|First appearance||Kobra #1 (February 1976)|
|Created by||Jack Kirby|
|Alter ego||Jeffrey Franklin Burr|
|Species||Homo magi (current)|
|Team affiliations||Strike Force Kobra|
|Notable aliases||Lord Naga|
|Abilities||Incredible hand-to-hand combatant, genius intelligence, excellent planner and tactician. Also possesses longevity through the use of lazarus pits.|
Kobra is the name used by two supervillains published by DC Comics. The Jeffrey Burr incarnation of Kobra and his brother Jason first appeared in Kobra #1 (February 1976), and were created by Jack Kirby. Jason Burr debuted as Kobra in Faces of Evil: Kobra #1 (March 2009) by Ivan Brandon and Julian Lopez. The Kobra identity is later established as an international terrorist organization that frequently clashes with superheroes associated with the Justice League.
Co-creator Steve Sherman commented on the characters creation:
"The genesis for King Kobra came about when publisher Carmine Infantino came to the conclusion first issues of comics sold really well, while the second and third issues tended to drop off, so he came up with the concept of 1st Issue Specials. These were one-shot titles, designed to grab readers (and collectors) since they were all #1s. Jack was not particularly happy about this - not that he found it difficult to come up with characters, but, by this point he still wanted to do a novel in comic book format. To just crank out books with different characters wasn't part of Jack's agenda.
It was at this point that I approached him about coming up with a book. Prior to this, Jack's agreement with DC stated that all material had to be written and drawn by Jack Kirby, but by now, Jack felt that it would be acceptable. Plus, as I recall, he was now doing work for other editors.
An idea had been going through my head. I was fascinated at the time by the Dr. Phibes movies starring Vincent Price. For some reason, I really thought that the idea of a villain who used different means of killing his opponents was really cool. Of course, this type of adventure goes back to the serials - but comics and serials do have that similar concept of recurring characters in outrageous situations.
When Mark Evanier and I were researching material for In The Days of the Mob, I had come across a book that had described the thugees of India. It is where we get the word "thugs".
I also was following one of Jack's story precepts that, in order to have a strong hero, you need a really strong villain. I didn't want to do a long underwear hero, mainly because there was no way I could come up with anything nearly as well as Jack. Instead I focused on a villain, figuring also that there were few comics that starred the bad guy. I needed to come up with a bad guy worth starring in his own book.
I should also mention that at the time, I had no idea there had been a movie entitled Curse of the Cobra Woman. Had I been aware of it, I probably would have borrowed some things from it. Anyway, combining the thugs with Dr. Phibes, I came up with the image of a cobra. Since it was to be a Jack Kirby comic, I changed the "c" to a "k". Obviously, what goes with "Kobra"? Well, if he wants to rule the word, "King".
I then needed a hero, of course, to battle the King. Who better than a Los Angeles police detective?! Somehow, I wanted to pit an ordinary lawman against this ultra science-fiction villain. I suppose I was being too "cinema" and not "comic booky" enough. At any rate, I typed the whole mess up, beginning with a splash page of a giant robot smashing through a window of a crowded restaurant. Jack of course was busy turning out the one-shot specials (I think "Atlas") and was leaving it to me to work the book out so that hopefully all he had to do was pencil it.
Upon taking it over to Jack, he read it, looked at me, and said, "Boy, does this stink". Actually he liked the title and the character of King Kobra. What he didn't see was the hook that would tie the whole thing together. I don't think he appreciated the humorous touches I had put in either. I was somehow trying to go for a cross between a Marvel comic and The Spirit.
Sitting at Jack's kitchen table, his initial thought was to cut each of us a piece of chocolate cake-something he was still allowed to eat back then. As we talked, Jack lit up a cigar-another thing he was still allowed to have. Finally, after a few minutes Jack looked at me and said, "The Corsican Brothers". "What?" said I. "The Corsican Brothers by Dumas. Identical twins, one good, one bad", said Jack. And with that he had not only tied the whole series together but had given the characters a sense of depth that I had missed - and it worked. Now we had a story that really had punch to it.
