The Serpent-Men are the spawn of Sligguth, son of the Elder God Set, created about one-million years ago to serve Set on Earth. They are considered spawn or creations of Set himself on occasion.
Though having been seemingly annihilated during the Pre-Cataclysmic Age, first by early Man (using the sentence Ka Nama Kaa Lajerama, discovered by a Pict shaman, the Snake People automatically reverting to their true forms upon hearing it), then by the Atlantean warrior-king Kull of Valusia, then during the Hyborian Age by King Conan of Aquilonia and his son Prince Conn, the Serpent-Men kept surviving and plotting, into the Modern Age.
The Serpent-Men were reptilian humanoids spawned by Sligguth, son of the Elder God Set, to serve the later on Earth, about one million years ago, but are considered spawn of Set himself on occasion. Sligguth also spawned the similar-looking Dragon Kings. Among other children of Set was his daughter Ishiti, who begat the Man-Serpents, creatures with snake-like bodies and human heads with snakes in place of hair.
Hisssarlion, a high priest of Set, stated that there was only a race of serpent-things, but for reasons unknown they split into two distinct races, two Snake-People, the Man-Serpents with their mask-like human faces and serpentine hair, and the Serpent-Men, humanoid snake-headed creatures, spawn of Set's son Sligguth. It is unknown if this statement is erroneous, false, or if the two races mingled at some point before separating back.
The First Host
Two of the Serpent-Men were granted increased intellect by Set, and infiltrated the green garden-like environment created by Sise-Neg for two individuals of evolutionary borderline between apes and humans, a couple that spawned an entire tribe.
Centuries later, the leader and his mate discovered their sacred land occupied by another tribe, the Serpent-Men in disguise. The strangers were free from the signs of care and hardship that marked the members of their own tribe, as if all their needs and desired were sated. The leader of the strangers communicated with them telepathically. Informing them that they were the tribe of Set, cared for, fed, given warmth, and kept healthy and alive by their patron god. He invited the leader and his mate to join their ranks, worship Set, and promising them a happy life, if they introduced them to the Space Gods, killed their original tribe and feed them to Set. The couple themselves would safely survive. The two wanderers realized the stranger was evil and reacted violently, killing him. In death, the Serpent-Man reverted to his true form. The wanderers escaped back to their tribe and led them to attack the Serpent-Men, driving them away from the garden. Just as the battle was finishing, the First Host of the Celestials arrived, escorted by Gaea who beckoned the victorious tribe forward to accept the gifts of the space gods.
Gammenon the Gatherer collected the wanderers and transported them to the Celestial ship. The envious Serpent-Men attempting to approach the ship were driven away by Arishem the Judge. Within their ship, the Celestials altered the genetic make-up of the wanderers, creating three races of humanity (virtual immortals Eternals, genetically unstable Deviants and ape-men who let to evolve naturally into humans but with latent genes that would someday produce superhumans.
Long before the dawn of humanity, the Serpent Men used power drawn from Set to create the Cobra Crown, using to built "an empire of the Earth in the land later known as Valusia. They also worshiped the toad-god Tsathoggua, who lived in temple on the Nameless Isle, or Siojina-Kisua, an island in the Western Ocean, part (or more likely an island possession) of Valusia and had a temple on it, and was home to  an ally of the Elder God Set.
Worn by Serpent Men kings, the Cobra Crown was eventually proved defective, and it was hidden on the Nameless Isle. The Crown was hidden under a shrine dedicated to Tsathoggua, guarded by a living stone idol of the Toad-God, and would remained unfound for millenia.
Preying on Humans
The Serpent-Men and other new demonic races went on to terrorize the emerging human race Homo sapiens. The Serpent-Men enslaved them while vying with the Deviants, other empires, demonic races such as the Undying Ones or the N'Garai, or other Elderspawn (descendents of the Elder Gods), such as the Harpies, the Spider-People, or the Wolf Men.
