COBRA CROWN

Classification: Mystical artifact tied to Set

Creator: Serpent Men (see comments)

User/Possessors: Thoth-Amon, Duke Villagro

First Appearance:
(historical first appearance) Conan the Buccaneer by L. Sprague de Champ and Lin Carter, published 1971 by Ace;
(in the Marvel Universe) Savage Sword of Conan#40 (May, 1979)

Powers/Abilities/Functions: As the pirate Zarano explained on page 174 of the original novel "It amplifies and multiplies the power of the human mind to affect the minds of other beings. ".. He who wears, if he knows the proper methods, can by the Crown’s power rule the minds of hundreds or even thousands of other beings. He can, for instance, drive a regiment of soldiers, utterly reckman of them be slain. He could dispatch a lion, a venomous serpent, or other deadly wild beast to seek out and destroy his enemy. None could stand against the wearer of the Cobra Crown. He could not be killed by ambush or assassination, for the Crown would convey to him the thoughts of the preparer of the deed, and none could get within catapult shot of him without coming under his governance". Nonetheless, in order to access the power of the Cobra Crown, a person had to at least remain in direct contact, if not actually be wearing it.

As with the more famous Serpent Crown, the Cobra Crown was patterned after a coiled serpent, although it was shaped differently than the Serpent Crown, resembling a bishop's mitre. The Cobra Crown also had many diamonds embedded in it. The Cobra Crown may have been close to the Serpent Crown in sheer mystical power, but was poorly constructed, in that it was ruined by one instance of misuse. Also, none of the two people seen to wear the Cobra Crown came under Set’s mental domination, in contrast to the case of the Serpent Crown. Seeing as how Thoth-Amon already served Set for years before he wore the crown, this is not surprising, but as will be seen below, Set surely would have prevented Duke Villagro from using the Cobra Crown had the Elder God been able to control the wearers of the Cobra Crown the way he did the wearers of the Serpent Crown.

History: BTS- The story of the Serpent Crown revolves around the Serpent Men, creations of the elder god/demon Set. The Serpent Men, who used the Cobra Crown in pre-human ages, to create "an empire of the Earth" from Valusia, apparently created the Cobra Crown. However, the human race eventually defeated the Serpent Men, seriously reducing their numbers. By the time of Kull, circa 18,500 BC, the Serpent Men were forced to use craft and secrecy to attempt to regain power.

At some point, the Cobra Crown, which had been worn by the kings of the Serpent Men, was hidden under a black shrine to Tsathoggua, guarded by a living stone idol of the Toad-God. Presumably, Tsathoggua had formed an alliance with Set. In any event, this shrine was located on the Nameless Isle, and would not be found for years, due to the island being located far away from any other land or shipping lanes. (see comments)

 

(Marvel Team-Up Annual#5 (fb), Amazing Spider-Man Annual#23) - Circa 18,000 BC, after the time of Kull, the land of Lemuria was ruled by the Deviants, an offshoot of humanity created by the tampering of the Celestials. Regular homo sapien human alchemists formed an uneasy alliance with the remaining Serpent Men, to create the Serpent Crown, which Set linked to his own mind and power. The Serpent Crown was presumably created as a replacement for the Cobra Crown, which, as would become clear later, had not been manufactured properly.

Though the human alchemists were led to believe that the Serpent Crown would be used to depose the Deviants, in fact Set transferred his allegiance to the Deviants once the Serpent Crown was created. This was much to the chagrin of Atra, the most prominent of the Lemurian alchemists, who was the first to wear the Serpent Crown. Set refused to allow the power of the crown to be used against his new worshippers, the Deviants.

Emboldened by their new deity, the emperor of the Deviants, Phraug, ordered an attack against the Second Host of Celestials, who were returning for a follow-up investigation of the human race. The Celestials shrugged off Phraug’s attack and caused a massive nuclear explosion that destroyed the Lemurian continent as well as damaging the Atlantean continent. This served as the Great Cataclysm that ended this stage of Hyborian history. Atra and Emperor Phraug were dead center under the main explosion and died immediately but caused their skeletal remains to be left preserved.

