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Serpent Society (Marvel Comics) 2016 attacking

Serpent Society


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

Context

This is the second half of the article, since it covers too much ground for some folks to read in one sitting.

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History (part #1)

The Society was born when three Serpent Squad alumni confronted their erstwhile leader, Sidewinder. They mistakenly thought that he had stolen their pay for a previous mission.

Sidewinder had been working on a sort of trade union. This arrangement would provide certain freelance criminals with benefits in return for a fair cut.

The other three joined. Then helped him recruit snake-themed super-criminals whom Sidewinder had been researching.

Sidewinder pitched his concept during a business meeting at a swank hotel. It was a success. Among his list, only the Viper (Ophelian Sarkissian) refused to attend. And only the Constrictor (Frank Payne) refused to join after the pitch.

Everybody else underwent an initiation test (usually a break-in-and-steal job) then joined. The goal of the tests apparently was to gather special equipment for the Society.

The creator has a business plan

During an initiation test, Anaconda was narrowly defeated by Captain America (Steve Rogers). But Sidewinder got her out of jail within hours.

He then correctly deduced that Constrictor had ratted out on them. Anaconda beat Constrictor nearly to death.

After this incident, the members ran sales pitches at major criminal organizations – the Maggia, Hydra, the Kingpin (Wilson Fisk), A.I.M., the Pride, the Zodiac, the Secret Empire, etc..

This landed at least one contract – killing MODOK (George Tarleton) at the behest of rival A.I.M. leaders. The entire Society worked on that job, tracking down then fatally wounding the mark. This brought them immediate credibility.

During this case :

  • Diamondback saved Bushmaster’s life. This established a precedent of Society members being able to rely on each other.
  • Princess Python panicked and fled. Sidewinder had her recaptured, then tortured using Roxxon memory-destroying equipment. Her partners at the Circus of Crime eventually agreed to a ransom.

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Pride…

Sidewinder managed to contact the Pride, and obtain a contract. The Pride ruled over the Los Angeles underworld, but even knowing that they existed was no small feat.

Pride member Geoffrey Wilder sent them after Tony Stark, who had recently lost everything he owned at the hands of Obadiah Stane. However :

  1. Stark was wearing a hidden Iron Man chestplate, which the Society wasn’t expecting.
  2. That gave him time to flee into a junkyard, where he could quickly assemble an arsenal.

The overconfident Society operatives were thus soon defeated. Worse, this failure likely meant that a business relationship with the Pride never materialised.

… and prejudice

The Pride contract is chronicled in Iron Man: Legacy in 2010. But in publication time , it might have occurred in late 1985 – after the MODOK contract.

It’s impossible to say, given the discrepancies. Say, Puff Adder being present, or Stark having been ousted from his company in 1983. “Late 1985” is proposed to keep things simple.

One alternative approach is to assume that there was a first, short-lived version of the Serpent Society in 1983. Which collapsed after this failure, before Sidewinder revived the concept in a more thorough fashion.

If you want to use this more complicated approach, note that the roster for the Pride job in Iron Man: Legacy was Diamondback, Cobra, Puff Adder and Rattler.

Serpent Society (Marvel Comics) 1990vote thumbs down

We’re in the money, the snakes are sunny

Captain America (Steve Rogers) had stumbled upon several Serpent Society operations. To stop them, he set up an ambush with the help of washed-up supervillain the Porcupine (Alexander Gentry).

This operation failed. Cap captured three Serpents, but Sidewinder promptly rescued them. And Gentry was accidentally killed in the fray.

A Scourge of the Underworld then murdered Death Adder. The entire Society went hunting for information. But they never obtained enough info to avenge their fallen comrade.

Dialogue also mentions the “Sumatran Rat” affair (which I suppose is a Maltese Falcon  reference), and a job for Cornelius van Lunt’s Zodiac.

