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Wild Cards is a "shared universe" Superhero book series, originally conceived by George R.R. Martin (A Song of Ice and Fire) as a spin-off from an RPG organized by several Albuquerque-area authors. The world of Wild Cards is pretty much like ours, until 1946. That year, the government of a world of aliens physically quite similar to humans decides to use Earth as the testing ground for a bioweapon in the form of a virus, later called Xenovirus Takis-A, or the "wild card" virus. The test sample is stolen by a pulp-style Nazi villain calling himself "Dr. Tod", who releases the virus over New York City.

Ninety percent of those infected with the virus die horribly as their own DNA turns against them. Nine percent are mutated, gaining extra eyes, pincers for hands, or skin that bruises at the slightest touch. The lucky one percent not only remain physically unchanged, but they gain superpowers. And a negligible percentage of the one percent end up physically unchanged, but gain a superpower that isn't really super, such as the ability to change the color of the wallpaper around them. It is later determined that these numbers are actually wrong, and the number of infected was much higher than previously realized: many if not most of those infected were, in fact, apparently unaffected, but carried the infection latently, and could pass it on to the descendants as a recessive trait.

Wild Cards examines, somewhat realistically, the effects of a world where a small portion of the citizens have suddenly gained superpowers. But because the series is in part an homage to superhero genre, there are some tropes involved that one does not normally find co-existing in the same story. There aren't many masked vigilantes, as they eventually end up revealing their secret identities or have them discovered. The mutated victims, the "Jokers", are regularly treated like scum, strung along by the government, and end up developing their own subculture. The superpowered "Aces" don't always go into crimefighting or villainy, either; some of them parlay their talents into fame or private industry.

Twenty volumes and counting, the series has had a somewhat rocky publication history in recent years. After publishing twelve volumes with Bantam, the series switched first to Baen and then to iBooks, before getting picked up again by Tor after a hiatus of seven years. Tor is also reprinting the older books in the series. The series has also been adapted for RPGs (GURPS first, Mutants and Masterminds much later) as well as several series of comics, most recently The Hard Call by Daniel Abraham.

Books in the series:


  1. Wild Cards I
  2. Aces High
  3. Jokers Wild
  4. Aces Abroad
  5. Down and Dirty
  6. Ace In The Hole
  7. Dead Mans Hand
  8. One Eyed Jacks
  9. Jokertown Shuffle
  10. Double Solitaire (Solo novel by Melinda Snodgrass)
  11. Dealers Choice
  12. Turn Of The Cards (Solo novel by Victor Milan)
  13. Card Sharks (First book published by Baen)
  14. Marked Cards
  15. Black Trump
  16. Deuces Down (First book published by iBooks)
  17. Death Draws Five (Solo novel by John Jos Miller, extremely rare)
  18. Inside Straight (First book published by Tor)
  19. Busted Flush
  20. Suicide Kings
  21. Fort Freak
  22. Lowball (forthcoming)


There is also a comic book series, Wild Cards: The Hard Call.

The series have a character list.

