The Serpent Society is a business enterprise whose costumed identities are based on snakes. The Serpent Society was the brainchild of Seth Voelker, alias the Sidewinder, who was inspired by three previous coalitions of criminals styling their identities after snakes; each named the Serpent Squad. The first Serpent Squad consisted of the original Viper; his brother, the original Eel (although an eel is a fish, not a snake); and the Cobra, and was organized for the purpose of destroying Captain America. The second Serpent Squad was organized by the second Viper (the first known Madame Hydra) and consisted of the Cobra, the original Eel, and Princess Python. The second Serpent Squad aided the Viper and the renegade Atlantean Warlord Krang in their use of the Serpent Crown, an ancient artifact of immense power, and was defeated by Captain America in his short-lived guise as the original Nomad and by the Sub-Mariner. Hugh Jones, president of Roxxon Oil Company, organized the third Serpent Squad, comprised of Sidewinder, Anaconda, Black Mamba, and Death Adder, to retrieve the Serpent Crown, which had been lost in the Pacific Ocean. In the process of recovering the Crown, three of the four Squad members were trapped in an underwater rockslide. Sidewinder managed to complete the assignment and collect the fee from Roxxon. With that money in the bank gaining interest, Sidewinder began to formulate plans for the ultimate squad of serpents.
Learning that Anaconda, Black Mamba, and Death Adder had survived the undersea mishap, Sidewinder convinced them of the sincerity of his intention to help them better their lot. He then sent them to contact other snake-motic criminals to invite them to an organizational meeting at a posh Manhattan hotel. The second Viper is the only individual invited who outright refused to attend. The Constrictor walked out of the meeting unimpressed by the proceedings and attempted to subvert the group by informing on them to the Avengers. Sidewinder gave those interested in joining his new team initiation tasks to test their abilities to work together as well as to acquire certain technology needed by the organization. The tasks successfully completed, Anaconda, Asp, Black Mamba, Bushmaster, Cobra, Cottonmouth, Death Adder, Diamondback, Princess Python, and the Rattler became charter members of the Serpent Society. Sidewinder escorted them to the group's headquarters,
Serpent Citadel, which was in an abandoned mental hospital he had purchased from the state of New York.
In the course of the group's early activities, Captain America frequently intervened but was never able to deal the organization a crippling blow. The Serpent Society's first paying assignment was a contract on the life of the original Modok, the renegade former leader of the Advanced Idea Mechanics (AIM), taken out by AIM's new leaders. The Society's success in killing Modok established their reputation as hired criminal talent of the first caliber.
The membership of the Society has changed considerably over time. Princess Python deserted the group during the Modok affair. She was captured and brainwashed to forget Society secrets, and was expelled from their ranks. Death Adder was slain by one of the vigilantes known as Scourge. The Viper plotted to take over the Serpent Society and enlist its members in her scheme to introduce a mutagenic chemical into Washington, D.C.'s water supply that would turn its citizens into insane reptilian creatures. Four of her operatives, Black Racer, Copperhead, Fer De-Lance, and Puff Adder, infiltrated the Society, and the Viper then led a takeover of the Serpent Citadel, aided by her operatives Boomslang, Coachwhip, Rock Python, and Slither. Viper poisoned Sidewinder, but Diamondback managed to escape with him and enlist the aid of Captain America, who was then using the identity known simply as "the Captain." Anaconda, the Cobra, and Cottonmouth decided to support the Viper, who imprisoned and poisoned those Serpent Society members who would not serve her. The Captain, Diamondback, and their allies Nomad and D-Man succeeded in saving the captive Society members and defeating those serving the Viper. Disillusioned with the Viper and her plan to mutate innocent people, the Cobra himself defeated the Viper and turned her over to the Captain.
With the Viper's takeover thwarted, the Serpent Society reorganized at a new secret headquarters. Bitter over his betrayal by certain Society members, Sidewinder resigned from the Serpent Society. The Cobra became the Society's new leader, and a number of the Viper's operatives joined the Society. Hence, the current membership of the Society consists of Anaconda, the Asp, Black Mamba, Black Racer, Boomslang, Bushmaster, the Cobra, Coachwhip, Cottonmouth, Diamondback, Puff Adder, the Rattler, and Rock Python.
The Deviant priest-lord Ghaur and the former Lemurian empress Llyra contacted Sidewinder, thinking he still headed the Serpent Society, to hire them to find certain mystical objects they needed to reconstruct the Serpent Crown. Sidewinder had then turned the contract over to the Cobra, but when the X-Men thwarted the Serpent Society, Sidewinder stepped in to complete the assignment. He turned over a fraction of the reward money to the Society.
The Serpent Society advertises its services through underworld channels, claiming no job is too large. When a contract is accepted, the leader decides how many operatives the assignment requires, selects certain operatives and dispatches them. Part of the fees for each contract goes to the organization for operating costs, while the others part goes to the operatives involved. Society members are not prevented from seeking out their own outside assignments, but they must pay a percentage of their outside earnings to the group. In exchange for each member's services and financial support, the Society offers increased job opportunities, health insurance benefits, safe lodging, and comradeship. Moreover, when Sidewinder led the group, no member needed to fear imprisonment by legal authorities, for Sidewinder would use his teleportation abilities to rescue any captured Society member.
The Serpent Society remains one of the best-organized, most successful coalitions of criminals in operation today.