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Serpent Society (Marvel Comics) original meeting

Serpent Society

(Part #1)


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

The Serpent Society is an alliance of costumed Marvel super-villains with a snake theme. It first appeared in 1985.

All the cool, sexy, slithering people love the Serpent Society :

  1. It is a large confederacy of easy-to-use villains with a strong, unified theme.
  2. Some of its members received significant attention and character development.
  3. The organisation itself has texture and verisimilitude.
  4. It was part of the beloved Mark Gruenwald run on Captain America. They had their own back-of-the-book feature !

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Sequence

As with most of our team profiles, this entry is a “base camp” article. It will allow for redoing our many Serpent Society member profiles without repeating the shared material in each one.

It is suggested that you first read our small article about the Serpent Squad. These teams have ties with the Serpent Society, but we’re not going to re-present them here.

This article covers a lot of ground. For the sake of slower readers, it is therefore presented in two halves, so they can take a break. .

This article is a foundation to overhaul individual Society members’ character profiles. It’ll likely receive small additions as research for these profiles advances. Excelsior !


Organization

Full Name:
Serpent Society.

During the mid-2010s, a new version of the organisation went by Serpent Solutions.

Purpose:

  • Maximizing profit for individual members.
  • Maintaining a level of mutual help among members for the common benefit.
  • Maintaining shared support services (vehicles, training facilities, accounting, sales intelligence, etc.).

This was once presented as imitating the strategy of such super-hero groups as the Avengers.


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Modus operandi:
Criminal activities. The main kinds seem to be :

  • Paid engagements as muscle-for-hire. The Society can land some big-ticket jobs.
  • Robberies/heists conducted by small teams of Society members.

Part of the income is kept by the Society to cover its costs. Members can conduct independent jobs, but these too mean a Society cut.

(10% is mentioned as the standard Society cut. Which seems oddly low.)

The Society is professionally managed, as a business. It uses proper marketing, accounting, investing, sourcing, reporting, etc. techniques.

During the Serpent Solutions phase, they operated as a corporation. The members were also members of the board, though most presumably didn’t have an actual executive role.

Extend of operations:
Active throughout the USA, and occasionally beyond.

Relationship to conventional authorities:
They’re a mob, Bruce.

Serpent Society (Marvel Comics) original meeting names 1

Bases of Operations:
Unrevealed if any. Known former bases of operations are described below.

Major funding:

  • Payment for jobs from other criminal organisations.
  • Robberies/heists.
  • Investments.

During the “Serpent Solutions” stage, the organisation billed corporate clients.

Known enemies:

Known allies:
The Society has a fair working relationship with other organizations, such as A.I.M.. But this doesn’t qualify as alliances.

Serpent Solutions was a major backer of the then-current iteration of the Sons of the Serpent. It also had a good relationship with the business press.


Membership

The number of members has varied over time. But at any given point, it is likely that their roster includes the majority of known snake-themed costumed criminals in the US.

Organizational structure:
One director, a number of members, and some support personnel.

Known officers:

  1. Founder Sidewinder (Seth Voelker) was the original director, from 1985 to 1988.
  2. Viper (Ophelia Sarkissian) briefly led part of the Society in 1988.
  3. Cobra (Klaus Voorhees) was the second director, from 1988 to 2004-ish.
  4. One gets the impression that there was no structured leadership from 2004 to 2015.
  5. Viper (Jordan Dixon) headed Serpent Solutions (2015-2019-ish).

Advantages for members:

  • Early on, jailed Society members would be swiftly evacuated by Sidewinder. This get-out-of-jail-free card was a strong argument when recruiting members. Imprisoned members were located via an implanted electronic tracker.
  • Under Cobra’s leadership, captured members were still freed – but by simply raiding jails. This lasted until a new person could be empowered as a Sidewinder successor.
  • The Society’s organised sales funnel results in more, better, bigger job opportunities for members. One also gets the impression that members receive sales training.
  • There is a set pay scale (puns intended) and reliable payment procedures.
  • Membership comes with health insurance benefits, pension plans, and some insurance coverage.
  • Membership includes safe, defensible lodging at the Serpent Society headquarters.
  • Having a leader provides a set mode of arbitration for internecine conflicts. For grave cases, there is an adversary trial procedure.
  • Sidewinder also listed comradeship among the benefits. That didn’t sound too convincing, but the Serpents did come to enjoy hanging out together.

