Mastodon

14 min read


Sequence

Asp is a minor Marvel comics mercenary and criminal. She first appeared in 1985.

This profile should be read after :

  1. Our article about the Serpent Society. Wot explains most of the basics.
  2. Our short article about the B.A.D. Girls.

Advertisement

Background

  • Real Name: “Cleo Nefertiti” has always been listed as her real name. But it sounds very much like a nom de scèneStage pseudonym used by an artist.
  • Other Aliases: The Temptress (stage name).
  • Known Relatives: None.
  • Group Affiliation: Serpent Society. Former member of the B.A.D. Girls, Serpent Solutions, Women Warriors, Secret Avengers.
  • Base of Operations: Unrevealed.
  • Height: 5’9″ (1.75m). Weight: 145 lbs. (65 Kg.).
  • Eyes: Light brown. Hair: Black.

Powers & Abilities

Asp is an accomplished dancer, in excellent shape and with superb muscular control. She chiefly uses Middle-Eastern dancing styles, but some moves look more Indian.

One caption also states that she’s a “classically trained dancer”. Which usually means ballet.

She is a nimble gymnast and acrobat. She’ll often jump, flip and tumble when moving around the battlefield.

Asp is fluent in her native aamiyya (vernacular Egyptian) Arabic, in English, and perhaps in Standard Arabic.

She seems to have good people skills, plus above-average common sense and general intelligence.

Asp (Marvel Comics) over a white background

Later skills

During the 1980s, Ms. Nefertiti was fully trained as a Serpent Saucer pilot. This might carry over to some other aircrafts, such as private jets.

By 2005, Asp and her colleague Black Mamba (Tanya Sealy) demonstrated solid hand-to-hand combat and breaking & entering skills. One imagines that they were trained by their friend Diamondback (Rachel Leighton).

By that point, Cleo also seemed particularly handy with surveillance, video and security technology. And was a proficient handgunner.

Some 2000s scenes imply that she has snake-handling skills, which she sometimes uses when performing. Perhaps Mamba taught her.

Little things of venom

“Cleo Nefertiti” can emit superhuman quantities of bio-electricity. It looks like Spider-Woman (Jessica Drew)’s “venom blast” energy discharges.

This bio-electricity builds as a side-product of muscular activity. Venom blasts deplete her reserves, but she recharges by moving. Her dancing styles are an efficient way to do that.

Rebuilding her full charge used to take about ten minutes of vigorous exercise. By the 2000s, it seemed to be closer to seven minutes – presumably thanks to practice.

It may have continued to improve. Since she seemed able to emit a fair few lower-powered discharges when fighting hordes of mooks.

Even if she’s not active her charge will slowly rebuild. If only through movements of her heart, lungs, etc..

Her venom bolts also seemed to have become more powerful over the years. And she learned how to discharge them into something she’s punching.

Asp (Marvel Comics) during the 2000s

Side effects

Once her full charge is rebuilt, Asp invisibly radiates minute “venom”. Close physical proximity to a fully-charged Asp, over several hours, is toxic.

This was never seen in primary sources  . But if this is correct, her ability to have sex, to fly coach or ride the subway for long distances, to dance with a partner for a long while, etc. is limited.

The Asp’s venom bolts are often described as having a paralysing action. Apparently in the same sense as a TASER™ pistol paralysing people. In game terms the target is “paralysed” because the electric shock knocked them out.

One suspects that the Asp’s discharges are less dangerous against something that doesn’t have an electricity-based nervous system. Such as a brick wall. However, they still produce enough heat for her to melt an ordinary door lock.

Asp can make her hand glow, a bit like Iron Fist (Daniel Rand-K’ai), using her bio-electricity. This provides good illumination.

طافر

As of this writing, Asp was recently glimpsed on Krakoa. That would strongly imply that she is a homo superior superhuman mutant.

However, she did not appear during the previous events affecting homo superior folks worldwide.

It could be that she was consistently off-panel, of course. And wasn’t in the US when headcounts were taken, like during the “The 198” era.

