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Serpent Crown

The Serpent Crown was one of the most ancient and mightiest objects of mystical power in the history of humanity. It was a helmet made of an unknown material that was designed to resemble a coiled, seven-headed serpent. The Crown drew its power from its mystical link with the primeval demon Set; anyone who wore the helmet was granted tremendous superhuman abilities by Set. These powers included the ability to read minds, the ability to control the minds of others, the power to levitate oneself and other persons or objects, the ability to cast illusions, the power to project destructive bolts of mystical energy, the mental ability to manipulate matter and energy, and superhuman strength. (Apparently not everyone who wore the Crown gained all of these abilities. Presumably the number of powers one gained from the Crown depended on the wearer's adeptness in learning how to use the Crown's energies, the length of time that the wearer wore the Crown, and Sets own attitude towards the wearer.)

However, virtually anyone who wore the Serpent Crown fell under the mental domination of Set. Only a person with tremendous will power could free himself or herself from Set's Crown-induced mental domination, and only if he or she then immediately removed the Crown from his or her own head. Anyone who has worn the Crown retained a psychic link with it.

Counterparts to this Earth's Serpent Crown existed on at least hundreds of divergent Earths throughout the multiverse. All of these Crowns were mystically linked with Set, who apparently is a multiversal entity. Possibly Set was exiled from Earth before the divergences that produced the multitude of Earths on which Serpent Crowns were created.

Ultimately, the Serpent Crowns were to serve as the means by which Set would return to physical existence on one or more of the Earths of the multiverse. (Similarly, another of these primeval demons, Chthon, created the Darkhold as a means through which he could again manifest himself on Earth.)

The history of the Serpent Crown therefore begins with the origin of Set himself. Prior to humanity's existence, and perhaps the existence of any other relatively complex organic life on Earth, beings called the Elder Gods arose on Earth. It is believed that the first of these Elder Gods was the Demiurge, which coalesced from Earth's biosphere (its fertile, life-supporting environment), achieved consciousness, and later split into fertile fragments, each one of which spawned a new being. These Elder Gods, the spawn of the Demiurge, mostly consisted of non-humanoid beings who degenerated over the passing eons into demons who preyed upon their own kind. Set, who manifests himself in the form of an enormous serpent, was one of the most powerful of these ancient gods/demons. He spawned other serpent-like demons in turn, such as Damballah and Sligguth. It might be speculated that Set was the patron god of the dinosaurs and other reptilian life forms that dominated the Earth during the Mesozoic Era. It is known that Set spawned a mortal race of humanoid, sentient reptilian beings that became known as the Serpent Men.

The only Elder God to escape degeneration into demonic form was the benevolent, humanoid Gaea. Gaea is said to have mated with a reincarnation of the Demiurge at the peak of the Elder Gods' degeneracy, to create a newer, more perfect race of gods. The first product of their union was Gaea's offspring Atum, who slew most of the Elder Gods. Atum did not attempt to harm Gaea, who remains active on Earth today. To escape being slaughtered by Atum, Set fled Earth's dimensional plane. However, from the dimension in which he now dwelled, Set continued to watch over and aid the Serpent-Men and, in later times, his human worshippers on the many Earths that diverged from the one he escaped.

The Serpent-Men preyed upon the nascent human race, but humanity eventually became strong enough to prove to be a deadly enemy to the Serpent-Men's race. The greatest foe of the Serpent-Men before the sinking of Atlantis was King Kull of Valusia, who was formerly an Atlantean barbarian. By Kull's time the Serpent-Men, greatly outnumbered by the human race, had to use their shape-changing abilities to disguise themselves as human beings and then infiltrate human civilization in the hope of conquering it. Kull was responsible for the deaths of large numbers of Serpent-Men who menaced his kingdom.

The Serpent-Men, who worshipped Set, formed an uneasy alliance with the alchemists of Lemuria. Working together, these alchemists and the Serpent-Men created the Serpent Crown, which Set linked to his own consciousness and which became a receptacle for his power.