Viperine entryism

Furthermore, the Viper (Ophelia Sarkissian) spent years plotting to take over the Serpent Society. By 1988, she had :

  1. Created a team of four snake-themed operatives (Black Racer (Ariana Saddiqi), Copperhead (David Lawfers), Fer-de-Lance (Teresa Vasquez), Puff Adder (Gordon Fraley)). These were sent to commit flashy crimes. As planned, Sidewinder approached them, as they passed his initiation test.
  2. Bribed most Society members. They agreed to back her rather than Sidewinder once she’d seize leadership.
  3. Recruited additional snake-themed costumed criminals (Boomslang (Marc Riemer), Coachwhip (Beatrix Keener), Rock Python (M’Gula), Slither (Aaron Salomon)) to help her defeat any resistance.

The Viper could thus teleport into the Society’s HQ and poison Sidewinder. In agony, Voelker teleported to Leighton’s room for help.

Diamondback was indeed the most reliable Society member. But she soon realised she couldn’t know whom to trust. Out of options, she called her crush… Captain America.

In the meanwhile, only Asp, Black Mamba, Bushmaster and Cottonmouth remained loyal to Sidewinder. And Cottonmouth soon changed his mind.

The serpent draught affair

Captain America’s raid captured most Serpents, and saved all persons poisoned by Viper. But Sarkissian escaped.

Serpent Society (Marvel Comics) 1995 gauntlet

She and her remaining Serpents conducted a fantastic terrorist plot in Washington, D.C.. They poured a mutagen into the water, turning thousands (including the Reagans ) into savage serpent people.

Captain America narrowly foiled the plot, though it presumably left hundreds dead. In the fray, Cobra (Klaus Voorhees) stopped the Viper and handed her over to Cap.

Though he had sided with the Viper out of fear, Cobra felt like an eel for betraying Sidewinder and his loyalists. He therefore impulsively seized occasions to make it look like he had been a double agent all along.


History (part #2)

The dejected Sidewinder abandoned his project. The authorities presumably seized the Serpent Citadel. And there was bad blood between the loyalists and the traitors.

Yet the Society had been too much of a success for its members to just walk away.

Unexpectedly, it was the Cobra (Klaus Voorhees) who rose to the occasion. His “double agent” lie allowed him to heal the rift among the members, and to have the Society limp along.

Sidewinder agreed to hand directorship over to him, against a 25% earnings cut.

There’s an implication that everyone had to go through a new initiation and probation. Thus allowing all members to consider that dues had been paid. Presumably, these jobs also allowed for new headquarters and budgets.

Atlantis Attacks

In 1989, the Society landed a big contract with evil Deviant priest Ghaur and Atlantean renegade Llyra. The job was to procure a number of magical artefacts. Though it sure seemed lucrative, it was all a trick.

  1. Sidewinder (Seth Voelker) was aware of the contract. He intended to steal the collected artefacts, as revenge over the traitorous Serpents.
  2. Diamondback (Rachel Leighton), who had recently rejoined the Society, was actually working for Sidewinder.
  3. Interference from monstrous wizard Mister Jip resulted in Diamondback unexpectedly allying with the X-Men. The mutants agreed to recover the artefacts, and the Society couldn’t hope to take on the X-Men.

It was thus Sidewinder who delivered the artefacts and got the reward. As an insult, he sent a 10% “commission” to Cobra’s Serpent Society.

High snakes gambles

Despite this setback, the Society remained a successful mercenary operation. But it wasn’t as lucrative as it had been under Voelker. Voorhees’ leadership wasn’t aggressive enough.

Serpent Society (Marvel Comics) 2009 vs. the Avengers

This apparently changed in 1990, after he conquered his fears and became King Cobra.

As part of this new momentum, the Society captured and tried Diamondback for her close association with Captain America. She was condemned to death. But her friends Black Mamba and Asp warned Sidewinder, who rescued her just before she’d be executed.

Diamondback then hired Paladin to raid the Society and rescue Mamba and Asp. This would have failed, but Captain America (Steve Rogers) came in. The Society’s base thus fell, and most Serpents were taken to the Vault prison.