Another No-Prize HypothesisA made-up explanation to plug a plot hole is that she’s a mutateA person mutated after birth, as opposed to a born-this-way mutant. But one who *could* be considered a mutant due to an unusual amount of genetic similarities. If using sufficiently broad definitions.

Gear

In 2005, Asp was packing a semi-automatic pistol to complement her venom blasts.

For obvious reasons, I’ll assume that it was an ASP Special Operations pistol. And therefore a 9mm Smith & Wesson M39, rebuilt for compactness and combat handling.

Oddities

One panel (Captain America Vol. 1 #371) gives the impression that she can move quickly while very low to the ground – almost crawling. Not unlike the cinema version of Aeon Flux, played by Charlize Theron.

It may be a bit of weird art. Or there might be something mutated about her muscles. That wouldn’t be absurd given her other capabilities.

The 1996 one-shot Captain America: The Legend oddly lists her as having peak human strength. But given the text and other examples, it just seems to be a weird way to denote that she can use her bioelectricity in hand-to-hand combat.

Soundtrack

Let’s roll up our sleeves and hit some Egyptian wedding videos to find appropriate music and dancing styles… and wonder why this seems big in Ukraine and perhaps Russia… anyway.

History

Asp presumably had a snake motif and a criminal career before joining the Serpent Society. But there’s no data about that.

Her English seems to have a mainstream US accent, and she’s entirely fluent. This might mean that she moved to the US as a kid, and/or that she has a natively Anglophone parent.

(Asps were a traditional symbol of nobility in Ancient Egypt, and feature a lot in pharaonic iconography. Presumably, once it was decided to create a character named “Asp” to populate the Serpent Society, that’d she’d be Egyptian was the obvious idea association.)

Asp became a mainstay of the Serpent Society during the 1980s. See that organisation’s profile for more.

During that time, she grew close to Diamondback and Black Mamba.

Always on the run

Asp and her buddies were among the few loyalists during the Viper (Ophelia Sarkissian)’s coup. That nearly resulted in their deaths.

During the 1989 Ghaur/Llyra contract, Ms. Nefertiti was easily defeated by Wolverine (James Howlett). She badly underestimated his speed, stealth and low-light vision.

In 1989, Asp and other random US super-criminals were magically drawn to Canada by Llan the Sorcerer. They committed enough violence to power his ritual until Witchfire (Ananym) broke the spell.

They presumably were just deported, having acted under magical domination.

In 1990, Asp and Black Mamba supported Diamondback against the Serpent Society. This allowed them to escape arrest, but the Society came to consider them enemies during several years.

The three formed a new mercenary firm, the B.A.D. Girls. See that team’s profile for more. But like Mamba, Asp occasionally returned to the Serpent Society. For instance, the two were on the Society’s roster in 2004.

B.A.D. to the bone

When the B.A.D. Girls started wounding down, Asp resumed running operations with the Serpent Society. But at that point these were seemingly ad-hoc things, as the Society didn’t have an actual leadership.

In 2012, she assisted Anaconda, Bushmaster, Puff Adder and Cottonmouth in robbing a bank. But they were taken out by Hope Summers.

By 2016, she was with Serpent Solutions. One suspects that Asp was an early recruit of Dixon, being reliable and low-maintenance.

Asp was also on the 2018 crew assembled by Constrictor (Frank Payne’s son). She disliked and distrusted him, and he seemed to treat her and Coachwhip (Beatrix Keener) more like molls than like mercenaries.

Asp (Marvel Comics) portrait

Description

Like her friends Tanya and Rachel, Cleo has exceptional sex appeal.

Her venom bolts do a “bzzzt” noise when she builds up her blast, and a “zzzassp” noise when she shoots them. But she can make them almost noiseless if she focuses.

She was often drawn with the… odd gray skin tone that was often used for maghrebi and makreshi characters in 20th Century US super-hero comics. That has since faded away, with her complexion being now more natural.

Height and weight are from the official sources. But Asp and her B.A.D. Girls colleagues are seldom drawn as tall as their OHOTMU values.

