- High Command
- Cobra Air Forces
- Cobra Ground Forces
- Cobra Naval Forces
- Cobra Ninja Forces
- Cobra R&D
- Cobra Special Forces
- For a full list of characters, see Cobra.
Though the members of the Cobra Organization are all fighting against G.I. Joe, there are many internal power struggles.
- Cobra Commander - The leader and founder of Cobra. His face is almost always obscured either by a hood with only his eyes visible or by a high tech battle helmet with various security features integrated into it. In the cartoon, this concealment was to hide inhuman disfigurement, whereas in the comic it is merely to maintain the secret of his civilian identity. He is regarded as the most dangerous man on Earth, because he can draw followers to him. Only Baroness and Destro have seen his face.
- Tomax and Xamot - Twin brothers that lead the Crimson Guard and are the respectable corporate face of Cobra. When not engaged in dangerous field missions, Tomax and Xamot are in shirt and tie, managing Cobra's business affairs, as well as running Cobra's day-to-day operations. The brothers share an empathic connection. While this is often useful, as it allows them to communicate wordlessly and finish each others sentences, it is also a liability, as they feel each other's pain during fights. Tomax and Xamot are mirror images of each other, except Xamot has a scar on the right side of his face. The twins run a corporation called Extensive Enterprises and are known more for their skills in the boardroom than on the battlefield.
- Destro or James McCullen Destro XXIV - A Scotsman who always wears a metal mask (in the cartoon the mouth of his mask moves, explained by a form of nanotech/liquid metal in later comics). He has often tried to take over leadership of Cobra. Destro is an arms dealer and his number one client is Cobra. He is the hereditary leader of M.A.R.S. (Military Armaments Research Syndicate) and uses his personal army, the Iron Grenadiers, to start conflicts in order to sell weapons to all of the combatants' parties. Destro has a warped sense of honor and a grudging respect for his G.I. Joe foes.
- The Baroness or Baroness Anastasia DeCobray - The daughter of European aristocrats, she serves as Cobra's Director of Intelligence, and is romantically involved with Destro.
- Dr. Mindbender - A mad scientist and former dentist. He has several mind-control devices. He is also quite accomplished with genetic manipulation. He is responsible for the creation of Serpentor, the Cobra B.A.T. as well as responsible for perfecting the Brainwave Scanner. Though he is quite muscular, Mindbender is somewhat cowardly, preferring to avoid physical confrontations.
- Major Bludd - Major Sebastian Bludd is an Australian mercenary with extensive combat experience who works for Cobra from time to time. He is a master tactician, expert in all known weapons, and writes very bad poetry. He is usually hired as Cobra's infantry commander. Major Bludd is best known for the assassination of General Flagg, the original leader of the G.I. Joe team. He currently commands all of Cobra's conventional warfare forces.
- Storm Shadow or Thomas "Tommy" Arashikage - A ninja who trained in martial arts and military service alongside G.I. Joe operatives Snake-Eyes and Stalker. He brought Snake-Eyes into his clan; the two are sword brothers. He joined Cobra with the intention of finding the man who killed his uncle, the leader of his clan. It was later revealed that Zartan and Firefly were in fact responsible, but Storm Shadow was never able to avenge his master's death. He eventually was brainwashed and began working for Cobra in earnest.
- Zartan - The leader of the Dreadnoks, as well as a master spy and assassin. He is a master of disguise, able to be anyone anytime he wishes. Thanks to genetic experimentation, Zartan is also capable of changing his skin color to blend in with his background. This special ability is disrupted by sunlight.
- Overlord - Leader of Cobra's Ground Forces, and secret member of Coil.
- Cesspool is a field commander of Cobra's Ground Forces. His personal squad are the Sludge-Vipers.
- Gristle - Former Headhunter and commander of Cobra's Alley-Vipers.
- Firefly - The world's greatest saboteur, Firefly's background is a mystery. A mercenary and assassin, Firefly offers no guarantees or refunds. He is an expert in all types of explosive ordnance and demolition materials. He is formerly the Faceless Master of the Arashikage ninja clan.
- Blackout - Sniper Thomas J. Stall was rejected by G.I. Joe for failing his psychological exam and was suspected of being involved with the disappearance of his sister. After being imprisoned, Thomas broke out of a brig at Fort Huachuca during an attack by Cobra, to whom he surrendered willingly and subsequently joined.
- Dreadnoks - Led by Zartan as well as his siblings and daughter, the Dreadnoks are gang of bikers who pull jobs for Cobra when finesse is not required and brute force is needed. Zartan uses them for backup and brought them with him when he joined Cobra.
Rank and file
The vast majority of the Cobra Organization is made up of faceless legions of soldiers, widely diversified according to specialties and functions. Some of the more prominent include:
- Cobra Troopers/Officers - Also known as "Blueshirts," these were the original soldiers first publically deployed by Cobra in 1982, and prominently used in many Cobra operations. They are generally regarded as little better than common grunts.
- Crimson Guard - Led by Tomax and Xamot, these elite soldiers were organized in 1985. In addition to intense military training, they are required to have a degree in either accounting or law (later relaxed to include a non-specific college degree), and are often used in deep cover operations, posing as civilians and politicians. The group later specialized further with the creation of the Crimson Guard Commanders and Immortals, as well as vehicles modified specifically for the Crimson Guard's use.