Tropes used in Wild Cards include:
  • Aliens Speaking English
    • Dr. Tachyon who is, to be fair, telepathic.
    • Jube The Walrus; Justified, since he's a spy trained to blend into Earth culture.
  • All of the Other Reindeer - there was and remains some animosity toward Wild Cards by those left unaffected by it...out of fear and/or jealousy, or just plain old predjudice, especially towards the squickier looking Jokers. There are Jokers Rights movements ranging from benign to terroristic.
  • All Your Powers Combined - Tom Weathers (The Radical) has all the combined powers of Captain Trips' alternate personas (Until they start turning on him, one by one, during the events of Suicide Kings).
  • Alien Invasion - the Swarm
  • Ambition Is Evil: Tom Weathers goal in life is to use his immense power to make the world a better place. Using his personal definition of "better", of course: a purely Communist state run along traditional lines... including thought police and the elimination of dissidents. As he puts it, "You can't make an omellette without breaking some eggs", and if the "eggs" in question just happen to be a village full of innocent men, women, and children, all of whom must be killed by their own government so that they can blame another country and start a war, then so be it.
  • Amoral Attorney - Edward St. John "Loophole" Latham. He seems to think the court is basically a big game. Many believe he owes his lack of a conscience -- and resultant skills as a lawyer -- to the wild card. He doesn't, he is naturally that bad. His card finally turns several novels in, and he gains the ability to grant Jumping powers through penetrative sex. And he has a taste for teenaged boys and girls.
  • Animate Body Parts (not used in the commercial sense)
    • The unofficial mayor of Jokertown has, in place of a nose, an elephant trunk with seven fingers on the end that he can and does use like a third arm.
    • Peregrine has hawk-like wings in addition to regular human limbs, although her power of flight consists of winged flight and subconscious levitation. She discovers that, as the levitation is blocked by her pregnancy.
    • Several Jokers and Joker-Aces (Jokers with powers) possess additional limbs of different usability.
  • Animorphism
    • John Fortune [see Shape Shifter below]
    • Rahda O'Reilly turns into an elephant that can fly.
    • Sewer Jack turns into an alligator.
    • The ace Nobody lived for some time as King Kong.
    • Aquarius (and therefore, The Radical) can turn into a dolphin.
  • Anyone Can Die - the timeline of Wild Cards stretches from 1946 to the late 2000's - several notable characters have died from old age, and maybe even more have met their ends courtesy of others, e.g. Brain Trust, Chrysalis, Kid Dinosaur, The Astronomer.
      • And from the latest novel Cameo, Gardener, and The Radical
  • Alternate History
  • Applied Phlebotinum - anything made by one of the gizmohead aces, such as Travnicek or Jetman. Modular Man, as an invention of Travnicek's is walking Applied Phlebotinum.
    • The Wild Card Virus itself.
  • The Archer Straight Arrow - a Mormon ace who shoots burning arrows.
    • More traditionally, Yeoman, a zen archer in the Green Arrow mold, and the series' resident Badass Normal (at least for the first ten novels or so).
  • Ascended Fanboy
    • The Great And Powerful Turtle
    • Jonathan Hive
    • Wild Fox
    • Kid Dinosaur
    • Technically, all Wild Card powers work from subconscious desires. Tachyon doesn't want to publish that, because of the revelation effect on the Jokers.
      • That theory is highly controversial, because the virus kills 90% of the infected people - did they all want to die?
        • Another idea (actually speculated on by a character in one story) is that the Wildcard Virus taps into DREAMS. 99% of the time, it taps into a nightmare, and if you live you're a Joker.
  • Ax Crazy
    • Blaise Andrieux
    • Demise, but he got better.
    • Sharky
    • Mackie Messer
    • The Radical (from the latest series of novels)
      • To put his sociopathy in perspective, he was quite happy to attempt to nuke New Orleans, to get revenge on one person who kidnapped his daughter. AFTER he got her back.
  • Back From the Dead
    • Crypt Kicker, who also ended up as walking Toxic Phlebotinum, secreted from his animate corpse. Ew.
    • Demise
    • Cordelia Chaisson's ace would allow her to revive someone dead or dying if they weren't too far gone.
    • Buddy Holly, who turned his Ace (courtesy of Typhoid Croyd) in a death&rebirth scene (on stage!)
    • Cameo, who can channel the spirits of the dead (and use their powers if they were psy-based Aces).
    • From Busted Flush, Hoodoo Mama, who has the power to create zombies.
    • Deadhead channels the memory and personality from corpses by eating the brain.
    • In the first book, Fortunato reanimates a corpse (to get information out of the dead person), by having anal sex with it.
  • Badass: The Great and Powerful Turtle generally considered to be the baddest Badass in the series. One of the books describes an issue of Aces magazine that features a debate as to who the strongest Ace in the world is. One of the other characters finds the whole thing silly, especially since the Great and Powerful Turtle once lifted the battleship USS New Jersey out of the water telekinetically, a feat that no Ace who was merely "super-strong" could ever hope to duplicate. And then there was the time that the Turtle sank Ellis Island by dropping the Hudson River on it (yes, the whole freaking river).
    • Of all the aces, only Fortunato rivals the Turtle in raw power... and Fortunato lives the life of a hermit and doesn't like to interact with the outside world anymore.
