Classification: Humanoid Reptiles - either a race of demons or a branch of humanity mutated by Set.
Location/Base of Operations:
deceased Serpent Men dwell in a limbo dimension that holds their souls;
(Hyborian Era) Stygia; Unknown Land; Yanyoga;
(Pre-Cataclysmic) Forbidden Swamp, Valusia
Known Members: Amintas, Russell Daboia, Hissarlion, Kohattus, Nimatziis, Omeyocantli, Qutzbalaam, Ssith, Jeesala and Sekhmet Tharn, Xiquiripat, Vizir
Affiliations: Set (progenitor/god), Man-Serpents (divergent branch from same race);
Atra, Eallal, Thulsa Doom, Thoth-Amon, Tsathoggua (possibly), Yarralamundu ,
various human cult followers;
see also the Catalogue of Correspondences for Set from Ian McNee's reading of the First Tarot
Enemies: Celestials, Deviants, Gaea,
mankind in general: Amazons of Queen Nzinga, Brule the Spear-Slayer, Conan, Conn, Defenders (Doctor Strange, Clea, Hulk, Namor the Sub-Mariner, Valkyrie, Gargoyle, and Devil-Slayer), Gandaro of the Spear, Gonra of the Sword, Ka-Nu, Kuchum, Kull, Li-Zya, the Picts, Spider-Man
Aliases: The Cult of the Serpent, Order of the Serpent, The Snake that Speaks, Serpent Ones; Sons of Set?
First Appearance: (Historical) "The Shadow Kingdom"
by Robert E. Howard, Weird Tales (August 1929);
(Marvel Universe) Kull the Conqueror I#2 (September, 1971)
Powers/Abilities: The Serpent Men may possess greater than normal human strength, although they are not particularly talented fighters. Most notable, however, is their shape-shifting powers, which enable them to assume the form of other beings. However, if a Serpent Man is killed, he automatically reverts to normal form.
A curious limitation of the Serpent Men is that they cannot
speak the words "Ka nama kaa lajerama." This phrase--referred to by the Serpent
as the Words that Unweave causes them pain and universally forces
a disguised Serpent Man to reveal his true nature. In some cases it has proven
sufficient to actually drive off a squad of Serpent Men. Apparently the phrase
can only affect the Serpent Men if they can hear it, and on at least one
occasion a group of Serpent Men were able to avoid exposure by plugging their
"ears" with wax.
Serpent Men also apparently despise the cross, but this may have to do with its Mitra/Mithra associations, and not its Christian associations (see comments).
Serpent Men's souls upon the death of the body do not go to the usual afterlife dimensions such as Hel, Niffleheim, Hades, the various Hell dimensions, and so forth, but rather to a bleak limbo dimension. Some Serpent Men can return from this dimension to possess the living, at least with the help of conjurers on Earth. Whether or not this dimension is the same place as the pocket dimension that Set dwelled in until recent times remains unknown.
In addition, those who were slain by Serpent Men lost their souls to them. The Serpent Men could reanimate their spirits and in some cases their bodies as well, as needed. It would appear that only a small number of magically powered Serpent Men could accomplish either of these feats, as they were not commonly taken advantage of.
It is likely that the Serpent Men are "cold-blooded" --meaning they are dependent on the outside environment to maintain their internal body temperature--and thus vulnerable to temperature extremes, but this is not confirmed.
Traits: The Serpent Men have various human and snake-like features; thus, while they have arms and legs, as well as approximately normal human stature, they have heads that resemble those of snakes. They also have scales on their bodies. Sometimes the Serpent Men are pictured with human-type skin on their bodies and serpentine heads, while other times they are seen with reptilian scales over their entire bodies.
History: (Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Update '89#7, Savage Sword of Conan#192 (fb)) - @ One million years BC, the demonic Elder God Set brought about the emergence of the serpentine race of followers. It remains unclear if they are his literal offspring or he directed the evolution of Terran reptiles or man-apes to bring about their emergence. They are a race either descended from or created by the Elder God Set. For eons, there was a single scaly race, which did Set homage for longer than the human mind can conceive. Then, for reason unknown, it split into two distinct races--the Man-Serpents and the Serpent Men.
(Uncanny X-Men Annual#13/3) One day, before the emergence of homo sapiens, two primate life forms went to a special green haven. This haven had been created for two of their ancestors by the time-traveling sorcerer Sise-Neg. As a tradition, as part of the course of the primate tribe's annual migration, the tribe leader and his mate returned to this special place.
This year, the tribe leader and his mate found a strange primate tribe in Sise-Neg's haven. One of these odd primates communicated with the leader and his mate telepathically, saying "We are the tribe of Set". He informed them of how Set fed them, keeping them warm and happy. The tribe leader and his mate were offered membership in Set's tribe on condition that they slew the members of their own tribe as food for Set, and bring Set's tribe to see upcoming "visitors from the sky".
The tribe leader and his mate refused the offer and attacked the Setian tribe. The Setian tribe revealed their true faces-the heads of Serpent Men. The primate tribe drove the Serpent Men from Sise-Neg's garden. Immediately after the battle, the "visitors from the sky"-the First Host of the Celestials-arrived. Gaea was with them, imploring the man-apes to come to the Celestials. Gammenon the Gatherer scooped them up and brought them to the starship.
The Serpent Men, who thanks to Set had more highly evolved minds than normal, approached the Celestials, asking them for a boon. Arishem the Judge instead fired at them, dispersing them.