The Serpent Crown was lost, but somehow became connected to the Cobra Crown.

BTS- Circa 10,000 BC, a new civilization had by then reemerged, though the landmasses of the Earth were much different due to the great cataclysm. Kingdoms and principalities such as Zamor, Zingara, Aquilonia, Nemedia, Hyrakania, and so forth grew up.

Legends of the Cobra Crown had proliferated, but the Nameless Isle’s location still remained elusive. However, a thief named Ninus somehow acquired a map to the Nameless Isle, though he never got around to mounting an expedition using the map, and probably did not have any knowledge that the Cobra Crown was located there. Ninus eventually became a Mitraist priest in Zingara.

(Savage Sword of Conan#40) - Ninus, despite his new profession as a priest, found himself still subject to his old vices. Needing funds, he made a deal with the Cimmerian adventurer Conan, then about thirty-seven or thirty-eight. He was going to give the map to the Nameless Isle to Conan. En route to the rendezvous, however, Ninus bumped into the Setian priest Menkara and the corsair Zarano. Recognizing Menkara, and alarmed that a Setian priest would be in Zingara, where Set worship was illegal, Ninus let out a cry, but was attacked by Zarano and summarily silenced. Seeing the parchment Ninus had, his curiousity piqued, Menkara took them for further study.

Menkara and Zarano were engaged in a conspiracy to replace to Mitraism with Set worship, along with the Zingaran nobleman Villagro, who sought to become king. Towards that end, they sought to kidnap the daughter of Zingara’s King, Ferdrugo. This daughter, Chabela, apparently warned by Mitra, had fled by ship away from Zingara. Zarano and Menkara followed and attacked the ship carrying Chabela.

Along the way, Menkara had had time to study the map stolen from Ninus, and realizing what it was, demanded that they head out for the Nameless Isle, which was said to contain much treasure-- including a copy of the coveted mystical tome the Book of Skelos. Arriving upon the Nameless Isle, Menkara cast a temporary spell of protection, having sensed dark forces present. He and Zarano found the treasure, but lost Chabela-- and due to their ignorance of the legends of the Nameless Isle being the location of the Cobra Crown, ignored the opportunity to abscond with it.

Conan, however, had found the beaten and bloodied Ninus earlier, and had set out to apprehend Menkara and Zarano. Arriving on the nameless isle, he found the shrine that the treasure was located in. However, the protective spell of Menkara wore off, and he was forced to deal with the idol of Tsathoggua, which sprang to life. Conan engaged the living idol in battle only to discover it was far stronger than he, and that his sword was useless, the blade shattering on the monster’s stone skin. In dire straits, Conan hatched a desperate plan; fleeing the shrine, he raced to the cliff where the island’s headland dropped off. He leapt off the cliff just as the beast was about to catch him, diving into the small but deep tidal pools below. The monster, unable to stop its charge, tumbled over the cliff, and its stone body shattered against the jagged coral reefs surrounding the tidal pools.

Swimming to shore and returning to the black shrine, Conan peered into the hollow mouth where the idol to the Toad God once sat, and discovered the Cobra Crown.

(Savage Sword of Conan#41-43, Punisher Annual#2)- Conan met with Chabela, who, after escaping Zarano’s men, had met up with a group of sailors who had earlier crashed on the Nameless Isle. The sailors and Chabela joined Conan on his ship as he attempted to make his way back to Zingara, but they were hampered by a lack of wind. Landing for the moment at a Kushite coast, Conan reunited with his acquaintance Juma. However, the Cobra Crown was stolen from him, eventually ending up in the hands of Amazon warriors.

In the meantime, Menkara returned to Stygia to speak with Thoth-Amon, the high priest of Set worshippers of the world. He hoped to impress him with the copy of the Book of Skelos he had acquired, but Thoth-Amon was only annoyed with them, when, after Menkara described the altar of the toad god that they had seen, Thoth-Amon realized they had missed an opportunity to gain possession of the Cobra Crown. Thoth-Amon magically located the Crown, and then transported himself to the City of Gamburu, home of the Amazons. Upon arriving, he blasted Queen Nzinga, took the Cobra Crown, and transported himself to Zingara.