While the Serpent-Men became served by the early men, the Man-Serpents tended to be more reclusive (though both species were seen alongside in their apparent demise).
Pre-Cataclysmic Age (100,000 to 18,000 BC)
At least two tales exist on the overthrowing of the Serpent-Men in Valusia:
- Eventually, a Pict shaman found about the weakness of both Serpent-Men and Man-Serpents: the sentence Ka Nama Kaa Lajerama. Upon hearing it, the Snake People automatically revert to their true forms, making them easy targets for humans. Using it, Men overthrew the Serpent-Men, and slew the Man-Serpents as well.
- The humans came from the East, crossing the Camoonian Desert and the Hills of Zalgara, and conquered the snake-people.
The humans believed to have won a total victory, but unknown to them, both races survived, the Man-Serpents going in hiding while the Serpent-Men learned to hypnotically disguise themselves as humans, while the words remained buried in the subconscious minds of all humans to the present day, being a part of their common racial memory, as did the memory of the Elderspawn. The meaning of the phrase is long forgotten but its power remains.
The defeated Serpent-Men survived in human forms. They learned to use their power to secretly slay Valusian rulers and assume their forms and crowns. A legend among the Atlanteans of the Sea-Mountain Tribe mentioned a Valusian king, ambushed by Atlanteans and slain by Gandaro of the Spear, who turned into a Serpent-Man upon his death. That event Inspired an Atlantean legend about "the Snake that Speaks".
The Serpent-Men, last among other demonic races, were forced to withdraw against the forces of humanity and its patron deities. The Serpent-Men were forced to survive on waste lands.
When their kingdom fell, it was said that the Serpent-Men came in the land that would become Stygia to bury powerful, valuable treasures. There, the Serpent-Men built subterranean pyramids and tombs. Far to the south of the Thuria, their civilization remained unconnected with Thurian culture.
Centuries later, in Valusia, Serpent-Men in human guise served as priests to the Serpent Cult, attracting human worshippers in this way. Their temple was hidden in the Forbidden Swamp.
Age of Kull (18,500 BC)
When Kull rose to the throne of Valusia, ambassador Ka-Nu of the Picts informed him of the existence of the Serpent-Men. Brule was tasked with exposing the Serpent-Men living in the City of Wonders. The search was concentrated in court, where Serpent-Men posed as Tu, other councilors, and Red Slayers. One Serpent-Man was found in the guise of Kull himself. The real Kull slaughtered the exposed Serpent-Men. The center of their power in the royal castle was found to be a chamber where King Eallal was slain. The chamber was still haunted by his ghost. Kull managed to seal the chamber. With his eyes open to the threat, Kull swore to continue hunting them across land and sea. Never resting until all the Serpent-Men are dead.
Sekhmet Tharn, a sorcerer of the Serpent-Men, set out to conquer Valusia. He re-animated the corpses of Valusian kings and send them to terrorize Valusians. Kull found himself facing his predecessor King Borna. Destroying him for a second time. Jeesala, daughter of Sekhmet Tharn, attempted to seduce Kull. He turned her down. Sekhmet Tharn then managed to drug Kull. Jeesala attempted to seduce him again and this time succeeded. They had sex right before the eyes of her father. The corrupted Kull took her as his new royal mistress.
Under the influence of Jeesala, Kull degenerated into a tyrant. He taxed Valusians heavily and physically abused them. Soon the people were ready to turn on him, even his loyal Red Slayers. Brule attempted to reason with Kull and bring him back to his senses. Kull simply strucked him and ordered him to leave. The following a rebellion broke out. Jeesala almost slew Kull through an enchanted mirror, but Brule saved him. Breaking the mirror resulted in Kull regaining his senses. Jeesala took her true form and revealed that an army of undead kings was marching against the City. She tried to kill Kull using an acid-dart. He dodged the dart, grabbed Brule's spear and killed her.