- Cobra Vipers - Organized in 1986, these infantry soldiers complemented the Blueshirts in the field, though they benefit from better training and more sophisticated equipment. They are "the backbone of Cobra Legions" and "if you want to get anywhere in Cobra, you have to start out as a Viper." Viper also became the nickname for other rank-and-file Cobra divisions (including their Cobra Trooper and Officer predecessors) due to the fact that most Cobra units, regardless of skill level, wore the suffix "-Viper" as their unit name (Tele-Viper, for example).
- B.A.T.s - Cobra Battle Android Troopers were introduced in 1986 and were used extensively in the field, since they could present an expendible army that G.I. Joe could gun down and be easily replaced. Intended as a cheap alternative to using living soldiers, they could be hazardous to both friend and foe.
- Night Creepers - The Night Creepers are a group of ninjas-for-hire with a particular savvy for technology and business, whose leader is called Aleph. The current Night Creeper Leader is not the same as the original Aleph.
- Iron Grenadiers - Destro's personal army.
- Python Patrol - Cobra troops given special radar-resistant technology
- HISS Drivers and Stinger Drivers - Very high-ranking and implicitly trusted command officers who lead missions and transport members of Cobra Command.
Cobra maintains a number of bases around the world. In several media incarnations, Cobra’s primary base is Cobra Island. In the Marvel Comics series, Cobra is said to have bases, underground cells and even whole communities scattered across the globe. Following are several specific locations with names:
- Broca Beach - After the destruction of Springfield, Cobra created another town as their secret base of operations in America. This one was transformed from an abandoned seaside town. Former residents of the destroyed Springfield town were relocated here.
- Castle Destro - Destro's fortress in Scotland. Training ground for the Iron Grenadiers.
- Cobra Citadel also known as the Silent Castle - Cobra's base of operations in Eastern Europe. It is located in Trans-Carpathia. Destro was one of its designers and for a brief period, it became the second Castle Destro.
- Cobra Consulate - A high-rise in New York City used by Cobra as an embassy and base of operations after Cobra Island was declared a sovereign nation.
- Cobra Island - The primary base of Cobra operations. It was created after a massive man-made earthquake. Cobra lawyers, well-prepared, moved in and had it declared a sovereign nation. It was the battlefield for the Cobra civil war, and the battle against 'the Coil'. After Cobra was beaten, the island was seized by the U.N. It then came under the control of the Coil, then Cobra, and was finally destroyed by a nuclear warhead, which also killed every member of the Coil.
- Millville - A steel town that fell into economic ruin after the closing of the local plant. When Cobra descends literally en masse on them one day, the residents are swayed by Cobra Commander's promise of quick wealth and prosperity to submit to his rule. However, Cobra immediately subjugates the town via a brainwashing device, leading to the formation of a local resistance.
- Monolith Base - A massive mountain complex located in Badhikistan. It served as Cobra's main base but was taken over by an all out assault from G.I. Joe.
- Springfield - A small anonymous town in the U.S., which Cobra secretly operated as a base. The town was poor and desperate when the man who would become Cobra Commander arrived. He became the town's savior and it was there he started Cobra. Many covert operations were held there, including the creation of Serpentor.
The Cobra Organization had its beginnings when the financially ruined man who would become Cobra Commander settled in an American town called Springfield. Blaming the federal government and big business for his misfortunes, he conceived a plan of forming a secret organization to acquire wealth and power and thereby wreak his revenge on the world. Springfield was a perfect place to start the organization as the town itself had fallen on hard times and the population was disillusioned. Soon, the organization was growing with the entry of like-minded individuals from all over the country. Much of Cobra’s early funding came from pyramid schemes and other semi-legitimate business plans initiated by Cobra Commander. In a very short time, Cobra evolved from a business into a paramilitary movement. Motivated by greed and power, the group soon expanded all over the country, operating in secret, engaging in terrorism to achieve their objectives. By the time the U.S. government recognized Cobra as a threat, the organization had already gained footholds as a powerful private army and terrorist organization around the world.
Many of its members (especially those in the elite Crimson Guard units) lead seemingly normal lives, supporting Cobra covertly. Cobra attracted members with the promise of fast financial rewards and power for those willing to be ruthless enough. It also offered a world of order and strength, with its 'model community' of Springfield being one example of the Cobra ideal.
Cobra would eventually achieve a temporary legitimacy by the artificial creation of Cobra Island, which was recognized as an independent nation by the international community, much to the dismay of G.I. Joe. This allowed Cobra to have diplomatic facilities in the United States via the Cobra consulate.
During Serpentor's tenure Cobra's primary source of income came from arms sales to Third World nations. This led to a clash with Destro's MARS Organization, which provided Cobra with much of its arms.
For a comic series predominantly aimed at children, Cobra was a relatively realistic depiction of a highly successful terrorist organization. With its strong symbolic imagery, charismatic and ruthless leader and fanatical hierarchy, the fictional group is similar to other fictional terrorist and fascist organizations such as SPECTRE of James Bond fame and the similar Marvel Universe organization HYDRA.
Larry Hama depicted Cobra troops as being motivated by money, power, and a sense of brotherhood. However, they are not fanatical to the point where they would fight to the last man and to the last breath. If all is lost, they would willingly surrender or run away had they the chance, something their leaders rarely let them do. The brutal training depicted in the file cards of the troopers are very much characteristic of ritualistic hazing.
The only instance that has shown Cobra as a suicidal fanatical organization was in issue #8 where the troopers willingly let themselves blow up on a boat after their loss.
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