Diamondback, Asp and Mamba weren’t arrested. They would eventually form their own crew, the B.A.D. Girls.

Some Serpents were released quickly. The Society’s operations were organised enough that there was little proof of their crimes. But King Cobra took a few years to escape. It would seem that the Society wasn’t quite active during that span.


History (part #3)

King Cobra reassembled the Society in the Sandhaven Acres retirement resort – 40 miles outside of Scottsdale, AZ .

Apparently, the plan at that point was just to lay low and enjoy their money.

The Society paid off the local cops, and had the retirement community falsely flagged as having been built on a toxic waste dump. They therefore could buy the real estate for cents to the dollar.

The Society continued to finance their lifestyle. But this was done through basic bank robberies in small towns, using stock criminal techniques. Such as guns and getaway cars.

Half-mast

In doing so, they unexpectedly created an enemy. Captain America admirer Jack Flag (Jack Harrison)’s parents had lost their retirement funds to the Society’s Sandhaven Acres real estate shenanigans.

Serpent Society (Marvel Comics) 2012 - Anaconda, Cottonmouth, Puff Adder robbing a bank

In 1994, Flag made a messy attempt at infiltrating the Society. He pretended to be a criminal pretending to be a super-hero. Dubious, King Cobra sent him to steal from Mister Hyde, expecting Flag to be slain. But improbably enough, Mr. Harrison succeeded.

Intrigued and enjoying retirement, Voorhees considered handing over his costume to Harrisson and making this new Cobra a field agent.

Flag soon had Sandhaven raided by Captain America (Steve Rogers), Free Spirit (Cathy Webster) and Giant-Man (Dr. Henry Pym).

Though Pym had to evacuate a gravely sick Cap, the Scarlet Witch’s Force Works team came in and defeated the Society.

Post-mortem

(Mr. Gruenwald  had significantly developed the Society. They were villains, but received more relatable characterisation and their own storylines.)

(However, after his death in 1996, Society members tend to be treated more as stock baddies and cannon fodder jobbers ).


History (part #4)

The Society wasn’t seen after that for 10 years.

My loose sense is that it took several years for them to resume joint operations. And they then were discreet in order to rebuild funds.

(Speaking of which, you should donate to writeups.org).

During those years, King Cobra also worked on creating new snake-themed allies.

  • A new Sidewinder (who seemingly died and was replaced by Sidewinder III (Gregory Bryan)). Having a Sidewinder meant a return of the get-out-of-jail-free asset.
  • A new Death Adder (Ted Scott).
  • A new Cobra (his nephew Piet Voorhees).

He also agreed to bury the hatchet with Asp (“Cleo Nefertiti”) and Black Mamba (Tanya Sealy), letting them rejoin.

It *may* have been during that span that they attempted to kidnap America Chavez, then aged 9 or 10. No other details are known.

Overreach

In 2004, they kidnapped Captain America (Steve Rogers) and Diamondback (the “Rachel Leighton” LMD ).

Serpent Society (Marvel Comics) 2012 - Anaconda, Cottonmouth, Puff Adder

However, the Society was soundly defeated.

  1. They underestimated Cap, who was in peak form.
  2. They didn’t realise that “Diamondback” actually was a superhumanly powerful gynoid .

The Society was soon apprehended by S.H.I.E.L.D..

(This story closes the 2002-2004 Captain America volume. Writer Robert Kirkman presumably sought to end on a high note, by bringing back elements from the classic Gruenwald run. Such as Cap and Diamondback being an item, or the Society).

Reptating

One gets the impression that the 2004 defeat forced the Society to revise its modus operandi.

King Cobra seemingly retired, resulting in greatly scaled down services for Society members. Which also meant that they had to use more traditional means of getting jobs, such as drinking at the Bar With No Name.

From *one* line in a secondary source (Civil War Files), it is possible that Cobra still ran a small for-profit crew with Rattler, Bushmaster and newcomer Death Adder (Theodore Scott) during the mid-2000s.

