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"You like my Biggie photo? Me too. You know what draws your eye when you look at that? The crown... Wanna know why? 'Cause everybody wants to be the king."
―Cottonmouth to Shameek Smith[src]

Cornell Stokes, also known as Cottonmouth, was the owner of Harlem's Paradise, a nightclub within New York City. His criminal ongoings began to unravel due to a failed gun sale, causing him to track down those responsible and becoming Luke Cage's enemy. Due to Cage's actions, Cottonmouth's entire organisation was put at risk due to the threat of Diamondback taking over while he lost his money. Despite Cottonmouth's best efforts to keep the business running, he soon enraged his cousin Mariah Dillard who eventually murdered him and took over his criminal empire.

Biography

Early Life

"All I did your whole life was protect you! Your junkie mamma dropped you off at Mabel's and never looked back! Your daddy didn't want ya! Who was there changing ya diapers, tending your needs, dealing with your whining!"
Mariah Dillard to Cornell Stokes[src]
YoungPopsCottonmouth

Stokes grows up on the street alongside Pop

As the unwanted son of Jazmine Stokes, the infant Cornell Stokes was dropped off at the home of Mama Mabel, where he was cared for mainly by his cousin Mariah Dillard. From a young age, Stokes proved himself to be a great pianist and wanted to pursue a career. But with Mama Mabel basically running the neighborhood of Harlem and being head of the family mob, she wanted something different for Cornell. Instead he was encouraged to go out in the street with Pop and Fredo Diaz, beating people up to steal cash, becoming notorious enough that they were once photographed by Jamel Shabazz. When Stokes lost three of his teeth during a fight, he gained the nickname of Cottonmouth, a name that he despised from the start.

Disappointed Young Cottonmouth

Stokes plays the piano for Mama Mabel

One night, Stokes played his piano while Pistol Pete complimented his talent, noting that he really should be going to a school like Juilliard School to pursue his passion. Mama Mabel however made it clear that she did not support his talent and instead told him to keep quiet so that Mariah Dillard could continue with her studies. They were interrupted by the arrival of Pop and Donnie who brought cash and a stolen watch to Mabel, inviting Stokes out to join them on the street to continue their work, only for Pistol Pete to insist that he stay and continue to practice on his piano instead.

However Mabel told Pop he could leave but confronted Donnie on the fact that he had been selling drugs on the streets of Harlem, the one aspect of crime she refused to get involved with. Donnie insisted that he was only trying to help her organisation, noting that Salvador Colon was making a lot of money selling crack which they could get involved with. Stokes listened as Mabel furiously confronted Donnie before using flower cutters and break off his finger, before ordering Dillard to return to her room and Stokes to stay and watch the violence.

Mabel then ordered Stokes to take Donnie downstairs in the basement and deal with him, despite Pistol Pete's objections. Stokes went downstairs and alongside Pete, beat and stabbed Donnie to death as punishment for dealing with drugs outside of their mob. He returned upstairs from the basement with blood on his hands where he returned to his piano, his hands visibly shaking from his first kill. Mama Mabel comforted him with a hug as she put her hands on top of him, making it clear that she was proud of her grandson for murdering Donnie for her.[1]

Executing Pistol Pete

"You know the rule, baby. Family first. Always."
"Yes, ma'am."
Mama Mabel and Cornell Stokes[src]

Returning to the house, Stokes was confronted by Mama Mabel who explained that while he was gone a punter had attacked one of the prostitutes named Sister Boy. When Stokes joked that she should have defended herself, Mabel slapped Stokes for being disrespectful, Stokes then revealed that Pistol Pete had taken him to an audition before stopping off at Spanish-Harlem to meet with Salvador Colon while Stokes had spoken with Domingo Colon, seemingly revealing that Pete was betraying Mabel's organisation.

Mabel confronted Pistol Pete in their living room for betraying her to the Colon's mob family, with Pete noting that he was trying to make a deal that would help them rule New York City and that this entire criminal empire should have been his if he had been able to marry Mabel instead of his brother marrying her. When Pete noted that Mabel always had a plan for these situations, she revealed that Stokes was standing behind him, threatening Pete with a gun much to his horror. Mabel then ordered Stokes to force Pete outside of the house to be executed.

Cottonmouth kills pete

Stokes is forced to execute Pistol Pete

Pete desperately tried to reason with Stokes, reminding him that he was not built to be a murderer and that he should be pursuing the musical career that he had been supporting for all these years. Mariah Dillard then stepped out and told Pete that he deserved to die for what he had done to their family and to her, with Mabel keeping him calm before Stokes fired two shots into Pete's chest, killing him. While Stokes looked at the corpse of his uncle in horror, Mabel took the gun away from him and reminded him that family always came first with them.[1]

Running Harlem

Selling Hammer Guns

Cottonmouth plots

Cottonmouth overlooks Harlem's Paradise

"Nah, what I sell is pure, this is the kind of shit that can blow a hole in a battleship, but it's light enough to hold in your hand. Trust me Domingo, you can bribe someone's day perminantly with this shit. Top of the line, the crème de la crème, this that grade A, military, Justin Hammer level shit. A hundred large per case, ten cases, a cool mil, whole sale, brand spanking new, no serial numbers, because my connectors nice like that."
―Cottonmouth to Domingo Colon[src]

In the wake of the eventual death of Mama Mabel, Stokes took control of Harlem's Paradise while also building himself a new career as a criminal who more or less ran all of Harlem's criminal activities. During this time, Stokes overlooked the quality control of Harlem's Paradise, ensuring that they kept the best quality of service and the best music acts they could find. He also ensured that he kept the most beautiful women around him at all times while he still overlooked the club and listened to the music.

