KOBRAMedium: Comic Books
Published by: DC Comics
First Appeared: 1976
Creator: Jack Kirby
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Villain protagonists in comic books fall into two general categories — those that existed before their series began, who got their own features as a result of their popularity (e.g., Mickey Mouse's enemy, The Phantom Blot, who briefly had his own comic in the 1960s; and Batman's enemy, The Joker, who did
the same in the '70s), and those never seen before, who started out in their own series (e.g., The Yellow Claw and Eclipso). Kobra, a DC Comics character, was of the latter variety — he debuted in his own comic, with a cover date of March, 1976.
Kobra (no relation) was the creation of cartoonist Jack Kirby, who, with writer Stan Lee, had been responsible for X-Men, The Hulk and a majority of the other stars that had come from DC's rival, Marvel Comics, during the previous decade. He'd moved to DC in 1970, hoping to make a few new stars there as well, and gave his new employer Mr. Miracle, Kamandi and more. Kobra may have been an attempt to duplicate the success of Doctor Doom, also a world-class powermonger, who started out as an antagonist of The Fantastic Four. But he'd already done Darkseid, a villain with gravitas similar to Doom's, in his New Gods series; and even if he hadn't, it was hard to take Kobra anywhere near as seriously.
Kobra was born a Siamese twin, but was surgically separated from his brother, Jason Burr, shortly after birth. Their parents were told one of the twins had died in the operation, but in reality, he'd been kidnapped by a fanatical cobra cult bent on wrecking all that is good in the world, which raised him to be their leader. Despite their separation and the vast differences in their circumstances, the twins shared a psychic link, which stayed with them into adulthood — whatever one felt, the other felt as well. From one point of view, that of the authorities trying to put an end to Kobra's career, this made Jason the perfect person to oppose the would-be conqueror — but more realistically, since neither could harm the other without instant retaliation, the prospect of Jason causing Kobra any real damage seems unlikely.
Still, this could have been a dramatic, suspenseful set-up for a series, if not for one thing. Kobra's habit of prolonging his S's, snake-style (e.g., "I'll ssslay thossse who assspire to ssstop me!), made him look more than a little bit ludicrousss to readers. Also, his tendency to kill subordinates for minor offenses ("perhapsss in the afterlife you'll be lessss carelessss about taking ordersss") was seen a little too often to take seriously.
Kobra's comic lasted a year, ending with #7 (April, 1977). After that he and his cobra cult became a set of roving villains, battling one DC hero after another. In a tussle with Batman a few years later, he succeeded in killing Jason without unpleasant repercussions to himself, leaving him free to antagonize Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Outsiders, The Flash and all the rest. He never established a solid relationship as any particular hero's arch-enemy, but could turn up anywhere — at least once, in fact, on TV, in Batman Beyond (tho his name there was altered to "King Cobra" he was voiced by Tim Dang, who also had a couple of minor roles in The Wild Thornberrys and Extreme Ghostbusters). Kobra did associate himself with a revival of The Secret Society of Super-Villains, but since he isn't much of a team player (except with his own fanatical minions), that didn't work out.
Kobra is currently dead, but with comic book villains, that's not always a permanent condition. His cult is still around, pursuing its evil goals.