Several Serpents (including King Cobra) then joined the Thunderbolts, and from there Baron Helmut Zemo’s army. But they escaped during the global battles that followed the activation of the Universal Wellspring.

(Civil War Files states they signed on with the Thunderbolts. The OHOTMU states that they were captured and pressed into service.)

Nevertheless, major Society operations seemingly ceased.

This Summer I hear the drummin’

In 2009, Earth was hit by a major Skrull Invasion. Society members were among the multitudes left shocked and paranoid about the alien shapechangers.

Serpent Society (Marvel Comics) 2016 - Serpent Solutions

Anaconda, Black Mamba, Copperhead (David Lawfers), Death Adder (Theodore Scott), Fer-de-Lance and Sidewinder (Gregory Bryan) therefore took over a large compound in Danzig, Ohio.

They brought their families with them, and took hostages to deter the police. Their goal was to maintain a closed community, out of fear of Skrull infiltration.

The compound was raided by a Nova Corps team, who took out Society members before they could react.

Soon after that, the Society (Anaconda, Black Mamba, Bushmaster, Cottonmouth) clashed with the outlaw Avengers in unrevealed circumstances. For some reason, the Society operatives were flying Mk1 Serpent Saucers. Perhaps they had been trying to repossess these ?

Negative

In 2011, Mister Negative’s San Francisco mob ran into two young mutant vigilantes. These were the disguised Anole (Victor Borkowski) and Rockslide (Santo Vaccarro). Negative paid the Society to eliminate them.

A hit team (Bushmaster, Rattler, Cobra, Anaconda, Death Adder) soon engaged the pair. However, they had trouble adapting to the pair’s odd powers and panicky, improvised tactics.

They and Mister Negative were forced to retreat before the X-Men would show up.

Ikari warrior

In 2012, Orion (Viktor Uvarov), the head of Leviathan, hired a number of mercenaries. These were to kill Marcus Johnson, whom Uvarov had learned was the son of his hated enemy Nick Fury.

Serpent Society (Marvel Comics) 2012 - Rattler, Bushmaster, Puff Adder, Death Adder, Anaconda

Taskmaster (Tony Masters) narrowly failed to kill Johnson. But this allowed a Serpent Society hit team (Anaconda, Bushmaster, Cottonmouth, Death Adder, Rattler) to locate and engage. They soon took Johnson down.

However, they were unexpectedly attacked and wounded by Deadpool. As they strove to take him out, S.H.I.E.L.D. forces came in to arrest everyone.

(Sgt. Johnson would eventually change his name to “Nick Fury”).

2012

A few months later, mutant messiah Hope Summers stopped some Serpents (Anaconda, Asp, Bushmaster, Cottonmouth, Puff Adder) during a bank robbery.

She surprised them by manifesting an augmented version of Puff Adder’s powers, and beat them up.

Soon after that several Serpents (Sidewinder, Cobra, Anaconda, Copperhead) were defeated and arrested by the Avengers.

They had been working with some sort of paramilitary terrorist organisation, and some of these goons had snake-themed costumes. There’s no other data.

2014

In 2013/2014, the Society did some work for the Sons of the Serpent. Only one engagement was seen — Constrictor and Black Mamba nearly slew Daredevil (Matt Murdock), but Elektra (Elektra Natchios) intervened in time.

(Both Serpents were wearing cool new costumes, though these didn’t stick. Perhaps more Serpent Society members had upgraded their look to match.)

The society then took another contract for the Assassin’s Guild. The Guild was sending operatives to kill one Cape Crow, who had long been a thorn in their side. But Crow had allies, chiefly Elektra.

The Serpents were wounded and defeated. But they ultimately did the job – driving their targets into a deadly ambush set by Lady Bullseye.


History (part #5)

In 2015, the Viper (Jordan Dixon) worked to rebuild the Serpent Society. This new version was called Serpent Solutions.