Kull and Brule managed to convince the revolting Valusians to turn their attentions toward the undead army. every able-bodied man in the City of Wonders fought against the undead. Sekhmet Tharn appeared and summoned a Kraken to enforce his army. He then tried slaying Kull, forming a corrupted double of the king. Kull slew his evil double and decapited Sekhmet Tharn. With his death, the Kraken also died. Kull managed to regain the trust of his people.
After dreaming of a girl getting killed by Serpent-Men in the City of Wonders, then Serpent-Men replacing his advisors and ambushing him, Kull found the dream too vivid, and thought it was a warning, suspecting the Cult of the Serpent to still be active. Meanwhile, in the streets of the City, the girl of the dream was killed.
An army of Serpent-Men invaded Valusia from the West. Annihilating villages in their path. The Serpent-Men were riding horses, and were equipped with full metal armor, swords, spears, bows and arrows. Kull and his soldiers managed to kill some of the scouts of the advancing army. They then retreated back to the City of Wonders, preparing for a siege.
During the Siege of the City of Wonders, Lord Rota Aurix betrayed Valusia and defected to the Serpent-Men. He revealed to them a weak spot in the defenses of the City, that would serve as a focus point for their attack. Kull anticipated their attack, however, and increased the soldiers guiding the weak spot. This move proved decisive in beating back the invaders. The enraged Serpent-Men blamed Lord Rota for his advice and killed him.
The Serpent-Men continued besieging the City of Wonders. There was a plague outbreak within the walls of the City. Kull decided that the victims would be quarantined. One of said victims, Lord Khorata, did not obey. He convinced a mob of the infected to go into revolt and attack the palace. Kull led the Red Slayers in fighting back and killing the rebels. He then used the infected corpses as catapult missiles, throwing them into the Serpent-Men's camp. Hoping that the plague would spread to the enemy.
The Serpent-Men's siege of the City of Wonders lasted ten months. Kull had doubts about his ability to drive them away. A chance encounter with a blind girl changed his mind. The girl did not recognize him, but spoke with admiration of the King's achievements. With renewed confidence, Kull led the Valusians to victory.
The chamber of king Eallal remained sealed. A pair of Valusian conspirators suspected that there was treasure hidden there. They tricked Gonra to pen the chamber for them. Living Serpent-Men emerged from the chamber and attacked them. Gonra fought them bravely but had to retreat. Kull was alerted by the noise and responded by arriving to the chamber. He faced the Serpent-Men, including one who had assumed the form of Gonra. He managed to kill them all in battle. In death, the Gonra impostor returned to his real form. Kull decided to cleanse the chamber with fire and then reseal it. This time using brick and mortar to make sure nobody can open it.
Great Cataclysm (18,000 BC)
Five centuries following the death of Kull, the Deviants of Lemuria used their advanced technology to conquer much of the Earth. Atra, a human Lemurian resented their rule. He began serving Father Sert and formed an alliance with the Serpent-Men which led to the creation of the Serpent Crown. Atra intended to use the Crown to overthrow the Deviant rule. But Set had his own plans. Since the Deviants worshipped him, the Elder God protected them from the powers of the Crown user.
Emboldened by the divine protection, Emperor Phraug of the Deviants ordered an attack on the Second Host of the Celestials. The Celestials shrugged off the attack and retaliated with causing the Great Cataclysm. Lemuria was destroyed and Atlantis was damaged by the event. Atra and Phraug were the first casualties of the Cataclysm. Their skeletons were somehow preserved, clutching the Crown, while everything around them was destroyed, as a warning about pride. The Serpent Crown was lost in the sinking of Lemuria.
