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“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) debuted in a notable 1980 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 seen in Captain America.

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Dedication

Sidewinder was one of Mark Gruenwald  ’s signature characters. They even have a passing resemblance. 😺

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 Universe continuity.

This profile, and our Diamondback character profiles are dedicated to his memory.

For Sidewinder and several other Serpent Society members, information from secondary sources  is considered authoritative. Since Mr. Gruenwald wrote both secondary and primary sources.

Sequence

This article is 100% intended to be read after :

  1. Our short article about the various Serpent Squads.
  2. Our not-short article about the Serpent Society. It covers much of Sidewinder’s deeds, so his individual profile can in turn be smaller.

Sidewinder of the Serpent Society (Marvel Comics) from the handbook

Background

  • Real Name: Seth Voelker.
  • Other Aliases: Snake-Eye.
  • 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). Formerly the Serpent Citadel (in upstate New York, near Highway 93 and Route N, near Pawling).
  • Height: 5’9″ (1.75m) Weight: 180 lbs. (82 Kg.)
  • Eyes: Dark blue. Hair: Black (Bald on top and front).

Powers and Abilities

Sidewinder is an intelligent, thoughtful manager and criminal. He’s the boss with the plan.

However, he’s not genuinely charismatic.

Mr. Voelker is an expert in economics, finance and business strategy. His hobbies include playing the piano, gardening, and reading a lot.

He also has teleportation powers. These seem derived from a combination of cybernetic implant and electronics in his costume.

Sidewinder teleportation

The reinforced Sidewinder costume :

  • Can operate deep underwater.
  • Can teleport.
  • Has minor protective properties.

At one point he also used knockout gas grenades. But those were ordinary equipment.

The “side effects”

The “side effects” are odd streaks of energy unleashed from his brow. They will strike random things within range, though there seems to be a minimum clearance 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. Speaking of which…

Going sideways

Sidewinder’s main ability is “going sideways” between dimensionsOther realms of existence that are not our universe.

This seems based on the groundbreaking Nth Projector dimensional exploration technology.

In practice :

  • He can teleport for about 50 miles. Though there once was an erroneous statement that it was 10 feet.
  • He can chain jumps, crossing thousands of miles.
  • He can teleport in and out in the blink of an eye. The jumps seem to occur on a mere mental impulse, through cybernetic controls. Even persons with extreme reaction speed, such as Captain America (Steve Rogers) or the Cobra (Klaus Voorhees) couldn’t catch him.
  • Teleportation is unusually precise and selective. For instance, he once teleported Diamondback away while she had all limbs bound to a steel slab. That left the empty manacles behind. This precision might be derived from the electronic trackers implanted into Serpent Society members.

Sidewinder can even teleport a part of his body. For instance he could reach into a safe by :

  1. Putting a hand against the door.
  2. Teleporting just this hand within the safe.
  3. Grabbing the content.
  4. Teleporting his hand + content back to his body.

He also could teleport an eyeball to stealthily reconnoitre ahead. This might explain how Sidewinder could teleport in and out of enclosed spaces.

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Last-ditch defense

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.

Costume or implant ?

There are ambiguities as to whether the teleportation power comes from a brain implant, or the Sidewinder costume. Best guess :

  • The electronic implant in Voelker’s brain allows for much faster, partial, and longer-ranged teleportations. But it’s useless on its own – or perhaps it’s limited to the ten feet range that was mentioned once.
  • The costume holds the bulk of the circuitry. It can be operated to allow teleportation on its own, though it’s less impressive. This likely requires training. Diamondback (Rachel Leighton) once did this, but it stands to reason that she received training to do a basic Sidewinder evacuation drill.

The brain chip could eventually be replicated. But that version did not seem as powerful as the original.

Mr. Voelker owned ordinary-looking clothes with teleportation circuitry built in. But one suspects it wasn’t quite as powerful as the Sidewinder costume.

The “side effects” might also involve a combination of implant (for emission) and costume (to avoid striking Sidewinder).

2010s

In 2012, Sidewinder didn’t seem able to teleport.

In 2014, his powers worked differently. One suspects that his implant conked out before 2012, and he acquired a new kind of teleportational power.