Cottonmouth lounges

Cottonmouth enjoys Raphael Saadiq with Mariah Dillard

One night Stokes was visited by Mariah Dillard, who commented that the performing Raphael Saadiq was very impressive. When Dillard noted that she should not really be in the club with her cousin, Stokes explained that Colon's Gym was prepared to make a donation both to his organisation and to her own political campaign. While Dillard noted that the true power remained in politics, Stokes claimed that while her campaign slogans got her reelected, it was "Niggas" like him to get the city running as it was, despite Dillard's hatred of that word.

Colon CMouth deal

Stokes strikes a deal with Colon

The pair were then joined by Domingo Colon, who Stokes ordered a bottle of champaign for as they prepared to make a deal that Colon and Stokes wanted as both Pistol Pete and Colon's uncle had both been close friends. While Colon thought they're deal was a get out of jail free card, Dillard refused to accept this, noting what had happened to Wilson Fisk, but Stokes ignored her and explained he would be selling Colon guns made by Justin Hammer stolen by Stokes' contact, Diamondback, a deal that Colon happily agreed to with a handshake.

CMouth deal Cage

Cottonmouth makes an offer to Cage

As the meeting continued, Luke Cage arrived to deliver champaign to the table alongside Candace Miller. As Cage tried to leave, Stokes grabbed his arm and asked what had happened to Dante Chapman, whom Cage claimed was ill and had not come into work. Stokes then offered Cage a job as a personal bodyguard due to his size, but Cage refused as it would involve using a gun. Once Cage had left with Millar, Stokes was informed by Tone that the gun deal had been attacked and his money had been stolen by Chapman and some others.[2]

Hunting Thieves

Cottonmouth unamused

Cottonmouth speaks with Shades

"I slapped you like a little bitch, I'm not the kinda man to use a closed fist on a woman. Where's my money?"
"I... I didn't..."
"Ah ha, only thing worse than a thief is a damn liar. Where's... My... Money?!"
―Cottonmouth and Shameek Smith[src]

The next day while inside Harlem's Paradise, Stokes was forced to defend the events of the night before to the furious Domingo Colon, who believed it was an inside job. While Tone tried to learn more what had happened, they were interrupted by Shades' arrival, who announced he was now out of Seagate Prison and working for Diamondback. Shades asked if the hit was an inside job before questioning how he and Diamondback could sort the situation out.

Stokes with Dillard

Cottonmouth meets with Mariah Dillard

Seeking assistance, Stokes found Mariah Dillard as she was giving an interview about her hopes to improve Harlem, ensuring that Zip and Sugar stayed close to her. Once they were alone, Dillard confronted Stokes for getting too close to her and endangering her political reputation before demanding that she get her money as quickly as possible. When Dillard questioned how the deal went down and if anything had gone wrong due to Shades' arrival, Stokes noted that she did not really want to know what had happened and did not tell her the details.

Tone CMouth Shades

Stokes is informed by Shades and Tone of the inside job

Stokes then returned to both Tone and Shades, who noted that Dante Chapman was correct that the heist was planned with Shameek Smith and Chico Diaz's assistance. Shades questioned if they were any closer to finding their targets but Tone claimed they were not. Needing to find them as quickly as possible, Stokes ordered Tone to send a message out to their allies to find them, with eventually led to Smith being tracked down to a strip club within New York City where he was spending Stokes' stolen money on lap-dances with the various strippers.

Cottonmouth-PianoSexyLadies

Stokes plays music while his models listen on

Stokes later returned to Harlem's Paradise where he had his various models, who were stripped down to their underwear, listen to him while he played some soft music on his keyboard. While Stokes still relaxed in his office with his models and his music, he sent Tone and Shades to collect Smith under the concept that Domingo Colon's own people were looking for him since the heist and Stokes now wished to protect him from any harm, which was a lie as he simply wished to interrogate the man who had stolen his money from him while also losing his Hammer Industries guns in order to find the rest and repay Dillard to keep that scandal quiet and pay back anyone else he owed money to, to protect his own organisation's safety.

King Cottonmouth

Cottonmouth questions Shameek Smith

With Smith now tied up in his office, Stokes confidently walked up to him and began a conversation about the photograph of Biggie Smalls that he had hung up in his office, noting that it was the crown that drew people's attention. Stokes then proceeded to slap Smith as he demanded to know where his money was now, noting that he was slapping him because he viewed Smith as a little bitch and he did not wish to then punch a woman, explaining that Dante Chapman had exposed him in the heist before his death and now they wanted Chico Diaz's location to get the rest of his money back quickly.