Serpent Society (Marvel Comics) original meeting names 2

The Society also had extensive underworld connections, most of their members being veteran criminals. They could scare up a surprising amount of information, but it’s normally what’s accessible to the mob rank-and-file.

These advantages presumably went away during the 2004-2015 and 2017+ slumps. But Serpent Solutions reportedly offered even better benefits than Voelker’s Serpent Society had.

Founding roster:

These had been the original Roxxon Oil version of the Serpent Squad.

Launch roster (1985):

Additional 1988 recruits (Serpent Squad):

Additional 1988 Viper operatives:

Full 1989 roster (early Cobra version):

  • Anaconda (Blanche “Blondie” Sitznski).
  • Asp (“Cleo Nefertiti”).
  • Black Mamba (Tanya Sealy).
  • Black Racer (Ariana Saddiqi).
  • Bushmaster (Quincy McIver).
  • Coachwhip (Beatrix Keener).
  • Cobra (Klaus Voorhees) — leader.
  • Copperhead (David Lawfers).
  • Cottonmouth (Burchell Clemens).
  • Diamondback (Rachel Leighton).
  • Fer-de-Lance (Teresa Vasquez).
  • Puff Adder (Gordon Fraley).
  • Rattler (Gustav Krueger).
  • Rock Python (M’Gula).
  • Rattler (Gustav Krueger).

Serpent Society (Marvel Comics) members in 1989 under Cobra

Full 1994 roster (Arizona):

  • Anaconda (Blanche “Blondie” Sitznski).
  • Bushmaster (Quincy McIver).
  • Coachwhip (Beatrix Keener).
  • Cottonmouth (Burchell Clemens).
  • Fer-de-Lance (Teresa Vasquez).
  • King Cobra (Klaus Voorhees) — leader.
  • Puff Adder (Gordon Fraley).
  • Rattler (Gustav Krueger).
  • Rock Python (M’Gula).

Serpent Society (Marvel Comics) 1994 Arizona resort lounging

Full 2004 roster (New York City):

  • Anaconda (Blanche “Blondie” Sitznski).
  • Asp (“Cleo Nefertiti”).
  • Black Mamba (Tanya Sealy).
  • Black Racer (Ariana Saddiqi).
  • Boomslang (Marc Riemer).
  • Bushmaster (Quincy McIver).
  • Coachwhip (Beatrix Keener).
  • Fer-de-Lance (Teresa Vasquez).
  • King Cobra (Klaus Voorhees) — leader.
  • Puff Adder (Gordon Fraley).
  • Rattler (Gustav Krueger).
  • Rock Python (M’Gula).
  • Sidewinder II (seemingly not Gregory Bryan).

Serpent Society (Marvel Comics) Cobra and part of the 2004 roster

2004-2015 roster:
The society doesn’t appear to have genuinely structured activities during this span. Only smaller teams are seen – never a full roster.

See the History section for lists of active Serpents during these engagements.

Serpent Solutions roster (2016):

  • Anaconda (Blanche “Blondie” Sitznski).
  • Black Mamba (Tanya Sealy).
  • Black Racer (Ariana Saddiqi).
  • Coachwhip (Beatrix Keener).
  • Cobra (Piet Voorhees).
  • Cottonmouth (Burchell Clemens).
  • Copperhead (David Lawfers).
  • Death Adder (Theodore Scott).
  • Diamondback (Rachel Leighton).
  • Eel (Eddie Lavell).
  • Fer-de-Lance (Teresa Vasquez).
  • Princess Python (Zelda Dubois).
  • Puff Adder (Gordon Fraley).
  • Rattler (Gustav Krueger).
  • Rock Python (M’Gula).
  • Sidewinder II (Gregory Bryan).
  • Slither (Aaron Salomon) apparently joined after the Pleasant Hill crisis.
  • Viper (Jordan Dixon) — leader.

