The woman who would become the Viper was born in the 1920’s, an orphan at a young age by the death of her parents in a political revolution in an Eastern European country. In escaping the war-torn country, an unspecified accident scarred the right side of her face, and to compensate, she began wearing her hair so that it hid her disfigurement. She struggled for survival, wandering throughout Europe, finding crime to be her only means of survival. At some point, she entered into a pact with the Elder God Chthon, who was trapped in the mountain of Wundagore. This pact greatly slowed her aging process, allowing her to become a fearsome mercenary and criminal as the years passed.
On the island of Madripoor, Viper found a mentor in Seraph, adventurer and guardian against the ninja clan the Hand. The two once helped rescue Wolverine (then called Logan or Patch) from Sabretooth, and he also became Seraph’s pupil. Before Seraph passed away, she bade Wolverine to swear an oath of loyalty to Viper.
Viper joined the subversive organization Hydra as one of the few female agents it had at that time. Ever ambitious, she quickly navigated her way to the highest ranks. When the Supreme Hydra Baron Wolfgang von Strucker was believed to have died in the destruction of Hydra Island, the organization fragmented. Viper, calling herself Madame Hydra, seized control of the faction operating out of New York City. Her first major operation was the attempted contamination of New York City's water supply, but she was thwarted by Captain America and Rick Jones. In revenge, she launched a series of heat-seeking missiles at Captain America but failed to kill him, seemingly perishing herself. However, one of the alien Space Phantoms unexpectedly intervened, taking on Madame Hydra's physical form and appearance and transporting her into the extra-dimensional Limbo. When her form had served its purpose, the Space Phantom returned to Limbo and Viper was returned to Earth, although she had since lost her position as a Hydra leader.
Hoping to regain her place among the international criminal elite, Viper reorganized the Serpent Squad by murdering the original Viper and adopting his costumed identity. The team joined Krang, warlord of Atlantis, in recovering the Serpent Crown, and Viper tried to use the Crown, proclaiming a nihilistic view of life and seeking world domination. She was defeated by Captain America as Nomad and seemed to perish as the building collapsed around her.
Surviving once again, Viper went on to organize her own international terrorist organization. She even employed the Silver Samurai to be her personal bodyguard. Her activities were opposed by the likes of the Black Widow (Natasha Romanova), Captain America, Shang-Chi, S.H.I.E.L.D., Spider-Man, Spider-Woman (Jessica Drew), and the X-Men. In one spectacular scheme, she sought to take over and crash the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier into the United States Capitol Building during a presidential address to Congress, but the government officials were saved by Spider-Man teaming up with Nick Fury.
Viper happened to battle Spider-Woman (Jessica Drew) when Drew had stumbled onto one of Viper's plots during her career as a private investigator in San Francisco. Viper, under the influence of Chthon, believed herself to be Meriem Drew, Spider-Woman's mother. Chthon sought to use the Viper as a weapon against Spider-Woman and briefly replaced the Viper's right eye with a black orb capable of projecting others into a magical dimension. Hoping to unravel the mysteries of her origin, Spider-Woman tracked Viper down to confront her and was tossed into this dimension and forced to confront Chthon. The elder god wanted to use Spider-Woman to emerge on Earth, but Viper ultimately defied Chthon, with the help of the force of will of Spider-Woman, who resisted Chthon long enough for Viper to ultimately free herself from his thrall.
Soon after, Viper and the Silver Samurai clashed with the New Mutants when they attempted to coerce the motorcycle stunt riding Team America into stealing the Cavorite crystal.
Later still, Viper, alongside numerous other snake-inspired costumed villains, infiltrated the criminal organization known as the Serpent Society with the intent of taking it over. Viper subsequently entered into a brief alliance with the murderous Red Skull. However, this alliance was short lived as the two criminals soon double-crossed each other.
Recently, when the throne of Madripoor was left without an heir, the Viper brainwashed many of the women in the life of Wolverine in order for them to capture Wolverine and bring him to her. She reminded him of his old debt to Seraph, their mutual mentor. Following his code of giri, or honorable debt, Wolverine agreed to marry the Viper. The Viper had gambled that Wolverine's respectability in Madripoor would enable her to seize the throne. She also used him, along with Sabretooth and Shadowcat, to foil both Hydra's and the Hand's attempts to control the island. Soon after, the Viper was installed as the ruling princess of Madripoor.
Following an illegal Bloodsport tournament hosted on the island, in which Wolverine was a participant at the Viper's request, the demonic ninja spirit named Ogun attacked and, after failing to possess Wolverine, possessed Viper. In order to exorcise the spirit, Wolverine seriously wounded Viper, and Ogun's spirit was dissipated. In return for ensuring she received medical treatment, Wolverine made the Viper agree to divorce him. During this time, the Viper must have had plastic surgery to repair her facial scarring, as she no longer bore scars on the right side of her face.
Shortly thereafter, the Viper helped organize a resistance force against an attempted alien invasion of Earth which had made its beachhead in Madripoor. She ran afoul of the X-Men and betrayed their leader, Storm, who was subsequently captured by the aliens. Ultimately, the invasion was repelled, and Viper returned to ruling Madripoor.
Viper has since taken a more subtle hand at fighting her enemies and appears to be working with Hydra once more. She tried to place Spider-Woman as a double-agent within S.H.I.E.L.D., using Hydra resources to restore the powers that she lost some time ago. Spider-Woman agreed to the exchange, but grew uncomfortable with the arrangement. When Drew was later offered membership in the Avengers, Viper urged her to accept the offer and continue being a double-agent for them as well. The situation came to a head when the Avengers captured Viper when she was attempting to restore the Silver Samurai in a position of power to take over the Japanese underworld. Viper forced Spider-Woman to help her escape from a plane high above the Pacific. The escape endangered Captain America, who was tossed from the plane, and Spider-Woman helped save him, although Viper seemed to have vanished. When pressed, Captain America got Spider-Woman to admit to being a double-agent, but he asked her to continue to play the role so as to have intelligence on both S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra.