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Sidewinder of the Serpent Society (Marvel Comics) dramatic high angle shot

Sidewinder

(Seth Voelker)


Power Level:
Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game

“Offering terrific wages and fringe benefits ranging from comprehensive healthcare to imprisonment insurance, the Serpent Society is open only to individuals of questionable moral values, possessing at least one special skill or power, and whose costumed identities are patterned after snakes.”


Context

Sidewinder (Seth Voelker) appeared in 1980 in a notable story arc, the “Serpent Crown Affair” (a reference to a classic movie ). But he’s mostly famous for his 1985+ role in forming the Serpent Society, a distinctive assemblage of minor Marvel villains with a snake theme. That was a cool concept with good stories, primarily in Captain America.

Sidewinder was one of Mark Gruenwald’s signature characters. Beyond his work as a writer and an editor, Mr. Gruenwald played a critical role in developing sourcebooks and other means to manage the Marvel continuity. This profile, and our Diamondback character profiles, are dedicated to his memory.

For Sidewinder and several other Serpent Society members, we treat information from secondary sources  as if they were primary, since Mr. Gruenwald wrote both sources.


Background

  • Real Name: Seth Voelker.
  • Other Aliases: Snake-Eye.
  • Marital Status: Divorced.
  • Known Relatives: Donna Voelker (ex-wife), Amelia (daughter), Maggie (sister).
  • Group Affiliation: Former leader of the Serpent Squad II, former leader of the Serpent Society.
  • Base Of Operations: A Central Park West apartment (NYC, NY) ; the first Serpent Citadel (in upstate New York, near Highway 93 and Route N, near Pawling).
  • Height: 5’9” Weight: 180 lbs.
  • Eyes: Dark blue Hair: Black (Bald on top and front).


Powers and Abilities

Sidewinder is an intelligent, thoughtful manager and criminal. He’s always the man with a plan. He’s also an efficient leader, both in terms of organisation and tactical orders. However, he’s not genuinely charismatic.

Equipment

The reinforced Sidewinder costume can operate deep underwater, can teleport, and has minor protective properties.

One known self-defence function is what Voelker calls the “side effects”. These are odd streaks of energy unleashed from his brow. These will strike random things within range, though there seems to be a minimum range away from the Sidewinder suit – perhaps one foot. Being uncontrollable, the side effects are mostly useful to keep opponents at bay.

From the name, one gets the impression that these energies are tied to the dimension  he crosses to teleport.

Sidewinder has had Serpent Society members implanted with tiny emitters embedded in the skull. In this way, he could always locate them and burst them out of prison no matter where they were.

At one point he also used knockout gas grenades, but those were commercial equipment acquired on the black market.

Sidewinder teleportation

Sidewinder main ability is the ability to “go sideway” between dimensions. He can thus teleport for about 50 miles (though it was once erroneously stated his range was only of ten feet).

He can chain jumps without undue stress and cross the country. Sidewinder also can teleport in and out in the blink of an eye. Apparently the jumps occur on a mere mental impulse, through cybernetic controls. He can usually teleport faster than even Captain America or the Cobra can react.

Sidewinder has such fine control that he can teleport but a part of his body without harm or apparent discomfort. For instance he could reach into a safe by putting a hand against the door then teleport just this hand within the safe, grab the content and teleport his hand back to his body with what it holds.

Secondary sources stated that he could teleport an eyeball to discretely reconnoitre ahead. This likely explains how Sidewinder could flawlessly teleport in and out of enclosed spaces.

When Sidewinder is seriously injured, his teleportation system is programmed to launch a random series of quick, short jumps. It stays in the same general area and controls for obstacles. This is an efficient evasive measure – Sidewinder is very difficult to hit when he does that, even though he’ll likely be unconscious at that point.

Presumably there exists an override so allies can recover him and administer first aid.

The Sidewinder teleportation power seems based on the groundbreaking Nth Projector dimensional exploration technology.

Costume or implant ?

During his early appearances it seemed that Sidewinder’s teleportational abilities were a built-in power, likely granted by cybernetic implants. However, by the mid-1980s, teleportation seemed dependent upon the costume. And later on, people wearing the Sidewinder costume seemed to have the full Sidewinder powers.

Yet, Diamondback mentioned that Voelker had a teleport chip implanted in his brain.

One hypothesis is that Voelker was equipped with a teleportation implant, and the Sidewinder costume held circuitry that made teleportations much longer-ranged and less fatiguing. This explains the seemingly contradictory accounts, and doesn’t conflict with any of the stories.