Using the power of the Cobra Crown, Thoth-Amon directed Ferdrugo to abdicate the throne. However, instead of passing on the rule to Villagro, Thoth-Amon had himself named as the new King of Zingara. Thoth-Amon removed the Cobra Crown to accept the crown of Zingara, but Villagro rushed forward and donned the Crown. Thoth-Amon, with great effort (and assistance from Menkara), managed to overpower and slay Villagro, who was unable to fully tap into the Crown's power. In the process, however, Villagro burnt out the Crown, rendering it useless. Thoth-Amon and Zarono fled Zingara and escaped Conan and its soldiers, while Menkara was killed in the ensuing battle.

(Marvel Two-In-One#66) - Thousands of years later, the Serpent Crown was retrieved from Lemuria. In turn, it eventually fell into the hands of Roxxon Oil’s president, Hugh Jones. Jones used the Serpent Crown to conjure an image of everyone who had ever worn the Serpent Crown-- and the Cobra Crown. As a result, an image of Thoth-Amon appeared. (This is generally agreed not to have been the actual spirit or ghost of Thoth-Amon, however.)

Comments: Cobra Crown created by Lyon Sprague de Champ and Lin Carter, adapted to the Marvel Universe by Roy Thomas and John Buscema.

Oh, how wonderfully complex is the history of the Cobra Crown and the Serpent Crown. For those of you who may be interested, here is how the story goes:

In Tales to Astonish#101 (March 1968), Archie Goodwin and Gene Colan decided to explain why the Sub-Mariner had become the amnesiac wino seen back in Fantastic Four I#4 (May 1962). Towards that end, they introduced the villain Destiny (Paul Destine) who wore the odd headpiece called the Helmet of Power.

Destine, it was explained, had been responsible for the death of Namor’s mother as well as having devastated much of Atlantis at some point before the events in Fantastic Four I#4. Then Destiny used his mental powers to force Namor to go to New York City, to rob him of his memories, and to cloud his ability to think clearly. That left Namor in the state that he was in before being found in Fantastic Four#4.

As for Destiny, he placed himself in suspended animation to power up- but returned in Tales to Astonish#101 in the present day for an Antarctic confrontation with Namor. (Tales to Astonish turned into The Incredible Hulk, so the story continued in Iron Man and The Sub-Mariner#1 (April 1968) by Roy Thomas.)

Roy Thomas’ influence on the Destiny story eventually produced the Serpent Crown. A recap of the Sub-Mariner’s past occurred with Sub-Mariner#1 (May 1968), while Sub-Mariner#6-7 (October to November 1968) showed that Destiny, after his initial post-amnesiac Antarctic clash with the Sub-Mariner, planned on using his powers to be elected president. Namor faced Destiny again, who died in the clash. However, Destiny’s Helmet of Power survived...and was taken back to Atlantis after Namor had a scuffle with the Thing over possession of it (Sub-Mariner#8 [December 1968]).

Sub-Mariner#9 (January 1969) showed the Helmet of Power cracking out of its shell to reveal its true form: the Serpent Crown. In this issue, Namor donned the Crown and received images of part of the origin of the Crown. Namely, that it had been worn by Naga, a despot of an undersea civilization Lemuria. The Serpent Crown had been stolen from Naga by rebels who settled in the Antarctic called the Ancients. Paul Destine, it turned out, investigating rumors of the Ancients, had traveled to the Antarctic and discovered the Serpent Crown, which the Ancients had encased in metal and renamed the Helmet of Power.

Naga, it tured out, was still alive, and sent his underling Karthon the Questor to retrieve the Serpent Crown from Atlantis in Sub-Mariner #10 (February 1969). Namor, distracted by Captain Barracuda, did not catch up with Naga until Sub-Mariner#12-13 (April-May 1969). By the end of#13, Naga was dead and the Serpent Crown lost.