At the time that the Serpent Crown was created, Lemuria was ruled by the evolutionary offshoot of humanity known as the Deviants, who had made the Lemurian continent the center of their empire. It might be speculated that the Serpent-Men and the Lemurian alchemists formed their alliance and created the Serpent Crown in a joint effort to overthrow the Deviants' rule of most of the known Earth.

The first person to wear the Serpent Crown and wield its power was Atra, the greatest of the Lemurian alchemists. However, just as Atra was about to begin his conquest of the known world, the Great Cataclysm occurred, a worldwide catastrophe, that brought about the sinking of both Atlantis and Lemuria. Most of the surviving Serpent-Men died in the Cataclysm, and the Serpent Crown itself was lost.

Following the Great Cataclysm human civilizations rose again during the so-called Hyborian Age. During this period the worship of Set centered in the land of Stygia, which is today known as Egypt. The wizards of Stygia who worshipped Set were practitioners of black magic, and the greatest, most powerful, and most dangerous of these sorcerers was the wizard Thoth-Amon. Thoth-Amon came to possess a headpiece known as the Cobra Crown, which vastly amplified his already mighty mental powers. Like the Serpent Crown, the Cobra Crown resembled a coiled serpent, although it was shaped differently than the Serpent Crown, looking somewhat like a present-day bishop's mitre. The Cobra Crown was also encrusted with diamonds. Thoth-Amon intended to use the Cobra Crown to bring thousands of men under his mental control so that they would serve him unquestioningly as members of his army of conquest.

Thoth-Amon formed an alliance with Duke Villagro, who hoped to replace King Ferdrugo as monarch of the kingdom of Zingara. Instead, however, Thoth-Amon cast a spell upon Ferdrugo that placed him under his own mental control and induced Ferdrugo to turn control of Zingara over to Thoth-Amon himself. Outraged, Villagro seized and donned the Cobra Crown and turned its power against Thoth-Amon. Since Villagro was unskilled in using mystical power, Thoth-Amon was able to use his own powers to resist the Cobra Crown's might. Assisted by Menkara, a priest of Set, Thoth-Amon overcame Villagro; however, distracted by his mystical combat with Villagro, Thoth-Amon lost control over Ferdrugo. Thoth-Amon recovered the Cobra Crown only to discover that it had been "burned out" and thus rendered useless by being utilized by the unskilled Villagro. Thoth-Amon's archenemy, Conan, the greatest warrior of his time, arrived and led soldiers in support of Ferdrugo in battle against Thoth-Amon's soldiers and defeated them. Thoth-Amon, however, escaped.

Many years later, Thoth-Amon, allied with the last remaining Serpent-Men, made his last stand against Conan, who had become king of the nation of Aquilonia. Together Conan and his son Conn slew Thoth-Amon and the last of the original race of Serpent-Men.

It may be theorized that Thoth-Amon's Cobra Crown was constructed in imitation of the Serpent Crown, which, presumably, was still lost beneath the ocean in sunken Lemuria. The Cobra Crown rivaled the Serpent Crown in sheer mystical power, but was inferior to it inasmuch as it was destroyed so easily through misuse. It should also be noted that neither of its wearers fell under Set's mental domination, although possibly Thoth-Amon's will was strong enough to enable him to resist it. Nevertheless, the Cobra Crown was mystically linked with the Serpent Crown, as demonstrated by the fact that Hugh Jones was able to conjure an image of Thoth-Amon when he created apparitions of past wearers of the Serpent Crown.

Long after Conan's time, a tribe of water-breathing humanoids belonging to the race Homo mermanus migrated to the Pacific Ocean, where they settled on the sunken Lemurian continent. These water-breathers and their descendants became known as the Lemurians; the other members of the Homo mermanus race, who remained in the Atlantic Ocean, are known as the Atlanteans. (Also, the Deviant race now dwelled underground beneath the sunken Lemurian continent.)