(Official Handbook of the Conan Universe#1, Marvel Team-Up I#111 (fb), Kull the Conqueror II#1 (fb, bts), Kull the Conqueror II#2 (fb), Savage Sword of Conan#192 (fb)) The Serpent Men over the next thousands of years harried the emerging homo sapiens. For an epoch, the ancestors of humanity served the Serpent Men. They also vied with other demonic or bizarre races, such as the Harpies, Spider People, and Wolf Men.
The Spider-People in particular were ruthless foes of the Serpent Men. It may be at this time that the Serpent Men held a battle against the Spider-People in the islands which eventually became Japan. The Spider-People managed to steal a statue sacred to the Serpent Men, a jeweled bust of a snake's head. Serpent Men prophets foretold of the Age of Heroes. This had to do with the possession of seven heroes with the power to conquer the world. Upon this happening, the souls of all dead Serpent Men would return to Earth to conquer it. However, the relic stolen by the Spider People had to be returned then to aid in the conquest.
Despite the opposition, the Serpent Men were able to create "an empire of the Earth" from Valusia. At this time, they also apparently created the Cobra Crown, a very powerful Setian mystical object (see comments). In the land that eventually became Stygia, the Serpent Men built subterranean pyramids and tombs.
Eventually, a Pictish shaman discovered the phrase, "Ka nama kaa lajerama", words whose meaning have been lost. This was a phrase the Serpent Men could not speak, and these were words that remain burned into the subconscious minds of all human beings to this day as part of a common racial memory. The shaman spread the knowledge of it to men, who used it to successfully overthrow the Serpent Men. The first people to fight the Serpent Men, did, however, go mad.
Gods also arose to smite the Serpent Men and other demon races (see comments). Humanity forced these creatures unto the barren, infertile spaces of the world to die. The Serpent Men were the last of these races to face defeat. The Serpent Men ruled the land of Valusia until true men came from the East. These homos sapiens crossed the Camoonian Desert and the Hills of Zalgara. Over bloody centuries, man won a total victory--or at least they thought they had. In truth, some Man-Serpents escaped into hiding, and a few Serpent Men learned to wrap themselves in the hypnotic guise of humans.
These surviving Serpent Men remained active within Valusia, frequently slaying rulers of the ancient city, taking a king's crown along with his likeness. Around 19, 500 BC they are known to have slain King Eallal. At some point, a Valusian king was ambushed and killed by a tribe of Atlanteans. When he was slain by the hand of Gandaro of the Spear he reverted to his serpent-headed form. This gave rise to the Atlantean legend of "the Snake that Speaks."
In order to regain power, the Serpent Men followed many other strategies as well. Using their shape-shifting powers to take human form, a cult was formed to ensnare human worshippers. They posed as priests of a new Serpent Cult, and set up a temple in the Forbidden Swamp.
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).
(Kull the Conqueror I#2) - <18, 500 BC> - The new king of Valusia, Kull, learned of the existence of the Serpent Men from Ka-Nu, the aged ambassador of the Pict Isles. Ka-Nu sent Brule the Spear Slayer to expose the Serpent Men living in the City of Wonders. Kull was shocked to find that even his advisor, Tu, and his warriors, the Red Slayers, his councilors, and even eventually Kull himself, were all being impersonated by Serpent Men. With Brule's aid, and the aid of the phrase taught to him by Brule, Kull exposed and slaughtered the Serpent Men who had infiltrated his castle. The center of the Serpent Men's power seemed to be the chamber in which the Serpent Men had slain Eallal before. After using the phrase to drive off Eallal's ghost, Kull sealed the chamber and locked it by forcing his sword into the doors to hold it in place. After having his eyes opened to this threat, Kull swore that he would hunt the Serpent Men "from land to land--from sea to sea--giving no rest! No quarter--till all be slain--and their power be broken!"
(Marvel Preview#26) - A Serpent Man sorcerer, Sekhmet Tharn, and his daughter, Jeesala--both of whom had taken human form, plotted to overthrow Valusia. They first used the Serpent Men's power over those slain by Serpent Men to reanimate the corpses of a number of former kings of Valusia, who were interred in the Castle cellar. Kull encountered and destroyed one of these reanimated corpses, Borna, who had been his predecessor, whom he had himself slain to take his position. Kull had resisted the sexual advances of Jeesala, but when he investigated Sekhmet's abode, the sorcerer managed to steal a portion of his soul into his mirror. His resolve weakened, Kull was then easily seduced by Jeesala, who stayed by his side and guided his corruption and degeneration. Under her control, Kull became a tyrant and eventually pushed the populace to rebel against him. Only with Brule's aid was Kull able to regain his senses. Jeesala revealed herself to be a Serpent Man (woman), and Kull promptly slew her. Kull was able to reunite his people by pointing out the threat of the approaching army of reanimated former kings, and Kull himself slew Sekhmet Tharn.
(Savage Sword of Conan#140/2) - Kull dreamt of a girl in the City of Wonders being slain by Serpent Men, who then replaced his advisors and ambushed him. He awoke from his dream and nearly killed his bedpartner, Laria, when he thought her to be one of the Serpent Men. Kull thought the dream was too vivid--too real, and that it was a warning from the gods or others. He suspected that the Cult of the Serpent lived again...and on the streets of the City of Wonders, the girl from his dream was found dead.
(Savage Sword of Conan#14_ - BTS) - Sator told Kull that the Serpent Cult was reborn, stronger and more widespread than before.