  • Badass Normal -- Yeoman, the setting's equivalent of the Green Arrow (with a little punisher thrown in). He regularly goes up against a gang with its share of Aces, and often wins. His mental discipline is deemed ace-degree by Tachyon and Fortunato.
  • Big Bad -- changes for every group of book
    • The Astronomer
    • Ti Malice
    • The Jumpers were for an entire arc.
    • Blaise Andrieux in Double Solitaire.
    • Puppetman
    • The Righteous Djinn, although their intentions differ.
    • The Radical from Busted Flush and Suicide Kings (Although he's technically The Dragon for Dr. Nshombo)
  • Big Eater - The Sleeper, upon waking. Several other Aces and Jokers, due to sheer body size or increased energy turnovers.
    • Also anyone bitten by the Hunger, not that it does them any good.
  • Biological Mashup - a lot of the Wild Card virus' victims have variations on this as they turn partially animalistic.
    • Dr. Finn - Centaur
    • Wild Fox - Kitsune ears and tail
    • The Living Gods who all turned into living representations of the animal-headed deities of Egypt.
    • Sharky - Great White Shark
    • Lamia - human female slash giant snake
    • Father Squid - facefull of tentacles (no, not THAT way!).
    • Peregrine - Bird wings added to a human body
    • Dr. Travnicek after Typhoid Croyd - a bipedal mess of insectoid sensory organs
    • John "Devil" Darlingfoot - Joker-ace with a goat-like right leg
    • Several incarnations of Croyd AKA The Sleeper were technically Joker-aces - a gargoyle, a nightmarish wolf-like mutant (although the only witness here was Trips on LSD), batlike flyer again, insectoid eyes, skin covered by fur or scales, a prehensile tail, etc.
  • Blind Idiot Translation - "Nur Al-Allah" is ungrammatical in Arabic, it should simply be Nur-Allah; and "Sayyid" does, technically translate as "master" but it's also the common form of polite address, roughly equivalent to "mister" in english, which doesn't make for an imposing Ace Name.
  • Came Back Wrong: Demise, Crypt Kicker
  • Captain Ersatz
  • Child Soldiers - employed by Dr. Nshombo in Suicide Kings by injecting kidnapped children with the Wild Card Virus.
  • Cluster F-Bomb - employed liberally by Hoodoo Mama.
  • Compelling Voice - The Nur, literally. Astronomer, Fortunato, and of course Sleeper sometimes, use a telepathy-based version.
  • Creepy Child - Ghost from Suicide Kings (although she gets better).
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check:
    • Sculptress, whose Ace was the power to shape solid materials on touch. After the Turtle brought her in, she started working for the government.
    • Midas - ability to transmute anything to gold on touch, understandably lethal to humans. While not exactly a classic supervillain power, could have wrecked chaos on the economy. Became a sculptor instead, his works are treasured by museums worldwide.
  • Deus Sex Machina -- Fortunato, one of the most powerful psychics in the setting, derives his powers from consensual tantric sex practices. Luckily, he's also a pimp. His arch-nemesis the Astronomer works in the exactly opposite way - he derives his power from rape, torture and murder.
    • Additional sex-related Wild Cards include(d):
      • Roulette, whose secretions upon orgasm could be a pleasure drug or an immediate and horrible death. Turned the Black Queen from Typhoid Croyd.
      • "Blowjob", who could animate small objects by breathing on them, but only while sexually aroused. (She only uses the name Blowjob once as a joke. And she later uses another emotional trigger-- hatred-- after she goes Ax Crazy.)
      • Prime, who bestowed the Jumper power onto others via sex.
      • Water Lily, who could cure Jokerism upon having sex with her victim. As this seems to have both overwritten her original water-control ace (Typhoid Croyd again) AND made her prime target of any joker-serving prostitution racket, clearly Blessed with Suck
      • Cash Mitchell from Deuces Down. His power was being able to make things lighter ...but only when undergoing strong emotions. However, to get their ship off the moon once they land, he has his girlfriend screw him till the ship lifts off.
      • And from the latest book; Genetrix, whom after having any sort of sex gives birth to a clutch of eggs that hatch into super powered (sometimes) children who die after a few days.
  • Die or Fly - the Wild Card is prone to "turning", i.e. activating in a latent, at times of great stress. Harlem Hammer (super strength, damage resistance, unique metabolism), Will-o-Wisp (lightning) and Crypt Kicker (toxic undead) turned their Aces at life-or-death situations.
    • Seemingly Nat (i.e. non-powered) sons of Wild Card enabled people are called Suicide Kings. Owing to the fact that stress or duress may force the Wild Card to "turn", that the offspring of two Wild Card carriers is always a carrier himself/herself, and the survival rate after a "turning" is roughly the 10% (and of that 10%, only the 10% becomes an Ace or a Deuce... the 90% becomes a grossly misshapen Joker), causing undue stress to a Suicide King is a firing offense for education workers, and presumably anyone else in a position of authority over them.
  • Differently-Powered Individual - All based on card-playing terminologies:
    • Aces - The Beautiful Elite who won the Superpower Lottery. Takisian psy-lords and warriors are technically Aces by breeding. There are telepaths among nats, so the Takisians have most probably developed from that potential, as humans and Takisians are biologically the same species - they can mate and produce fertile offspring with partial psy-lord powers.