The more we discussed it, the better it became. By the time I left that evening we had plotted out not only the first book, but another as well, completely forgetting that this was a one-shot book.
By the time I returned the following week with new written pages, Jack had already begun penciling the book. It was really exciting to see the whole thing suddenly come to life on the penciled pages. Jack had already broken the story down into panels".
Both Jeffrey and Jason Burr were created by Jack Kirby for a proposed DC Comics series called King Kobra, the first issue of which was both written and drawn by Kirby. This first issue then sat in DC inventory for over a year, during which time Kirby left the publisher to return to Marvel Comics.
Eventually the concept was handed over to writer Martin Pasko with orders to make a series out of it. Pasko was unimpressed with King Kobra, feeling it to be a throwaway idea churned out by Kirby as he was preparing to leave DC, and tried to make the best out of the assignment by whiting out all of Kirby's original dialogue, rescripting the issue, and having Pablo Marcos redraw some of the art. Now titled simply Kobra, the first issue of the series appeared in late 1975 (cover-dated February 1976). It was cancelled after seven issues, though the contents of the unpublished Kobra #8 saw print in DC Special Series #1. Pasko later reflected: "I wrote all of Kobra with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek—it was a preposterous exercise dumped in my lap, and it helped pay the rent on a very nice place in the Village".
Kobra is also featured in a January 2009 Faces of Evil one-shot, written by Ivan Brandon.
Kobra is an international terrorist and mad scientist who has crossed paths with the majority of Earth's costumed heroes during his attempts to usher in the Kali Yuga (an age of chaos). His real name is Jeffrey Franklin Burr, and he was born part of a set of conjoined twins, but was stolen at birth by the Cult of the Kobra God, since a prophecy claimed he would lead them to rule the world. Under their teaching, he became a dangerous warrior and a sadistic criminal mastermind. He led the cult into using advanced technology to menace the world. Followers of Kobra would frequently address their master as "Naja-Naja", "naja naja" being the binomial name for the Indian cobra. This later became "Nāga-Naga", a meaningless title which translates from the Sanskrit as "snake-snake". Whether this change was intentional or an error is not known.
Unbeknownst to the cult however, he had a psychic link to his twin brother, Jason, who knew nothing of Kobra. As a result, one felt what the other felt, including pain. Because of this, his brother was recruited by an international agency to help them combat Kobra. At first, Kobra was unable to kill or even hurt his brother; eventually, however, he used a device that "shut off" the psychic link, and gave him the chance to kill Jason. Kobra was subsequently haunted by visions of his brother. Whether it really was his ghost or just Kobra's imagination was never revealed.
In subsequent years, Kobra would clash with assorted superheroes, including Batman, whom he first met over a Lazarus Pit of his own creation. Kobra had learned to build modified Lazarus Pits, which allowed him to control the minds of those he killed and resurrected. Kobra is the only person in the DC universe ever to decipher the formula for the Lazarus Pits. Kobra had special concerns about Wonder Woman and sought to ensure her death, first by hiring a cartel of international assassins who were led secretly by corrupted UN Crisis Bureau chief Morgan Tracy (also Diana Prince's boss), then by kidnapping and irretrievably damaging environmental activist Deborah Demaine, forcibly transforming her into a new Cheetah, and ultimately, facing Wonder Woman in combat in Egypt, faking his own demise after being defeated by the Amazon Princess. A short while later his various Strike Force Kobra teams would fight two different incarnations of Batman's Outsiders. Kobra also fought the third Flash, the Suicide Squad led by Amanda Waller, the original incarnation of Checkmate, Captain Atom, a Superman whose personality had been swapped with Ambush Bug's by exposure to Red Kryptonite, and others. Kobra is one of a very small number of individuals that has the capability of defeating Batman in hand-to-hand combat, and actually did so on one occasion.
The only organization ever to rival Kobra in the old DC Universe (Pre-Crisis I) was SKULL. There were frequent recorded clashes between the two groups, the last occurring in Outsiders Annual #1 story "The Skull...The Serpent...and The Outsiders".