If this No-Prize Hypothesis  is correct, later users of the Sidewinder costumes had the teleportation circuitry added to the costume rather than built-in as cybernetics.

Recent secondary sources state that the teleportation circuitry is in the cloak and “some civilian clothing”, but must be controlled by the brain chip.


History

Seth Voelker is a former college-level teacher of economics. It was presumably early in the early 1970s that he lost this job and became a financial analyst for energy giant Roxxon Oil.

His work led him to discover the extensive less-than-legal activities going on at Roxxon. Bored with being an analyst, he volunteered to become a special field agent now that he knew what was going in shady Roxxon subsidiaries such as Brand Corporation.

At this point Roxxon CEO Hugh Jones was possessed by the Serpent Crown from another dimension. Jones needed a team of operatives to recover Earth-616’s Serpent Crown. He had Voelker enhanced to become Sidewinder. Jones then tasked Voelker with building a new Serpent Squad — no relation with the team once led by the Viper (Ophelia Sarkissian) — to find the Crown.

Serpent Squad

The Crown was lost in the ocean. Therefore the Squad members, including Voelker, all had means to exist deep underwater. The Crown was located, and Roxxon set up a fake oil rig from which the Squad (Sidewinder, Anaconda (Blanche Sitznski), Death Adder (Roland Burrough) and Black Mamba (Tanya Sealy)) ran searches on the ocean floor.

Stingray and the Thing stumbled upon the rig. Since Stingray was certain there was no oil in the area, they investigated. The heroes were met with armed resistance by Roxxon employees, who called in reinforcements. Minutes later, Sidewinder and his team mates reached the surface, knocked Stingray out and captured the Thing.

They then returned to the ocean floor, where they had just located the Crown, to finish unearthing it.

The intervention of Triton turned the… well, tide after he freed the Thing and Stingray. Nevertheless, Sidewinder still escaped with the Crown. Voelker personally delivered the crown to Roxxon’s CEO, but the rest of his Squad had been captured.

Divorce

Voelker not only pocketed the huge bonus for the mission, but he also got the bonus for the three captured operatives. Furthermore, he left Roxxon with his costume and tech. Presumably, the sheer chaos that resulted from Jones getting the Crown facilitated this.

Voelker assembled his own snake-themed group of super-operatives. It was the first version of the Serpent Society, which included Diamondback (Rachel Leighton), Cobra (Klaus Voorhees), Puff Adder (Gordon Fraley), Anaconda and Rattler (Gustav Krueger).

The West Coast crime lords of the Pride hired the Society to kill Tony Stark. Howbeit, the down-on-his-luck captain of industry narrowly took them out by hacking Sidewinder’s teleportation system. Voelker was wounded by the energy blacklash, and the Society dispersed.

It is apparently during this era that Voelker’s wife divorced him. She disapproved of his illegal activities and felt that her husband was now a moral failure. Donna Voelker gained custody of their baby girl, Amelia. Little Amelia suffered from an unspecified medical condition causing dangerous seizures.

Though less than enthusiastic about his activities, Seth Voelker’s sister remained in contact with him. She ran a clothing store in Manhattan. Years later, she’d hire Voelker’s friend Diamondback (Rachel Leighton) when Leighton forwent her criminal lifestyle.

His private life in shambles and missing his daughter, Sidewinder instead concentrated on his big project. He wanted to establish a well-run, well-managed union and partnership for costumed criminals. This new Serpent Society would let him operate as a behind-the-scenes coordinator, rather than be exposed on the front lines.

Meanwhile his three Serpent Squad operatives tracked Voelker down. Roxxon had told them that he had pocketed the bonus for the entire team. They found his Manhattan apartment and prepared to threaten him.

Instead, they were astonished when Voelker told then he had kept their full bonuses, had invested them while they were in prison, and gave them all both their money and the accrued interest in cash. He then offered them to become founding members of the Serpent Society, and all three agreed.

The Serpent Society

Sidewinder’s first recruiting drive and business meeting brought Princess Python (Zelda Dubois), Cottonmouth (Burchell Clemens), Diamondback, Bushmaster (Quincy McIver), the Cobra, the Asp (“Cleo Nefertiti”), Constrictor (Frank Schlischting) and the Rattler as well as his three Serpent Squad colleagues. All but the cocky Constrictor agreed to join.