Hyborian Age (18,000 to 8,000 BC)
Stygia (17,000 to 10,000 BC)
Most men forgot the Serpent-Men and Man-Serpents after the Great Cataclysm. The far south was untouched by the Great Cataclysm, and the Serpent-Men consequently survive, but were dealt a blow in its aftermath: At some point between 17,000 and 15,000 BC, the enslaved Lemurians far to the east destroyed their slavers, who fled westwards, overthrowing them and creating the kingdom of Stygia in the area they conquered. The Serpent-Men as a whole was destroyed, but remnants of the pre-human kingdom survived, and even came to be worshiped.
Those who labelled themselves the last Serpent Men of Lemuria eventually formed the Order of the Serpent on the coast of Stygia, as priests of Set, led by the high priest Amintas and who had the custody of "the living god Set".
Over 12,000 years ago, Ssith was one of the Serpent-Men serving the Elder God Set and a great warrior, attracted the attention of the time traveler Kang the Conqueror who challenged him to a duel. Kang won and Ssith agreed to serve him. Kang took him to Chronopolis. Ssith served as one of the Anachronauts, warriors who traveled through time when Kang tasked them with missions.
Age of Conan (10,000 BC)
During this period, both Serpent-Men and Man-Serpents started serving the Stygian sorcerer Thoth-Amon. To the south of the Black Kingdoms, at the Land of No Return, existed the so-called Land of No Return. There lay only one city, Yanoga.
When he was twenty years old, a shipwrecked Conan of Cimmeria was captured by the slavers of the ship Ouroboros, led by a Serpent Man wearing a human skin to pass as their captain. Conan managed to free himself, discover the true nature of the captain, ad slay the Serpent Man.
Capturing Conan along his crew during his time of piracy among the Crimson Brotherhood, they manipulated the Cimmerian into causing two gangs, the Stygians led by Malas and their Shemite rivals led by Horob to slaughter each others, allowing the Serpent Men to acquire the Black Lotus with the intent of using it to enslave humankind and reclaim Earth. They were seemingly all slain by Conan.
The Serpent-Men of Yanoga, led by Lilit, were destroyed by King Conan and his son Conn, whom also slew Thoth-Amon at the Beach at the Edge of the World. They were stated to be have exterminated the last of the original Serpent-Men, though a few other Snake-Folk survived. The serpent cult still persisted and disguised Serpents kept luring humans into their ranks.
Due to the efforts of Kull and Conan, the original Serpent-Men went extinct about 8,000 years ago.
The serpent cult persisted though, and disguised Serpents lured humans into their ranks. Numerous human worshiper of Set and his spawns, such as Sligguth, took on reptilian features to different extents. Some, including the people of Starkesboro were only partially transformed, while others became hosts for long-dead original Serpent-Men, who transformed their bodies into duplicates of their own, and with the power to take the form of any human.
During the 17th century, a religious sect in England was led by Caleb Starke. In 1670, they left for the land who would become Starkesboro, New England to escape persecutions like the Puritans did. Centuries ago, the community became fisherfolk, who found a serpent-twined, inverted cross. From that moment, the people changed, becoming reptilian, serving and worshiping Sligguth. Sligguth selected one priestess among the folk, who would be the only one to remain human.
According to a prophecy, the "seventh child of Set" (meaning a seventh generation descendant) would usher in a a new golden age for the Serpent Men. By Ian McNee's calculations, the mother of that new dark prince could be either Yith, or the Lemurian Nagala.
When the Avengers (Black Knight, Black Widow, Crystal, Hercules, and Sersi) and the Fantastic Four (Human Torch, Invisible Woman, Mr. Fantastic, and the Thing) arrived in Chronopolis, Ssith and the Anachronauts attempted to arrest them. The heroes surrendered, figuring the Anachronauts would lead them to Kang. Unnoticed, Sersi took the form of the Anachronaut Raa. In time, she freed the other heroes and they easily defeated the Anachronauts.
