Classification: Human race variant/deviation
Location/Base of Operations: Starkesboro (or Starksboro), Massachusetts
Known Members: Bethel Doan, Lemuel Joad, Ethan Stoddard
Affiliations: Ebora, N'Gabthoth, Set, Shuma-Gorath, Sligguth
Enemies: Ancient One, Clea, Dr. Strange, Johnny Frames, Wong
First Appearance: Marvel Premiere#4 (September, 1972)
Powers/Abilities: The whole town of Starksboro gives off such an aura of demonic magic that in and of itself it was almost enough to overcome Dr. Strange. The Serpent Men do not appear to demonstrate significant superhuman abilities, but prefer to rely on the weight of their numbers to overcome foes. The attack en masse, and don't give up unless they are physically incapacitated. They tend to rely on the power of their gods to defeat their foes, as well.
Traits: Fanatical worship of their demon-lords, mindlessly follow their commands
Aliases: Troglodytes, Spawn of Sligguth
History: (Marvel Premiere#5(fb))-Centuries ago, a band of fisherfolk settled in the New England village which would become Starkesboro, Massachusetts. After an unknown period of time, a group of fishermen found a serpent-twined inverted cross floating in the sea (I'm not sure they'd know it was supposed to be inverted, if it was just floating somewhere...). They brought it into their town, which allowed the power of Sligguth to infiltrate their entire population. Sligguth chose one of the natives of Starkesboro, Ebora, to remain fully human, while the rest degenerated into a subhuman, semi-reptillian form. The natives desecrated their church and performed rituals to Sligguth, sometimes even performing human sacrifices to their god.
(Marvel Premiere#4(fb))-Ethan Stoddard and his fiance', Bethel Doan, left Starkesboro and went to Salem State College, and later to New York City for graduate studies. Beth's thesis was on the occult arts in America, and she eventually returned to Starkesboro to research the Thanatosian Tomes. Beth's letters to Ethan began to discuss dark gods and forbidden cults, and then abruptly stopped coming to Ethan.
(Marvel Premiere4)-Ethan Stoddard came to Dr. Strange for help (and managed to enter his Sanctum unaided). Stoddard convinced Strange to return to Starkesboro with him. Strange attempted to explore the town in his astral form, but found himself barely able to overcome the repressively dark magical aura of the town. Meanwhile, Ethan searched the town and was surprised to find his old squeeze Bethel quite snakey-looking. Ethan found Strange in the church and told him about Bethel as a mass of Serpent Men began to approach. They locked the Church door, but the chants of the Serpent Men awakened the dormant snake-i-ness of Ethan, who became one of htem as well. Strange attempted to flee, but was taken out by the sheer evil will of the Serpent Men, and strapped to an altar as a sacrifice for Sligguth.
Sligguth and Ebora arrived in the Church, but Strange broke free and fought off the attacks of the Serpent Men. With the aid of the power of the Ancient One, Strange managed to slay Sligguth. N'Gabthoth the awakened and headed into Starkesboro. Ebora had the Serpent Men gather Strange's allies, Wong and Clea (and a few other innocents), and prepare them for sacrifice to N'Gabthoth. However, the Ancient One again added his power to Strange's enabling him to banish N'Gabthoth. With the defeat of their Gods, Ebora led the Serpent Men to flee into the dark hills...never to return! (?)
Comments: Created by Archie Goodwin (and Gardner F. Fox) and Barry Windsor Smith (and Irv Wesley and Frank Brunner).
The original Serpent Men were actually the spawn of Set, but the people of Starkesboro were basically people with a few reptillian features.
The three issues involving the Serpent Men of Starkesboro took two writers and three artists...I'm not sure if that changed the plans or anything, but you do get three different takes on their appearances.
The entire storyline carried the banner "Featuring Concepts
Created by Robert E. Howard."