Her dancing outfit apparently uses the same white and green colours as her costume. As do many of her civilian clothes. She even seems to use a desaturated green lipstick on occasion.

During the 2010s, she sometimes seemed to have small snake-like fangs. Perhaps she was experimenting with small dental extensions for intimidation.

Asp (Marvel Comics)

Personality

Cleo is remarkably loyal and courageous when it comes to her friends. She repeatedly took on bad odds to help her buddies.

For instance, while gravely poisoned, Asp insisted that Diamondback inject the antidote to Black Mamba and Bushmaster first. Since she thought they were most at risk.

She seems articulate, polite, professional and pleasant. Yet she doesn’t seek the spotlight — except when dancing.

Asp will fight courageously. Yet she prefers to steer clear of terrible odds. She has a realistic appraisal of her power and competence levels, and little interest in ending up that creek where you’ll dearly want a paddle.

Other traits

Asp kept performing in less-than-prestigious clubs, even when making a lot of Serpent money. Her art is important to her, and she needs to dance – and feel her power of attraction over most male onlookers.

She seems to just love clubs in general. And parties, and casinos with a festive ambiance, and sufficiently exciting boxing matches, etc.. Concerts as well, I’d imagine.

Asp acts defiant and hostile toward the law, super-heroes and conventional morals. Though she has repeatedly associated with heroic stalwarts such as Captain America (Steve Rogers), that was to help her friends. On her own, she refused to trust him – even though Cap is known to all as a man of honour.

More generally, there’s an implication that she’s reluctant to trust men. Macho macho types seem to particularly tick her off. But she seemed to like Paladin fine.

Advertisement

Quotes

“For your information, Captain, what I do is an art form ! I like what I do – it’s fun to see men slobber ! And on top of that, it’s great exercise ! Is that okay with you, Mr. High-and-Mighty ?”

“Mamba ! Forget your belongings and run ! I’ll hold them off with my venom bursts !”

“It’s okay, Rachel, darling. Get some sleep, we’ll stay here… watch over you…”

(To Tanya and Rachel) “Meeting the two of you was the best thing to come out of my involvement with the Society. I’m not about to turn my back on a good thing.”

Asp (Marvel Comics) building up a charge

DC Heroes RPG

Asp (1980s)

Dex: 03 Str: 03 Bod: 04
Int: 04 Wil: 03 Min: 04
Inf: 04 Aur: 03 Spi: 04
Init: 011 HP: 025

Powers:

Flash: 03, Lightning: 07

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Both Powers consume charge, see below.
  • Flash is steady illumination only.
  • Lightning has the Autofire Bonus.
  • Lightning has a Range equal to its active APs, up to a maximum of 05.

Skills:

Accuracy (Venom bolts): 05, Acrobatics (Athletics, Dodging): 05, Artist (Dancer): 04, Evasion (Ranged only): 05, Thief (Stealth)*: 03, Vehicles (Land, Air): 03

Advantages:

Familiarity (Middle Eastern dancing lore), Language (Egyptian Arabic).

Connections:

Diamondback (Rachel Leighton) (High), Black Mamba (High), Impala (Low), Paladin (Low), Street (Low), Serpent Society (Low).

Drawbacks:

MPR (Prolonged proximity toxicity).

Motivation:

Mercenary.

Occupation:

Mercenary.

Wealth:

005

Asp (Marvel Comics) shooting a bolt

Asp (1990s)

+1 AP in DEX, Flash and Lightning.


Asp (2000s)

Dex: 05 Str: 03 Bod: 04
Int: 04 Wil: 04 Min: 04
Inf: 04 Aur: 04 Spi: 04
Init: 015 HP: 030

Powers:

Flash: 04, Lightning: 10

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Both Powers consume charge, see below.
  • Flash is steady illumination only.
  • Lightning has the Autofire Bonus.
  • Lightning can be Combined with her unarmed attacks.
  • Lightning has a Range equal to its active APs, up to a maximum of 05.