(Savage Sword of Conan#148/2) - While Kull suspected a threat from within Valusia, an immense army of Serpent Men marched Westward towards Valusia, slaughtering each human village they came upon along the way. These Serpent Men rode horses, wore full metal armor, and used sword, spears, and bow and arrows. Kull and his men discovered and slew a small group of scouts near Valusia, but then saw the immense main host of Serpent Men. Kull led his men back to the City of Wonders to prepare for the coming assault.
(Savage Sword of Conan#149/2)- A traitor, Lord Rota Aurix, revealed a weak point in the city's defenses to the Serpent Men. Kull, expecting the treachery, moved extra soldiers to that location, and they beat back the Serpent Men. The Serpent Men slew Lord Aurix.
(Savage Sword of Conan#159/2)- When plague struck the besieged city, Kull ordered the infected victims confined. One victim, Lord Khorata, directed a diseased mob against the palace. Kull ordered the Red Slayers to kill them when they tried to storm the building. He orders his men to hurl the infected bodies via catapult into the camp of the Serpent Men.
(Savage Sword of Conan#213/4, Conan Saga#97-Kull Chronology Article)- The siege of the City of Wonders continued for ten months. After a talk with a blind girl on the streets (who did not know who he was), who spoke of her respect for the achievements of King Kull, Kull regained the confidence needed to face the Serpent Men, and directed the people of Valusia to fight with a new resolve, and directed them to victory against the Serpent Men.
(Kull the Conqueror III#10) - A pair of Valusian conspirators sought to obtain the treasure which they believed to be held within the chamber sealed by Kull's sword. They duped Kull's new ally, the resurrected Gonra of the Sword, into prying the sword from the position after which the three were overrun by the Serpent Men who had apparently reformed in the chamber. Gonra fought savagely, but as he was in danger of being slain by them, he retreated to warn Kull. Kull, however, had heard the commotion and traveled to the chamber to find Gonra--or at least what looked like Gonra--and a group of Serpent Men. All of them attacked Kull, but the king managed to slay them all, including the seeming Gonra, who returned to Serpent Man form in death. Kull then ordered that the chamber be cleansed with fire and sealed with brick and mortar for eternity.
(Marvel Team-Up Annual#5, Amazing Spider-Man Annual#23/7 (bts),
- Around 18000 BC, five centuries after Kull's death, the Deviants, an offshoot of humanity created by the experiments of the First Host of the Celestials, had emerged as the first developers of sophisticated technology. Based in Lemuria, they conquered much of the Earth. Atra, a normal homo sapien of Lemuria, wished to unseat the Deviants. To that end, he formed an alliance with the Serpent Men to create the powerful Setian object the Serpent Crown.
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, 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 world history. Atra and Emperor Phraug were dead center under the main explosion and died immediately, but something caused their skeletal remains to be left preserved.
The Serpent Crown was lost, but somehow became connected to the Cobra Crown.
(Unofficial Handbook of the Conan Universe#1, SSoC#192 (fb), Conan the Adventurer#5/2) - Some Serpent Men survived the first, Great Cataclysm, which destroyed much of civilization. However, later the Serpent Men were dealt a further blow when humans (who had lived on the eastern coast of the Thurian continent) forging westward took much of the remaining Serpent Men-ruled territory, setting up the kingdom of Stygia in the process. Much of the activities of the Serpent Men in the following millennia are unknown (see Comments).
Circa 10,000 BC, human civilization had reemerged, though the landmasses of the Earth were much different due to the Great Cataclysm. Kingdoms and principalities such as Zamora, Zingara, Aquilonia, Nemedia, Hyrkania, and so forth grew up. This period of time became known as the Hyborian Era. During this time, both Man Serpents and Serpent Men came to serve Thoth-Amon, a powerful Stygian sorcerer.
The city of Yanoga, south of the Black Kingdoms, in the Land of No Return, served as a stronghold for the Serpent Men during the Hyborian Era.
(Avengers Annual#21 (fb) - BTS) - One of the Serpent Men, Ssith, was at some point defeated by Kang in battle. Accepting defeat, Ssith agreed to join Kang's special warriors, the Anachronauts in Chronopolis.
(Conan the Barbarian#89) - Seeking to impress the Stygian "King" Ctesphon the III, Thoth-Amon sent a Man-Serpent and several Serpent Men to slay BÍlit, Conan, and Zula. Working together, the three managed to slay the Man-Serpent, but were then separated by a cave in. After a period of unconsciousness, Conan awoke to find BÍlit and Zula making their way through the fallen rocks. As he caught his breath, Conan saw his lover, BÍlit, rushing at him, sword drawn. After dodges a few thrusts, Conan skewered BÍlit with his sword, only to find a dead Serpent Man falling from his sword. "Zula" grabbed him from behind, but Conan broke his spine and found that he, too, was a Serpent Man. When Conan caught up with the real Zula, he had them repeat the phrase that pays, "Ka nama kaa lajerama" --which he had learned years before from Red Sonja--to prove their humanity. The three found Belit's Black Corsairs amidst the caverns, but Conan suspected the truth and asked them to speak the phrase. Upon his speaking of the words, the "Corsairs" were revealed as more Serpent Men, and they fled back into the caverns.
