The Serpent Society

The Serpent Society

(pop culture)
Like the costumed street gangs depicted in Walter Hill's film The Warriors (1979), supervillains sometimes adopt group themes; patterned after the snake, a totem of the most atavistic of human fears, Marvel Comics' Serpent Society is emblematic of such “team sport” supervillainy. The Serpent Society's creators—Mark Gruenwald, Ralph Macchio, George Pérez, and Gene Day—also used the snake-like corporate raiders of the 1980s and the organization of the modern corporation itself as satirical source material (Captain America vol. 1 #308–#311, #313, 1985–1986; Captain America Annual #10, 1991). A criminal business concern founded and led by the Roxxon oil executive Seth Voelker (aka Sidewinder), the Serpent Society's rank and file initially consists of Anaconda, Asp, Black Mamba, Bushmaster, the Cobra, Cottonmouth, Death Adder, Diamondback, Princess Python, and the Rattler, several of whom are alumni of the precursor Serpent Squad groups. Setting up shop in an abandoned insane asylum (renamed the Serpent Citadel), the Serpent Society evades Captain America while successfully pulling off its first paying criminal job: assassinating MODOK for Advanced Idea Mechanics, the evil high-tech organization that MODOK once led. Despite this initial success, internal dissension tore at the Serpent Society over Princess Python's sudden departure during the MODOK affair. Next the vigilante called Scourge murdered Death Adder, and Black Racer (not to be confused with the DC Comics character of the same name), Copperhead (not the DC villain), Fer-de-Lance, and Puff Adder joined the Society's membership rolls in 1988. A woman named Viper, a Serpent Squad veteran, soon joined the Serpent Society, manipulating its members into introducing a mutagenic compound into the water supply of Washington, D.C., temporarily turning President Ronald Reagan into a crazed reptilian against whom Captain America reluctantly battled. Several key members of the team assisted Viper in seizing the leadership role, thereby forcing Sidewinder and Diamondback to join forces with Captain America (on whom the female Diamondback had a crush) against the hijacked Serpent Society, touching off a serpentine civil war that ended with Viper's defeat. Under the mistaken belief that Sidewinder still headed the Serpent Society, the evil priest-lord Ghaur and Lemurian ex-empress Llyra tried to hire him and some former associates to find items necessary for the rebuilding of the Serpent Crown, a magical weapon. Sidewinder eventually performed this mission—and collected the lion's share of the pay—after the Serpent Society, now led by the Cobra, failed in the task. Despite this setback, the Serpent Society remains one of the more active and prosperous supervillain associations in the business. More mercenary force than outright “evil organization out to rule the world,” the group selectively accepts freelance jobs, such as locating the Nazi villain the Red Skull. The Serpent Society also resembles a guild or union; its individual members receive not only plentiful work opportunities and bountiful pay, but also generous health benefits, professional bonhomie, subsidized housing, and even a retirement community, in exchange for modest organizational “dues.” In spite of subsequent defeats by Captain America and the Avengers spin-off superhero team Force Works in the 1990s and 2000s, and even rumors of the snake group's dissolution, the Serpent Society endures today, under the Cobra's guidance. Being both corporate and reptilian, the Serpent Society remains especially relevant in an era plagued by boardroom corruption and Enron-style business scandals.