      The distinction between Ace and the following Deuce depends on circumstances and conditions to use the power, e.g. the ability to become a human puddle is a deuce - unless kidnapped or shot; the ability to change carpet ornaments is a deuce - unless you are a carpet seller.
    • Deuces - those with less useful abilities. Originally all those who kept their human shape were called aces. As a weak ace with the only ability to change his skin color is thus referred, he responds "If I'm an ace, I'd hate to see a deuce", coining the term. A classical example is the cook from "Aces High" - he can turn into a dolphin. Only on a new moon and only for two hours.
    • Jokers - those who just get random mutations. There are so-called Joker-aces - those unlucky enough to be physically deformed, but who also got powers out of the deal. Those with useless powers are Joker-deuces instead, but that term gets used very rarely. Notable examples are Jokertown Clinic guard Troll - big, strong, armored, green and ugly, the Oddity - superstrength by Body Horror, TV host Peregrine - she has wings, hollow bones of a bird and can fly by subconscious levitation, and she is extremely beautiful by human standards.
      • Medical science considers Peregrine to be a joker-ace due to having body parts not present on "normal" human beings. She considers herself a joker, although the public and Wild Card community consider her an ace.
    • The 90% who die are said to have "drawn the Black Queen". When one's Wild Card infection becomes active, it's referred to as "your card turning over". Muggles are called Nats, short for "Naturals".
  • Dream Weaver: The Ace named Revenant could send dreams to a sleeping person.
  • For Want of a Nail -- Liberally applied everywhere, as the Wild Card Virus is a huge change sending out veritable tsunamis of ripple effects. As a result, the 1980s global political landscape is almost unrecognizable, and social issues are radically different: Mahatma Gandhi is saved from assassination in 1948, only to see his efforts to unite India fail because there is no common reaction to his death; Fidel Castro remains a baseball player, while Guevara's attempted revolution in Cuba is quashed, leaving Batista in power into the 1980s; Buddy Holly lives to become a has-been and then a shaman ace; Marilyn Monroe lives past the early 1960s; Elizabeth Taylor died instead of James Dean in that car crash; Joker civil rights become a major political issue, both in the US and worldwide.
  • Enfante Terrible - Blaise Andrieux
  • Fantastic Racism - Most humans are prejudiced against Aces and Jokers as well as the usual real-world racial/sociopolitical/religious targets. Many Jokers return the favor by despising Nats. The south-african Apartheid policy handles jokers as blacks, but black aces as colored.
  • Five-Man Band - The Four Aces and Dr. Tachyon
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Travnicek, Jetman, Mike "Detroit Steel" Tsakos.
  • Gambit Roulette - Kien Phuc, Latham, Puppetman, the Card Sharks, Blaise
  • Gender Bender
  • Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke - Takisian biotechnology
  • God Guise: Since a number of Wild Carders forms and/or powers resemble figures or symbols from various religions, not surprisingly a number of them have been given (or have deliberately cultivated) religious roles. Nur Al'Allah was the most blatant example.
  • Good Guy Bar: The Ace of Trumps.
  • Horde of Alien Locusts: The Swarm, aka TIAMAT.
  • Ho Yay: between Tachyon and his cousin Zabb. Not diminished one bit when Tachyon gets Jumped into a female body, and they eventually hook up.
    • This really isn't YMMV, as they discuss that Zabb could still sleep with Tachyon after he's returned to his male body (Takis has no cultural taboos on homosexuality, and their relationship apparently isn't close enough to trigger any incest taboos) but both of them agree that they like women too much. Still, it is actually discussed, in character, in the novel, as is the fact that they both have clearly seen the attraction for pretty much ever.
  • Human Aliens: The Takisians. They interbreed with humans to fertile offspring, as Earth is possibly a genetic colony from Takis.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal -- 99% of the jokers. Even the ones with powers also come with significant deformities. Tachyon on occasion roll-calls an entire squad of joker-aces to deal with a rogue ace. In the course of the series, there are several ways to un-draw the Wild Card:
    • Mai Minh, Ace daughter of Vietnamese refugees, could cure jokers by copying their Joker and then remolding herself and the joker back.
    • Water Lily lost her water-control powers, but now can heal jokers by having sex with them.
    • Tachyon's Trump Card, the Xenovirus Takis-B, is in theory designed to turn any wildcarder back to nat. The Trump has to be developed on individual basis, but Tachyon has achieved some successes, although very few are named:
      • Lizard King (ace to nat, died because his ace actually kept him alive.
      • Bentley, Croyd's mentor in crime, fox-like joker turned back to nat.
    • The Jumpers offer wealthy jokers a Freaky Friday solution by jumping them into nat bodies. Before the jumping, the joker declares the unsuspecting nat his full heir, after the jumping the joker body is disposed of.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Deadhead.
  • Infant Immortality: Averted, as Anyone Can Die, and that includes kids, small children, and babies. The Wild Cards universe is not a friendly place.
    • Actually, Word of God states that Kid Dinosaur, a Bratty Half-Pint with saurian powers, was created just to show the whole inhumanity of the Egyptian Masons plot by having a new, innocent character with no influence in other story-arcs graphically slaughtered
  • Interspecies Romance -- starting with Dr. Tachyon's first love interest Brain Trust, and continuing onward throughout the series-- Tachyon is quite promiscuous, and apparently doesn't care about protection.
    • Popinjay marries a Takisian.
    • A nat ends up involved with Dr. Finn, whose joker makes him a centaur, even though he's technically human.
  • Kill and Replace: Third generation swarmlings could do this.
  • Killed Off for Real - It's a long, long list...
  • Knowledge Broker - Chrysalis
  • Living Ship - Takisian ships are the domesticated form of a telepathic spacedwelling species.
  • Made of Iron : Rustbelt. Literally.
  • Mama Bear - Peregrine and The Radical.
  • Magic Feather - A lot of Ace powers need a specific "focus" to work. According to Tachyon, most or all of these limitations are purely psychosomatic.
  • Magic-Powered Pseudoscience -- In an epilogue to the first book, it's made clear that the inventions of most gadgeteer Aces are just props for their innate powers. This is not true for Mod Man, who otherwise would have broken down after Travnicek lost his Ace.
    • Actually, this IS the case for Mod Man. His tech cannot be fixed, changed or studied AT ALL. He has some leftover power that allows him to still exist, but from now on, he canot develope or actually, be repaired by anyone.
      • As of his last appearance (and actually, even in his first appearance, without Travnicek's consent or knowledge), Modular Man had managed to make some simple repairs to himself. He was planning on taking classes in the necessary disciplines, hoping to learn enough to handle major repairs. Since he hasn't been seen since Volume 11, there's no knowing if he succeeded.
  • Mass Super-Empowering Event -- The Wildcard Virus.
  • Meta Origin -- The Wild Card virus.
  • Mauve Shirt: several characters are explicitly mentioned by Martin as created from the start exactly to provide drama by dying horribly, specifically Howler and Kid Dinosaur, though he uses the term Red Shirt.
  • Modern Major-General -- Captain Trips, one of the most powerful Aces on Earth and a brilliant biochemist... who sucks as a businessman. And at relationships.
  • Morally-Ambiguous Doctorate Dr. Tachyon himself is not a doctor literally, but the nickname does pay respect to the knowledge he has about the Xenovirus Takis-A (aka the Wild Card virus) and his general intelligence.
    • His knowledge of genetics, biology, and medicine are such that he may as well be. It would be easy for him to get several Earth doctorates, he just sees no reason to.