We can observe that :

  1. The teleportation seemed slower. He didn’t use it to blink-dodge – though it’s also possible that he didn’t see the blow coming.
  2. The range is now far greater — more than 8,300 miles.
  3. It manifests as a gate, so taking passengers along is easier. The travel also takes a few seconds, with a feeling of null gravity and pitch darkness.
  4. The gate’s visuals evoke DarkforceJet-black, solid energy from another universe.

He also now used a poison injector. This is kinda like a baton, but half the length is an ice pick-like spike. The poison was strong, but a robust person has reasonable odds of surviving it.

Sidewinder uses this injector to strike by surprise. By teleporting close to a distracted target.

Soundtrack

Some 1980 sound for the chronologically correct ambiance… let’s go with the titular track from the strange Fleetwood Mac album Tusk.

This mostly instrumental piece was recorded with the Trojans marching band  . Which led to a video with extremely 1979 looks.

History (part 1)

Seth Voelker was a college teacher of economics. But during the 1970s, he lost his job – perhaps after the oil shock  .

He then became a financial analyst for energy giant Roxxon Oil. This is how he realised that Roxxon :

  1. Conducted extensive criminal operations.
  2. Researched ways to create superhuman operatives.

Mr. Voelker volunteered to join the enhancement program, run by a subsidy – the Brand Corporation. He became Sidewinder.

Serpentine

Sidewinder led the third, 1980s version of the Serpent Squad. But you already know everything about that. Since you’ve read our Serpent Squad article.

The other three having been arrested, Sidewinder received all four pays for the Serpent Crown mission. He invested his operatives’ money.

Later on, he left Roxxon – with the Sidewinder costume and implant. Perhaps he made the most of the chaos after Roxxon’s CEO was possessed by multiple Serpent Crowns.

The great Society

In 1985, the rest of the Serpent Squad (Anaconda, Black Mamba, Death Adder) located Mr. Voelker. They thought that he had stolen their moolah.

Sidewinder of the Serpent Society (Marvel Comics) reunited with the serpent squad

But Sidewinder had their money ready – plus accrued interest. From there he recruited them for his new project, the Serpent Society.

(When laying the groundwork for the Society, Voelker clearly had privileged information at his disposal. It seems likely that he left Roxxon’s clandestine ops division with stolen confidential hard drives.)

The Serpent Society was, under Seth Voelker’s leadership, a success. But you already know everything about that, since you’ve read our Serpent Society articles.

Divorce

Circa 1986 (tentatively), Voelker’s wife divorced him. She disapproved of his illegal activities, and now saw him as a moral failure.

Donna Voelker gained custody of their baby girl. But little Amelia suffered from an unspecified medical condition causing dangerous seizures.

Mr. Voelker’s sister shared Donna’s stance. But she reluctantly remained in contact with her brother. Years later, she’d hire Voelker’s friend Rachel Leighton to do sales at her Manhattan clothing shop.

His private life in shambles and missing his daughter, Sidewinder obsessively focused on building up the Serpent Society.

Seth Voelker then had a relationship with one of the Serpents – Black Mamba (Tanya Sealy). But he felt guilty about that. Apparently it was payment for some sort of debt that she owed him, rather than a romance.

No honour among snakes

During the Viper (Ophelia Sarkissian)’s takeover of the Society, Mr. Voelker’s life was narrowly saved by one of the few loyalists, Diamondback (Rachel Leighton).

Sidewinder of the Serpent Society (Marvel Comics) 2014 dark teleportation with Elektra

2014 darkforce-ish teleportation warp.

Viper operative Black Racer (Ariana Saddiqi) tried to assassinate the poisoned Sidewinder aboard a speeding ambulance. But she was unexpectedly defeated by Vagabond (Priscilla Lyons), an ally of Captain America (Steve Rogers).

Once he recovered from the Viper’s poison, Sidewinder easily escaped. He then paid his debt back by rescuing Diamondback and her ally Nomad (Jack Monroe). Nomad’s teammate D-Man (Dennis Dunphy) was also present, but he rejected Sidewinder’s help.

I want to retire, inform the suppliers

Howbeit, the numerous treasons during the Viper’s takeover ruined Voelker’s morale. He now wanted to retire.

After rescuing Diamondback, Sidewinder sold the rights to the Society’s name, assets, etc. to Cobra (Klaus Voorhees) in exchange for a 25% earnings cut.

Revenges

Sidewinder and Diamondback were so bitter about the treasons that they then cheated the Society out of a big contract with Llyra and Ghaur.