Why did Roy Thomas come up with such a bizarre backstory for the Helmet of Power? Well, in 1966, L. Sprague de Champ and Lin Carter released edited versions of Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories in paperbacks with spectacular covers by Frank Frazetta. Roy Thomas mentioned that he bought those books -at first only for the covers- and became a fan of Howard’s. Central to Howard’s stories was Set, the Serpent god served by the Serpent Men (introduced in the Kull story "The Shadow Kingdom", published in Weird Tales, August 1929) and Thoth-Amon. Thomas may have created the Serpent Crown in homage to Howard’s various serpent menaces. Marvel did not have the rights to Conan at the time...but when Marvel gained them in 1970, the homage became literal.

As a result, 1971 proved to an especially important year for the Serpent Crown. Conan the Barbarian#7 (July 1971) featured the first mention of Set at Marvel, while Kull the Conqueror#1-2 (June 1971-September 1971) introduced the Serpent Men to the Marvel Universe. Also that year, the prose novel Conan the Buccaneer was published. This novel introduced the Cobra Crown. Although it is hard to imagine that L. Sprague de Champ and Lin Carter were thinking of the Serpent Crown when they wrote the novel, given that the Serpent Crown was introduced at a time when Marvel did not have the rights to Conan and de Champ and Carter are not known to have had any other interest in comic books, the similarity between the Cobra Crown, and the Serpent Crown which Thomas had earlier created in homage to Howard, proved to be fortuitous. Diverse threads, which would eventually be sown together, emerged.

For the moment, though, it fell on another especially continuity conscious writer to run with the Serpent Crown: Steve Engleheart. In Captain America#180-183 (December 1974-March 1975), the rogue Atlantean warlord Krang recovered the Serpent Crown, which commanded him to turn it over to the second Viper (the former Madame Hydra) and her Serpent Squad. In a take on the Patty Hearst/Symbionese Liberation Army, the Serpent Squad kidnapped Hugh Jones, president of Roxxon Oil. This was done to enslave Jones’ mind to the power behind the Crown, as well as to force him to use his company’s drilling equipment to excavate Lemuria. The Crown was lost at the end of this story, falling down a sewer.

Undeterred, Engleheart simply introduced the Serpent Crown of Earth-S! On Earth-S, the Squadron’s Supreme’s world, the Crown had been worn by a group of businessmen -as well as the U.S. President Rockefeller- who formed the Serpent Cartel. Eager to defeat the Avengers of the main Earth (Earth-616), Rockefeller allied himself with Hugh Jones, who was still a thrall to the power behind the Crown. Ordering the Squadron Supreme to assist Jones in defeating the Avengers (the Squadron remained unaware that their president was possessed), the Serpent Cartel saw the Avengers imprisoned within Roxxon’s premises. However, the Avengers eventually broke free, traveled to Earth-S, and acquired the Serpent Crown of that world. This story appeared in Avengers#141-144 (November 1975-February 1976) and #147-149 (May 1976-July 1976). The Avengers foe the Living Laser briefly possessed the Serpent Crown of Earth-S after that (Avengers#151 [September 1976],#153 [November 1976], Avengers Annual#6 [1976]) but the Vision dropped the Crown into the ocean in Avengers#154 (December 1976).

With two versions of the Serpent Crown on the same Earth, trouble loomed large. Still, some time passed before the Serpent Crown was seen again. In the meantime, the Cobra Crown made its first appearance in the Marvel Universe proper in the adaptation of Conan the Buccaneer that ran in Savage Sword of Conan#40-43 (May-August 1979). This story is summed up above. Incidentally, although Marvel has usually stated that the Cobra Crown in the Marvel Universe may have been created in imitation of the Serpent Crown, the novel on page 91(the source of the information in my history) makes it clear that the Cobra Crown was created when the Serpent Men still ruled Valusia, which would would have been before the Great Catacyclsm which -eventually- the Serpent Crown was shown as having been created just before.