After the betrayal of his lover Lady Eve during the Strike Force Kobra fiasco, she split Kobra in two and established her own splinter group. In the Power Company: Sapphire #1 the Justice League rushes to San Diego to prevent disaster as two rival factions of the Kobra Cult prepared to go to war. One faction was led by Eve; the other was led by Kobra himself.
He kidnaps the former hero Air Wave and uses him to seize control of the world's media and satellite resources, intending to destroy a number of major world cities. However, in a demonstration of his power, he incidentally kills Terri Rothstein, Atom Smasher's mother, ensuring the Justice Society of America's involvement. Mrs. Rothstein's life would later be saved through time travel; Atom Smasher replacing her with the villain Extant so that the same number of people died in the plane crash that killed his mother.
He appeared again in JSA #45, which featured his trial. He shrugs off claims of terrorism, claiming to be an enlightened soul (a bodhisattva) trying to free souls from their karmic debt by random acts of violence. Following this, his followers threatened to kill the media outside the courthouse with bioengineered suicide bomb implants. Holding everyone hostage with this tactic, he was allowed by the JSA to escape, leading to an outraged Black Adam and Atom Smasher, who both subsequently choose to leave the team. In JSA #51, Atom Smasher, Black Adam, Northwind, and Brainwave track Kobra down to his headquarters in the Himalaya Mountains, Kobra's prophesied 'reign of darkness' as the world fell to the return of Eclipso and Obsidian having ended when Alex Montez took control of Eclipso and Alan Scott managed to redeem Obsidian. After killing Kobra's guards, Black Adam rips his heart out and he died instantly.
Jeffrey's twin brother Jason is re-animated by the Kobra Cult, possibly through the use of Kobra's Lazarus Pits. This involves the death of an entire facility of Checkmate agents, including several of Burr's old friends. Within the one-shot Jason reveals that he is re-structuring the organization and killing off all the old members. Before revealing himself as the new Kobra, Jason spent some time undercover as a Checkmate agent learning their secrets.
During the "Convergence" storyline, an unidentified Kobra leads the Kobra Cult under the alias of "King Kobra" and faces off against Red Hood and Arsenal.
After Lady Eve makes off with Dr. Helga Jace upon defeating Katana during the "DC Rebirth", King Kobra plans to raze a town in Markovia if they don't obey his commands. King Kobra interrogates Dr. Jace. When the Suicide Squad joins the fight and rescues Katana from Lady Eve, they and Katana find King Kobra outside Castle Markov. King Kobra later shows Dr. Jace the powers of the comatose girl that she was watching. King Kobra reveals that he caught an Aurakle as he plans to weaponize it. Before returning to the ship's command center, King Kobra leaves this task to Dr. Jace. During the Suicide Squad's fight with King Kobra's forces, Katana and Enchantress find that King Kobra had Dr. Jace fuse Violet Harper with the Aurakle as King Kobra activates the implant in Violet's neck only for Violet to tear it out as the Aurakle gains control of Violet's body. King Kobra, Katana, and Enchantress fight Violet who is now a vessel for the Aurakles under the name of Halo. After Katana uses the Soultaker on Lady Eve, King Kobra gets away.
In the "Watchmen" sequel "Doomsday Clock", King Kobra's cult has captured Creeper until he is "saved" by Black Adam.
The Jeffrey Burr incarnation of Kobra appears in Batman: Soul of the Dragon, voiced by Josh Keaton. This version was kidnapped and brainwashed by the Kobra cult as a child to be their savior. In the present, he plans to unlock a gate at Nanda Parbat to unleash the serpent god Nāga by offering children's souls via the Soul Breaker sword. After his forces are defeated by Lady Shiva, Richard Dragon, Ben Turner, and Batman, the heroes plead with a desperate Burr to reject Kobra. Ultimately, Burr stabs himself with Soul Breaker, killing him and unleashing Nāga.
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