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Viper is a psychoactive narcotic with properties similar to that of a super-steroid. It was developed by biochemist Stan Potolsky when he was employed by WellZyn - a subsidiary of Wayne Enterprises. The initial Viper drug was a prototype precursor to another drug called Venom. WellZyn developed the pharmaceutical as a bio-weapon, intended on use by military soldiers in the field.
Viper comes in liquid form that produces a vapor that is inhaled. The recipient breathes in one inhalent of Viper and immediately develops a strong adrenal rush and superhuman strength. Viper breaks down the calcium deposits of the user's body, forcing them to compensate by consuming large quantities of calcium-rich products such as milk or cheese. Although the use may draw upon the benefits of superhuman strength for a few hours, the depletion of calcium in their body will ultimately result in suffocation and finally death.
When Stan Potolksy left WellZyne, he knew that Viper was a very dangerous weapon. To show the world its destructive value, he began freely disseminating it to the downtrodden of Gotham City. One such individual who received a dose of Viper was a street musician named Benny. After taking just a single whiff of Viper, he grew inhumanly strong and suffered a psychotic break. He entered a convenience store, emptied a gallon of milk into his mouth and then ripped the store's ATM machine from the wall and made off with it down the street. Detectives James Gordon and Harvey Bullock interviewed the store's cashier after the crime and tracked Benny down. As they tried to arrest him, Benny lifted the ATM machine up above his head. However, at this point, the drug's dangerous side effects kicked in and his loss of bone strength caused his bones to collapse beneath the weight of the machine, killing him.
The Gotham City Police Department had their hands full as more and more lowlifes were being brought in, driven crazy on Viper. One woman, a prostitute, died from the effects right before Gordon's eyes. News spread quickly of the drug's effects and a city-wide alert was sent out across television stations.
When Potolsky realized he was not achieving the results he wanted, he decided to make an even larger statement by pumping Viper into the air conditioning ducts of a Wayne Enterprises charity event. Gordon and Bullock caught onto the scheme and went to the building. While Harvey helped with the evacuation, Gordon found Potolsky on the roof of the building. He kept his gun trained on him, but Potolsky refused to back down. Gordon shot the canister containing the Viper, which then sprayed all over Potolsky. The concentrated dose of the narcotic gave him elevated confidence and strength and he tried to escape by jumping off the roof of the building. Superhuman strength does not necessarily equate to superhuman durability however and Potolsky died from the fall.