Thanks to the MCU and DCEU, you no longer have to be a comic book fanatic to be familiar with the Avengers, Justice League, Suicide Squad and other superhero/supervillain groups. These groups are now pop culture icons forever (even if Will Smith was the real redeeming feature of the latter).
However many blockbuster movies there have been, though, there’s still so much more to learn about the characters of DC and Marvel. Who the heck is the Serpent Society, for instance? This band of Marvel miscreants are much more obscure, but it looks as though they’re going to be rising to prominence in the future. We’d better get acquainted with them, then, hadn’t we?
Let’s start at the beginning, then. The Serpent Society is (or rather, was, as we’ll see later) a criminal cabal created by Mark Gruenwald and Paul Neary over at Marvel. As the name suggests, the group is comprised of supervillains with snake-like appearances and powers, and certainly sounds like a dastardly bunch to deal with.
The group was formed by Sidewinder, a former professor of Economics who was mutated by an oil company (giving him the power of teleportation) in standard comic book origin story fashion. The curious thing about the group is that they cooperate quite harmoniously and professionally, sharing profits and functioning like an actual company.
That’s the Serpent Society in a nutshell, but who else is in the group besides Sidewinder? Well, there’s Viper, for one, a villainess once known as Madame Hydra. She has no true superpowers, but her agility, intelligence and strength have been honed to perfection (much like Batman). Then there’s Cobra/King Cobra, a former lab assistant who was injected with experimental anti-venom (while investigating snake bites) which gave him superpowers.
Other snake-themed supervillains who have been associated with the group include Diamondback, Anaconda, Puff Adder, Asp and Black Mamba. Interestingly, the latter two (and Diamondback) have also been members of BAD Girls, Inc., a group that has also aided the forces of good in defeating other supervillains.
So, there we go. As we can see, then, we’ve got one heck of an intimidating-sounding operation on our hands here. Anybody who struggles with the whole concept of snakes --that’s called ophidiophobia/ophiophobia, or the more general herpetophobia (reptiles), trivia fans—is going to have a bad time here.
It’s about more than just having some neat superpowers and a frighteningly snakey name, though. You’ve got to back all of that up with some action. Sadly for them, they’ve generally struggled to do so (although they did succeed in an assignment to kill MODOK). During the time that the ambitious Viper was their leader, the Serpent Society plotted to contaminate the water supply of Washington D.C. with a chemical that would transform them into reptile-like creatures, a scheme ultimately thwarted by Captain America and his goodly friends.
Speaking of our old buddy Steve Rogers, let’s take a look at the Serpent Society’s connection to Captain America. Like most supervillains, the Society has tangled with all kinds of heroes over their career, but they appear most often as thorns in Cap’s side. They were first introduced way back in October 1985, in Captain America #310. They’ve existed in a different form since 1973, though, but we’ll get into that later.
As we’ve seen, Captain America has thwarted their schemes on a number of occasions (with a little help from his friends), and they’ll always be a part of his history. As we’re about to see.
So, yes. The Serpent Society have always been a part of Cap’s history, and he’s encountered them (separately and collectively) more times than he’d probably have liked. Part of his own personal rogue’s gallery, if you will. Dedicated fans will know this, of course, and that fact made for a handy little gambit for Marvel’s movie-makers to employ. Back in the day, the entire internet was awaiting an announcement from Marvel Studios, confirming that the third Captain America movie would be subtitled Civil War.
To try and get one over on the leakers, they released a false announcement that the film would instead be named Serpent Society (after its supposed antagonists), before reversing all of that and admitting that Civil War was indeed correct.
Clearly, one supervillain is bad enough. Heck, have you seen the kind of mess guys like Magneto can cause? It just doesn’t bear thinking about. If you saw Thanos treating all of the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy like chew toys in Avengers: Infinity War, you’ll know that lone villains are never to be underestimated.
With the Serpent Society, we’re talking lots of them. As such, serious firepower is needed to keep them at bay. Luckily, he hasn’t had to fight them alone. Over the years, they’ve managed to get themselves on the wrong side of powerhouses like Colossus and the X-Men, as well as lesser-known heroes like Jack Flag and Dazzler.
Well, that’s a tough one to answer. When you’re messing with Captain America and the X-Men, you’re clearly going to have all kinds of chutzpah, but how was it that they never really technically achieved anything (you know, in the grand scheme of supervillainy)?
Were they grossly outmatched? That’s going to depend on your outlook too. One thing we can say for sure is that despite their shared snake theme, they’re certainly a versatile bunch. Between them, they’ve had Boomslang’s snake-shaped boomerangs, Bruiser’s great strength (and centre-of-gravity-shifting abilities), Rock Python’s super-tough skin and Sidewinder’s teleportation and armor to call on, and that’s just for starters.
That’s the curious thing. Just about everyone’s familiar with Iron Man, Spider-Man, Captain America and their ilk now, simply because they’re such huge parts of our pop culture history. Thanks to the huge recent success of the MCU, casual Marvel dabblers will also have gotten to know slightly less influential heroes like Captain Marvel and Star-Lord.
By contrast, the Serpent Society hasn’t had the chance for a starring movie role yet (hence the Civil War joke from those wacky funsters at Marvel Studios), so they aren’t as well know to those who aren’t well-versed in Marvel lore. They’re certainly an interesting bunch, though.
The Serpent Society, then, have been criminally underappreciated by the MCU. To further complicate the matter, they’ve gone through a number of name changes since they were first introduced. The Serpent Society actually began life in 1973, as a group of snake-tastic mercenaries who called themselves the Serpent Squad. Since then, of course, their lineup has changed more times than darn Black Sabbath’s, but ultimately, the group’s concept has been largely the same throughout.
Later, they adopted the title Serpent Solutions, which added a nice, legitimate-sounding air to the whole operation. They were still up to their old tricks, though.
The Serpent Society/Serpent Squad/Serpent Solutions may not be the movie stars that they deserve to be, but they’ve made some high profile appearances elsewhere. Captain America: The Winter Soldier had more than enough going on without several more villains, but in the video game adaption of the movie, the Society were the Big Bads. King Cobra led them, and the likes of Puff Adder made their presence felt too.
Meanwhile, the book Marvel Avengers: The Serpent Society featured the villainous team as led by Black Mamba, with Copperhead, Asp and Bushmaster among the featured members.