Cobra Emperor

Springfield Museum of Antiquities

Killed in action

First Appearance:
G.I. JOE #49 (July 1986)

"Serpentor... is that my name? I seem to remember... others..."
— Serpentor

   The true origins of the man known as Serpentor have never been confirmed by the world's intelligence community. Accounts of Serpentor's "birth" come mainly from captured agents of Cobra, and these accounts seem fantastic. Even so, there is some evidence to support these claims. What follows is mostly based on rumor and the belief of several Cobra witnesses.

    The Cobra scientist Dr. Mindbender had an incredibly ambitious idea. To assure Cobra's success, the organization needed a great warrior to lead it into battle. But, instead of trying to find such a man, why not create him? Mindbender was undoubtedly a genius, but his scientific methods went far beyond what any reputable scientist would attempt. He postulated that by using cloning technology combining the DNA of several ideal candidates, a new, perfect soldier could be created. But instead of using existing genetic materials, Mindbender would combine the genes of history's greatest warriors. Cobra Commander was willing to let Mindbender attempt it, and authorized the use Cobra's resources to that end.

    With the help of Destro and the Baroness, Mindbender broke into tombs, museums and mausoleums to find the remains of history's most famed soldiers. Among these men were Julius Caesar, Napolean, Attila the Hun, Alexander the Great, Hannibal and Genghis Khan. Once that was complete, Mindbender set up a laboratory in the Museum of Antiquities in the Cobra-controlled town of Springfield. Highly advanced computers and medical equipment combined the dead men's DNA into a single pattern. He encoded the pattern into a lifeless, clone body. That would give the warrior the best mental and physical potential of all the great soldiers. To give the new being memories, Mindbender simply entered data into the brain as one would a computer -- with the help of the late Dr. Venom's Brain-wave Scanner -- and historical fact became several lifetimes of memories. In addition, Mindbender connected himself to the scanner to instill a loyalty to Cobra in his creation. In the midst of the final stage of the project, the G.I. Joe team staged an invasion of Springfield. The Joe team member Ripcord had been captured while working undercover in Springfield and was strapped into the scanner, giving the Doctor's creation a limited knowledge of the Joes' plans.

    As the battle raged outside, the new being named Serpentor (a name chosen by Mindbender because it had "a snake-like ring to it") came to life. Some later came to believe that at that moment, something metaphysical happened, and Serpentor truly was the amalgamation of all those famed soldiers. He was at first confused and unsure of his own identity. "Serpentor? Is that my name? I seem to remember others, but 'Serpentor' will do for now." Dressing himself in a snake-shaped cowl from a nearby museum display case, Serpentor proceeded to correctly predict the Joes' next action, impressing the assembled Cobras. Reluctantly, they allowed Serpentor to lead their troops against the Joes in a holding action to give Destro and the Baroness time to evacuate the town. In the fighting that followed, Serpentor led the attack personally, displaying not only his tactical skills but his charismatic leadership. The Joes were surprised by the sudden appearance of this great leader, and were nearly overwhelmed. All the while, Serpentor rallied the troops in a way that the other Cobra leaders never had.

    Eventually, Springfield was evacuated and all of Cobra's forces escaped, leaving the Joes with an embarrassing failure and no evidence of Cobra's subjugation of the town. As the citizens of Springfield journeyed to Cobra Island via a squadron of helicopters, Cobra Commander was furious. He scolded himself for not having realizing that history's greatest warriors were also great leaders and conquerors. The troops reportdely loved Serpentor and would follow him to the ends of the earth. As the 'copters approached the landing field on Cobra Island, the Commander ordered Tomax and Xamot to set up Crimson Guard snipers, with orders to assassinate Serpentor before he could usurp his authority. Serpentor realized what was about to happen and had the pilot land his helicopter inches away from where Cobra Commander waited. He lept out of the 'copter and embraced Cobra Commander as if he were a long-lost brother. The snipers were unable to fire on him, and in the speech that followed, Serpentor proved to be a moving speaker. The crowd of Cobra troops and their families were so taken by him, that the Commander knew he could never go through with the assassination.