Skills:

Accuracy (Venom bolts): 06, Acrobatics (Athletics, Dodging): 05, Animal handling (Snakes): 03, Artist (Dancer): 04, Martial Artist: 05, Thief (Security systems): 06, Thief (Stealth)*: 04, Vehicles (Land, Air): 03, Weaponry (Handguns): 04

Advantages:

Familiarity (Middle Eastern dancing lore, Video software and hardware), Language (Egyptian Arabic).

Connections:

Diamondback (Rachel Leighton) (High), Black Mamba (High), Impala (Low), Paladin (Low), Street (Low), Serpent Society (Low).

Drawbacks:

MPR (Prolonged proximity toxicity).

Motivation:

Mercenary.

Occupation:

Mercenary.

Wealth:

005

Equipment:

ASP-rebuilt 9mm S&W M39 pistol [BODY 05, Projectile weapon: 04, Ammo: 07, Miniaturisation: 01].


Near-reptation ?

Asp might have 3 APs of Running, usable even when crawling. Note that this becomes less useful once her DEX, and thus land speed, rises to 04.

This is discussed in the “Oddities” sub-section of the P&A section.

Asp (Marvel Comics) in her civvies

أشياء صغيرة من السم

Asp’s Lightning has a reserve of power of 110 points.

Firing a venom blast costs her ten power points, plus the square of the APs of Lightning in the bolt — e.g., a 4 APs bolt costs 26 points, a 6 APs bolt 46 points, etc..

If she releases her bolt with a Range of Touch, the ten extra points do not need to be paid. Only the square of the APs.

If the Asp is physically active (dancing, running around, dodging attacks…) she regains one power point per Phase. That includes Phases during which she is using her Powers. So that’s 15 points per minute, or about 7.3 minutes to rebuild her entire charge from depletion.

If the Asp is not physically active, her charge rebuilds at about 4 points per minute.

Each AP of Flash (Steady Illumination Only) eats up one point of power per Phase.

Improvements

It certainly seems possible that the size of her pool improved over time. Perhaps, I dunno, 150 points by the 2010s ?

The charge recovery rate noted above is for the 2000s. It was slower before, and likely became faster since.

Zapping obstacles

It is *possible* that, when shooting at targets that do not have an electrically-powered nervous system the EV of the Asp’s bolts are AP-halved (e.g., 6 APs become an EV of 03). This would be the case when shooting, say, a car or a brick wall.

But there’s one panel where we see her burning a lock free from a reinforced door. On the other hand, she was also carrying a pistol that may have been a laser. So we can’t really tell.

Endurance

In intensive combat, Ms. Nefertiti tends to concentrate her Hero Points on the EV and, to a lesser extend, AV of her blasts

This is to get the most out of her energy reserves. By burning HPs she can turn several 5 APs blasts into the equivalent of full-power discharges.

This models her track record of taking out minor opponents in one powerful surprise blast at the beginning of the fight.

Even littler things of venom

For people who dislike squaring, here is a simpler alternative. It’s mathematically cruder, but Roy assures me it gets the job done.

Asp has a point pool of 16. Firing a venom blast subtracts points equal to the APs used. At a Range of Touch, only ⅓rd of each blast’s APs are subtracted from the pool.

Each 30 seconds of exertion restores 1 point to the pool ; when not physically active, Asp still builds up 1 point every 2 minutes.

Asp (Marvel Comics) face closeup

Design Notes

There isn’t actually enough data in the material to assess how Asp’s charge functions. We don’t see her take that many Dice Actions in the material.

The mechanics above are just something that makes good sense, and are compatible with what we can observe in the material.

It’s also useful for a Player CharacterRPG characters played by a player, rather than the gamemaster or the computer. with a similar charge dynamic. Or to make Asp a Player Character.


Extra images

Unsurprisingly.

Asp (Marvel Comics) by Frank Cho

 

Asp (Marvel Comics) with the green jumpsuit

Early 1990s costume.

 

Asp (Marvel Comics) with the green costume

Later 1990s costume.

Writeups.org writer avatar Sébastien Andrivet

By Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: Marvel Comics.

Helper(s): Darci, Roy Cowan, Chris Cottingham, Adam Fuqua.

Writeup revised on the 4th of December, 2021.