Serpent Society (Marvel Comics) Serpent Solutions board

Known support personnel (1985-1994):

  • Wilburn (butler). Wilburn likely left when Sidewinder (Voelker) did.
  • Keener. Cobra’s aide, who likely succeeded Wilburn. Perhaps he’s Coachwhip’s brother ?
  • Kenny (receptionist at the Stuyvesant Arms Hotel).
  • Hallsy (aircrafts technician at the Bronx secret base).
  • Willard (helicopter pilot and aide in Sandhaven Acres).
  • Gaston (butler in Sandhaven Acres).
  • There seemed to be a number of female escorts in the Sandhaven Acres base.
  • Off-panel staff is implied, for instance when Cobra thinks about discussions with “the accountant”. There’s also a statement that there were ten support personnel at the Serpent Citadel, including a physician.

Known support personnel (Serpent Solutions):

  • Dr. Karl Malus.
  • A number of ex-Hydra and ex-A.I.M. scientists.
  • Presumably a full staff for a typical tech-oriented SME. I doubt that Serpent Solutions outsourced much, for security reasons.
  • A security detail provided by the Sons of the Serpent. These were muscular goons with hoods and tonfas.

Membership requirement:
Being a costumed criminal with a snake-themed identity.

Recruits must have superhuman powers and/or assets that allow for contributing during a superhuman combat situation.

Applicants must pass an initiation test – a specific crime that earns the Society needed resources. If successful, this is followed by a three-month probation.


Equipment

Wealth:
009 APs as a rough average, ± 3 APs depending on the era.

In 1987, the Society founders reportedly cleared over a million dollars each. This implies that their off-panel  contracts and robberies are generally successful.

Equipment:
The Society can easily procure paramilitary gear, though few of their missions require it. One early example were demolition charges to deny hideouts to the fugitive MODOK, and SCUBA diving equipment.

All Society members during Voelker’s tenure had an electronic implant covertly implanted in their skull. This allowed Sidewinder to precisely locate them in real time. Which was chiefly useful for rescue/jailbreak missions.

These implants are never detected, jammed or blocked.

There has been a startling amount of variation in the features and skin tones of many Serpent Society members. Our No-Prize Hypothesis  is that the Society has access to image inducers – a holographic tech providing instant disguise.

Serpent Saucers Mk1:
From the get-go, the Society has a small fleet of transport aircrafts dubbed “Serpent Saucers”. Members were also trained to fly these.

Saucers are… sort of styled after snakes. They look more like insects to me, honestly. It is thus possible that they had been originally built for another organisation with its own visual theme, then repurposed.

They are two-person crafts, but a few additional passengers can stand in the cockpit. But their apparent size has varied from issue to issue.

My sense — based on the Falcon (Sam Wilson) chasing a Saucer — is that they can do about 150mph (240 km/h). Which is a hair faster than most common light helicopters.

Serpent Society (Marvel Comics) Mk1 serpent saucers

Each Saucer has :

  • A small medicine cabinet, including potent antitoxins.
  • A stash of dull grey overcoats. These are something you can quickly put on to crudely hide your costume.
  • Spare micro-communicators. Essentially tiny talkie-walkies.
  • A pair of heat-seeking missiles. I’d be surprised if these weren’t Sidewinders. Presumably AIM-9L all-aspect infrared homing ordnance.

It was possible to procure at least three more Saucers in 1989. Even though the entire previous fleet had presumably been lost.

Serpent Saucers Mk2:
Nevertheless, the Society soon shifts to a more serpentine, larger (about 20 metres long) design. Like their predecessors, these are VTOL crafts.

These crafts are nearly silent. They also seem able to change colour – from their normal green to an off-white that seemed intended for camouflage amongst clouds.

A Mk2 Saucer can do transatlantic flights. This, and a remark about the fuel source being difficult to disconnect, may mean they don’t use aviation fuel. Perhaps there’s a small, comic-book-tech nuclear reactor ?

Serpent Society (Marvel Comics) Mk2 serpent saucer

Other vehicles:
Beyond the Serpent Saucers, the Society has a small fleet of ordinary vehicles – possibly rentals. These are far more discreet.