(Savage Sword of Conan#122/1 (fb)) - Conan and six other members of the pirate group the Crimson Brotherhood washed up on the shores of Stygia. They were found by Amintas, Priest of the Order of the Serpent. The Order of the Serpent were in fact the last surviving spawn of the Serpent Men of Lemuria, but posed as human beings. Amintas kept all the men as prisoners.
Amintas showed Conan a dragon of Set, whom he threatened would eat the men of the Crimson Brotherhood. Amintas made a deal with Conan; the other pirates would be spared if Conan agreed to carry out a mission for him. He would enter the wharves of Khemi and pretend to be a Black Lotus dealer (Black Lotus was an important narcotic in those days). Amintas claimed that as priests, his men were duty bound to wipe out the narcotics trade. (In fact, Amintas intended to take over the narcotics trade so that the Serpent Men could use it as a means to enslave humanity.)
Conan was directed to enter the criminal underworld of Khemi and seek out two rival narcotics gangs. Malas lead one gang, while two Shemite brothers, Horob and Gorsham, directed the other one. Malas had put out an open contract for a hit on the two brothers, and under Amintas' direction, Conan slew Gorsham.
(Savage Sword of Conan#122) - Conan presented Gorsham's head to Malas. He then told Malas he would deliver Gorsham's head next. Malas, not completely trusting Conan, sent some of his men (Borus, Aram, and one other) to follow Conan, but Conan found them spying on him, and slew them.
Per Amintas' instructions, Conan introduced himself to Horob, and presented him with the heads of Borus and Aram. Conan claimed to have been one of Malas' underlings in the narcotics trade, and to have overheard these men talking of their killing of Gorsham, and to have killed them to get into Horob's good graces. Conan claimed to no longer want to serve Malas, but rather wanted to take over Malas' narcotics trade, and wished to offer Horob a partnership once he unseated Malas. Conan claimed he could get Horob's men into Malas' lighthouse base so they could attack him.
Conan returned to Amintas and told him that the plan was working, and told him off Horob's planned attack on Malas. Amintas, after Conan left, fed the captured pirates to the dragon. Later, Conan directed Horob's men to Malas' base. Conan presented Malas with a bag he claimed contained Horob's head, but it actually contained a cabbage. The distraction allowed Horob's men to sneak into Malas' base. Amintas and his Serpent Men stood back, allowing the rival gangs to slaughter each other.
After Malas and Horob were dead, Amintas appeared to Conan and revealed his true plan to take over the Black Lotus trade....and then revealed that he and his men were Serpent Men of Lemuria. However, Conan then grabbed a lantern and threw it at Amintas, who went alight. The Black Lotus in the storehouse also caught fire, a distraction allowing Conan to escape.
(Savage Sword of Conan#190-193) - The "living" skull of Thulsa Doom entranced the mind of the Khitan pirate Kuchum, causing him to head towards the Unknown Land. In that land, Vizir, one the Serpent Men trained in the arts of sorcery, followed Doom's guidance and--using an incantation from the Book of Skelos--reassembled Doom's form. In addition, Thulsa Doom telepathically contacted other Serpent Men, promising them power if they would abandon the service of Thoth-Amon and journey to the Unknown Land to aid him--which many of them did.
Thoth-Amon captured one of the fleeing Serpent Men and tortured him, forcing him to reveal Doom's contact and offer. Thulsa Doom's skull confronted Thoth-Amon and requested that they split the service of the Serpent races--the Serpent Men to Doom, and the Man-Serpents to Amon. Thoth-Amon slew the Serpent Man and rejected the offer. Thulsa Doom's skull escaped with the aid of Conan--who had been traveling with Kuchum, but Amon sent a portion of his spirit to possess Kuchum's monkey, Ee-Ch'ing, to accompany them on their journey.
Doom led Kuchum to stop off on an island on the way to the Unknown Land, where they were seemingly reunited with some of Kuchum's Khitan allies, as well as Phan-Ku and his people, who were allegedly Khitans who had been trapped on the island for generations. Phan-Ku and his people plied Kuchum's men with food and drink, but one of the slave girls warned Conan that Phan-Ku and his men were Serpent People. Phan-Ku, accompanied by the skull of Doom, led Kuchum's daughter, Li-Zya, away from the celebration and revealed himself as Hisssarlion, the high priest of Set. Meanwhile, a Serpent Man in the guise of Li-Zya attempted to seduce Conan, who exposed it with the phrase "Ka nama kaa lajerama," and then slew it. Conan rescued Kuchum and slew Hisssarlion, rescuing Li-Zya. However, other Serpent Men took the forms of Conan, Kuchum, and Li-Zya and then led a larger band of Serpent Men to overwhelm and capture the three of them. These Serpent Men plugged then plugged their ears with wax so that they could no hear or be affected by the phrase, and then took over Kuchum's ship, the Sea Pheasant, and led it the rest of the way to the Unknown Land.