Omar Karindu and Cyborg Caveman (Greg O) also add--The whole Starkesboro sequence owes much to Lovecraft's story "The Shadow Over Innsmouth," about a New England coastal town that becomes a cult to ichthyomorphic monstrosities. This cult worshipped Father Dagon and Mother Hydra. References to the Cthulu Mythos can be found throughout Marvel's stuff.
Additional, quite interesting comments, via Per Degaton:
"I was looking through Marvel Two-in-One#66, and Hugh Jones used an upside down cross, too. Obviously, an homage to the Serpent Men of
And then, it occured to me how strange it was that they used an upside down cross. After all, there were no Christians during the Hyborian era. In fact, even the early Christians did not use the Cross; the Cross did not show up in Christian artwork until the Roman Emperor Constantine!
It is at this time that the Chi Rho and the symbol of the fish, representing the miraculous nature of Jesus' message (at least as formulated by the gospel writers), is replaced by the cross, at the time a symbol of death and suffering, as the principal emblem of Christianity.
I suppose the connection would come from Mitra, who has been established as having been worshipped during the Hyborian era. Mitra is a version of the name Mithra, whom the emperor Constantine also worshipped. In fact, Constantine remained a member of the Mithraist religion until his death bed.
He adapted elements of Mithraism for Roman Catholicism. (The above link notes that the Romans did not use a t-shaped cross in their executions, rather just a one-piece stake. The cross was a Mithraist symbol.) So, the reason that Sligguth used the upside down cross was to mock Mitra, not Christianity.
An alternative explanation is that the demons Set, Sligguth, etc. would be weakened or injured by the "White magic" (orhowever you prefer to explain it) of a Christian symbol and its faith...not far from the way vampires are injured/weakened by religious symbols backed by faith. Per Degaton's explanation is way cooler, though.--Snood.
The town of Starkesboro, Massachussetts was seen again in the
"Capwolf" saga during Captain America I#402-408, when it was taken over by
Dredmund Druid and Nightshade, who mutated hundreds of the townspeople into
pseudo-werewolves. I'm not sure if those were supposed to be the SAME townsfolk
who were ALREADY mutated into serpent-people in the
earlier story, or some unlucky schmoes who moved in when the town was abandoned . in fact, I would think the name of the town was just a coincidence if the story wasn't written by Mark Gruenwald.
They should be differentiated from:
(5+6-BTS, or a face in the crowd
--Marvel Premiere#4 (5+6-BTS, or a face in the crowd
Ethan Stoddard-after fully
realizing his heritage as one of the Serpent Men, Ethan acted as ringleader
to the capture of Dr. Strange.
--Marvel Premiere#4 (5+6-BTS, or a face in the crowd
Johnny Frames was also a native
of Starkesboro, whose history was very similar to that of Ethan Stoddard.
He and his fiance', Deborah, had left the town some time ago. Deborah was
pulled back to Starkesboro under the spell of Sligguth and became one of
the Serpent Men. Johnny came back to Starkesboro to save her, and was captured
by Ebora and the Serpent Men to serve as a sacrifice for N'Gabthoth. He
was saved by Dr. Strange.
A footnote in Marvel Premiere#6 remarked how similar Frames' and Stoddards' predicaments were, although I'm not quite sure what was the reasoning for the similarities. It also was not explained why Frames did not become one of the Serpent Men upon being exposed to their dark magics.
Marvel Premiere#4 (September, 1972) - Archie Goodwin & Roy Thomas (writers), Barry Windsor-Smith (pencils), Frank Brunner (inks), Roy Thomas (editor)
Marvel Premiere#5 (November, 1972) - Gardner F. Fox (writer), Irv Wesley (pencils), Don Perlin (inks), Roy Thomas (editor)
Marvel Premiere#6 (January, 1973) - Gardner F. Fox (writer), Frank Brunner (pencils), Sal Buscema (inks), Roy Thomas (editor)
Last updated: 12/30/04
Any Additions/Corrections? please let me know.
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