Eventually, one of the Lemurians discovered the Serpent Crown amid the ruins of the pre-Cataclysmic civilization. (Contrary to one account, the discovery of the Crown occurred after the Lemurians had established their empire in the Pacific, not during their migration there.)

The Crown was brought to Naga, the emperor of the Lemurians. Naga donned the Crown and developed a strong link with it; it soon began to transform him physically, making his head resemble that of a serpent and causing his skin to become scale like. Naga became a worshipper of Set and adopted the seven-headed serpent represented by the Crown as his imperial symbol. Naga wanted not simply the power that the Crown granted him, but immortality as well. His alchemists told him about certain sea creatures who had virtually indefinite life spans. Naga had one such creature captured, and his alchemists immersed the Crown in this fish's vital fluids. As a result, the Crown now gave Naga eternal life and youth as long as he wore it or had it in proximity to himself.

Utilizing the vast power of the Serpent Crown, Naga ruled tyrannically over his subjects for many centuries. During this time the Crown's power mutagenically-altered the water-breathing Lemurians, giving all of them scale like skin.

Finally, a rebel named Piscatos stole the Serpent Crown while Naga was asleep. Piscatos and his companions had used self-hypnosis to protect themselves from falling under the Crown's sinister influence. Taking the Crown with them, Piscatos and other rebels fled to Antarctica. There they built a civilization of their own, which lasted for an unknown number of years. The people of this civilization, who became known by air-breathing human beings as the Ancients, are said to have developed telepathic powers. Perhaps they did so through studying the Serpent Crown. However, the Ancients encased the Serpent Crown within an unknown substance to reduce its ability to induce individuals mystically to put it on and fall under Set's control.

The civilization of the Ancients eventually fell into decadence and finally came to an end when the Ancients' city was buried beneath an immense landslide. It is not known whether or not the Serpent Crown was responsible for either the decline of the Ancients' civilization, its physical destruction, or both. Nor is it known how long the disguised Serpent Crown remained buried in Antarctica.

Ever since the Serpent Crown was stolen, Naga had many of his subjects searching the oceans for it. With the Crown gone, Naga was no longer immortal. However, enough of the Crown's life-extending properties continued to affect Naga so that he aged at a remarkably slow rate. (Members of Homo mermanus age at a much slower rate than air-breathing human beings do, but Naga aged more slowly still.)

Early in the twentieth century, Paul Destine, a carnival mentalist who possessed actual telepathic abilities, learned through research about the existence of the Ancients. Hoping to find the site of their Antarctic civilization, Destine joined an expedition to Antarctica aboard the icebreaker Oracle, commanded by Captain Leonard McKenzie, in 1920. There he and McKenzie found a highly advanced dynamo, which had been built by the Ancients and which was now entombed in ice. Destine broke through the ice, intending to use the dynamo to increase his mental powers. But by activating the device, Destine unintentionally triggered an avalanche. Gravely injured, Destine revived to see the disguised Serpent Crown, which he later called the Helmet of Power, which had been hurled near him by the avalanche. The Helmet greatly increased Destine's psionic abilities, as well as healing his injuries and transforming him into a larger, physically stronger man. Destine did not return to the expedition and eventually used one of the Ancients' devices to place himself in suspended animation, during which his powers continued to increase.

Decades later, Destine emerged from suspended animation. He now called himself Destiny, for he believed it was his fate to rule the world. Through his telepathic abilities, Destiny learned that a civilization of water-breathing Atlanteans now lived beneath the Antarctic ice. As a test of his immense powers, Destiny triggered a series of catastrophic earthquakes that threatened to destroy the Atlanteans. The Atlantean Prince Namor the Sub-Mariner confronted Destiny but was defeated by him. Destiny then used his mental powers to destroy the Atlanteans' Antarctic settlements, killing the Atlantean Emperor Thakorr and Princess Fen in the process. (Most of the Atlantean population, however, survived.) Destiny then used his powers to compel Namor to fly to New York City, to give him amnesia, and to dull his ability to think. The result was that Namor spent years living as a derelict until his memory and full mental clarity were restored through the actions of the second Human Torch. As for Destiny, after dispatching Namor to New York City, he himself returned to suspended animation to increase his powers still further.