During the trip, Conan--bound below the deck along with Kuchum and Li-Zya--duped his Serpent Man doppelganger into getting too close, and then broke his neck and freed the three of them. Upon landing in the unknown land, Conan and his allies split up, but Kuchum and Li-Zya were recaptured and taken to Thulsa Doom to be sacrificed along with the rest of the crew to allow Doom to regain his full power. Conan, working with Ee-Ch'ing/Thoth Amon, managed to recruit the aid of Jandlinatjari, one of the powerful Snakes of Many Colors dwelling in that land. A single sacrifice had allowed Thulsa Doom to reunite his body and skull, regenerating a fragment of his power as well. Jandlinatjari brought Conan to the site of the sacrificial ceremony, but one of the Serpent Men, Omeyocantli, had anticipated the possible interference of one of the Snakes of Many Colors, and had recruited another of these Rainbow Serpent, Yarralamundu, to their side. Thoth-Amon cast out the soul of one of the Serpent Men and transferred his own spirit into it. Conan slaughtered the remaining Serpent Men and joined forces with Thoth-Amon against Thulsa Doom, but found even the weakened ancient sorcerer able to hold them at bay. However, Jandlinatjari managed to slay the Rainbow Serpent recruited by Omeyocantli, and she then cast away both Doom and Amon. Conan confirmed that the remainder of the crew were themselves, and then had them behead and burn the corpses of the Serpent Men. Also named in this conflict were Kohattus, Nimatziis, Qutzbalaam, and Xiquiripat.
(King Conan#4) - Conan, his son Conn, and a band of their allies, including some natives of Zembabwei and the amazons of Queen Nzinga, pursued the sorcerer Thoth-Amon south, beyond the Black Kingdom, to the Land of No Return. There they encountered a city of women living in Yanyoga, a cave-city carved into a mountain. The women lulled Conan and his allies into lowering their defenses with drugged food and wine. One of the Serpent Men (women) nearly seduced young Conn, but he saw her true reflection in a copper chest and slew her. Conan had passed out from consumption of mass quantities of the drug, and he was taken off to face Thoth-Amon in single combat. Meanwhile, Conn and Nzinga (the daughter of Queen Nzinga) rallied the others against the Serpent Men. Conn helped Conan overcome and slay Thoth-Amon, and the two returned to their allies and helped finish off the last of the Serpent Men in their stronghold of Yanyoga.
(Blade: Vampire Hunter I#4 (fb) - BTS ) <1940s> - The Sons of Set torched the Chiaroscuro, an annex to the Cathari's academy of light and shade, in Calcutta.
(Marvel Team-Up I#111 (fb)) - In the modern era, human worshippers of Set became hosts for the spirits of the original Serpent Men. These Serpent Men, acting on the prophecy of the Age of Heroes, identified the Defenders as the beings they needed to possess. However, the Serpent Men still had to reacquire the relic stolen by the Spider People. (The Spider People still existed in vastly diminished numbers, although their modern representatives had dramatically lower intelligence.) The Serpent Men knew that the remaining Spider People still had a powerful idol of the spider-god Omm guarding the relic, and knew that any non-arachnoid who tried to take it would be destroyed by the idol.
So, one of their number devised a plan. He stole Devil-Slayer's enchanted cloak, and impersonated him. Reasoning that Spider-Man, with his arachnid-enhanced blood, would fool the spider-deity Omm if he tried to take it, this Devil-Slayer imposter set out to fool Spider-Man into doing just that.
(Marvel Team-Up I#111) - Some of the Serpent Men set up an illusion. Catching him by surprise, they caused Spider-Man to feel a painful, strange sensation. Casting imagery gleaned from generic images of Paradise, a Serpent Man presented himself as the ghost of Spider-Man's uncle, Ben Parker, who claimed that his nephew had died of a burst blood vessel in the head. The Ben Parker imposter then informed Parker had he had ascended into Heaven. Other Serpent Men appeared, claiming to be among the blessed dead, in costumes reminiscent of the musical Godspell.
As planned, the Devil-Slayer imposter arrived and attacked the other Serpent Men as part of the ruse to gain Spider-Man's trust. Spider-Man saw one of the "blessed dead" revert to true Serpent Man form.
Probing Spider-Man's mind, the Devil-Slayer imposter discerned his true identity as Peter Parker, and teleported himself and Parker to the latter's apartment. As part of the attempt to gain Spider-Man's trust, the Devil-Slayer imposter gave him a card with the words "Ka nama kaa lajerama" printed on it, and asked Parker to read it. (Of course, the Devil-Slayer imposter had to tell Parker what words to say by way of showing him the words on a printed card since as a Serpent Man, the Devil-Slayer imposter could not speak them himself.) Reciting those words jogged in Spider-Man's mind the inchoate racial memory of the pre-Kull war against the Elder Races that lay dormant in all human minds. Thus, when the Devil-Slayer imposter gave Spider-Man a partial account of the history of the Serpent Men, Spider-Man could sense the elements of truth in the imposter's tale. So, he ignored the fact that his spider-sense was still ringing and trusted him. The Devil-Slayer imposter informed Spider-Man of how the Defenders had been captured (though he of coursed claimed that Devil-Slayer had not been captured) and asked for Spider-Man's aid in defeating the Serpent Men.
The Devil-Slayer imposter then teleported Spider-Man to Japan. He told Spider-Man that they had to reacquire the relic held by the Spider People in order to destroy the Serpent Men (of course, he had an ulterior motive). They found the Spider People in a cave. After a pitched battle, Spider-Man found the Setian relic, and managed to lift it from the statue of Omm the spider-deity. Omm, as predicted, was fooled into thinking that Spider-Man was one of his children due to his mutated blood.
The Devil-Slayer imposter brought them back to New York. Claiming that telepathic probing had uncovered the whereabouts of the Defenders in the sewers, the imposter and his duped ally went to find them. The two encountered beings claiming to be the Defenders, who said that they had freed themselves and defeated the Serpent Men holding them and ended their Setian menace permanently. The Doctor Strange imposter asked Spider-Man for the statue taken from the Omm idol, ostensibly to study it for his mystical logs. Spider-Man, sensing something amiss, asked the "Defenders" to say "Ka nama kaa lajerama". They could not, so the Serpent Men discarded their disguises.
