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Real Name:  Unknown

Voiced by José Yenque

A nameless contortionist from parts unknown, the serpentine figure known only as Copperhead has successfully obscured his origins and past from prying eyes.  All that is known of him is the mark he made on the criminal underworld as a master thief and assassin.  Utilizing mysterious genetic enhancements and a specially-designed snake suit, Copperhead is always ready to strike his opponents, crushing the life out of them like his namesake, and deliver a fatal dose of venom from his helmet.  His mission accomplished, he will slink back to the shadows unseen and wait patiently for his next victim.

Cartoon Network on Copperhead:  "This venomous villain cannot wait to sink his fangs into the Justice League (courtesy of Cartoon Network press materials)."

Paul Dini on splicing (circa 1999):  “Our most successful Batman Beyond stories start off in things that happen today and we project out 35 to 50 years in the future.  [For example], I was looking at this guy who had metal spikes in his head—sort of like Klingon ridges—but for real.  I was thinking, 'What's going to be in the future?'

"I thought maybe you could put some animal DNA in yourself.  You'd have two normal fingers, but a webbed claw.  A kid would do that; a girl would get jaguar spots in her hair…[Splicing] starts out as a teen fad with these kids who inject themselves with animal DNA to sort of accentuate their features (courtesy of [website name removed]).”

Excerpts from the Justice League Panel at the 2001 San Diego Comic Con:

Bruce Timm:  He’s one of those weird secondary DC villains that James [Tucker] just loves.

James Tucker:  I loooooooove Copperhead.  

Bruce Timm:  And that’s pretty much it.  [Audience laughs.]  Next?

Courtesy of Revolution Science Fiction and Comics2Film.

Mighty Isis on Copperhead:  “Though the character has historically been written as psychotic and cold-blooded in the comics, this Copperhead is more of a surly thug than an inhuman fiend.  He can scale walls, is agile and strong, his tail is prehensile, and the fangs in his helmet are venomous.  He also has an icky reptilian tongue that flickers salaciously when he speaks, which is usually taunting (courtesy of Toon Zone).”

DarkLantern on Copperhead:  “In the comics, Copperhead got his powers through a special ‘snake suit’—corny, I know—but in Justice League, however, he seems to be a mutant or a splicer [from Batman Beyond]…years ahead of his time, of courseYes, it is pure speculation, but I believe we have all seen Copperhead display his snake-like tongue in the 'Fury' episode.  That definitely isn't part of the suit.

"And Copperhead’s no wimp.  Sure, the Justice League can take him down easy, but he has taken Batman down—nearly killed him too (courtesy of Toon Zone).

DarkLantern on Copperhead and Hawkgirl:  “Copperhead was meant to be her 'opposite' in the Injustice Gang (hawk versus snake), though that doesn’t really qualify as an arch-enemy (courtesy of Toon Zone).”

 

Images

Copperhead Image (JL Design) | King Cobra Image

 

Commentary

"You're flying me out of here now, lady.  [...] Well, get me out of here!"

"And what if I don't?"

"I give you your last kiss."

"And you fall forty stories.  Didn't really think this through, did you?"

An exchange between Copperhead and Hawkgirl from "Only a Dream"

A classic DC Comics’ villain, Copperhead has made several appearances since his debut in Brave and the Bold #78 (June / July 1968), but he has never really moved beyond being a B or C-level character in terms of exposure.  He has fought several noteworthy opponents—such as Batman, Wonder Woman, and Hawkman—but none of them has stood out as an arch-foe or primary opponent.  This, coupled with his undefined history (his origins and true identity have never been revealed), Copperhead is a kind of jack-of-all-trades villain, a foe that can fit the needs of any story requiring a nondescript enemy to fight.  Possessing an unremarkable track record, his only noteworthy appearance was in 1995’s Underworld Unleashed miniseries, where he traded in his immediately identifiable Silver Age costume for a newer, less snake-like revamp.  Fortunately, this redesign was ignored by the Justice League creative team, who tend to value the Silver Age versions of these characters.

In adapting Copperhead for Justice League, the creative team returned the character to his snake suit, an experimental mesh of metallic and elastic fibers coated with a layer of silicon that aids in his ability to squeeze through the smallest openings or out of any straps or chains.  However, in a departure from his comic book incarnation, it would appear that the character has been made more snake-like through genetic augmentation.  Possessing altered eyes and a serpentine tongue—characteristics that cannot be attributed to the costume—it would appear that, like Cheetah, this version of Copperhead may be connected to the splicing story arc from Batman and Batman Beyond.  However, unlike Cheetah, there are two additional factors to consider that may tie Copperhead to an early version of the Chimera Institute (from the Batman Beyond episode "Splicers"):  first, there has been no indication that Copperhead is a scientist or in any way intelligent enough to turn himself into a human / snake hybrid and, second, unlike the 50 / 50 split on Cheetah, Copperhead appears to simply be a human with snake characteristics.  Much like Chelsea Cunningham’s transformation in "Splicers" (seen here), Copperhead is the result of a selective augmentation, as his eyes, tongue, and the possible addition of a tail (it is artificial in the comics, but may or not be here) are the only visible changes to his person (compared to his "Splicers" counterpart, King Cobra, Copperhead looks almost normal).  Against this backdrop, it is possible that Copperhead was an early test subject for splicing, and the snake DNA added to his genetic make-up augmented his muscular control, allowing him to be an even better contortionist than before.  This is, of course, conjecture but, in the absence of a comic book origin to refer to, this is a plausible suggestion (and given further credibility by the suggestion of Justice League insider DarkLantern, above).

(Another departure from his comic book incarnation is the possibility that the creative team has changed the character’s ethnicity.  Generally considered to be white in the comics, the skin tone and use of voice actors Efran Figueroa [who originally voiced Copperhead in "Injustice for All"] and José Yenque [who has voiced the character in all subsequent appearances] may indicate that this version of Copperhead possesses a Latino background.)

An average athlete and poor hand-to-hand combatant, Copperhead is generally portrayed as being out of his element on Justice League, save for select moments where his stealth and physical abilities pay off (his best moment was in "Injustice for All," where he nearly killed Batman using his venom).  Fortunately, Copperhead knows it, as he has been portrayed as being less psychotic and more level-headed than his comic book counterpart (“I am so dead,” "Only a Dream"), preferring to run when things get tough, rather than stay and fight (this characterization has, surprisingly, transformed him into a reliable comic relief figure, comparative to Harley Quinn on Batman).  As it would be expected, this modus operandi makes him less than compatible with Hawkgirl, whom—as stated above—the creative team chose to be his counterpart for the series.  In fact, the only thing that they share in common is the fact that, like Copperhead, Hawkgirl is another character with no defined arch-foes and, based upon the beatings that she administered to him during their encounters, any ongoing rivalry between them would be terribly one-sided.

A frequent supporting character on Justice League and Justice League Unlimited, Copperhead is one of the most frequently seen costumed villains in the series ("Injustice for All," "Fury," "Only a Dream," "Hereafter," "Kids' Stuff," and "I Am Legion"), and he will be seen again, as he is part of the Legion of Doom that will appear in Season Five.  Again, this can probably be attributed to his status as a jack-of-all-trades villain, as he can be inserted into any story with minimal effort.  Need an additional bad guy for a supervillain team?  Copperhead’s your man.  Need a character to participate in a jailbreak?  Copperhead’s your man.  Need a complicated, powerful adversary that can carry an episode?  Uh…try Luthor or Grodd, but keep Copperhead’s resume on file as a possible henchman.

 

Images courtesy of Toon Zone, Warner Bros. Online UK, Warner Bros. Entertainment, and DC Comics.

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