After emerging from suspended animation, Destiny again clashed with the Sub-Mariner. Destiny then made his way back to the United States, where, under his true name, he became a third party presidential candidate. Using the Helmet's powers, Destiny rendered virtually everyone who heard his speeches submissive to his will. In his final clash with the Sub-Mariner, Destiny used the superhuman strength given him by the Helmet to hurl Namor from the roof of a building. Unable to accept the fact that the Sub-Mariner's own tremendous superhuman strength enabled him to survive the fall, Destiny went wholly insane. Irrationally claiming he did not need the Helmet, Destiny cast it aside and attempted to levitate himself down to the street; instead, he fell to his death.

American legal authorities enlisted the Thing to transport the Helmet of Power to a place where it could be studied, but the Sub-Mariner managed to take the Helmet to Atlantis instead. There the Serpent Crown destroyed the casing that the Ancients had given it. The Atlantean noblewoman Lady Dorma donned the Crown, having fallen under its control, and she then spread its influence over the rest of the populace of the capital city of Atlantis. Namor took the Crown from Dorma and donned it himself in an attempt to learn its secrets, and, summoning all his will power, he overcame Set's attempt to control him and cast the Crown from his head. The Crown was soon carried off by Karthon the Quester, a Lemurian who served Naga.

Karthon captured Namor and brought both him and the Serpent Crown to Naga in undersea Lemuria. Naga was by now ancient and partially senile, but he was still cunning and dangerous. Regaining the Crown did not restore Naga's youth, but he once more commanded its other vast powers. Attempting to break Namor's spirit, Naga used the Crown's power to create an illusion that Karthon's sister, Myna, was Dorma, and then Naga engineered her death. Karthon was infuriated upon learning of Naga's deception. Naga used the Crown's power to create a great chasm and compel the Sub-Mariner to hurl himself into it. But while Naga watched Namor fall, Karthon struck Naga dead from behind with his Sword. Namor saved himself, and Naga and the Serpent Crown were swallowed up by an undersea earthquake that the Crown itself had triggered by creating the chasm.

Later, the Crown was recovered by the exiled Atlantean warlord Krang, and commanded him to turn it over to the second Viper, who then led the original Serpent Squad. The Viper and her accomplices abducted Hugh Jones, who was then president of the immensely powerful Roxxon Oil Corporation and she placed the Crown upon Jones's head in order to render him submissive to Set's control. In the course of a battle involving the Viper, Captain America, and the police, the Serpent Crown was lost when it fell down into a sewer.

Another Serpent Crown existed on the alternate Earth on which the team of costumed champions known as the Squadron Supreme lives. On this Earth the Crown had been worn in turn by the heads of a number of America's most powerful corporations, and finally by a man who served their interests and had become President of the United States. As a result, these corporation heads and their ally, the President, controlled that Earth's America both politically and economically. Through the Crown's power, the President of the Squadron's Earth was able to communicate interdimensionally with his ally Hugh Jones, who was still under Set's influence. A number of the Avengers traveled to the Squadron's Earth and captured its President's Serpent Crown. The Crown briefly took possession of the mind of one of the Avengers, the Scarlet Witch, but she succeeded in freeing herself from its control. The Avengers persuaded the Squadron that the government of the latter's Earth was corrupt, and the President and his corporate allies soon lost power. The Avengers brought the Serpent Crown to their own Earth, where it fell into the possession of their enemy the Living Laser. The Avengers recovered the Crown once more and the Avenger known as the Vision dropped it into the Pacific Ocean.