Ssith and the Anachronauts were training and facing each other in mock combat. Then Sir Raston's Ebony Blade began to glow and lost its solidity. Terminatrix determined that this was a result of a temporal anomaly which had the Blade never be created. The erasing of the Blade from history had far reaching consequences and threatened Chronopolis itself. The Anachronauts time traveled back to the days of Camelot to undo the anomaly. They found that the Incinerators, a robotic race, had also time traveled back to Camelot and captured the Star-Stone. The Star-Stone provided the material that was used to forge the Blade. With the help of fellow time traveler Justin Alphonse Gamble, the Anachronauts defeated the Incinerators and captured the Star-Stone. Gamble made sure that the Stone would pass to the hands of Merlin who would create the Blade.
Ssith and the Anachronauts defended Chronopolis against the invading forces of Immortus. A "time-twisting explosion" killed most of the team, leaving only temporal shadows of the dead. Only an injured Wildrun seems to have survived.
In the Invaders' quest to collect items representing past defeats suffered by Shuma-Gorath in order to use them to counter his influence, Toro, the Human Torch and Spitfire came to scratch fragments off Stonehenge, and had to fight cobra-headed snake people with serpentine lower body-halves. It is unknown if those snake men were proper Serpent Men.
Powers and Abilities
Shapeshifting into human form. They can assume the identity of any human. They have used this ability to infiltrate and control human societies, replacing rulers and other influential persons. When killed their bodies revert to their real form.
Some Serpent-Men receive training in sorcery and are reasonably skilled magic users.
The mystical phrase "ka nama kaa lajerama" is anathema to the Serpent-Men who can not even pronounce it, nor stand to hear it. Upon hearing it, they revert to their true forms, (though not always), making them easy targets for humans.
Their reflections in mirrors could reveal their true form.
- The Serpent Men are a fictional race created by Robert E. Howard in "The Shadow Kingdom", published in Weird Tales in August 1929. H.P. Lovecraft's short story "The Nameless City" (1921) mentions a pre-human reptilian race, which inspired Clark Ashton Smith and Lin Carter who adapted the race into the Cthulhu Mythos.
- The Serpent Men first appeared in "The Shadow Kingdom" (Kull the Conqueror #2, September, 1971), adapted from the story by Robert E. Howard. The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe #11 appendix entry of the Serpent-Men erroneously stated that their first appearance was Marvel Premiere #4 (which credits concepts created by Robert E. Howard) (September, 1972) for the "people of Starkesboro", and Marvel Team-Up #111 (November, 1981) for the "Serpent-Men II".
- Appearing in Marvel Premiere, the Serpent Men of Starkesboro, humans turned into Serpent-Men of Sligguth, son of the Elder God Set and living in the New England coastal city of Starkesboro, are considered to be inspired by H.P. Lovecraft's Deep Ones, the amphibian-featured inhabitants of Innsmouth.
- Lin Carter's Dragon Kings are similar to Howard's Serpent-Men (who were later confirmed to be similar looking races, but to be two different offspring of Sligguth). Similarly, Carter's Slorgs are close to the Man-Serpents, but with female features.
- Creatures with the Serpent Men's features, but with a serpentine lower body-half instead of legs, have been witnessed on occasions. Invaders Now! #4 (December, 2010) features cobra-headed snake-men with serpentine body-halves. Following the return of the Conan franchise under Marvel Comics in early 2019, "The Cult of Koga Thun – Part One: Shipwrecked" (Savage Sword of Conan (Vol. 2) #1; February, 2019) featured a "Serpent Man" with similar lower body features.
- In other cases, similar creatures have been explicitly ruled out being Serpent Men, such as the transformed human Sassad.
- The Serpent-Men are often called an Elder race, or the Elder race of Serpent-Men, but are not to confused with the Elder Race proper, speculated to descend from Elderspawn (offspring of the Elder Gods).
- 34 appearance(s) of Serpent-Men
- 12 minor appearance(s) of Serpent-Men
- 33 mention(s) of Serpent-Men
- 10 image(s) of Serpent-Men
- 25 representative(s) of Serpent-Men
- 1 item(s) used/owned by Serpent-Men