Early on, a typical example was a stock blue G10 Chevrolet van. This was amply sufficient for four operatives plus cargo.

Infrastructure:
A very early mission was stealing Brand Corporation equipment used in enhancing Serpent Squad members. The Society therefore might be able to create superhuman operatives, but if so it has strong limitations.

(Sidewinder did state that he could have enhanced Princess Python. But it’s unclear how true that was.)

During the 2000s, King Cobra was able to empower operatives with abilities similar to those of Sidewinder’s old Serpent Squad. The recovered equipment therefore likely worked, but required considerable investment and recruiting former Brand scientists.

Sidewinder also recovered Roxxon memory-destroying machinery. This was proved to work, though it doubled as a torture device.

Former bases of operations: Serpent Citadel
The Serpent Citadel in Pawling, upstate New York (1985 to 1988) received a one-page entry in the Handbook of the Marvel Universe :

Serpent Society (Marvel Comics) plans of the first headquarters handbook

Serpent Citadel in the 1980s. Click on the image for a larger version.

The individual rooms are similar to nice hotel rooms. However, they were snake-themed by a particularly enthusiastic decorator. Much in the same way as Catwoman ’66’s hideouts were cat-themed.

(That includes cobra-shaped lamp bases, and viper-shaped telephone handsets. Even the toothbrushes have snakey handles !)

Each bathroom includes a small, stocked medicine cabinet. Each cabinet holds a bottle of the Shecktor-Voorhees universal anti-toxin, among other more mundane supplies.

Former bases of operations: secret Bronx base
In 1989, the Society moved to a hidden base in the Bronx. My impression is that it was mostly underground, and linked to two ordinary buildings.

One was the Stuyvesant Arms Hotel on East 238th, and the other some sort of abandoned industrial building. Both were decrepit, except for the underground parts.

The aircraft hangar of the Bronx base had its roof covered by an artificial, stationary cloud. This hid the arrivals and departures, and only looked unnatural if seen from the air.

The silent alarms in the deserted parts of the building seemed pretty good. Security systems: 08 or so, I guess.

(Secondary sources  mention that this base was present from the start, but Voorhees mentions relocation costs. Presumably, it had been bought by Voelker early on, but serious work had yet to start on the buildings and basement.)

Former bases of operations: Sandhaven Acres
This seemingly was a mostly ordinary, if presumably expensive, retirement community.

The Society usually hung around the community center’s pool, as if shooting an early 1990s rap music video (but mostly with White people). They drank cocktails with lil’ umbrellas in ’em.

A number of escape routes were built in Sandhaven – mostly around the community center (at 1260 Camden Drive). For instance, there was a 12-foot hatch at the bottom of said swimming pool, flushing the content into a 2- or 3-miles tunnel to the desert.

Former bases of operations: New York City catacombs
The 2004 hideout was under New York City. It looks like a medieval dungeon, complete with torches for lighting.

This vaguely resembles some 1989 panels. So it is *possible* that the Society reclaimed a specific basement of their old Bronx base.

Former bases of operations: Serpent Solutions
This was a typical corporate high-rise office space on Wall Street, in New York City.

However, the board’s meeting room had a huge snake statue. It seemed straight out of an Indiana Jones movie.


Landmarks

Founder:
Sidewinder (Seth Voelker).

Major campaigns or accomplishments:

  • Simply bringing the Society into existence is a noteworthy achievement.
  • Killing MODOK (George Tarleton) at the request of rival A.I.M. leaders put the Society on the map.
  • Maintaining operations after the failed Viper coup.
  • Reinventing the Society as Serpent Solutions.

Major setbacks:

  • Mass betrayals during the 1988 Viper takeover.
  • Mass arrests of the Society in 1990, 1994, 2004 and 2016.
  • Apparent loss of direction between 2004 and 2015.
  • Apparent collapse of Serpent Solutions in 2019.

Continued !

In , we’ll discuss the Society’s history – and some minor game stats.

By Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: The tree of knowledge.

Helper(s): Darci.

Writeup completed on the 19th of October, 2021.