Angry Cottonmouth

Cottonmouth beats Shameek Smith to death

The definite Smith however proceeded to spit his own blood in Stokes face, which he only laughed at as he wiped the blood from his face. Cottonmouth however only laughed and noted that he could now hit him like a man. He then dragged Smith off of his seat and pinned him to the floor before repeatedly punching him in the skull until he had beaten Smith to death in front of the horrified Shades and Tone, beating him so hard that his face was almost unrecognisable. With Smith now dead, Cottonmouth ordered Tone to dispose of his corpse and locate Diaz in order to recover the stolen money.[2]

Dealing with Luke Cage

Luke-Cage-Still-4

Cottonmouth arrives in Pop's Barber Shop

"Big man, you work here too? This brother's got more jobs than a Jamaican. What's your name again?"
"Luke."
"Luke, mhmm old school, biblical, I'm all about the old school and all that. Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth kinda thing, fire and brimstone. See back then, do someone wrong wasn't no begging nor pleading, just took care of it. Handled your business."
―Cottonmouth and Luke Cage[src]

Fully aware that Chico Diaz worked for Pop, Cottonmouth made a trip to Pop's Barber Shop where he requested a shave from his friend. As he sat down in the chair, he requested Pop use a razor rather than his clippers, as he felt that a razor would prove Pop to be skilled at what he did as they discussed the luxury of free time. Stokes then noted young people wanted everything too fast and would lie, cheat and steal to get what they wanted, clearly referencing Shameek Smith's recent robbery.

CottonmouthShave-Laugh

Stokes notices and laughs at Luke Cage

When Luke Cage accidentally broke his broom, Shades spoke to him and asked about Diaz, claiming that he used to cut his hair for him and he wanted to reconnect now that he was out of Seagate Prison, although Cage claimed that Diaz had gone. Stokes asked if Cage worked there as well and mocked him for doing so before getting up and refusing Pop's offer for a hot towel. Just as Stokes was leaving, Cage insisted that he pay for the shave, so Stokes had Tone pay Pop the full amount of money he owed while Stokes left giving Cage a dirty look for the insult aimed against him.

Dillard mocks Shades

Cottonmouth gives Mariah Dillard her money

Cottonmouth then travelled to the office of Mariah Dillard to deliver Smith's money to her, which Dillard noted was not nearly enough money to cover her deposit. Dillard reminded Stokes that she had stolen the money to fund Harlem's Paradise before Stokes had made a failed gun deal with Domingo Colon which had endangered them all, making the point that the situation was his fault alone. Despite this however they remembered that they were still family and loyal to each other, so Stokes promised he would repay her in full very soon as promised.

Cage Cottonmouth Picture

Cottonmouth mocks Luke Cage's efforts

While back at Harlem's Paradise, Stokes and Dillard enjoyed drinking together when they were confronted by Luke Cage, so Stokes ordered Tone to check him for weapons. Once Cage was proved to be unarmed he was invited to speak and explained that Pop wanted to set up a meeting for the safety of Chico Diaz, who was now hiding out at Pop's Barber Shop, promising that Stokes' money would be returned and Diaz would leave New York City forever. Cage reminded Stokes of his and Pop's history, so Stokes agreed before firing Cage.[3]

Tone's Mistake

Cottonmouth-BlackMariah-RedLight

Stokes and Mariah Dillard discuss Chico Diaz

"Tone promised to pay you for finding Chico, right?"
"Yeah."
"That right?.. Okay... You can collect your money from Tone downstairs, Mr. Barrett! I assume that completes our business."
―Cottonmouth and Turk Barrett[src]

Once Luke Cage had left, Cottonmouth spoke with Tone who then volunteered to track down and assassinate Chico Diaz as he had been informed of his location by Turk Barrett, but Stokes ordered him not to, promising to deal with the situation himself in the morning. Stokes then spoke with Mariah Dillard who claimed he was wasting his life by living as this gangster, although Stokes argued that such power as he had obtained was exactly what their ancestors had died for. Cottonmouth then claimed that only thing people remembered more than the black martyrdom was the black money.

CMouth Pop news

Stokes is informed about Pop's death

When Tone and Shades returned to Harlem's Paradise, Cottonmouth invited them onto the roof to explain what had happened, with Dillard joining them all. Tone explained that he had gone to Pop's Barber Shop to find Diaz and fired into the shop to kill him and collect the money that had been stolen. Shades noted that Tone should have waited for Diaz to come outside and to his horror, Cottonmouth learned that not only had Diaz survived, but Pop had been killed in the crossfire, which Tone showed no remorse for as he viewed it as a casualty of war.

CMouth Tone Executed

Cottonmouth minutes before executing Tone

They were then interrupted by the arrival of Turk Barrett who demanded to get his money from Tone for finding Diaz for him. Cottonmouth, still distraught from learning of Pop's death, threw Tone from the roof onto a car, killing him and ordered Barrett to collect his money from Tone's corpse. As Barrett left, claiming he was going back to Hell's Kitchen where it was safe. Cottonmouth then returned the money to Dillard who claimed to not be okay with witnessing her cousin committing murder right in front of her before Stokes spoke privately with Shades.

