the Copperhead

A co-worker of Lawrence, one Reynolds, learned of his colleague’s death and Copperhead identity in the paper. Embittered by his stagnant career, Reynolds had long considered stealing the more valuable objects he was restoring. He saw the revelation about Chesney’s secret life as his golden opportunity.

He raced to Chesney’s apartment before the overworked NYPD could inspect it. As he hoped, he found a spare Copperhead suit and pistol in a hidden closet. He stole those and left.

Reynolds had been scheming for months to steal an enormous ancient urn. But the curator had discovered his scheme and taken over, reserving a large percentage of the sale for himself lest he denounces Reynolds to the police.

Feeling that he now was the one with the power, the new Copperhead killed the curator and launched his plan, but ended up running into the Human Fly, White Tiger and Daredevil. Though none of the heroes could hurt him, he ended up falling in deep water and sinking like a stone. Only the dart-gun was recovered, and Reynolds was never seen again.

The ssstench of demonsss

A quarter-century after Lawrence Chesney’s death, an undead and/or demonic creature claiming to be him resurfaced in New York City. This thing had a plot to plunge the city into chaos, and manipulated and hired three madmen — the Gladiator, the Owl and Stilt-Man — who’d dare start a gang war against Wilson Fisk.

The psychotic Owl was the front man of this “Gang of Four”, whereas the alleged Copperhead would generally stand in the shadows. He did not wear the actual Copperhead costume, but something more akin to the traditional Doctor Fate togs over at the Distinguished Competition .

The undead’s plan was to use the gang war as a human mass sacrific, plus the depravity allegedly to be found in New York City, to conjure the Devil and negotiate his redemption in exchange for souls. The fighting and his magics did kill dozens, and trapped several blocks in a bubble of impenetrable mystic force within which emotions were warped and heightened.

Greatly amplifying Daredevil’s sense of guilt, the undead was about to make him kill himself when the Owl turned against “Copperhead”. He threw himself and the undead through a gate to Hell.

Whether this creature was Lawrence Chesney remains undetermined, though secondary sources follow the stance that it was.


Description

The mask of the Copperhead suit apparently includes equipment that distorts his voice, making it sssinister and sssibilant but still recognisssable (Reynolds and Chesney’s voices were similarly altered). Since he usually wears a trenchcoat, a hat and the like, it is easy to assume that he’s just a big guy with a mask, and bruise one’s hand hitting solid metal under the trenchcoat.

The Copperhead’s striking visage, sssinister voice and stony demeneanour combine to make quite an impression.


Personality

Chesney genuinely believes that he’s a pulps vigilante, and that everything he does is a justified fight against capital-e Evil. As often, “Evil” is defined as anybody whom he doesn’t like or who opposes him. After all, since jussstice isss Copperhead, anybody who opposes Copperhead must surely be a card-carrying evil-doer.

Copperhead always uses deadly force, no matter how small the — real or imagined — crime is. He sees all criminals as a monolithic block of evil.

Copperhead talks a lot, and almost solely to deliver pulps-ish lines like those in the quotes. Use the selection provided and continue with that theme, since Chesney is nothing if not monomaniacal.

He probably has pages and pages of Copperhead monologues memorised (including some phrases that were winks toward famous catchphrases of pulps heroes in the real world). Sometimes, instead of rambling, he chooses to be ominously silent.

Another intimidation tactic is to just stand there and ignore the blows and shots of his opponent for 20-30 seconds, then start fighting.

Chesney imitates the morbid calling card of the pulps Copperhead – leaving copper pennies on the eyes of the persons he killed.


Quotes

“Chessster Chino, your hour of reckoning isss at hand ! You have ssstolen, Chessster Chino – committed a crime ! Thusss you owe a debt to sssociety… a debt that ssshall be collected by…. the Copperhead !”

“You are going nowhere, foolsss. For your crimesss, you mussst pay — with your livesss !”

“I am the Copperhead ! Archenemy of crime ! Dessstroyer of evil !”

“But you have forsssaken jussstice’s path… to walk the brimssstone road to Hell ! To paraphrassse the poetesss, my foolish one — ’In yonder death he liesss, wih penniesss on hisss eyessss !‘ Ha ha ha !”

“For crime isss a bitter pill — which mussst never be ssswallowed !”

“Vengeance belongsss to jussstice… and jussstice isss the Copperhead !”

“Gaze upon my visssage, villain. Ssstare at the power that isss… Copperhead !”