The Constrictor decided to sabotage the Society before it could become too big a competitor. Thus, he dropped an anonymous tip to the Avengers. Captain America responded but did not manage to stop the Serpent operatives.

Anaconda was captured, but this helped Voelker more than it hindered him. It allowed him to demonstrate the anti-imprisonment insurance offered by the Society by teleporting Anaconda out of prison. Anaconda then thoroughly beat Constrictor up as a lesson.

Sidewinder then had teams of Society members deliver, occasionally after some combat to reach the prospect, sales pitches and business cards. The prospects were various underworld concerns such as the Kingpin, AIM or Hydra.

Rise of the Society

The largest contract that resulted from this sales blitz was with AIM, who wanted to eliminate their treacherous ex-leader – MODOK. The sales team working AIM, Diamondback and Bushmaster, soon located and attacked MODOK but could not overcome him.

Sidewinder launched a search and destroy operation pitting the entire Society against MODOK. Despite Captain America’s intervention they were successful. It was Death Adder who landed the killing blows, with Cottonmouth’s assistance. After having had to retreat, the Society came back to steal the corpse and deliver it to AIM.

Captain America, with the aid of failed super-villains Porcupine, set a trap to capture Serpent Society members Cottonmouth, Death Adder and Rattler. However, Sidewinder just teleported the three Serpents out of prison right under Cap’s nose.

Sidewinder determined that Captain America had learned about the hit of MODOK through Princess Python. She had been so scared at the thought of fighting the inhuman MODOK that she agreed to surrender information to Cap. Sidewinder tortured her via selective mindwipe technology to make her forget Society Secrets, then negotiated a ransom with her Circus of Crime cohorts

The Circus agreed to pay $10K to have Princess Python returned. However, Death Adder was ambushed and killed by the Scourge of the Underworld while making the delivery. Shocked by the murder, the entire Society paused their current assignments to hunt down the killer.

Diamondback, fascinated by Captain America, discreetly collaborated with him. It was Cap who stopped the Scourge.

By that point Voelker was in a relationship with one of the Serpent, Black Mamba – formerly a high-end call-girl. Apparently this was the result of some debt that Mamba owed Sidewinder, rather than a romance.

The Viper takes over

The Society proved successful and profitable – reportedly, each founding member of the Serpent Society cleared over one million dollar of benefits a year. Sidewinder thus recruited four more snake-themed supervillains (Copperhead (David Lawfers), Puff Adder, Black Racer (Ariana Saddiqi) and Fer-de-Lance (Teresa Vasquez)) after teleporting them out of prison.

However, the new recruits were actually plants from yet another snake-themed criminal. Namely, the infamous international terrorist called the Viper (Ophelia Sarkissian). The Viper launched an assault to take over the Society, using more operatives (Coachwhip (Beatrix Keener), Slither (Aaron Salomon), Boomslang (Marc Riemer) and Rock Python (M’Gula)) as well as traitors in the ranks.

Sarkissian ambushed Voelker and bit him, injecting him with a fatal dose of venom.

No honour among snakes

Voelker teleported to Diamondback, who saved him using the universal anti-venom concocted by the Cobra. She then called Captain America for help – since she had no idea whom among the Serpent was a traitor or a loyalist. The Captain and his allies the Falcon, Nomad and D-Man had Voelker hospitalised, then stormed the Serpent Citadel along with Diamondback.

One of the traitors, Black Racer, attempted to crash the ambulance carrying Sidewinder. But the novice adventurer Vagabond (Priscilla Lyons) gotlucky and saved Voelker.

A few Serpents stayed loyal to Sidewinder even when threatened with torture and execution – namely Bushmaster, Asp, and Black Mamba. Everybody else was or became a turncoat. For a time Cottonmouth stayed loyal. But he ultimately tried to kill Diamondback to earn the good graces of the Viper.

As to the Cobra, he claimed that he was actually a double agent still serving Sidewinder while pretending to be a Viper operative, but this was a lie.

The Cobra takes over

Once healed, Sidewinder escaped and rescued the imprisoned Diamondback. She convinced him to also free the imprisoned heroes Nomad and D-Man, though the latter refused.

The Serpent Society was Voelker’s life work. Therefore, the numerous treasons were a hard blow on his morale. He did not intend to remain active after paying his debt to Diamondback.

As a result the Cobra (who soon renamed himself King Cobra) took over the leadership of the Society. Sidewinder negotiated a hefty 28% cut on benefits in exchange for letting Voorhees use the Society’s name, facilities, and other tangible and intangible assets.