Cottonmouth Mourns Pop

Cottonmouth mourns the death of Pop

Despite having gotten much of his rage out of his system by murdering Tone, Cottonmouth returned to his office inside Harlem's Paradise and looked at the photograph that Luke Cage had given him earlier that evening. Looking at the image of himself and Pop as young men growing up together in Harlem, Cottonmouth openly weeped as he mourned the death of one of his oldest and closest friends who he had spent so many years protecting from the criminal underworld that Pop's had managed to escape from and build himself a new life.[3]

Buying a Coffin

Cottonmouth-FuneralHome

Cottonmouth looks to buy a coffin for Pop

"Step off, before you get hurt."
"Why? I'm just getting started."
"Good to know, how's the job search coming, dishwasher?"
―Cottonmouth and Luke Cage[src]

With Pops now dead and needing a proper funeral, Stokes went to the funeral home intending to buy a top quality casket for his friend. When Stokes arrived he found Luke Cage was already speaking to the funeral home's director, Joel Spurlock, about buying a coffin and was explaining that he did not really have the funds to buy the coffin he felt that Pops deserved. Stokes entered the room and explained that it was already being taken care of and that he would be paying for the coffin himself to honour Pop's legacy in whatever way he possibly could.

Cottonmouth laughs

Cottonmouth laughs at Luke Cage's threats

Once they were alone, Stokes explained that Pops would not have wanted any drama between them, but Cage argued that Pops really would not have wanted blood money to pay for his casket. When Cage reminded him that they had tried to make peace, Stokes then explained that it was Tone's doing and that Tone was now dead. When Cage claimed that this did not matter as he still blamed Pop's death on him, Cottonmouth threatened Cage before laughing in his face and asking how the job search was coming, he then walked away while reminding Cage he was a dishwasher.

Cottonmouth Bribe

Stokes bribes Spurlock to hide Tone's body

Stokes then spoke with Spurlock and explained that Pop was his friend and therefore deserved the best that money could buy. Spurlock agreed before changing the subject and asking what he should do with the corpse of Tone, who Stokes would only say that he had to let go and that nothing humbles a man quite like gravity. Stokes ordered Spurlock to deal with Tone's corpse in the usual way, by cremating it and leaving no remains to be found. Once Stokes handed him a handful of cash, Spurlock claimed that he did not see any body there. [4]

Losing his Money

Cottonmouth aint it a sin

Stokes watches Charles Bradley perform

"You don't want to be in my face right now Mariah!"
"If anyone should be breaking shit it should be me! They hit my office, my office!"
"They took damn near every penny I got!"
―Cottonmouth and Mariah Dillard[src]

Stokes then returned to Harlem's Paradise where he took his usual seat in his office and watched as Charles Bradley performed on the stage. While Stokes poured himself a drink and watched Bradley's performance, enjoying the music and the money it brought in, he was unaware that Luke Cage was going to his various safe houses, attacking his men and ensuring that the police took possession of his cash.

Stokes last resort

Stokes discusses security with Mariah Dillard

Having learned this, Stokes had Mariah Dillard's office reenforced with steel barricades and more armed guards to ensure that Cage could not get inside. Stokes met with Dillard in the park as she expressed her own hatred for the situation. The pair argued about using her office as a main base and if Dillard was really a criminal or legitimate politician as she had convinced herself she was, with Dillard arguing that the only way to save Harlem was to do it all legally, noting all the work Mama Mabel had done to serve a greater good of their dear city.

Stokes Domingo Threat

Stokes is threatened by Domingo Colon

When Domingo Colon entered Harlem's Paradise to speak with Cottonmouth, Zip confronted him but was told to stand down. Stokes accused Colon of being the one who attacked his safe houses, but Colon denied this, instead disrespectfully taking a chocolate bar and dropping the wrapper on the floor. Colon explained the concept of a plover bird and compared Stokes to the plover picking food out of his teeth before asking how Diamondback felt about the situation. Colon demanded a full refund and then declared war once Cottonmouth refused him.

Cottonmouth 3

Cottonmouth unleashes his furious rage

Despite the steps he took, Cottonmouth's main safe house was still hit and he had seven million dollars stolen from him, putting him into a rage as he began destroying his own office with a baseball bat while Mariah Dillard tried to talk sense into him. When Dillard argued that she should be the one to be truly angry as it was her own office that was hit and therefore her reputation was on the line, this enraged Cottonmouth even more as he called her Black Mariah, causing her to throw a bottle at his head but just missed while Stokes continued yelling that the stuff in the office was for him to break.

Cottonmouth Scarfe

Stokes is given an update by Rafael Scarfe

They were interrupted when Zip entered and informed Cottonmouth that Detective Rafael Scarfe had arrived to speak to him. Scarfe informed Stokes that he had killed Chico Diaz and recommended that they deliver the body to Joel Spurlock to dispose of as usual. Scarfe then explained that he had discovered that the person responsible for stealing all of Stokes' money was in fact Luke Cage and due to a tracker of Misty Knight's phone, he had been able to discover Cage's home address within Harlem, so Stokes then decided to pay Cage a personal visit.

Cottonmouth Firearm

Cottonmouth attempts to kill Luke Cage

With the information given to him by Detective Scarfe, Cottonmouth tracked down Cage to his home above Genghis Connie's, which was owned by Connie and Jin Lin. Taking a position on a rooftop across the street, Cottonmouth saw that Cage was downstairs speaking with Mrs. Lin and prepared an RPG to kill his enemy. Firing a single shot, Cottonmouth caused a massive explosion in the room Cage and Lin were in which caused the entire building to collapse on top of them. Believing his job to be complete, Cottonmouth left, but a few hours later, Cage pulled himself and Lin out of the unharmed.[4]

Luke Cage's Challenge

Cottonmouth instructs

Cottonmouth gives his men their new orders

"This dishwasher, thinks he can prove Harlem don't need me. Let's see how badly he wants to wear the crown. You hit the boulevard and hit 'em hard, and when they start crying, talking about why? Why? You tell 'em to go talk to Luke Cage down at the Barber Shop, they're paying the Luke Cage stability tax. What are you doing!"
―Cottonmouth[src]

Back inside Harlem's Paradise, Cottonmouth listened as Jidenna performed his music to the empty space for Stokes' approval. Stokes returned to his office with his supporters where he was informed by Darrell Mitchell that he was officially broke, despite still owning the Paradise due to it being left to him by Mama Mabel. Mitchell then noted that the people of Harlem were talking about how Cottonmouth had lost his power and were supporting Luke Cage, who had managed to survive the earlier bombing of Genghis Connie's.