    • In fairness, he didn't invent the name. The U.S. military personnel and scientists were uncomfortable with his extremely complex string of names, and more so with his royal title. So rather than call him "Your Highness", something 1940's Americans found distasteful, they opted for "Doctor", since he seemed to be a specialist in advanced biological/medical sciences. "Tachyon" was a nod to the then-theoretical particle that powered his symbiont ship's FTL drive.
  • Parental Abandonment -
    • Disappeared Dad - John Fortune's; his father, Fortunato, went off to find himself
    • Missing Mom - Sprout, daughter of Mark Meadows/Capt. Trips; justified in that her parents got a messy divorce. The mom later shows up and tries to get custody, resulting in Trips' identity becoming public.
    • The Amazing Bubbles parents also abandonded her when she sued them for spending her modelling money behind her back.
  • Nightmare Sequence:
    • Popinjay has a recurring one that causes him to wet the bed. Resolved after he pops Ti Malice into a place inspired by his nightmare.
    • Bloat literally summons creatures from Bosch paintings.
    • The Sleeper actually dreams during his sleeps. It's not nice...
    • Demise reexperiences his Black Queen at all times. He strongly prefers to fall asleep dead drunk.
    • One of The Astronomer's associates was a dreamwalker. Make an educated guess on what dreams he dispensed.
    • Tiamat, the Swarm, works via Hive Mind. Telepathically tapping into it is NOT recommended.
  • No Export for You: Aces Abroad will never be released in Russia (Eksmo bought rights in 2006 and forgot about it). All books after it, even less likely.
  • Patchwork Story: Nearly all of the novels.
  • Parental Obliviousness - The parents of underage aces don't seem to be able to keep their powered children out of the action...or sometimes even aware the child is involved.
    • Kid Dinosaur's mom is briefly described as trying to keep her son away from the first Swarm outbreak. She fails.
  • Performance Anxiety: The Great And Powerful Turtle can't use his telekinetic powers unless he feels like he's safe in his shell -- so he builds a large shell out of surplus battleship armor and a Volkswagen Beetle.
    • It should be noted, though, that while he's in his armor, he's a Bill Badass and generally considered one of the two most powerful Aces on the planet, along with Fortunato.
  • Personality Chip - Modular Man is designed to replicate human emotions and psychology.
  • Poisonous Person - Crypt Kicker, Quinn the Eskimo, Lamia, Roulette, Cocomama, Kurari, numerous jokers and joker-aces.
  • Psychic Powers: The most common Wild Card abilities are variations of Telepathy and Telekinesis. It's implied by Tachyon that all Wild Card powers are really broad applications of Psychic Powers.
  • The Puppet Masters - Puppetman
  • Puppeteer Parasite - Ti Malice
  • Sapient Ship - the Takisians use and breed sapient (or semi-sapient) ships. Dr. Tachyon's ship - which he named "Baby" - regenerates its "ghost drive gland" over a period of years or decades, after he burned it out trying to go real fast.
  • Reality Show - The Inside Straight novel is all about the Aces/Jokers Reality TV Show "American Hero" and who gets discarded from the deck [voted off].
  • Reed Richards Is Useless -- Subverted; the world is a lot like our own, but different in certain ways (Buddy Holly never died but became a washed-up has-been, Joseph McCarthy went after Aces instead of as well as Communists, the Arab-Israeli Wars are initially averted of a peace agreement secretly influenced by a powerful Ace).
    • Only the latter is really an example of subverted RRIU. The others are just stuff that's different. The Gandhi example under For Want of a Nail above also qualifies, as it involves an Ace actively using his powers to change the world.
    • The fact that Dr. Tachyon has not shared his knowledge of vastly advanced biotechnology with humans is an example of RRIU played straight.
      • Tachyon's specialty is a mutagenic mass-empowering virus, released on the planet for beta testing. Would any alien that did not want us to kill ourselves off with biowarfare share that with us? Not that we need sharing - humanity is capable of producing Wild Card - related WMDs just fine, as done by Card Sharks.
      • Tachyon is notable in that he is neither a world-saving superhero by nature, nor does he have a high opinion of the human race - especially after all the grief they've given despite all his efforts to fix what his family did. Upgrading humanity to Takisian biotechnology is very much not on his to-do list! One does wonder though why he doesn't apply his genetic engineering talents to solving diseases like Cancer or AIDS, which would presumably earn him a lot of kudos and money.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent - Sewer Jack Robicheaux, the aligator-shifter ace, who could be counted on to act exactly like a real alligator when in that form. Ironically, this 1. doesn't apply to his last meal, 2. renders him controllable by Bagabond and 3. extends his lifespan since alligators are immune to AIDS. The semi-snake joker Lamia actually becomes a better person after turning her card.
  • Ridiculously-Human Robots - Modular Man, who is fully functional. This is a source of great delight to his creator, Travnicek, and a great source of embarrassment to Mod Man, once he realizes Travnicek uses his memory files for porn.
  • Roger Zelazny: Created Croyd aka The Sleeper.
  • Shout-Out -- The beginning of the "Wild Card era" in the wake of the battle between Jetboy and Dr. Tod is both a tribute to the pulp-era characters they represent, and their eventual replacement by superheroes and supervillains in pop culture.
    • The Beatles, in Jube's Catch Phrase: Goo goog g'jube.
      • Made even better by the fact that he really does look like an anthropoid walrus.
    • The Doors in The Lizard King's name.
      • The Lizard King is Jim Morrison. He is reptilian-looking and projects collective hallucinations
    • The Rolling Stones via Jumping Jack Flash.
    • Harry Potter as one of John Fortune's childhood Halloween costumes.
    • Several of the costumed Ace heroes are shout-outs to comic superheroes and/or real-life pop culture figures.
    • One book mentions a Jack Stevenson Games company. The first roleplaying game version of Wild Cards was a GURPS adaptation by Steve Jackson Games.
      • It was a fictionalization of an actual raid on Steve Jackson Games; they were working on GURPS Cyberpunk and the FBI couldn't let them get away with teaching people how to commit cybercrime. Using pen, paper, and dice.
  • Some Call Me... Tim - Tachyon's actual name is Prince Tisianne brant Ts'ara sek Halima sek Ragnar sek Omian of House Ilkazam (and that's just his first name; his full name would list his genealogy for the last thousand generations). The American scientists and military men he makes first contact with are endlessly corrected on how it's said, and mispronouncing it is quite the insult. So he is given the much-simpler nickname Dr. Tachyon in reference to his ship's tachyon engines. Ironically, those engines are busted, and he is a virologist.
  • Split Personality - Puppetman, Lazy Dragon, Oddity, literally Quasiman, Mother, Captain Trips.
  • Steven Ulysses Perhero - Jack Braun gains superstrength, Mackie Messer is a german human buzzsaw ace.
  • Stock Dinosaurs: Dinosaur Kid Kid Dinosaur is able to shapeshift into any dinosaur he knows. He knows a lot of them and is bugged by people who know only T-Rex and pteranodon.
    • But his mass doesn't change, so he becomes a very small tyrannosaur. (Mr. Nobody, another shape-changer, is able to thwart the mass limit by transforming lots and lots of energy. He caused the New York City Blackout of the late Seventies by sucking up enough energy to turn into King Kong.)
  • Stock Super Powers - this is a very, very long list. And not all the powers here have a trope because the Wild Cards authors were pretty inventive. Croyd Crenson, aka The Sleeper, is Blessed with Suck, as he falls asleep, then wakes up having turned a different Wild Card every time, including Jokers, spending weeks to months in a coccoon-like metamorphosis. Said metamorphosis isn't painless and sometimes Croyd wakes up before completion. This is inverted into Cursed with Awesome, as Croyd
  1. chooses the life of a freelancer rogue
  2. is completely healed and has changed his appearance entirely after every new sleep
  3. has experienced and learned almost every Ace power (in criminal applications)
  4. artificially prolongs his time awake by using amphetamines
  5. apparently doesn't age.