This apparently didn’t suspend the 25% cut agreement with Cobra. Perhaps because Cobra was less effective than Sidewinder had been, and couldn’t afford more trouble.

The Society hadn’t detected that Diamondback had helped Sidewinder. But they later condemned her to death for dating Captain America (Steve Rogers).

Her friends Asp (“Cleo Nefertiti”) and Black Mamba called Voelker for help. Both had been Sidewinder loyalists during the Viper coup.

Sidewinder reluctantly agreed. He teleported Diamondback out as she was about to receive a fatal injection.

Sidewinder of the Serpent Society (Marvel Comics) with the corpse of Death Adder

The Cobra gambit

Sidewinder knew that this made him an enemy of the Serpent Society. He packed up his expensive stuff to flee, and stated :

  1. That he would not help Diamondback any further.
  2. That he wouldn’t help Mamba and Asp either. Even though the Society soon determined that they had been the ones who called Sidewinder.

King Cobra’s Serpent Society were soon arrested and sent to the Vault prison. However, Sidewinder knew that it was but a respite. They’d eventually get out and come after him.

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 carry him further, he encouraged him to run and teleported away.

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. Therefore Voorhees let himself be recaptured.

Yet, Voorhees could not resume hunting Sidewinder down. Since everybody had seen Voelker busting him out of the Vaults.

History (part 2)

In 1994, little Amelia Voelker’s condition took a sudden turn for the worse.

Neither of her parents had health insurance. While 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 (Steve Rogers) to give him the money so he wouldn’t have to steal it. But Cap had to turn him down – since he could not verify his motives.

To save his daughter, Sidewinder angrily resorted to heists. But he solely stole from criminals, to keep police heat down.

Sidewinder of the Serpent Society (Marvel Comics) in Iron Man Legacy crouching

Iron Man Legacy appearance.

A deal with America

During one such heist, he was shot and wounded. But Voelker managed to contact Diamondback. She came to the rescue along with her lover – Captain America.

Cap had located Amelia Voelker, and confirmed that Sidewinder had been telling the truth. He 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 before returning to his cell.

It is possible that while in prison, Voelker arranged for the lease of the Sidewinder identity and technology to the Serpent Society.

I want to retire, no longer required

In 2005, Voelker earned his parole and left prison.

Later on, he was seen participating in a TV show discussing reformed super-criminals.

History (part 3)

In 2012, Sidewinder made an unexpected return. Though he wasn’t clearly identified as Voelker, the story strongly implied that it was him.

He had moloids use the secret tunnels they had once built for Mole Man (Harvey Elder) under Manhattan. From there trained operatives, such as Lady Stilt-Man (Callie Ryan) were hired to steal valuable antiquities. Which would be dropped off for the moloids to carry away underground.

The operation conducted four heists, and Sidewinder ran clandestine international auctions to sell the loot. However, he was then arrested by Misty Knight and her Heroes for Hire.

(Curiously, Sidewinder couldn’t teleport during this story. No-Prize HypothesisA made-up explanation to plug a plot hole – his implant broke down, and he set up a criminal operation to raise enough money for new enhancements. Since he felt too vulnerable without teleportation powers.)

Greek without a paddle

In 2014, Sidewinder was working for the Assassin’s Guild.

He led a cadre of Serpent Society operatives (Anaconda, Black Mamba, and Death Adder (reportedly Theodore Scott)) against the ex-assassin Cape Crow, who was under Elektra Natchios’ protection.

Though they were wounded in the process, the Serpents managed to force Elektra into an ambush by Lady Bullseye. But Elektra won, and forced Sidewinder to teleport her to the Guild in New Orleans.

Since this mission had gone so badly, Sidewinder stated that he would retire again.

Sidewinder of the Serpent Society (Marvel Comics) face closeup

Description

Sidewinder’s cape generates a visual aftereffect. It hangs in the air for a split second after he has disappeared. This evokes the smile of the Cheshire Cat.

When relaxing, Voelker often smokes a pipe. But 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 wealth – so as to retire early yet in luxury. Once that’s done he gets to just read, play the piano and tend his garden.

Shedi snek

Sidewinder is well-spoken – almost unctuous and overwrought. He is a good salesman.

However :

  • He treats people as more rational and attentive than they actually are. And therefore gets flat-footed when they choose to act contrary to their interests.
  • He feels responsible and loyal even toward people who do not deserve it.