Serpent Society (Marvel Comics) 2016 - Copperhead, Cottonmouth, Black Racer

Voelker had used his training as an economist and business analyst to build the Serpent Society. Dixon used his experience as an advertiser and criminal to build Serpent Solutions.

The new business model was to subcontract blatantly unethical jobs for large corporations. Typically, to conduct harmful R&D over kidnapped victims to shorten time-to-market for new products.

Serpent Solutions would then sell the advances to their client at a huge markup. The point was that said client could claim being unaware of its contractors’ illegal actions.

A patriotic bird of prey

By early 2016, their big thing hinged on revolting research conducted by Dr. Karl Malus. It was a breakthrough product in cosmetics – small, animalistic, temporary mutations such as decorative horns or feathers.

This led to a clash with Captain America (Sam Wilson). Wilson would have been defeated, but he was unexpectedly reinforced by :

This resulted in a highly public battle on Wall Street. The Serpent Solutions board was defeated and captured.

Sam then attempted to take down the firm’s corporate clients, using hacked intelligence from the Whisperer (Rick Jones) to establish liability. But he had to renounce this, as shutting down those firms would leave innumerable employees jobless.

Reality a prison

The 2S board was sent to Pleasant Hill. This S.H.I.E.L.D. prison was actually a fake reality, produced using a cosmic cube.

Serpent Society (Marvel Comics) 2017 - Anaconda, Cottonmouth, Sidewinder, Bushmaster

But they spent little time there. It likely was mere weeks before a major crisis, involving the Avengers, hit Pleasant Hill. Most prisoners escaped.

Serpent Solutions resumed its activities – though presumably not in the US. Madripoor comes to mind.

Hail Hydra

The company was then approached by Baron Helmut Zemo. They agreed to join the superhuman army working for Hydra.

After trapping most super-heroes away, Hydra conquered most of the world for several months.

A team of Serpent Solutions enforcers was seen chasing a young woman – presumably a member of Rick Jones’ resistance. They were the first to run into the real version of Captain America (Steve Rogers), who had made his return to Reality-616.

Cap promptly defeated the Serpents. His return was then instrumental in toppling global Hydra domination.


History (part #6)

The fall of Hydra apparently meant the end of Serpent Solutions.

The Serpent Society devolved back to its pre-Viper (Jordan Dixon) days. Little structure, and ordinary heists and mercenary engagements conducted by small teams.

One team (Anaconda, Bushmaster, Cottonmouth, Sidewinder) was seen robbing a bank in New York City in 2017. They were easily defeated by Kitty Pryde, Prestige (Rachel Grey) and Nightcrawler (Kurt Wagner).

Constricted

In 2018, the new Constrictor (Frank Payne’s son) hired a Serpent Society crew (Asp, Boomslang, Coachwhip, King Cobra (Piet Voorhees), Puff Adder, Viper (Jordan Dixon)).

Serpent Society (Marvel Comics) 2018 - King Cobra, Viper, Asp, Boomslang, Coachwhip, Puff Adder

They worked for Choshin, from K’un Lun’s House of the Bull. This crew succeeded in stealing a Kunlunese tome from Iron Fist (Daniel Rand-K’ai) despite the strong security.

However, Constrictor then foolishly decided to up his rates on Choshin.

This resulted in getting attacked by a Kunlunese military detachment, *and* Iron Fist and his uneasy ally Sabretooth (Victor Creed). Constrictor fled, forcing the Serpents to fight at Iron Fist’s side to survive.

They performed well, but were then defeated by Iron Fist.

The cake is a trap

In 2019, a team of lady Serpents (Anaconda, Asp, Black Mamba, Black Racer, Fer-de-Lance, Princess Python) passed themselves for party-dancers-for-hire. The plan was to ambush the Thing’s bachelor party while all the heroes were drunk.

However, there were just too many powerhouses present. Such as Thor (Thor Odinson) and Thundra, whose metabolism largely ignored alcohol.