Spider-Man managed to destroy the statue and free the true Defenders. Doctor Strange banished the Serpent Men to the limbo of their dead. The human followers of the Serpent Men were allowed to leave unmolested.
(Fantastic Four Annual#25, Avengers Annual#21) - Ssith, as a member of the Anachronauts, faced the Fantastic Four and Avengers for Kang.
(Avengers Annual#22/2) - Ssith took part in training with the other Anachronauts in Chronopolis, and then joined them on a mission to the time of King Arthur and Merlin. They joined forces with Professor Justin Alphonse Gamble to face the Incinerators, renegade robots, who had stolen the starstone that Merlin was fated to use as material in building the Black Knight's sword. Gamble managed to defeat the Incinerators, and made a swap: the starstone for Merlin's copy of the Book of Skelos.
(Avengers Forever#3) - Ssith was slain during the Immortus/Kang struggle.
(Avengers 2000 Annual) - Daboia Russell, secretly a member of the Serpent Men, joined the Sons of the Serpent and taught them in the ways of mysticism. With them he performed rites in Centerville to summon demons for Nicolas Scratch, but Daboia and the Sons of the Serpent were stopped by Centerville resident Hellcat and the Avengers.
(Marvel Tarot#1 - BTS) - Ian McNee had read about a prophecy concerning the seventh child of set (a seventh generation descendent) ushering in a new golden age for the Serpent Men. According to McNee's calculations, the mother of the new dark prince could be either serpentine assassin Yith or the Lemurian Nagala.Comments: Created by Robert E. Howard; Adapted by Roy Thomas and Marie Severin.
As seen under clarifications, and under their own profile,
Thongor, the Warrior of Lost Lemuria, fought the Dragon Kings, who were quite
similar to the Serpent Men.
The Serpent Men seen in Savage Sword of Conan#122 looked closer to the Dragon Kings than most Serpent Men, but that may just be artistic license.
The Serpent Men and their Limbo Realm
As seen in Thor Annual#10, Silver Surfer Annual#2/7, and Thor Annual#14, when banished by Atum from Earth, Set took to dwelling in a pocket dimension, in which he for some reason looks very disgusting, as if his normal body had been turned inside out, with his inner organs outwardly visible. Whether this dimension was the same place as the limbo that disembodied Serpent Men go to remains unknown.
Incidentally, the presence of the Serpent Men in the modern era in Marvel Team-Up I#111 does seem to contradict the statement that the Serpent Men became extinct because of Conan. The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe#11 (November 1983) in the Appendix page states that the Serpent Men seen in Marvel Team-Up I#111 were human worshippers of Set who became the hosts for the spirits of the long-dead original Serpent Men. This Appendix page also refers to the Serpent Men from Marvel Team-Up I#111 as "Serpent Men II".
The Serpent Men and the Inverted Cross
As explained under the comments for the Serpent Men of Stakesboro, in several stories, such as Marvel Two-In-One#66, the upside down cross has been associated with Set and the Serpent Men. However, if one considers that:
(A) Set was mostly worshipped during the Hyborian era, when no Christians existed, and in which even the ancestors of the Jews and Arabs, the people of Shem, held polytheistic beliefs in Ashtoreth, Derketo, Ishtar, Pteor, Adonis, and Bel of Shumir-0so.
(B) a major enemy of Set during the Hyborian era was the god Mitra, who opposed Set many times, such as behind the scenes by warning Chabela in Savage Sword of Conan#40 of the conspiracy to replace Mitraism with Set worship in Zingara, as well as appearing to Yasmela to oppose Thugra Khotan, a servant of Set, in Savage Sword of Conan#2/Conan the Barbarian I#248-249. In Conan the Barbarian I#147, Set's hatred of Mitra had him attempt to destroy Mitraism in the city of D'eim. In the Skull of Set graphic novel, the priests of Mitra fought the priests of Set in the ruins of Eidoran;
(C) Mitra, in later history under the name Mithra, became a god popular in the Roman Empire, and his followers used a t-shaped symbol to represent him as the rays of the sun;
(C) Early Christians did not use the cross as a symbol of Christianity. In the earliest manuscripts of the Gospels, which are written in Greek (contrary to common misconception, nobody spoke English in 1st century Palestine!) the Greek word stauros is used to describe the instrument upon which Jesus Christ executed. The Greek word stauros, although frequently translated in English versions of the Bible as "cross", in fact referred to a single pole or stake, not a t-shaped contraption. (Note: Jehovah's Witnesses don't use the cross for this reason.)
(D) It was the Roman Emperor Constantine who made the cross the symbol of Christianity-and the Roman Emperor Constantine remained personally a Mithraist while for most of his life, even after he had adopted Christian beliefs. Constantine only renounced Mithraism and was baptized fully into Christianity upon his death-bed.
Thus, the Serpent Men use the inverted cross to mock Mitra,
not Jesus Christ or Christianity.
This may be the initial use of their inverted cross, but I see no reason why they wouldn't use at for its effects against Christians in the modern era. They certainly wouldn't be hurt by capitalizing on the fear of satanic, or anti-Christian symbols--Snood.