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Copperhead I

Dex: 04 Str: 02 Bod: 03 Motivation: Psycho
Int: 04 Wil: 03 Min: 02 Occupation: Vigilante
Inf: 05 Aur: 04 Spi: 03 Resources {or Wealth}: 004
Init: 013 HP: 025

Skills:
Gadgetry: 05, Vehicles (Land): 03, Weaponry (Firearms): 05

Advantages:
Expertise (Equipment based on the Copperhead dime novels, Restoration of antiquities)

Connections:
None

Drawbacks:
MPI, Secret Identity

Equipment:

  • Needle pistol (x2) [BODY 03, Projectile weapons: 03, Lightning: 06, Poison touch: 06, Sleep: 06, Note – none of Poison touch, Lightning or Sleep has a Range, but any one of those can be Combined with Projectile weapons and ride its Range, Limitation: None of the Needle pistol’s Powers can affect targets with a Physical RV of 08+, as the needle-darts cannot penetrate those]. The Copperhead occasionally wields two such guns, but this has no in-game effect. Like all his equipment, the pistols are copper-coated.
  • BODY ARMOUR [/DEX/ 06 /STR/ 07 /BODY/ 08, Sealed systems: 05, Charisma (Intimidation): 05, Attack Vulnerability (Electrical attacks, -2CS OV/RV), No Vital Areas, Schtick (Relentless), Real Armour. While wearing the ARMOUR, Chesney uses his Relentless Schtick practically every Phase, giving him a AV of 08 and an OV of 04.]
  • Lockbuster [BODY 01, EV 08, Ammo: 01, Note: EVis limited to destroying locks and similar mechanisms, though it is so strong it will likely blast away a good chunk of the door unless it’s armoured]. This Gadget is a coppery, pen-sized metallic cylinder. It can extrude a thin blade which is jammed into a lock, and then explodes – destroying the lock and allowing for the door to be opened with a good kick.
  • A roll of copperhead pennies, and an ordinary car.


Game Stats — DC Adventures RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Copperhead — Averaged PL 7.8

STR STA AGL DEX FGT INT AWE PRE
00 (06) 02 01 02 02 03 01 02

Devices

Copperhead armour ● 36 points (Removable)
– Augmented strength and speed — Enhanced Strength 6, Enhanced Dodge 2, Enhanced Parry 5
– Fully armoured — Protection 8, Impervious Toughness 10, Enhanced Fortitude 7
– Ominous appearance — Intimidation 4 (+6)

Needle pistols Array ● 7 points (Noticeable, Easily removeable)

  • Electrocution dart — Ranged Damage 7, Limited Range 2, Resistible (Toughness *and* Fortitude) ● Descriptor: Electrical
  • Copperhead venom dart — Ranged Damage 7, Limited Range 2, Resistible (Toughness *and* Fortitude), Chronic 3 ● Descriptor: Poison
  • Diluted copperhead venom dart — Ranged Affliction 8, Limited Range 2, Resistible (Toughness *and* Fortitude), Fatigued/Exhausted/ Asleep ● Descriptor: Poison

Lockbuster ● 1 point
Damage 8 (Limited 3 – Only vs. small, open items such as locks) (Limited 2 – one-shot)

Powers

Power armour training ● 2 Points (Sustained, Removable – requires wearing power armour) ● Descriptors: Skill, insanity
Wade in and let the armour take the blows — All-out Attack, Close Attack 2

Combat Advantages

All-Out Attack (in armour), Close attack 2 (in armour)

Other Advantages

Inventor

Skills

Athletics 2 (+2), Close combat (Unarmed combat w/Copperhead armour) 5 (+10, Close combat (Unarmed combat) 1 (+6), Deception 2 (+4), Expertise (Art history and museum work) 4 (+6), Intimidation 4 (+6) (in armour, Perception 3 (+4), Technology 8 (+11) (Limited 2 – to recreations of gadgets used by Copperhead in the novels), Vehicles 4 (+6) (Limited 2 – to common land vehicles)

Offense

Initiative +1
Unarmed +6, Close, Damage 0
Unarmed w/Copperhead armour +10, Close, Damage 6

Defense

Dodge 7/5* Fortitude 10/3*
Parry 10/5* Toughness 10/2*
Will 1

* Without Copperhead armour

Complications

  • Motivation Crimson man of bronze of the night who knows what evil is the master of men
  • Identity
  • Obsession Obsessed by recreating the Copperhead and his mystique
  • Obsession Insane vision of justice

Power levels

  • Trade-off areas Attack & Effect PL 8, Dodge/Toughness PL 9, Parry/Toughness PL 10, Fort & Will PL 6
  • Point total 91 Abilities 26, Defences 8, Skills 10, Powers 2, Devices 44, Advantages 1. Equiv. PL 6.

Notes

All-Out Attack is an important part of Copperhead’s strategy in close combat, since he normally fights opponents who cannot harm him. For the Chronic Extra, see the New Rules File for DCA on writeups.org.

By Sébastien Andrivet

Source of Character: Marvel Universe

Helper(s): Darci

Writeup completed on the 10th of May, 2011.

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