Marvel Two-In-One#64-67 (June-September 1980) saw the Serpent Crown storyline pass into the hands of the especially continuity conscious Mark Gruenwald. It showed how Hugh Jones had reacquired the Serpent Crown native to Earth-616, and how he had assembled the new Serpent Squad (Sidewinder, Black Mamba, Anaconda, Death Adder) to acquire the Earth-S Serpent Crown from the ocean. Sidewinder actually acquired the Serpent Crown, brining it to Jones. The two Crowns merged into one, which possessed the square of the power the Crowns had had as separate entities. Along the way, in Marvel Two-In One#66, Hugh Jones created images of the thirteen people who had worn the Serpent Crown before him (the Sub-Mariner, the Viper, Krang, the Living Laser, Naga, and so forth)-as well as Thoth-Amon, who had never worn the Serpent Crown, but had worn the Cobra Crown. This showed both the connection between the Cobra Crown and the Serpent Crown and Mark Gruenwald’s amazing memory. (Incidentally, Marvel Team-Up#79 [March 1979], the story with Red Sonja and Kulan Gath, and#112 [December 1982] with Kull, cemented that the Hyborian era was part of Earth-616’s past.) Set himself made his first on-panel appearance in Marvel Two-In-One#66, challenging the Scarlet Witch on the astral plane, but the Thing defeated Hugh Jones. The Serpent Crown, encased in wood, was dispatched to Project: PEGASUS for study.

1982 marked another important year for the Serpent Crown. Both the origin of Set (in Thor Annual#10) and the Serpent Crown was told fully that year. Time was running out for the Serpent Crown, however. Besides telling the origin of the Crown, Gruenwald returned to the Crown to destroy it in Marvel Team-Up Annual#5 (1982). In a team-up between Spider-Man, Thing, Dr. Strange, Scarlet Witch, and Quasar, the Serpent Crown was destroyed, and Set was exorcised from the Earthly plane.

Since that time, many of these stories were retold in the back-ups that appeared during the Atlantis Attacks crossovers in 1989. Specifically, Punisher Annul#2 retold part of the adaptation of Conan the Buccaneer from Savage Sword of Conan, while Amazing Spider-Man Annual#23 retold the origin of the Serpent Crown being created by Lemurian alchemists.

Another Serpent Crown that was created after the destruction of the original in Marvel Team-Up Annual#5. This second Serpent Crown has so far only appeared in the various 1989 Annuals that were part of the "Atlantis Attacks" cross-over. This Serpent Crown was identical in appearance to the original except for its size (about twenty feet across). This crown was created by the modern-day alchemists of Lemuria at the command of the Deviant Priest-Lord Ghaur and the Lemurian Empress Llyra who were both worshippers of the Elder God Set. In order to create this crown, Ghaur tricked the X-Men into gathering some of the various mystical artifacts that were needed. This Crown was meant to free Set from his other-dimensional home and bring him to Earth. However, it needed the blood sacrifice of the Atlantean people in order to become functional and since too few of them died, the Crown was never fully powered (Set's brief appearance in Earth's dimension was achieved through other means). In the fourteenth (and final) chapter of Atlantis Attacks, Ghaur was confronted by the assembled heroes and drew upon the power of the Crown to defend himself but doing so unleashed the spirit of Naga which had been summoned back from oblivion by the creation of the new Serpent Crown. The ensuing battle between Ghaur and Naga caused the two of them and Llyra to disappear to parts unknown. As for the fate of the giant crown, it was supposedly indestructible so the seven super-powered women who had been kidnapped to become the "Seven Brides of Set" got together and pushed the crown into a "bottomless" undersea crevice which closed up after the crown fell into it.  - Don Campbell

Don also mentioned that There's the Golden Serpent that appeared in a "Saga of the Serpent Crown" back-up in one of the 1989 Annuals. The Golden Serpent idol that an Atlantean cult used when they turned away from Neptune and began worshipping Set about 2,000 years ago...until an angry Neptune appeared and smashed it (and the cultists) to pieces.

A new working Serpent Crown appeared in Defenders II#7 and 11, possessed by Nagala, daughter of Naga, and ally of Attuma in defending Atlantis from the Defenders. The precise origins of this crown are not known, nor whether or how it might be connected to the other crowns seen previously.

