When Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes isn’t controlling the drug trade in New York City, he’s using his business acumen to recruit new members into his criminal organization. But no one gets away with refusing, let alone betraying him. And just like the venomous pit viper, Cottonmouth has a painful and deadly bite—one that can pierce even Luke Cage’s steel-hard skin.
Cornell Stokes runs the most successful crime operation in NYC, controlling most of the drug trade across the five boroughs. Sensing a kindred spirit in Luke Cage, Stokes once sent him a package of deadly snakes in a unique attempt to offer him a position in the hierarchy of his organization. Cage, however, was already seeking the crime boss to clear his name from Willis Stryker, AKA Diamondback’s attempts to frame him for drug trafficking. He employed an informant named Flea, but just before Flea was killed by Cottonmouth’s gang, he managed to alert Cage that Stokes is the one he’s been searching for.
In a rage over Flea’s death, Cage battled Cottonmouth. Once he realized Cottonmouth was a formidable foe with strength equal to his own, he paused to hear his offer out. Seeking proof of his own innocence, Cage joined the criminal organization despite the objections of Cottonmouth’s assistant Mr. Slick.
Cottonmouth and Mr. Slick tested Cage’s loyalty and—when he passed the test—they brought him deeper into the operation. Unable to root out any evidence of his innocence, Cage ultimately called the police on Cottonmouth. In learning of this betrayal, he attacked Cage, but during the fight, Slick intervened only to fall to his death. Cottonmouth informed Cage that Slick was the only one who possessed knowledge of all his business dealings thanks to his photographic memory, and thus Luke would be unable to clean his record. Cottonmouth was incarcerated but would later emerge again.