Cottonmouth Executes

Cottonmouth shoots Koko in the head

When Koko spoke out by saying that he had been reading up on the politics and history of hip hop with had allowed him to come to the conclusion that maybe they should leave Cage alone, but this only angered Cottonmouth who shot Koko in the head before ordering Zip to steal money to replace their cash. Shades warned this would not work and attempted to remind him why Diamondback had sent him to the Paradise in the first place, but Cottonmouth ignored him and told him men to tell people that Cage was robbing them before telling Zip to contact Joel Spurlock to dispose of Koko's corpse.

CottonmouthShades-MoneyTable

Cottonmouth looks over the money collected

As Cottonmouth looked over the money collected by Zip and his men, which included wads of cash and various other expensive items that were stolen, Shades recommended that he let this whole situation go as it was making him look weak and recommended that he instead sell Harlem's Paradise, which Cottonmouth refused as he felt the club was far too important to himself and Harlem. Shades continued to remind Cottonmouth that if he did not make the right decision now, he would soon lose everything, but Cottonmouth just insisted that the club was his own reputation, blood and legacy and for that reason he would never sell it no matter what the situation was.

Cottonmouth stare

Cottonmouth and Shades greet Luke Cage

Cottonmouth then noticed that Luke Cage had entered the building to speak with him. Cottonmouth and Cage began exchanging insults as Cottonmouth warned the vigilante that taking control of Harlem would prove to be expensive for him, although Cage insisted that he did not want Harlem, he just wanted Cottonmouth to leave it alone. Stokes told him that he did not know anything about what he was talking about and then ordered Zip, Sugar and Amos to attack Cage, only to watch as they were all very easily defeated, with Cage even surviving several gunshots to the chest without even reacting.

Cottonmouth Threatens

Cottonmouth declares war against Luke Cage

As Cottonmouth came downstairs, Cage calmly explained that if a rocket did not kill him then bullets would not either. Cottonmouth then declared war on Cage, only for Cage to note that he did not have enough people working still for him to stop him while also making it clear that he knew Shades from their time at Seagate Prison. As he left the club, Cage ordered Cottonmouth not to use his name anymore, when Cottonmouth asked why Cage did not answer and just walked away before Cottonmouth confronted Shades about how exactly he knew Cage, demanding to know the details.[5]

Luke Cage's Weakness

Power of Judas

Cottonmouth sees the Judas Bullet's power

"I don't need Diamondback to handle my problems. How much for the damn thing?.. For a bullet?.. For real?.. God damn it, Diamondback can front me, I'm good for it!"
"He ain't gonna front you a dime, you've made too many mistakes."
―Cottonmouth and Shades[src]

As they rewatched the CCTV footage, Shades explained that Luke Cage's real name was Carl Lucas and that he was supposed to be dead before he had returned now bulletproof. As Cottonmouth demanded a way to kill Cage, Shades showed a video of the Judas Bullet which had been designed by Justin Hammer using Chitauri metal recovered from the Battle of New York, Cottonmouth expressed his delight at the bullet's power and asked how to get one.

CMouth Refuses

Stokes allows Diamondback to loan him cash

When Shades explained exactly how much the bullet would cost, Cottonmouth realised he was unable to afford it, and therefore his only option was to consider hiring Diamondback to kill Cage for him, with Shades noting that if that happened, Diamondback would take over Harlem. Refusing to allow this to happen, Cottonmouth decided that he would return the Hammer Industries guns back to Domingo Colon's people and sort out that situation so Diamondback would lend him the money he needed to get the Judas and finally kill Cage once and for all and go back to his work in Harlem.[5]

Pop's Funeral

Cottonmouth Funeral

Stokes sends a text to Rafael Scarfe

"They never caught the shooter, but I have faith that he is rotting in the depths of hell. I miss Pop, I promise you, with all my might, that even though we are being attacked from both sides by foreign interlopers, strangers with arcane abilities, I promise you, I'll stay true to what we have right here."
―Cottonmouth[src]

As Cottonmouth arrived at the church to attend Pop's funeral, he sent a text message to Rafael Scarfe to see if he had collected the Hammer Industries guns as instructed. While listening to Pop's son's speech, Cottonmouth did not notice Aisha Axton was considering killing him, although she did not as Luke Cage sat beside her and destroyed the gun.

CMouth Pop Tribute

Stokes gives his tribute to Pop at his funeral

When Bobby Fish called out to the attendees and invited anyone to speak, Cottonmouth stood up and took the stand. Addressing the large crowd, which also included Misty Knight, Cottonmouth explained how he had grown up with Pop while living with Mama Mabel, noting how he got his nickname from the sound that his fists made. Cottonmouth went on to vow to protect Harlem from criminals, noting that Pop's killer Tone had never been found, but not mentioning that he killed him. His speech soon drew the support of the crowd to all applauded him.