Croyd probably should be listed under nearly every entry below, but we're mentioning him here to save time.

    • Animal Empathy
      • Bagabond
      • Emissario Negro, the "Messenger in Black" - a south american enthomology professor who turned an Ace to summon and control empowered butterflies. Those not only relay information, but can spread diseases of his choice, including the Wild Card itself!
    • Animating the Inanimate
      • Blowjob [see above]
      • Dragon Girl aka Dragon Huntress could bring stuffed toys to life as what they represented: i.e. a toy dragon would become a real one, capable of fire breathing. One of her stuffed animals (seen in the page picture above) is Cthulhu, but so far we haven't seen her animate it...
      • Lazy Dragon could bring soap carvings and/or origami (any representation he makes himself) to life as what they represented; he projects his own consciousness into that which he animates.
    • Body Surf -- The Jumpers.
    • Channeling
      • Cameo
      • Deadhead, in a very unhygienic fashion
    • Deflector Shields
      • Golden Boy
      • Black Eagle
      • Starshine [Capt. Trips]
    • Self-Duplication
      • Legion, but it takes a long time to grow a new body
      • Matryoshka -- unfortunately, duplicating his body does not generate him additional mass, and his intelligence divides amongst the duplicates. One split leaves him two 5'10"s with about the same intelligence he has as one person, but splitting again leaves him at four five footers, who are less intelligent. Then eight four footers who are not very intelligent, and so on.
    • Elemental Powers
      • Cyclone (air, wind)
      • Cyclone's daughter Mistral Cyclone's ace is actually telekinetic, and his Ace subconsiously changed his unborn daughter from carrier or latent to an Ace with the same abilites.
      • Earth Witch
      • Simoon (sandstorms)
      • Water Lily
      • Jumpin' Jack Flash (Fire)
      • Guy Fawkes (british pyromancer ace)
      • Gary Bushorn (Fire). But he's a deuce, so he does not have immunity to his own powers, and ends up burned.
    • Emotional sense
      • Puppetman
      • Succubus
      • Takisian psy-lords
    • Energy Blasts
      • The Amazing Bubbles
      • Starshine [Capt. Trips]
      • Will-o-Wisp [Electricity]
      • Molniya, a russian lightning Ace.
      • Straight Arrow, US government employed Ace with the power to throw arrow-shaped bolts.
    • Flying
      • Black Eagle
      • Chickenhawk, bird-like Joker. At least got gliding flight.
      • Cosmic Traveler and Starshine [Capt. Trips]
      • Elephant Girl [see Rahda O'Reilly in Animophism, above]
      • Hiram Worchester FKA Fatman by using gravity control.
      • Modular Man
      • Peregrine
      • Brave Hawk
      • The Turtle, Fortunato and The Astronomer via telekinesis
    • Functional Magic
      • Topper can literally pull anything out of her Magic Hat.
      • Taroque is a prophet Ace with a set of Taro Cards, although his deck has several blanks. Aces with certain ambitions and intentions will appear on the appropriate card, and blanks will turn into new cards as needed.
      • Fortunato focuses his power through benevolent sex magic.
      • Astronomer focuses his powers through malevolent sex magic.
    • Gravity Control
      • Hiram Worchester FKA Fatman
      • Cash Mitchell
      • Peregrine
    • Healing Factor with varying accuracy
      • Carnifex - fast, but inaccurate. Leaves him unsymmetrical
      • Demise - same as Carnifex, e.g. a broken and twisted leg, if held, will set in this fashion, requiring Demise to break and set it again later. Demise has regrown limbs and would potentially survive decapitation, which is too bad - it comes without pain resistance.
      • Stuntman
      • The Mechanic
    • Illusions and/or Hypnosis
      • The Lizard King
      • Fortunato
      • The Astronomer
      • Nightmare, associate of the Astronomer. Gues what he does...
    • Immortality
      • Golden Boy, who has remained the age he was when his wild card turned since the 1940s.
      • John Nighthawk's ace allows him to extend his own life by stealing the life force of others.
      • Demise and Crypt Kicker as undead.
      • Captain Flint, british joker-ace. He is for all ends and purposes a living statue.
      • Croyd Crenson has lived since the Wild Card began, so he's (possibly) immortal unless his Wild Card turns the Black Queen at some point.
    • Invisibility
      • Chrysalis, though as she's a joker, it's just her epidermis and skin.
      • Fadeout
    • Intangibility
      • Wraith
      • Quasiman, though as a joker, it's not voluntary
      • The Astronomer
    • Invulnerability
      • Golden Boy [see Immortality and Deflector Shields above]
      • Xbalanque [see also Super Strength and Super Speed]
      • Lohengrin -- summons impenetrable armor made of an unknown substance.
      • Tiffany -- an odd partial case, could be knocked unconscious, but her diamond skin protected her from serious injury.
    • Kinetic energy maniplation
      • Curveball
      • Reflector [formerly known as Snotman, don't ask]
      • The Amazing Bubbles -- impacts on her body would be stored as fat, to be used as an energy attack later. Once absorbed most of the force of Little Fat Boy's 10-megaton "nuclear" blast power. Officially one of the most powerful aces in the world.
    • Mad Scientist
      • Jetman, whose cobbled gadgets work for no one but him.
      • Travnicek, creator of Modular Man
      • To some extent, Dr. Tachyon himself, and a number of his Takisian cousins, though their intellect is natural and not a Wild Card mutation
    • Manifesting Weapons
      • Lohengrin manifests a Ghost Sword.
      • The Radical [Capt. Trips] manifests a peace symbol
      • Moonchild [Capt. Trips] manifests nunchuks.
      • The Huntsman's horn, which summons The Wild Hunt
      • Bloat manifests whatever he wants
      • Midnight Angel manifests a flaming sword
      • Hardhat manifests "solid light" objects, usually tools and construction site props
    • Mind Control
    • Pheromones and drugs
      • Ti Malice is a hideous parasitic joker who can inject an instantly addictive secretion from his body
      • Quinn the Eskimo can produce substances in his blood and inject them via finger bones turned syringes. He is a biochemist and works for the drug-trafficking mafia by reverse-engineering his creations into designer drugs
      • The Envoy
      • Succubus (together with sex-based empathy)
    • Plant Control
      • Gardener
    • Precognition
      • Kahina
      • G. C. Jayewardene
      • Taroque
    • Shapeshifting is a particular case in Wild Cards. Jokers' shapeshifts are often into hideous things, and then they get stuck in a Shapeshifter Mode Lock, unable to change into anything else, or back into their human forms.
      • Captain Trips -- a Hippie biochemist who has several blends of drugs he can take that turn him into a handful of different aces [or jokers] all named after sixties songs. If his name appears beside someone else's name, they're one of Mark's "friends".
        • Aquarius [Capt. Trips] turns into a dolphin.
      • Croyd Crenson -- in a rare example, involunatrily shapeshifts every time he goes to sleep and wakes up as a different ace, deuce, joker-ace or joker, by drawing a Wild Card again.
      • Kid Dinosaur -- turns into a dinosaur with the same mass the child has as a human
      • John Fortune -- turns into a lioness
      • Jonathan Hive -- turns into a swarm of bright green wasps, capable of stinging. This also grants him faux-clairvoyance and faux-clairaudience
      • Jerry Strauss, AKA Mr. Nobody, a movie buff ace, can shapeshift into anything and anybody he's seen in a movie he knows well. He had amnesia for a while, and was temporarily stuck as King Kong, periodically escaping from Central Park Zoo to grab a blonde and climb the Empire State Building. Once his memory is restored, he goes to work for Popinjay.
        • This is a bit of a retcon, as the Wild Card virus doesn't work on animals--but it was years before the characters (and, one suspects, the writers) realized that "King Kong" couldn't actually be a giant ape, but a human.
          • Incorrect. Mr. Nobody,while calling himself the Projectionist, had a sort of comedy act. Someone challenged him to do King Kong and he did; but when he gets larger than his own mass, he must draw in energy to do so. The Projectionist was responsible for a major blackout in New York City, and it is mentioned at the ape's first appearance that he first appeared the night of the blackout.