The Serpent Crown that was from the Avengers' own Earth communicated its whereabouts to Jones, who had one of his Roxxon employees recover it from the sewer into which it had fallen. Jones also sensed the location of the Crown from the Squadron's Earth and created the second Serpent Squad, who found it for him. Now in possession of two Serpent Crowns, Jones brought them together, and they mystically merged into a single Serpent Crown that possessed the square of the sum of the power the two Crowns had separately.

Wearing this more powerful Crown, Jones took control of the minds of the entire population of Washington, D.C., including the entire United States Congress. Jones also created ethereal manifestations of everyone who had ever worn either of the two crowns. (Note: These were not the actual spirits of the previous wearers of the Crowns.) Jones was challenged by the Thing, the Scarlet Witch, and the Stingray. The Scarlet Witch engaged in mystical battle with Set himself on an astral plane, enabling the Thing to seize the Serpent Crown from Jones's head. The Crown then slithered down the Thing's arm and assumed its normal form atop his head. But since Jones still tried to exercise his link with the Crown, the Crown did not exert its full influence over the Thing, who was thus able to hurl it from his own head. The Thing encased the Crown within thick wood, and turned the Crown over to the energy research institution known as Project: Pegasus for safekeeping.

But very soon a project technician fell under the Crown's influence and donned it, thereby becoming enslaved to Set. This technician placed the Crown upon a co-worker's head, thereby enslaving him as well. Eventually, everyone working at the Project, including its acting director, Myron Wilburn, and its security chief, Wendell Vaughn, alias Quasar, felt under the Crown's domination. Using interdimensional teleportation equipment, Project personnel transported Serpent Crowns from other dimensions into their own. Thus most of the Project personnel got to wear their own Serpent Crowns. The Crowns' influence began to alter the bodies of some of the Project personnel, causing their skin to become scaly, like a serpent's.

The ultimate plan of Set's slaves at Project: Pegasus was to amass seven hundred and seventy Crowns. Once they had done so, they placed all the Crowns together, which then merged into a single, enormous Serpent Crown of almost inconceivable power, whose heads could move as if they were alive. Once this was done, then Set himself could finally materialize on the Earthly plane. Set planned to use Project Pegasus resources to turn Earth's climate back into what it possessed in the Mesozoic Era. Then Set would transform all human beings willing to submit to his rule into Serpent-Men and would kill all those who resisted.

Earth's sorcerer supreme Doctor Stephen Strange and Spider-Man joined the Thing and the Scarlet Witch in opposing Set's slaves in the Project. Strange and the Thing and the Scarlet Witch battled the enormous, animate Serpent Crown to no avail, and the Crown devoured both the Thing and the Witch. Spider-Man, however, located the Cosmic Cube, the only power object at the Project that was more powerful even than the gigantic Serpent Crown. Spider-Man himself, bearing the Cube, which could transform thoughts into reality, was swallowed by one of the Serpent Crown's heads. Doctor Strange continued to fight on, but then, on Earth, the enormous Serpent Crown exploded. The Crown had been destroyed from within by the power of the cosmic Cube, directed by

Spider-Man, the Thing, and the Scarlet Witch acting together, all of whom emerged unharmed. All that was left of the Crown were ten thousand normal-sized vipers.

Then, joining his will to those of his three allies, all of whom directed their wills into the Cube, Strange cast a spell of exorcism that exorcised Set's consciousness from Earth's plane of reality As soon as the spell was completed, the vipers collapsed dead. Moreover, everyone who had ever been under the Crown's control was now entirely free of Set's influence.

According to Doctor Strange, his spell has banished Set from the Earthly plane forever. It is possible, however, that although there is no longer any Serpent Crown on Earth, Serpent Crowns may still exist somewhere else in the virtually infinite multiverse.

First Appearance: (as Helmet of Power) TALES TO ASTONISH #101 (as Serpent Crown) SUB-MARINER #9
Final Appearance: MARVEL TEAM-UP ANNUAL #5

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