CMouth Listens

Stokes listens to Luke Cage's tribute to Pop

Cottonmouth then watched as Cage took his place on the podium and gave a speech giving his own memories and views on Pop, telling the people that he also was doing what he believed Pop would have wanted, to protect the people and find the good in them and telling the people to stand up to a bully. With the people back on Cage's side, Cottonmouth left the church with Shades, only to become face to face with Cage, who mocked Cottonmouth for failing to unite the people, only for Cottonmouth to tell him that the war was still going and laughing at Cage.[5]

Rafael Scarfe's Betrayal

Cottonmouth Scarfe Meeting

Stokes meets up with Scarfe

"Think about how you want to spend the rest of your life Detective."
"Shit, man your juice is water since Luke Cage punked your peacock arse."
―Cottonmouth and Rafael Scarfe[src]

Just outside of New York City, Cottonmouth met with Detective Rafael Scarfe to take back the Hammer Industries guns promised to him. Although Scarfe promised to give Cottonmouth back the guns, he revealed that he had decided to bribe him for extra money, reminding him that if he did not get his situation sorted with Domingo Colon then his organisation was finished while also noting that all his money was currently in police lock up.

Cottonmouth Scarfe struggle

Stokes fights Scarfe after being insulted

When Scarfe insulted Cottonmouth by reminded him that his reputation had gone downhill since Luke Cage turned up, Cottonmouth lost his temper and punched Scarfe before fighting him for his gun. Cottonmouth quickly disarmed the Detective and managed to shoot him twice, once in the leg and once in the gut. The now bleeding Scarfe hid behind his car while Cottonmouth ran out of ammunition and laughed at the wounded Detective before getting back in his car and leaving in case he was seen, but not before promising to beat Scarfe to death soon.

Returning to Harlem's Paradise, Cottonmouth informed Mariah Dillard that he had shot Scarfe, only to be berated for such a foolish act against a cop, although he insisted that he could not allow Scarfe to rip him off and that it was Scarfe's gun that was drawn. Dillard made it clear that if Scarfe survived the shooting, then everything that Cottonmouth had built would soon come crashing down around him and she would not allow him to bring her down with him, while Cottonmouth insisted that Colon would soon be finally getting the guns promised to him.

Changing the subject, Dillard asked about Luke Cage, although Cottonmouth insisted she should be focusing on her interview with Thembi Wallace. Dillard however told Cottonmouth that he should reconsider selling Harlem's Paradise as the people of Harlem were still talking about what had happened at Pop's funeral. Dillard told Cottonmouth that he had to kill Cage, but when he insisted that Cage was bulletproof, Dillard was not phased and suggested that they either drown, poison or burn him to kill him which reminded Cottonmouth of Mama Mabel.

Needing to ensure that the situation with Rafael Scarfe was dealt with as quickly as possible, Cottonmouth contacted Lieutenant Perez at the New York City Police Department, questioning if he had had anything to do with Scarfe attempting to rip him off. Perez insisted that he did not know what had happened and noted that his fellow police officers were scrambling to find Scarfe, at which point Cottonmouth gave him his new orders to find and execute Scarfe before he could expose his organisation to the police and have Cottonmouth arrested.

Cottonmouth was contacted by Perez who informed him they had tracked Scarfe to Pop's Barber Shop where he had been found and helped by Luke Cage. Since Perez clearly did not know how Cage and Scarfe had come into contact, Cottonmouth reminded him that if Scarfe went to the police, not only would he be going down, but he would be taking down half to the police force with him. As Cottonmouth threw his phone in a rage, Zip entered and asked where Shades was before asking for a promotion. Cottonmouth ordered Zip to send out a hit on Scarfe.[6]

Arrest and Release

"See that's the problem with a bitch... Once they get their mouth on a bone, they can't let go."
"We'll see whose somebodies bitch when your arse is in prison."
―Cottonmouth and Misty Knight[src]

Despite Cottonmouth's best efforts. Rafael Scarfe got to the police in time to expose his organisation before dying from his wounds. With his criminal activities down proven, Cottonmouth was arrested by the New York City Police Department while still inside Harlem's Paradise, with Scarfe's own parter Detective Misty Knight putting on the handcuffs and watching as Cottonmouth was escorted out of the building and to jail.

While he was being held by the police, Cottonmouth's lawyer Benjamin Donovan, who he shared with Wilson Fisk, arrived to defend him. While they sat discussing the case together, Cottonmouth mimed playing the piano to keep himself relaxed. When they were eventually confronted by Detective Knight and her superior Priscilla Ridley, Donovan made it clear that there was no evidence presented against Cottonmouth other than Knight and Scarfe's testimonies, both of which could easily be questioned due to one being personally affected by the other's death.

As Cottonmouth and Donovan prepared to leave, they were confronted by Misty Knight, who questioned if by their language they were calling her a dog, but Cottonmouth insisted that it was just a turn of phrase. Before he left however, Cottonmouth stood face to face with Detective Knight and made an insulting remark which did compare her to a dog, at which point Knight promised that she would sooner or later see that Cottonmouth found himself in prison where he belonged, a statement which made Cottonmouth laugh out loud as he walked out.