However, King Cobra’s management was far less effective than Sidewinder’s. After an initial recovery boom, profits took a dive. Furthermore, without Voelker, the Society had lost its main asset – the “get out of jail free” card he represented.

Still bitter about the traitors, Sidewinder and Diamondback (who had just joined Cobra’s Serpent Society on a probational basis) hatched a plan. The wanted to to double-cross the Society out of a high-priced contract with Ghaur and Llyra. They were successful, though Sidewinder mockingly paid back 10% of the reward to the Society for their efforts.

The Diamondback affair

The Society did not detect that Diamondback was a double agent, but put her on trial for the security risk posed by her relationship with Captain America. Her two closest friends, Black Mamba and Asp, strongly objected to her condemnation to death. They called Sidewinder for help.

The three women having been his staunchest supporters back in the heydays of the Society, Sidewinder agreed. He rescued Diamondback by teleporting in and out in the blink of an eye as she was about to receive a fatal injection.

King Cobra declared war against Sidewinder and Diamondback. Voelker hurriedly packed his expensive belongings. Then he flatly told Diamondback that his debt had been repaid and that he would not help her anymore.

When Diamondback pleaded for him to at least teleport Black Mamba to safety, he stated he would not do that either. Sidewinder said that he was sure Black Mamba would not want to be indebted toward him again.

The Cobra gambit

Before they could get Voelker, King Cobra’s Serpent Society was arrested and sent to the Vault prison. However, Sidewinder knew that it was but a respite. They’d eventually get out.

Sidewinder teleported into the Vault, grabbed Cobra, let himself be hit by a guard despite his fear of physical pain, and teleported out a short distance. Telling Cobra he was hit too badly to go further, he teleported away and told him to run.

As Voelker had planned, this put King Cobra in an untenable position. If Cobra escaped, the other Serpents would hate him for leaving them behind. Thus, he would lose the leadership of the Society. Therefore Voorhees let himself be recaptured. But he could not resume hunting Sidewinder as everybody knew Voelker had busted him out of the Vaults.

Voelker retires

At this point little Amelia Voelker’s condition took a sudden turn for the worse. Neither of her parents had health insurance. Though he was wealthy, even Voelker couldn’t pay for the brain surgery out of pocket. Especially after having paid her full-rate hospital expenses for years.

Sidewinder asked Captain America to give him the money so he would not be forced to commit crimes to round the money up. But Cap had to turn him down since he could not verify his motives.

Willing to do anything to save his daughter, Sidewinder angrily resorted to theft. He solely stole from criminals, in order to mitigate police heat. During one such heist, he was shot and wounded. But Voelker managed to contact Diamondback, who came to the rescue along with her lover – Captain America.

Cap had located Amelia Voelker. Therefore, he now thought that Sidewinder had been telling the truth. Rogers offered to cover for the surgery if her father turned himself to the police. Voelker took the deal.

Amelia’s surgery was successful. Captain America personally brought a videophone link to her hospital room so her father could talk to her for a bit before returning to his cell.

In 2005, Voelker earned his parole and left prison. Later on, he was seen participating in a TV show discussing reformed super-criminals.

Though he has apparently not committed any crime since his surrender, it is believed that while in prison he arranged for the lease of the Sidewinder identity, costume and technology to other would-be super-criminals.


Successor snakes

At least two other men have been using the Sidewinder technology. Presumably, Voelker brokered a deal with Voorhees, perhaps to pay for his daughter’s continued health care.

The first Sidewinder successor was sent by Cobra to steal the Zodiac Key from S.H.I.E.L.D. for his client Death-Sting, but died in the attempt. His name wasn’t revealed.

The second Sidewinder successor, Gregory Bryan, was mostly seen in crowd scenes featuring the Serpent Society. He was among the Serpents who fortified themselves with hostages in a rural area during the Secret Invasion .


Description

Sidewinder’s cape seems to generate a visual aftereffect, looking like it’s hanging in the air for a split second after the rest of his body has disappeared. This is much like the smile of the Cheshire Cat .

When relaxing, Voelker often smokes a pipe. He may have lost that habit while in prison.


Personality

Sidewinder is smart, organised, cautious and rational. He considers himself a principled mercenary with a sense of honour of sorts. His main objective seemed to be the accumulation of enormous wealth so as to retire early and in luxury. Once that’s done he gets to read, play the piano and tend his garden.