Still, he’s clearly not above using the heroism of his opponents against them. Sidewinder once 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 of the Serpent Society (Marvel Comics) reading to his hospitalised daughter

Other traits

Voelker’s modus operandi has a distinctive corporate business slant. His mastery of managerial finance, negotiation, sales, etc. is what shapes his strategy.

When recruiting for the Serpent Society he organised a business buffet and meeting in a posh hotel. There wasn’t a PowerPoint™ presentation, but there were brochures.

He also understands the dynamics of fear and punishment in the underworld. But despite going through the motions (such as personally torturing Princess Python to maintain security) he’s not intimidating enough. He’s no Silvermane or Kingpin.

Pain and suffering

Sidewinder does not like danger. This is why he founded the Society, so that others would be in the field.

He has even described himself as a coward. Which seems harsh since he always was able to overcome his fear and take risks when it was necessary. Usually, that was to free an imprisoned Serpent.

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

Mamba pa ti

What happened between Sidewinder and Black Mamba is unrevealed. Voelker seemed guilty about it. He even once stated that Mamba would rather risk death than be in his debt anew.

By contrast, Sealy never seemed to mind. Though, of course, she might have hidden her actual feelings.

So it might be that something exploitative and bad happened. Or it might be a banal scenario where the freshly divorced Voelker felt guilty and predatory over trading money for sex, whereas to Sealy (a former call girl) he simply was a client.

In 2014, Voelker and Sealy seemed on good terms, or perhaps even back together. One also notes that Sidewinder’s teleportation now seemed Darkforce-based – like Mamba’s abilities.

Sidewinder of the Serpent Society (Marvel Comics) reaching into his vault

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.”

Sidewinder of the Serpent Society (Marvel Comics) sitting and speechifying

DC Heroes RPG

Sidewinder (Voelker)

Dex: 03 Str: 02 Bod: 02
Int: 05 Wil: 06 Min: 04
Inf: 04 Aur: 04 Spi: 03
Init: 012 HP: 025

Skills:

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

Advantages:

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

Connections:

B.A.D. Girls (Low), Bushmaster (Quincy McIver, Low), Underworld (Low).

Drawbacks:

MIA toward honouring his debts, Debt (+2 – alimony and child support).

Motivation:

Mercenary.

Occupation:

Mob manager.

Wealth:

007

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, Bonuses & Limitations:

  • All Powers save for Skin Armour and Water Freedom are Contingent Upon Teleportation.
  • Anatomical Separation has a special +4 Duration Bonus.
  • Enhanced Initiative can only be active if Sidewinder commits to a/ using his Teleportation during the next Phase and b/ foregoing his Dice Action during the next Phase.
  • 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 unusually selective, as per the example in the P&A section.
  • 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). But at this point his effective DEX is zero].

Design notes

By teleporting every Phase by 15 APs (8 APs of Teleportation Power, plus the built-in +7 Special Range Bonus) Sidewinder can cross large distances at the equivalent of a high hypersonic speed.

This is demonstrated when he rushes to the Vault to “rescue” King Cobra.

Though it’s not done that often by Teleportation characters, it’s a straight application of the Power rather than a Bonus.

The suit likely has other small protective Powers. Starting with Sealed Systems, and perhaps APs of protection against facial attacks. But these are never demonstrated.

The /BODY/ approach for the COSTUME was therefore picked to give him some protection against anything Physical.


Implant

If the costume is used by a person with the implant, I’d imagine that it only has 4 APs of Teleportation and loses those Powers that are Contingent Upon it – and the Bonus.

Likewise, it is possible that the implant without external circuitry still allows 00 APs of Teleportation, without the built-in +7 Range Bonus.

I had this vague impression that the Sidewinder teleportation is good at penetrating anti-teleportation fields. But there’s next to no data about that.


2014

Not enough data. The Teleportation-contingent abilities likely are gone. His new Power *might* be Warp, with enough APs to reliably cross 21 APs of distance.

The poison injector likely had Poison Touch: 05. The other stats are hard to infer – maybe like a baton doing Piercing Descriptor damage, and with Sharpness: 02 when striking as a Blindside (since it excels at punching through chinks in the armour).

Writeups.org writer avatar Sébastien Andrivet

By Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: Mostly Captain America comics.

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

Writeup redone on the 25th of October, 2021.