As Cottonmouth left the police station, he found himself surrounded by members of the media who were desperately asking for a statement regarding why he was arrested, but he chose to ignore them all as he made his way to his car in order to return to Harlem's Paradise. As he stepped into the car, Cottonmouth caught eyes with Luke Cage who was watching him from across the street. Seeing the man who had helped try to arrest him watch his own failure unfold, Cottonmouth could not help but smile and he sat down in his car and drove away.[1]

Calling Diamondback

"All he has to do is show up, and hoods scatter like roaches with the lights on! Guns, drugs, all street traffic is a mess right now because of him! Niggas act like he can walk on water. I'm done talking Shades, tell Diamondback I need to holla at him"
―Cottonmouth to Shades[src]

Taking back his office in Harlem's Paradise, Cottonmouth laughed out loud as he watched the news reports on his own arrest and freedom, noting how Mariah Dillard would be furious while he was celebrating how he killed Rafael Scarfe and got away with it while Zip found the Hammer Industries guns and returned them to Domingo Colon, ending their war before it even began and restoring peace to his organisation after such a chaotic time.

Cottonmouth then asked Shades how, now that he had sorted out his issues, he could get his hands on the Judas Bullet, although Shades informed him that he could not which only angered Cottonmouth more as he insisted that he could get no criminal work done as all his men ran in fear as soon as Luke Cage came close to them. Wanting nothing more than to kill Cage, Cottonmouth ordered Shades to get in contact with Diamondback and ask for his help. Once Shades had left, Cottonmouth collected the gun that had killed Pistol Pete and held it to the mirror.

Seeking to sort out the business, Cottonmouth called Pop's Barber Shop where he spoke to Bobby Fish before the phone was handed over to Cage. Cottonmouth suggested to Cage that they arrange a parlay to sort out their differences, requesting that he come to Harlem's Paradise so that they could speak in private. As Cage reminded him that their attempts at parlay had not previously worked out so well, Cottonmouth insultingly called Cage a dishwasher once again before laughing out loud and hanging up the phone, leaving Cage to make his mind up.[1]

Final Meeting with Cage

"There is honour amongst thieves, but you ain't no thief. Gave a speech at a church, knocked down a few doors in the projects and now you Harlem's Captain America? Nigga please. How they gonna feel about their folk hero when they find out he ain't nothing more but a goddamn hoodlum? You act like you better than me, you ain't better than me."
―Cottonmouth to Luke Cage[src]

While Cottonmouth waiting for Luke Cage to arrive, he sat in his office in Harlem's Paradise and played his keyboard to keep himself relaxed, thinking back to his time under the leadership of Mama Mabel and how she had shaped him into the gangster and killer he was now by not allowing him to pursue music and forcing him to murder Donnie and Pistol Pete to turn him into the cold blooded killed she desired in her crew.

Luke confronts Cornell

Cottonmouth bribes and mocks Luke Cage

Before long Cage arrived and complimented Cottonmouth on his musical skills before noting he had never seen him without Zip or other bodyguards. Cage then informed Cottonmouth that he intended to bring him to Misty Knight where he wanted him to confess to all his crimes, however Cottonmouth made it clear that he knew Cage was really Carl Lucas and used this information to blackmail his enemy as he threatened to send him back to Seagate Prison, laughing in his face as Cage considered his options and questioned Cottonmouth's commitment.

Cottonmouth only mocked Cage more as he compared him to Harlem's own Captain America before making it clear that in his view they were both common criminals. Cottonmouth then explained that he owned Cage now, because he could easily reveal his true identity to the police and expose him, sending him back to Seagate to continue his sentence. Cottonmouth made it clear that he wanted Cage to not only stop stealing his money and disrupting his organisation, but if he ever had use for a bulletproof man, he would be calling on his services.

With Cage having left to consider his situation, Cottonmouth listened to D-Nice rehearsal before being joined by Shades. Cottonmouth apologised for his earlier actions, with Shades accepting as he knew what stress Cottonmouth was under at this time. Cottonmouth explained what had happened between him and Cage, only for Shades to explain this was not what Diamondback wanted from the situation, although Cottonmouth was not bothering, insisting that Cage would not run as was feared but would fall in line behind him as instructed.[1]

Fatal Push

Cottonmouth Insults Mariah

Cottonmouth mocks and insults Mariah Dillard

"You know damn well what that woman made me do, I was fourteen years old."
"Uncle Pete betrayed us."
"Uncle Pete was the only one who ever had my back, Mama Mabel was always sheltering you, protecting you and for what? All that education and you just as shady as me."
―Cottonmouth[src]

While playing his piano, Cottonmouth was visited by Mariah Dillard, who ordered him to finally finished the Luke Cage situation as her political career was in serious risk of falling apart due to the actions of Cage. When Dillard reminded Cottonmouth that they were family and brought up Mama Mabel, Cottonmouth became angry, thinking back to all the ways that Mabel had destroyed his life by pushing him to be a gangster rather than a musician.

Cottonmouth Falls

Cottonmouth is pushed by Mariah Dillard

This led them to an argument regarding Pistol Pete, who Mama Mabel had forced Cottonmouth to execute when he was fourteen years old, although Dillard argued that Pete deserved to die as he had raped her. Cottonmouth insisted that Mabel had always protected Dillard while forcing him to commit murder, with Dillard arguing that she had always been protecting him, when Cottonmouth accused Dillard of flirting with Pete and requesting sex, she snapped, first slapping Cottonmouth before hitting him with a bottle and pushing him out of his office window.

