King Cobra

King Cobra
The comic book history of King Cobra, enemy of Thor, from Marvel Comics.

Lab assistant? More like lab assist you in dying. By killing you...I'm sorry it's Monday morning and my header game is weak. These mostly exist to break up the text, anyway, and carry little value other than the occasional pun which is actually probably a negative value.

So, I was going to start this episode off really glib. The origin story of Cobra is that he's a lab assistant of the guy who's looking to cure snake bites and was jealous of the glory his boss would receive. I was going to be like, what glory? Don't we have anti venom for that? But then the shallowest of Googling revealed that still, in the 2020s, something like a hundred thousand people die a year from snake bites around the world, and of those who survive, up to 44% percent will live with a permanent disability. So yeah, snake bites: still a thing.

The solution, according to Professor Specktor, was irradiating cobras.

Turns out it wasn't exactly "fool-proof" now was it, Klaus? Also, no smoking that cigarette the that's the same color as your skin around the cobras. Image copyright Marvel.

Professor Specktor was a research professor who went off the map in India - his words, they still have maps in India - to do his research curing snake bites. The only person he took with him was Klaus Vorhees, an ex-con who was envious and untalented, according to the professor. Gotta wonder why he took an inexperienced, surly man to India with him when he could have hired anyone else, but that's what happened.

The book opens with Klaus seething about how his Professor boss is going to get all the glory for the cure that the boss discovered which...yes...that' scientific discoveries work? Still, Klaus wanted the glory of the discovery for himself, so he was going to release the cobras, kill Specktor, and release the cure under his own name but, like, how would that work? Is he going to write the research paper detailing tests, submit it, go through the peer reviewing test, and everything?

And the cure wasn't even done. Case in point, Klaus injected himself with the cure and then let the cobra loose in the lab, so he would be bitten, too, to allay suspicions in the inevitable investigation and just to show how out of his depth Klaus was, he didn't even know the professor had been experimenting on a radioactive cobra, so the combo of the radioactive cobra cure and a radioactive cobra bite did what radioactive animals do in comics: Klaus got super cobra powers.

And he would have gotten away with it, too - the murder, that is - if it wasn't for Thor.

Thor taking on his true nemesis: paperwork. Image copyright Marvel.

If it wasn't for you meddling kids and thunder god!

Thor, in the early comics, is different from the Thor of the movies. Odin, wanting to teach Thor humility, casts him out to earth and strips him of his memory. But, because we all love our kids, he got Thor into medical school under the name "Donald Blake." Blake eventually graduated and then, while on vacation in Norway, found a hammer in a cave as we all do, and tried his hand at it. His muscles maybe exploded out of his suit, his hair grew about fourteen inches, and he remembered his history as Thor Odinson. A bunch of other stuff happened, including a breakup with Jane Foster, so Thor, AKA Donald Blake went to India to clear his head.

Blake, as it turns out, was the student of Professor Specktor, who filled Thor in on all the stuff that Klaus did. So yeah, I'm not saying turn on your boss to steal the glory of your job, but if you do: 1. It's kind of important to understand what you're doing and not double up on irradiated cobra and 2...perhaps finish the job, so your victim doesn't blab to an Avenger.

Those 1960s business guys have a pretty bad imagination if King Cobra is "unimaginable evil." Image copyright Marvel.

Klaus, who I guess found the time to embroider a purple and green hooded super suit after the attack, jacked Blake's jet and headed back to the US, where he broke into a chemical factory and, slithering down the wall during a board meeting (yes, slithering, because of course he has super cobra powers, now), demanding access to the chemicals, so he can make an army of cobra soldiers who will do his bidding.

Unfortunately for him, he was followed by Thor, because jets are big and guys dressed in purple and green cobra suits aren't discreet.

He held his own against the god of Thunder and Klaus Vorhees showed that he actually had some latent super-villainy chops when he revealed his wrist launched cobra poison darts and cobra poison gas bombs. With his cobra speed and cobra strength, which is I guess a thing, Cobra was a match for Thor until he wasn't. Thor kicked him in the face, and he dropped into New York harbor.

Always a great idea to kill a man in the face when he's twenty stories above the water and holding your girlfriend. Image copyright Marvel.

Sibilance Squad

I'm not sure how he linked up with Eel and Viper, from an earlier episode of this podcast, but together they formed the Serpent Squad - despite, once again, an Eel not being a serpent. That grew into the Serpent Society, which fought almost all the Marvel super heroes in time, and Cobra really found his calling...of dressing up like a snake to be evil. He rose to lead the organization and go by King Cobra which, honestly, just fits. Like, the branding makes so much sense.

If I ever break out of jail for any reason, the first words out of my mouth after I breach the wall will be "THE SERPENT SQUAD LIVES AGAIN!" Image copyright Marvel.

He's had a long and fairly successful career, still leading the serpent society, though, according to his Wikipedia page he was knocked out in a bathroom by M.O.D.O.K. and Tony Stark at the "Criminal Technology Show Expo" and ended up on the raft, that ocean prison from the Captain America movies. He broke out, but then, during the Marvel even known as Civil War, he decided to turn over a new leaf and be good. I mean, kind of. He joined the Thunderbolts, essentially Marvel's version of the Suicide Squad, but good, bad...doesn't really matter to Klaus Vorhees. As long as he can dress up in a skin tight snake bodysuit and slither menacingly along walls, he's happy.

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