    After his arrival, Serpentor did everything he could to endear himself to the troops. He even labored with them as they built new structures on the island, much to the Commander's disgust. He gained allies in the Baroness -- who had become increasingly enamoured with him -- and Dr. Mindbender -- who was mostly pleased with himself for his success in creating Serpentor. Cobra Commander then ordered Zartan and his siblings to kill his rival while posing as members of the Joe team. The plot failed when the Baroness threw herself in front of Serpentor, refusing to let him be killed. Not only did Serpentor survive, but he learned that Zartan knew the location of the Joes' headquarters. He planned an assault on the Pit, forcing the Commander to go along with him, threatening to reveal the assassination attempt to his troops. The invasion of the Pit was soon underway. The Joes were suspended at the time, so it was relatively easy for Cobra to get to the Pit. Serpentor would have led troops into the underground headquarters, but he was stopped by the Commander who wouldn't allow Serpentor to command his men. Impressed with the Commander, Destro joined him. In the battle that ensued, Hawk and the officers destroyed the Pit to stop the invasion. Destro and the Commander were presumed dead, and the rest of the Cobras escaped back to Cobra Island. Unknown to anyone at the time, Destro and the Commander were still alive underneath the rubble of the Pit.

    With Cobra's leader out of the way, Serpentor wasted no time in taking control of the organization. He brought Cobra into the weapons market, selling Terror Drome launch bases to any nation that could afford him. Included in the deal were military advisors from Cobra, helping them get a foothold in various nations. The first buyer was the war torn country of Sierra Gordo, where a new provisional government had been formed after a recent revolution. Another faction in the nation was not happy with the new government and staged their own "counter-revolution", gaining the support of the United States and the Joes. As the fighting escalated, Serpentor himself arrived to help, but the Joes had already captured the Terror Drome and dismantled it. Hoping to secure the only complete set of plans for the launch bases, Serpentor sent Major Bludd to pose as Destro and retrieve the plans from his castle in Scotland. Again, Serpentor's scheme failed thanks to the Joes and the true Destro's unexpected return.

    Despite some setbacks, Serpentor went ahead with his new vision of Cobra. For a time, he remained in charge, proclaimed the Cobra Emperor by his troops. Months after he first took over Cobra, he was shocked when a mysterious stranger arrived on Cobra Island, claiming he was the true Cobra Commander, returning to take command. Serpentor was suspicious, and with good reason. The imposter was really Fred VII, a Crimson Guardsmen who had recently shot the true Commander and left him for dead. After questioning Fred for hours, Serpentor finally saw a way to prove his identity. The Baroness arrived, and it was known that she knew what the Commander looked like unmasked. Fred and the Baroness climbed into a transport helicopter away from prying eyes and the imposter revealed his identity to the Baroness. But instead of exposing him, she told him he had just gained a silent partner, and then proclaimed to the troops that their Commander had returned. Serpentor suspected that he was being lied to, but there was nothing he could do about. Not long afterward, he learned the truth, but for the sake of the troops, he allowed the deception to continue. After a brief power struggle, the two men's anger got the better of them at a special ceremony on Cobra Island and a public argument soon turned into a fist fight. Eventually, all of Cobra took sides, and island was soon thrust into a civil war. As the fighting began, Serpentor was supported by Dr. Mindbender, Tomax, Xamot and the Crimson Guard. Fred VII's side included the Baroness, Zartan, the Dreadnoks and the army of Vipers. Despite his superior tactical knowledge, Serpentor's side was outnumbered and he was about to lose the war until Dr. Mindbender had an idea. Just before the fighting started, Cobra had stolen a top secret "black box" from the Joe team that contained some of the military's most advanced electronics. The Pentagon was desperate to get the device back, and Mindbender guessed they'd do almost anything. As Serpentor's representative, Mindbender proposed a deal: they would return the black box in exchange for the Joes' help in defeating Cobra Commander. The Pentagon reluctantly agreed, deciding that Serpentor's rule as "Emperor" was a monarchy, while Cobra Commander's was a dictatorship.

    The Joes arrived on Cobra Island and the battle raged on for days. Hawk and Serpentor were constantly at odds, both believing they should be in command of the operation. Hawk also felt that Serpentor was acting too recklessly, putting himself in too much danger while leading his armored divisions atop a HISS tank. But, he could barely resist, reveling in the battle as the men he was created from always had. The combined forces of Serpentor and the Joes were overrunning Fred VII's defenses, and he began to panic. Upset by Fred's indecisiveness and inept leadership, Zartan had had enough. He climbed atop a tank, pulled back his bow and fired an arrow toward Serpentor's HISS tank. The arrow struck the Cobra Emperor right between the eyes, killing him. Dr. Mindbender had been sitting next to Serpentor and stopped the tanks, jumped out of his own and ran towards Fred's forces. He quickly made a deal, saving himself now that Serpentor was gone. Both Hawk and Zartan were disgusted, but the war was over and Serpentor was no more. Mindbender preserved his body in the island's land-locked freighter, hoping to find a way to revive his creation, but the body was believed lost when the true Cobra Commander returned and buried it under tons of rock.