The Serpent Men and the Cobra Crown
As explained under the comments for the Cobra Crown, according to the novel Conan the Buccaneer, in which the Cobra Crown first appeared, the Cobra Crown was described as created when the Serpent Men ruled most of Earth. However, apparently Roy Thomas did not mention that during his adaptation of that novel to comics form. In any event, to fill a hole, I have incorporated this bit of information into the profiles of the Serpent Men and Cobra Crown, though it does not have 100% Earth-616 canon status.
The Serpent Men and Other Setian Beings/Elder Races
Besides the Serpent Men, several other entities associated with Set have appeared on Earth-616. Among them are the Man-Serpents, Ishiti, Sligguth, Damballah, and a few others. The connection between these beings and the Serpent Men has not always been explicitly stated.
Not all of these Set-allied entities are serpentine or snake-like either; in Conan the Barbarian I#147, a harpy named C'harona serves Set in his attempts to wipe out Mitraism, and she is aided by rat-like demons "from the center of the Earth", who are called "Set's most hideous demons". It is highly possible that these rat-like beings were members of the other Elder Races that the Serpent Men had previously vied with, who may have changed their allegiances to Set at some later point in time, perhaps after their own gods were slain.
The Wolf-Men that the Serpent Men were mentioned as having been contemporaries of, in both Marvel Team-Up I#111 and Howard's prose story "The Shadow Kingdom" are the same as the Wolf Men of Valusia. In Howard's original story "The Shadow Kingdom", on page 37 of the Baen Edition, one finds this quote "They [the Elder Races] are gone, the bird-women, the harpies, the bat-men, the flying fiends, the wolf-people, the demons, the goblins-all such as this being that lies at our feet [a defeated Serpent Man], and a few of the wolf-men". See also clarifications for more on other possible Elder Races.
The Serpent Men and Gods who oppose Set
Marvel Team-Up I#111 mentioned that gods arose to help destroy the Elder Races. Exactly who these gods were remains unclear. The history of the gods of the Earth-616 universe, in the time between the banishment of Set and Chthon, and the emergence of the post-Hyborian era religions, has not been very well developed or integrated with other accounts of deities on Earth-616. It is known, from Thor Annual#10, Silver Surfer Annual#2/7, and reconfirmed in Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Deluxe Edition#5, that the benevolent god Atum, after banishing Set and the other degenerated Elder Gods, split himself up into numerous fertile fragments, which spawned a new wave of gods.
Precisely who these gods were and when they emerged remains unclear. In any event, gods confirmed as receiving human worship at some point in the Pre-Cataclysmic era include Honan, Holgar, Helfara, Hotath, the Black Shadow, Valka (Doctor Strange III#33/2 confirmed that Valka existed as literal being on Earth-616), the Great Scorpion, Anu, Erlik (by way of flashback in Conan the Barbarian I#120), and Crom (by way of flashback in Conan the Barbarian I#259-260). Crom in particular was shown as helping defeat the demon Shuma-Gorath, another foul being who dominated much of the Earth at some point thousands of years before the Great Cataclysm. Any or all of these gods could have, as far as is known, existed in the pre-Kull era and aided mankind in the destruction of the Elder Races such as the Serpent Men.
Other gods who opposed Set, at least in later eras, included Ibis, Mitra, Omm, and even mother Gaea herself--Snood.
Before the age of Conan, @ 10000 BC, Stygia and its sister nation of Acheron, ruled much of the Earth, from @ 15000 - 13000 BC. While it's likely that either or both Man-Serpent and Serpent Man were active during those periods, it is as yet unconfirmed.
Conan learned the phrase Ka nama kaa lajerama from Red Sonja in Conan the Barbarian I#24.
I thought that the Man-Serpents and Serpent Men were literal spawn of Set, but I can't recall any specific documentation of this. Thulsa Doom refers to them as "both types of Set's offspring," but this could be figurative, I guess.
In reference to the Serpent Men plugging their ears to
avoid hearing the phrase: I'm not an expert in reptiles, but I don't think
snakes have ears: I think they feel vibrations, but are otherwise deaf. I
may be wrong on this, and the point is moot, as Serpent Men have limbs and
other things which snakes don't have, so ears aren't out of the question.
In some cases, Serpent Men (women) have had mammary glands, which persisted
even after their deaths and exposure as Serpent Men (women).
J.M. DeMatteis made a mistake in Marvel Team-Up I#111. In
a flowery narration on page eight, he called Japan "the birthplace of Lao-Tzu
and the Toyota".
In fact, Lao-Tzu was born in China.
...and why the frick did the Serpent Man Devil-Slayer teach Spider-Man the phrase that pays? And how did he say it to Spider-Man? That's just bad storytelling!--Snood.
Those Serpent Men who appeared in that issue missed the boat, since Atlantis Attacks was published about eight years later. They could have done much to aid in the attempt to reassert Setian global Terran domination.
A little bit of spackling has to occur to harmonize the Kull-era depiction of Atlantis with other versions of Atlantis' history-including some offered by Robert E. Howard himself! In the Kull stories, Atlantis was not a major empire-it was in fact, considered a backwards country, quite uncivilized. It was far from a great power. It certainly did not, in the time of Kull, have the advanced technology seen in the futuristic Atlantis glimpsed in several stories retelling the sinking of Atlantis, such as Amazing Spider-Man Annual#23.
