Real Name: Unrevealed (or maybe Jerry Burton)
Identity/Class: Ghost possessing human host (or mentally disturbed but normal human)
Occupation: Crime fighter (and maybe advertising agency executive)
Affiliations: Malcolm Northridge, Pow Girl
Enemies: Jerry Burton
Known Relatives: None (or maybe Louise (wife))
Base of Operations: Unrevealed
First Appearance: "Die in the Name of the Law!", Red Circle Sorcery #8 (Red Circle, August 1974)
Powers/Abilities: Skilled shot, presumably proficient hand-to-hand fighter. He uses a pair of twin .45s.
History: In the 1930s and 40s, author Malcolm Northridge penned the adventures of the popular and merciless crimefighter, the Cobra, to whom "justice was a .45 slug in the brain." However, Northridge secretly felt as though the character of the Cobra had taken control of his mind, so that all Northridge did was type the vigilante's words, and so the writer was happy to see the pulps finally die, freeing him from this burden.
Decades later Malcolm was hired by a New York advertising agency to write the copy for the Northern Airlines presentation, where he met pulp collector Jerry Burton, a huge Cobra fan; gifting Jerry a complete set of the Cobra's books for his collection, Malcolm admitted his belief about the Cobra's mental influence.
That night, while carrying home Northridge's gift, Jerry witnessed an old man being brutal mugged and slain; as the mugger fled upon spotting Jerry, the ad man angrily concluded that thinking that "there's only one way to deal with slime like that. The way the Cobra would have done it...a bullet in the head!" The next few days Jerry found himself unable to stop obsessing over the Cobra, until finally the vigilante became a real entity within his mind, ultimately convincing Jerry to let him control Jerry's mind as he had once controlled Northridge, allowing the Cobra to fight crime.
Jerry purchased an untraceable .45 from an underworld source, his first vigilante act being to shoot the thug who sold it to him, and made himself a Cobra mask. As the Cobra, he cut a murderous swathe through an increasingly terrified underworld, but his wifeLouise became increasingly worried about all the late nights Jerry was "working." Concluding that Jerry had been acting insane ever since he brought home the Cobra magazines, she threw them into the fire, but Jerry returned home unexpectedly and witnessed this. The sight of Louise burning his collection temporarily freed his mind, but though thinking for himself again, his thoughts proved to be murderous, and he shot Louise twice in the back. Moments later the Cobra reasserted his control, chastising him: the Cobra had chosen to make Jerry his instrument for dealing with crime, but Jerry had failed him by committing a crime. Noting that Jerry knew how the Cobra dealt with criminals, the vigilante told his pawn "You know what you must do!" Agreeing with this, Jerry, resigned, raised the gun to his head, presumably ending his own life moments later.
With Jerry's demise, the Cobra's campaign ended. But the question remained: had Jerry just lost his mind and played into Malcolm Northridge's fantasy that the Cobra had influenced his writing? Or would the Cobra return the next time someone became tempted to purchase an old Cobra novel?
Comments: Created by Mary Channing and Gray Morrow.
The Cobra has only a very limited number of appearances. He's frequently identified online as the Green Cobra, but his original story only refers to him as the Cobra, so whether he was later officially given the Green appellation, or whether it is purely people online incorrectly adding it to his name (presumably because of his costume's colour scheme and his obvious resemblance to the Green Hornet), I can't say for sure; it is worth noting that within the story itself, the Cobra's costume is not green.
Also deliberately left ambiguous is whether Jerry Burton was disturbed and suffering from a split personality, and thus only believed he was being contacted by the Cobra's mind, or whether the Cobra was actually a genuine and separate entity (perhaps a ghost) somehow making contact with Jerry and controlling him intermittently. And then there is the metafictional aspect, as a (different?) version of the Cobra exists as a pulp character in Burton's universe - but since one theory within fictional tales says that all fiction is merely recording genuine events taking place somewhere else in the multiverse, maybe the Cobra that Northridge was writing about was somehow reaching out across realities to influence Jerry.
Lending weight to this last possibility is the Cobra's only other appearance that I know of. In Archie and Friends #137 a meteorite crashes into Riverdale's comic book store, Pep Comics, and opens a portal to other dimensions, allowing obscure characters from old and defunct Archie titles to visit the Archieverse. During the second part of the story, in #138, we see that two of these visitors are Pow Girl and Cobra.
CLARIFICATIONS: Not to be confused with
The Cobra, Actionfolksinger hero
The Green Hornet, who the Cobra strongly resembles, especially when colorists make his costume green
Any Additions/Corrections? Please let me know.
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