    Both G.I. Joe and Cobra thought they has seen the last of Serpentor on the battlefield on Cobra Island. Years later, they would learn they were mistaken. During his experiments to create Serpentor, Dr. Mindbender created ten other cloned bodies whose "ages" were not accelerated as Serpentor's had been, though one was aged several years beyond the others. Though Cobra Commander ordered these children disposed of, Mindbender spirited them away to a secret location on Cobra Island unknown even to the Commander. Before Mindbender found a use for the children, he was thrown in the land-locked freighter and died. Some time after his death, Cobra agents still loyal to Serpentor (this group eventually named themselves "the Coil") somehow recovered his body and continued to preserve it, hoping to someday revive their leader. In the years after the Joe team and Cobra were disbanded, a team led by Hawk raided the vacant Cobra Island, discovered Mindbender's lab, and took the children into custody. They were later placed in foster homes. The members of the Coil were not found during the raid and had begun working to revive Serpentor in a hidden laboratory. A few years later, they were successful. Serpentor was alive again, and he and the Coil began gathering other loyal former Cobras, creating an army in secret. He was assisted by former Russian commando Mikhail Derenko, who recruited many soldiers and mercenaries, including Firefly. A small group of former Joes stumbled upon Derenko's operation, but he escaped and they never discovered he was really working for Serpentor.

    In 2001, the United States reinstated the G.I. Joe team to deal with the threat of a revived Cobra organization. Dr. Mindbender has since been brought back to life as a clone, using the same technology that created Serpentor, and was now working for Cobra. After working for Cobra Commander for months, Mindbender went into hiding as he began to have strange dreams of his past life, long before he was revived in his new cloned body. Through his dreams he began to realize that he had some kind of psychic link to the clone children, perhaps because his new body was created the same way that they were. He also came to know that Serpentor's body had been preserved and had been revived by the Coil. He gathered three of the children and waited for Serpentor to reveal himself to the world.

    The disappearance of the children prompted the goverment to take them from their foster homes to keep them safe. They were being transported with a convoy of vehicles being escorted by the Joe team when Serpentor and the Coil attacked. During the battle, Serpentor was confronted by the team's young computer expert, Daemon. Refusing to let anyone keep him from his "brothers", Serpentor grabbed Daemon by the throat and broke his neck, killing him. A number of the Joes' greenshirt recruits also died in the attack. The Coil captured the remaining Joes and brought them to Cobra Island, where Serpentor's forces were organizing. Mikhail Derenko became Serpentor's second-in-command, taking the name Overlord. Eventually, Cobra Commander was brought there, as well. Finally, Serpentor staged an assault on the world. Coil troops invaded a number of countries and even attacked the United States. In response to the attacks, a G.I. Joe invasion force was dispatched to Cobra Island. At the same time, Cobra Commander had radioed Destro to rescue him. As the battle between the Coil and the Joes and Cobra raged, the Commander was confronted by Serpentor on a Firebat launchpad high over a waterfall, as Mindbender looked on. The Commander fought the former Cobra Emperor, but was no match for him. Serpentor told him to take off his helmet before he killed him. The Commander handed over the helmet, only to have it explode in Serpentor's hands. Cobra Commander taunted the bloodied and dazed Serpentor, then kicked him off the launchpad into the water below. Serpentor was presumed dead, though his body was not found. Some time later, the nearly lifeless body was recovered by Overlord, who had been hired by the Jugglers -- a cabal of corrupt generals led by General Gibbs -- to retrieved the body for them. He did so, in exchange for access to medical facilities. Gibbs placed Serpentor's body in a tank similar to the one he had been born in and began trying to modify his DNA and reprogram the former Cobra Emperor. Derenko believed they were foolish for trying to control a man like Serpentor, but did as they asked. Gibbs' ultimate goal and final plans for Serpentor have yet to be revealed.

G.I. JOE Yearbook #3 (interior) courtesy of Rod Hannah; G.I. JOE #75 (cover) by Mike Zeck; G.I. JOE v2 #22 (interior) by Tim Seeley.


  • G.I. JOE: #49, 50-56, 63-65, 72-76
  • G.I. JOE Special Missions: #7
  • G.I. JOE: Order of Battle: #3
  • G.I. JOE Yearbook: #3, 4
  • G.I. JOE vol. 2: #1 (photo), 2 (dream), 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 36
  • G.I. JOE: Battle Files: #2
        (compiled with help from Bryon Hake)
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