Interestingly enough, his main “flaw” is his loyalty toward people who do not deserve it. He feels responsible toward his whole staff.

However, he’s clearly not above using the heroism of his opponents against them. At one point he even threatened to murder a Serpent Society member to force the Captain to free him, though he then stated he would never have actually harmed her.

Sidewinder is well-spoken — almost unctuous and overwrought — and is a good salesman. However, he treats people as being more rational and attentive than they actually are. Thus, he cannot understand how people can choose to act contrary to their obvious interests.

Other traits

Voelker’s modu operandi has a distinctive corporate business slant. For instance when recruiting for the Serpent Society he organised a business buffet and meeting in a posh hotel, though he stopped short of having a PowerPoint™ presentation (there were brochures, though).

He has a good mastery of managerial finance, negotiation, and sales strategy. This shapes his managerial strategy.

He also understands the dynamics of fear and punishment in the underworld. But despite going through the motions (to the point of personally torturing traitors to destroy their detailed memories of the Society’s inner workings) he’s simply not intimidating enough. Sidewinder lacks the scariness to be a charismatic leader among criminals.

Sidewinder does not like danger. In fact this is why he founded the Society, so that others would be in the field. He has even described himself as a coward. yet, that seems harsh since he always was able to master his fear and take risks when it was necessary. Usually, that was to free an imprisoned Serpent or rescue an ally.

Still, Voelker does not deal with pain well. He is liable to panic if he’s wounded and feels he’s bleeding.


Quotes

“Reconsider those words, Grimm – or we will be forced to deal with you in the same manner as we did your foolish friend ! Surrender — or face the full unfettered fury of the deadly new Serpent Squad !”

“Since last we were together, I’ve been laying the groundwork for the most original criminal operation in history ! If you three agree to participate, I promise you this — you will earn enough money to make that which I’ve just given you seem like mere subway fare !”

“For years now, superhuman mercenaries like ourselves have worked independently, at the mercy of the whims of our employers for our wages, work conditions and fringe benefits… or worse still, forced to incur all the risk and operating expenses of working alone ! Our enemies on the other hand have long recognised the advantages of banding together.”

“Despite the fact that I’m a thief and a scoundrel, I’m a man who pays his debts.”

“I gave them things criminals like themselves had never known before — job security, great fringe benefits, freedom from persecution — and what did they do ? They supported the Viper in her bid to take over the Society ! I was crushed.”


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Sidewinder

Dex: 03 Str: 02 Bod: 02 Motivation: Mercenary
Int: 05 Wil: 06 Min: 04 Occupation: Professional criminal
Inf: 04 Aur: 04 Spi: 03 Resources {or Wealth}: 007
Init: 012 HP: 025

Skills:
Artist (Pianist): 04, Charisma (Persuasion): 05, Vehicles (Land, water): 03

Advantages:
Expertise (Criminal management and strategy, Finance, Economics), Familiarity (Gardening).

Connections:
BAD Girls (Low), Bushmaster (Low), Underworld (Low).

Drawbacks:
MIA toward honouring his debts, Debt (+1 – alimony and child support).

Equipment:
SIDEWINDER COSTUME [/BODY/ 05, Anatomical separation: 01, Enhanced Initiative: 24, Lightning: 04, Skin armour: 01, Teleportation: 08, Water freedom: 04, Acrobatics (Dodging): 10, Insta-change, Limitation: See below for the possible interplay with cybernetics. Bonuses & Limitations:

  • Anatomical Separation is Contingent Upon Teleportation.
  • Anatomical Separation has a special +4 Duration Bonus.
  • Enhanced Initiative can only be active if Sidewinder commits to replacing his next Dice Action, during the next Phase, with a Teleportation.
  • Lightning has a Range of 0 APs and can only be used, as an Automatic Action, to strike random points within that Range.
  • When Teleporting with something weighing 1+ AP more than he does, Sidewinder must be able to cover the person or object with his cloak.
  • Teleportation is selective enough to Teleport away a restrained person (e.g., he once teleported Diamondback away while she was manacled in four points to a steel slab, leaving the empty bonds behind].
  • If Sidewinder is reduced to zero BODY or less, he starts making very short-range, rapid-fire, random teleportations. This is the only circumstance in which he can use the COSTUME’s Acrobatics (Dodging) – though at this point his effective DEX is zero.].

By Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: Marvel Universe (chiefly Captain America comics).

Helper(s): Darci, Adam Fuqua, Capita_Senyera, Chaplain Chris, Ethan Roe.

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