      • Rosa Loteria turns into anything depicted on her Loteria cards when she draws them. This is not always useful as some of the cards are things like La Agave [the Cactus] and Platano [plantain or banana].
    • Actually according to the All There in the Manual fan site for the Show Within a Show American Hero, All of Rosa's forms have some useful power. (The afformentioned Cactus card turns her into a humanoid cactus Joker-ace, and the Cherry card gives her a hat with cherry bombs on it).
      • Sewer Jack Robicheaux -- turns into an alligator. (This also has the added effect of arresting the forward progress of the AIDS virus in his body.)
      • Toad Man -- turns into a giant toad, approximately the size of a minivan.
      • Koala -- australian deuce cop and really embarassed by being addicted to eucalyptus stuff.
      • Succubus is an Empathic Shapeshifter; she changes only in response to others' sexual desires
    • 'Shapeshifter Mode Lock:
      • All Jokers
        • C. C. Ryder -- turned into a murderous subway car after being raped. Yes, really. She returns to human after years of therapy.
    • Sonic Powers
      • Drummer Boy
      • The Howler
    • Speedster
      • Blrr, but only on rollerblades.
      • Joe Twitch, limited. It's more like he's got amped reflexes his body can't quite keep up with.
      • The Racist, a neo-Nazi with superspeed (Race-ist, Get it?)
    • Super Strength
      • A common denominator of all many of the ace forms and several joker-ace forms of The Sleeper
      • Black Shadow
      • Bludgeon - Joker-ace with a hand deformed into a superstrong bone club
      • Several Captain Trips incarnations: Aquarius, Moonchild, Monster, The Radical (who has the powers of all of Mark Meadows' other Ace alter-egoes), Starshine.
        • And the often-forgotten early nemesis of the Radical, Hardhat.
      • Captain Flint
      • Crypt Kicker
      • Detroit Steel
      • Dough Boy - a superstrong joker with the Marshmallow Man appearance and mental state of a child
      • Drummer Boy. He's a Joker-ace, whose strength comes from having six arms and a body designed for drumming, with the appropriate musculature and body cavities for drumming on.
      • Durg at'Morakh - takisian geningeneered warrior-bodyguard-gladiator etc.
      • Gimli - a joker looking like your fanatasy dwarf.
      • Golden Boy, supposedly the physically strongest Ace. His power is actually bio-kinetic field projection.
      • Father Squid (who, being a Joker, comes by it at a price)
      • Harlem Hammer
      • Hera (also, a Captain Ethnic example - several countries have their "national Aces")
      • Herne the Huntsman
      • John "Devil" Darlingfoot - Joker-ace with a "devil's leg" he uses to kick safes in and cars around
      • The Lizard King
      • Modular Man
      • The Oddity is a joker whose strength comes from the fact that it is three bodies imperfectly combined into a single constantly shifting and rearranging one.
      • The Reflector (a.k.a. Snotman), when punched a lot
      • Quasiman
      • Troll - Joker-ace
    • Telekinesis
      • The Great And Powerful Turtle, who used his shell as a crutch so long he is almost powerless outside it. But then, you're not likely to meet him outside his shell, are you?
      • The Maharajah can telekinetically animate clothing to act as his "servants".
      • The Mechanic, limited to mechakinesis, controlling machines. However, in order to use this ability he had to merge with the machine by cutting off a piece of himself and applying the bloody wound to it (for example, a finger to control a radio, a hand to control a car, etc.). Luckily, he had a Wolverine-like healing factor (see above) so this was only a minor inconvenience and allowed him to use his power with no lasting consequences.
      • Spasm can telekinetically induce involuntary reactions in the human body including hiccups and orgasms.
      • Minor telekinesis is one of the most common Deuce powers-- levitating a penny is the most commonly used example
    • Telepathy
      • Fortunato and The Astronomer
      • Dr. Tachyon, Zabb, Blaise, and other Takisian psy-lords.
      • Bloat. The possibly most powerful joker-ace telepath on the planet.
      • Brain Trust, but with a unique limitation-- she can only absorb the whole mind, permanently, leaving her with a Split Personality that grows more numerous and harder to control every time.
      • Sasha, the eyeless bartender at the Crystal Palace, is a minor telepath.
      • Linetap is a minor telepath and empath employed by Kien's gangsters.
    • Teleportation
      • Bloodhound - associate of the Astronomer, canine joker-ace with the ability to pursue others and lead "hunting parties" through some sort of Hammerspace.
      • Chalk Talk - a mute joker-ace girl. Her crayon drawing serve as portals and gates and can lead into parallel dimensions.
      • Hunapu
      • Moonchild [Captain Trips] can "walk in shadows".
      • Popinjay - projecting teleport only, he can "pop" others but not himself, and only to somewhere he can picture in his mind.
      • Pop Tart aka Cleopatra
      • Quasiman - A special example as parts of his body randomly teleport off into other dimensions; when he is mostly in the same place, he has conscious control over his teleportation.
      • Yellowman - british joker-ace
    • Transmutation
      • The aptly named Ace Midas possessed the literal Philosopher's Stone ability, turning things to gold by touching them. Averts being Blessed with Suck, as the effect is limited to his hands - Midas just had to be fed, and worked as a sculptor.
    • Wall Crawl
      • Wall Walker AKA Black Shadow
    • Water Breather
      • Diver
      • Charon
    • Notes: the late Demise could project the memories of his death by locking eyes (assuming the victim had eyes to lock with). The Sleeper, due to his ability, wakes up needing large amounts of food. Croyd also frequently abuses drugs to stay awake as an ace, suffering from paranoia and a hair trigger. Jack "Golden Boy" Braun has super strength, nigh invulnerability, immortality and eternal youth. The downside is being the Judas Ace - he cracked in front of McCarthy's commitee and caused much grief to all the Wild Card bearers to come; he is Judas for the church of Jesus Christ, Joker. The Turtle uses his vast telekinetic abilities to fly his "shell", an armored airship. While significantly weaker without it, he successfully avoided deanonimization for years and through several encounters with other aces. Early witnesses assumed the Turtle to be a Joker, as hideous as he is powerful, and he allowed the public to believe what they wanted.
  • The Straight and Arrow Path -- Yeoman
  • Suddenly Sexuality - When Senator Hartmann (Puppetman) influences very homophobic Mackie Messer, he pulls the strings a little too hard, and Mackie performs oral sex on him while the Senator is tied to a chair.
  • Sufficiently Advanced Aliens
    • The Takisians. They were sufficiently advanced enough to create a virus that, used properly, enhanced themselves and diminished their enemies. At least, that was their intent. Assuming Tachyon is right about the psychosomal nature of the Wild Card, a group of Takisian geningeneered soldiers exposed to the virus under control and supervision of a psy-lord are most likely to draw Aces of the Flying Brick category.
    • The Network to some extent. As a trading entity, the Network spans races from incredibly advanced to barely spacefaring, where the most advanced are advanced far beyond humanity.
  • Superpowerful Genetics - works strictly by Mendelian laws.
    • All children of 2 wildcarders are latents, although most turn their card at birth. Illustrated with Roulette and Tachyon's effort to prevent this for John Fortune.
    • All children of a wildcarder and a nat are carriers; all children of 2 nats are nats.
    • With a wildcarder and a carrier the chances stand 50/50 for latent and carrier; with 2 carriers it's 1:2:1 for latent:carrier:nat.
      • The only known exception is Mistral, who "inherited" Cyclone's air powers because he subconsciously manipulated her genes in the womb with psychokinesis.
  • Teach Him Anger - Astronomer to Water Lily, Ti Malice to Hiram Worchester.
  • Theme Tune Rap - Not precisely. The Aces jingle is pretty close, though.