However, Howard himself seems to have forgotten the backwards
Atlantis of his Kull tales with his Solomon Kane stories, because in the
Solomon Kane story "Moon of Skulls", Solomon Kane finds the Negari-descendants
of a colony of the Atlantean empire! (The Negari appeared in the Marvel Universe
in Savage Sword of Conan#34, 37, #39, and #219-220.) Worse, in the Solomon
Kane story "The Footfalls Within" (adapted to Marvel Preview#19), Solomon
Kane discovers he has the staff of the Atlantean kings.
Further adding to this picture of an advanced later Atlantis, in the graphic novel Conan of the Isles, Conan travels to Antillia, a society composed of the children of Atlantean survivors. There he found extremely advanced technology such as flying ships.
One could tie these versions of Atlantis together by stating that the ascension of Kull--who was born in Atlantis, to the throne of Valusia--inspired the other Atlanteans to greater heights, such that, in the five hundred years or so between the death of Kull and the destruction of Atlantis, they caught up with the rest of the world. Possibly the advanced technology they showed later on came from the Deviants, who were the first race to develop technology.
There is evidence to support the Deviants in Lemuria (or close to it) way back an essay of Robert E. Howard, as adapted by Roy Thomas, in Savage Sword of Conan#7:
A member of an apparently Satannish worshipping coven chants "Ka nama kaa lajerama" in Avengers West Coast#65.
Profile by Per Degaton and Snood.
Damballah, the spawn of Set, as seen in Dr. Strange II#48, Silver Surfer Annual#2/7, is believed to be different from
Kull the Conqueror I#2 (September, 1971) - Roy Thomas (writer), Marie Severin (pencils), John Severin (inks), Stan Lee (editor)
Marvel Premiere#26 (November, 1975) - Bill Mantlo (writer), George Tuska (pencils), Vince Colletta (inks), Marv Wolfman (editor)
Conan the Barbarian#89 (August, 1978) - Roy Thomas (writer), John Buscema (pencils), Ernie Chan (inks), Roy Thomas & Jim Shooter (editor)
King Conan#4 (December, 1980) - Roy Thomas (writer/editor), John Buscema (pencils), Danny Bulanadi (inks)
Marvel Team-Up I#111 (November, 1981) - J.M. DeMatteis (writer), Herb Trimpe (pencils), Mike Esposito (inks), Tom DeFalco (editor)
Marvel Team-Up Annual#5 (1982) - Mark Gruenwald (writer/pencils), Jim Mooney (inks), Tom DeFalco (editor)
Kull the Conqueror III#10 (June, 1985) - Alan Zelenetz (writer), John Buscema (pencils), Mel Candido (inks), Ralph Macchio (editor)
Official Handbook of the Conan Universe#1 (January, 1986)
Savage Sword of Conan#122 (March, 1986) - Charles Dixon (writer), Vincent Waller (artist), Larry Hama (editor)
Savage Sword of Conan#140 (September, 1987) - Charles Dixon (writer), Gary Kwapisz (pencils), Ernie Chan (inks), Larry Hama (editor)
Savage Sword of Conan#148 (May, 1988) - Charles Dixon (writer), Vince Giarrano (pencils), Vince Colletta (inks), Michael Higgins (editor)
Savage Sword of Conan#148-149 (May-June, 1988) - Charles Dixon (writer), Dale Eaglesham (artist), Michael Higgins (editor)
Savage Sword of Conan#159 (April, 1989) - Charles Dixon (writer), Don Perlin (artist), Craig Anderson (editor)
Uncanny X-Men Annual#13 (1989) - Peter Sanderson (writer), Mark Bagley (pencils), Keith Williams (inks), Gregory Wright & Mark Gruenwald (editor)
OHOTMU Update '89#7 (December, 1989)
Savage Sword of Conan#190-193 (October, 1991 - January, 1992) - Roy & Dann Thomas (writers), John Buscema (pencils), Tony DeZuniga (#190-191) & Ernie Chan (#191-193) (inks), Mike Rockwitz (editor)
Fantastic Four Annual#25 (1992) - Mark Gruenwald (writer), Herb Trimpe (pencils), Brad Vancata (inks), Ralph Macchio (editor)
Avengers Annual#21 (1992) - Mark Gruenwald (writer), Herb Trimpe (pencils), Charles Barnett & Brad Vancata (inks), Ralph Macchio (editor)
Avengers Annual#22 (1993) - Roy Thomas & Jean-Marc Lofficier (writers), Al Milgrom (pencils), Mark Steckbauer (inks), Ralph Macchio (editor)
Savage Sword of Conan#213 (September, 1993) - Charles Dixon (writer), Eliot Brown (pencils), Armando Gil (inks), Richard Ashford (editor)
Conan the Adventurer#5 (October, 1994) - Roy Thomas (writer), Audwyn Newman (pencils), Rey Garcia (inks), Richard Ashford (editor)
Conan Saga#97 (April, 1995) - Fred Blosser, Roy Thomas & Jim Neal (writers)
Avengers Forever#3 (February, 1999) - Kurt Busiek & Roger Stern (writer), Carlos Pacheco (pencils), Jesus Merino (inks), Tom Brevoort (editor)
Avengers 2000 Annual (2000) - Kurt Busiek (writer), Norm Breyfogle & Richard Howell (artists), Tom Brevoort (editor)
Marvel Tarot (2007) - David Sexton (writer), Doug Sexton & Jeff Christiansen (consultants), Jeff Youngquist (editor)
First posted: 1/12/2003
Last updated: 11/07/2018
Any Additions/Corrections? please let me know.
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