Cottonmouth Murder

Cottonmouth moments before Dillard kills him

Cottonmouth fell from his window and landed hard onto the floor of Harlem's Paradise, badly hurting his back and cutting his skin on the shards of glass, while Dillard continued to scream that she never wanted to be raped by Pete. As Cottonmouth attempted to crawl away despite the amount of agony he was in, Dillard caught up with him and grabbed a microphone stand and proceeded to beat Cottonmouth on the face with it, eventually crushing his skull and killing him.[1] His corpse was later beaten even more by Shades to frame Luke Cage for the murder.[7]

Cage was eventually exonerated but Candace Miller, the closest thing to an eyewitness, was murdered by Shades before she could testify, robbing Misty Knight of a case against Dillard. The murder was ultimately pinned on Diamondback, who had been attempting to frame Cage for his own crimes ever since Cottonmouth's murder.[8]

Personality

"Nothing humbles a man like gravity."
―Cottonmouth[src]

Cornell Stokes was a calculating individual who firmly believed that power came through money and violence. Unlike his cousin Mariah Dillard who seemed to respect the suffering that the black community in the United States of America had to go through over the course of history to achieve equality with the whites, Stokes thought the real goal of that struggle was to achieve power. For that reason he was intensely proud of his club, Harlem's Paradise as no other black man was able to run such a successful nightclub before, thinking it be another fraction that would go down as his infamy, he refused to sell it, even when he needed said money desperately. In spite of that Stokes had no concern referring to himself and other black people as "niggas", inferring he does not care so much about black rights as his cousin did but rather gaining power and dominion over everything.

Having been raised by the most notorious criminal in Harlem, his grandmother Mama Mabel, Stokes was also raised to be the perfect gangster and kept the family business alive even after Mabel's death by successfully running her crime gang. Thinking his legacy to be measured in either blood or power, Stokes demanded the respect he felt entitled towards, seeking to gain this by either reputation as the reputable owner of the most successful club or the most feared crime lord. However, Stokes was unwilling to take responsibility for his actions despite this desire for legacy, instead using his connections within the police and morgue to avoid any legal altercations and his own arrest even though many of Harlem's residents, including the police knew that Stokes was already a brutal criminal but could not react due to the amount of evidence that he was able to make disappear. However after Luke Cage and Diamondback began dismantling his crime empire, he began losing his composure and behaving more rashly despite being cautious about his criminality beforehand. Refusing to be disrespected in such a manner by Cage, he was willing to risk financial bankruptcy by buying the Judas bullet to kill him, despite being reminded by Shades that his empire was in too much shambles to buy such an item. Stokes lived the lifestyle of a classic gangster, with Luke Cage noting that he surrounded himself with beautiful models in his private club box.

Despite his vicious and ruthless personality, Stokes was not completely heartless. To some degree, he loved his family due to being raised by Mama Mabel in the importance of family first, even though his uncle was his first victim for betraying Mabel, he was implied to feel deep regret over this and Peter did wish Cornell to have a better future than just another criminal in the family. He also did care about his cousin, Mariah Dillard but simply teased her too much to the point where she eventually killed Stokes in a blind rage when he pushed her too far. Due to their history, Stokes had a close bond with Pop even if they went down different paths as they got older. He planned to secretly fund the repair of his barber shop after his hit on it and killed Tone when he discovered that Pop was killed in the shooting. Later on, he shredded a tear over this news and payed for Pop's expensive casket.

Because of his former desire to become a music artist, Stokes played jazz in his office quite frequently, as he himself implied that that was his true desire and was forced into crime by his family. He also hated his criminal alias, "Cottonmouth" and was warned by many to not call him by that in his presence as it would lead him to become more violent and even kill whoever did. Stokes had a habit of laughing with a slight rasp when amused. He seemed to be somewhat insensitive towards others especially about their identity. He has referred to blacks as "niggas", police as "pigs", certain women as "bitches" and has twice made a joke regarding a stereotype he has against Jamaicans. He also seemed to be insensitive towards women such as claiming his cousin Mariah Dillard invited her abuse, he told Mama Mabel that the female prostitutes should learn to defend themselves against abusive customers instead of relying on their bodyguards and had no problem calling Misty Knight a "bitch" straight to her face. Despite some of his female workers being afraid of him such as Candace, he spends some time playing music for his female models to entertain them.

Abilities

This section requires expansion
  • Expert Tactician: Cottonmouth used a bazooka to shoot both Luke Cage and Connie Lin at the same time, believing they would both die, and was able to obscure his involvement by making the incident appear to be a gas explosion. When he discovered Luke Cage's vulnerability to the Judas Bullet, he instantly realized this bullet's potential and planned to order some despite his financial difficulties.

Equipment

Relationships

Family

Allies

Enemies

Appearances

Appearances for Cornell Stokes

in chronological order:

Trivia

  • In the comics, Cornell Cottonmouth was a heroin trader that wanted to recruit Luke Cage for his organization when Cage was wrongly accused of drug trafficking with heroin stolen from Cottonmouth by Willis Stryker.

Behind the Scenes

References

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