 If it's Demise / don't look in his eyes!

Sleeper waking, meals taking / Sleeper speeding, people bleeding

Golden Boy ain't got no joy

The Turtle's shell hides him well/ Ace or Joker, who can tell?

  • Trick Arrow -- Yeoman's explosive arrows.
  • Tykebomb - Some of the Child Soldiers employed by Dr. Nshombo in Suicide Kings, most notably Leucrotta (a vicious werehyena), and Hunger (Whose bite causes people to starve to death).
  • Typhoid Mary:
    • "Messenger in Black" with the power to control butterflies that spread the Wild Card.
    • Ragda, an indonesian joker-ace. His / her / its powers accurately mimic the evil spirit Ragda from folklore, including the ability to curse others into spreading epidemics, inluding literally The Plague and the Wild Card.
    • Croyd 'The Sleeper' Crenson wakes up in the middle of a gang war with the unprecedented ability to spread a new strain of the Wild Card virus; one where people who have aready been infected with Wild Card can be re-infected again. As he once again has super reflexes and his usual super strength, Croyd doesn't suspect anything. He keeps moving and spreading the virus because he had entered the paranoid stages of his meth addiction, and can't trust anyone. Named victims of his spree are:
      • Buddy Holly - nat to unnamed shaman / spiritual healer ace
      • Gimli - Joker-ace to Black Queen
      • "Loophole" Latham - nat or hidden Ace to Ace Jumper Prime
      • Roulette - sexual Ace to Black Queen
      • Snotman - pitiful joker to Ace Reflector
      • Travnicek - inventor Ace to Joker-ace
      • Tachyon - takisian psy-lord gets an extra unturned Wild Card
      • Water Lily - water-control Ace to sexual healer Ace
      • Veronika - nat to unnamed life drain Ace
      • the band "Jokertown Boys" emerged from an orphanage that Croyd's rampage filled on that day
  • Unrequited Love -- Drummer Boy misses his chance with Curveball and loses her forever to another.
  • Villainous Breakdown - Puppetman, twice.
  • What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway? -- The "Deuces", Aces whose powers were generally useless, or at best very idiosyncratic.
    • Subverted by Digger Downs, whose deuce which allows him to sniff out Aces, literally made him a successful and famous, if reviled, sleazy tabloid reporter.
    • The Astronomer also excelled at using Joker-aces, Deuces and weak Aces. He teamed up Imp EMP with Insulin (power to drop the targets blood sugar instantly to zero) to attack The Turtle in his "shell"; teamed Judas, an Ace with the power to feel other Aces (do not confuse with Judas Ace - that's Golden Boy forever), with Kim, a female Ace with the power to control males via pheromones; employed Kafka, a super-genius cockroach Joker, and Bloodhound, a mute dog-like Joker-ace with the ability to track and transport others.
    • There's also the lawyer Edward St.John Latham, aka Loophole, who is originally suspected to have the wild card power of superhuman ruthlessness. Or perhaps he's just naturally like that.
      • Later on he actually does get the wild card...and subsequently gains the power to give other people superpowers (specifically the ability to jump themselves into other bodies). As this happens by encountering Typhoid Croyd (see above), Latham could have been an ace before. Latham could not jump and could not be jumped himself, making him a mortal who gives birth to immortals.
    • Kien Phuc's criminal organization also employs a few deuces and Joker-aces among their fair share of Aces.
  • The Wild Hunt
    • Herne The Hunter
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity
    • Arguably, The Astronomer. Actually sane, just sadistic beyond any Moral Event Horizon possible - his powers recharge by funneling pain and despair from torture victims as they die.
    • "Trapdoor Spider". She is an australian shaman ace, arch-nemesis of the Wombat shaman Wyungare, and charges her abilities by drinking blood. During a resurrection stunt of The Astronomer by Cameo, they paired up.
    • Brain Trust too many absorbed minds fractured her sanity
    • Puppetman AKA Senator Hartmann: while not really sane to start with due to empathic vampirism, lost it after Gimli died and Puppetman believed to witness his reincarnation in Puppetman's unborn child. As a point to Tachyon, this blocked Puppetman's abilities.
    • Quasiman ...which is not so much the textbook definition of insanity as it is that parts of his brain randomly slip out of phase with the here and now.
    • Travnicek lost his Mad Scientist Gadgeteer Genius when he was re-infected with the virus, but is in denial about it, and gets violently upset when the subject comes up. His new Joker-ace form seems to promote Blue and Orange Morality, too.
    • In the latest book Captain Trips, who has become stuck in the form of the Radical, abandonded his hippie ideals and has become the Psycho for Hire of a tin pot communist dictator in Africa
  • Your Mind Makes It Real - Tachyon has speculated that the Wild Card sometimes taps into the subconscious mind of its victims, causing the images found there to mentally direct the transformation process. This explains why many Aces often get powers that fulfill their wishes and many Jokers either get forms that reflect their fears, or ironically embody their desires.
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