The Serpents were defeated and arrested.

Hunted

The Viper and the others had apparently been trying to rebuild Serpent Solutions, in an unknown location. However, it would seem that Viper no longer could get juicy contracts, and his leadership was increasingly questioned.

Furthermore, the 2S’ board ran afoul of Taskmaster (Tony Masters) and the Black Ant (Eric O’Grady). They captured the Serpents using sleep gas.

Serpent Society (Marvel Comics) 2018 - Constrictor and others

The pair had been hired by Arcade and Kraven (Sergei Kravinoff). The many captured costumed operators were to be hunted in a sealed-off Central Park by rich clients.

The Serpents were completely in over their head, as the telepresence hunter robots had massive firepower. They rejected the Viper (Jordan Dixon)’s leadership, but they and other prey were rallied by the Vulture (Adrian Toomes).

The Vulture-led counter-attack was successful – mostly due to Spider-Man (Peter Parker)’s efforts elsewhere. The Society members could thus survive, though most people fleeing Central Park were apprehended by responding Avengers and other heroes.

Breaking news

Serpent Society members attended the 2021 Criminal Technology Show, a trade show held by A.I.M. – and a major yearly event for most super-villains. The Serpents seemed interested in assault weaponry sold by U.L.T.I.M.A.T.U.M. reps.

The Serpents were unexpectedly attacked in the lavatories by a disguised M.O.D.O.K., seeking revenge for his own murder all the way back in 1985. Most were badly wounded, but were saved by Tony Stark convincing M.O.D.O.K. to stop.

In 2021, a few Serpents (Black Racer, Coachwhip and Puff Adder are visible) attended a major auction organised by the Iron Eight-Eight triad. They seemed to be working as additional bodyguards for their old boss, the Viper (Ophelia Sarkissian).



Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG

Tell me more about the game stats

Saucers

Functionally, the Mk1 Serpent Saucers were like a light-to-medium helicopter. There’s discrepancies in durability (a well-placed shot from a Scourge gun did the job, which normally took two Sidewinder missiles) but let’s just blame a double.

Mk1 SERPENT SAUCER [STR 07 BODY 08, Flight: 06, R#02].

Some saucers seemed larger than others. These likely had one more AP of STR – and one more AP of BODY, further helping with the durability discrepancy.

The Sidewinder missiles go [BODY 02, EV 09 (Area of Effect 1 AP), AV 04, Flight: 12, R#02, Grenade Drawback, Low Resolution Drawback, Limitation : Flight can only be sustained for five Phases (-2)]. These are normally fired as a pair, raising both the EV and Area of Effect by 1 AP each.

The larger Mk2 Serpent Saucers seemed more akin to a VTOL private jet in terms of functionality.

Mk2 SERPENT SAUCER [STR 08 BODY 09, Flight: 08, R#02].

(The Mk numbers in this article are arbitrary. They’re not in the material.)

Hero Points

We’ll cover the matter of Hero Points in individual profiles. But after Mr. Gruenwald’s death, it becomes common for Serpent Society members to appear with 010 or even 000 HPs for the story. They’ve been relegated to disposable mook status.

This doesn’t apply if they appear with their own storylines and characterisation. Such as Anaconda working with the Six Pack.

Tracker implants

The implants were mostly to explain how Sidewinder could rescue arrested Serpents so quickly. But that they are never detected or countered is striking.

This is reminiscent of the Mad Thinker’s “bionic radio” technology. Since Sidewinder knew so much about strange corners of the underworld, it is possible that Voelker indeed bought the chips from the reclusive Thinker.

In game terms, that might be something like Obscure: 13 and Radio Communications (Encrypted): 17, with RC being limited to a trackable signal.

I wouldn’t cost it as a Gadget, though. The implantees weren’t even aware that they had those, and it’s more part of how Sidewinder’s teleportation power works.

By Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: The tree of knowledge.

Helper(s): Darci.

Writeup completed on the 19th of October, 2021.