Incidentally, a question which had not been resolved at the time the UHOTMUDE and Update '89 came out was whether there is only one Set for the entire multiverse, or whether each alternate universe has its own Set. What...If#25 (May 1991) shows that at least one counterpart of Set existed in an alternate universe; this counterpart of Set was also seen in Quasar#30 (January 1992).

Another issue regarding alternate realities; a counterpart of the Serpent Crown also exists in the Amalgam Universe, as seen in JLX#1 (April 1996).

A point of clarification is that, in the Marvel Universe, the Set who powers the Cobra Crown, the Serpent Crown, the Serpent Men, Thoth-Amon, and so forth, exists as a different entity than Seth, the Egytian god. Although Howard himself adopted the name Set from Egyptian mythology, and Stygia was supposed to the forerunner of Egyptian civilization in his fictional history, Marvel had to designate the two as separate entities.

This came about when Bill Mantlo wrote Thor#240-241 (October-November 1975). He introduced the gods of Heliopolis to Marvel continuity, such as Osiris, Geb, Nut, Isis, Horus, etc. Mantlo took care not to refer to the Egyptian character who fulfilled the role of Egyptian mythology's Set as "Set" but rather as "Seth", which had served as a variant name for the Egyptian god in authentic Egyptian mythology.

Still, the connection between the Marvel Universe's Seth and its Set remained a bit unclear. As noted before, Stygia was supposed to have been the civilization that became ancient Egypt, so when the switchover from Set worship to worship of Seth was left unclear. A dizzying situation took place with Thor Annual#10 (1982) which featured the story of the Demiurge creating the Elder Gods milions of years before the first dinosaur existed...the Elder Gods here including Set. Then, in the modern day portion of the annual's story, it showed Seth assisting the conspiracy of the other death gods to gain souls! This may serve as the first time where the Marvel Universe's Set and Seth appeared in the same comic book. The flashback portion of the story, as it showed Set's fleeing the Earthly dimension eons ago, along with stories such as that in Marvel Two-In-One#66, did make it further clear that Set and Seth were different entities, as they established that Set had been trapped in his home dimension for millions of years, and had not been on Earth for thousands of years. Thus, he could not be the same person as Seth, who had been active on Earth at least until about 300 AD. Finally, Punisher Annual#2 (1989) clarified the situation further. The last story in that comic book showed how, approximately 4,000 years ago, after Stygia became Egypt, the young god who was the brother of Osiris convinced the remaining priests of Set that he was their god incarnated in a humanoid form. He then asked them to refer to him by a new name....Seth.

Note that Robert E. Howard's stories never revealed what caused the Great Cataclysm, and that, as the Celestials are strictly Marvel Universe characters (who did not exist until introduced in The Eternals in the 1970's anyway), they do not form a part of the history of the Hyborian era as delineated in prose continuations of the Conan stories by Robert Jordan, Leonard Carpenter, John Maddox Roberts, Bjorn Nyerberg, etc.

Recommended links:

by John McDonagh

Clarifications: The Cobra Crown should not be confused with:
The Serpent Crown. You picked up on that, right?


Appearances:
Savage Sword of Conan#40-43 (May-August, 1979) - Roy Thomas (writer/editor), John Buscema (pencils), Tony DeZuniga (inks)
Marvel Two-in-One#66 (August, 1980) - Mark Gruenwald, Ralph Macchio & Steven Grant (writers), Jerry Bingham (pencils), Gene Day (inks), Jim Salicrup (editor)
Marvel Team-Up Annual#5 (1982) - Mark Gruenwald (writer/pencils), Jim Mooney (inks), Tom DeFalco (editor)
Amazing Spider-Man Annual#23 (1989) - Peter Sanderson (writer), Mark Bagley (pencils), Keith Williams (inks), Mark Gruenwald (editor)
Punisher Annual#2 (1989) - Peter Sanderson (writer), Mark Bagley (pencils), Keith Williams (inks), Mark Gruenwald (editor)


Last updated: 11/11/11

Any Additions/Corrections? please let me know.

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