The main antagonist of the first trilogy of novels, the Astronomer is an insanely powerful Evil Sorcerer
that is also the leader of his own dark cult. He is a bad guy's bad guy. Just count the number of "evil" tropes.
- Arch-Enemy: The Astronomer and Fortunato both have many enemies, but their own rivalry is extremely bitter, as The Astronomer has killed many of Fortunato's beloved prostitutes, Fortunato has foiled the plans of The Astronomer several times, and both of them are philosophically opposed to each other, with both using sex as the totem of their powers.
- Big Bad: The Astronomer is the main villain of the first trilogy of books, and is obsessed with the accumulation of power.
- Evil Counterpart: The Astronomer has the same broad array of potent powers — basically anything that is a thematic fit for "magic", as inspired by Eastern mysticism — and charges them by having sex much like Fortunato, but whereas Fortunato sees sex as a spiritual, creative process, The Astronomer rapes and kills his partners and only uses his powers to gain more power.
- Evil Cripple: When not super-charged, he is bound to a wheelchair.
- Evil Sorcerer: Somewhat subverted, in that his "dark magiks" are actually psionic powers given to him by the alien virus.
- Notably, he himself is fully aware of this, and specifically tells another Ace that their powers are the product of Takisian biotechnology. The ritualistic stuff is just a mental exercise to help focus and control his powers.
- Religion of Evil: The Astronomer is the leader of the ultra-creepy Egyptian Masons.
- Superpower Lottery: Telepathy, telekinesis, flight, phasing, energy blasts, precognition. He can do pratically everything.
A bag lady with the power to communicate with and control animals. Her best friends are two alley cats.
Earl Sanderson, a powerful black ace from the 1940s and important figure in the civil rights movement. He was a member of the Exotics for Democracy. Capable of flight and generating force fields.
- Black Best Friend: Subverted. He is Golden Boy's best friend, but he is flawed and has a life separate from Jack's. And is pretty important to the story.
- Broken Ace: Becomes one after 1950.
- Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: Averted. His betrayal of his wife is treated in a very nuanced way.
- Malcolm Xerox: Averted. A black leader with Marxist convictions who actually is sympathetic and reasonable.
- Red Scare: Black Eagle was active during the beginning of the Cold War, and, as a member of the Communist Party, is hunted and persecuted by the government.
A grim vigilante with darkness-based powers. Black Shadows uses a variety of disguises and identities to better fight evil.
- Personality Powers: All wild carders are this, but Black Shadow more obviously than most.
- Second Super-Identity: Several. He eventually gives himself the internal identity of "Shad" just so he knows who he is.
- Vampiric Draining: He actually creates shadow by absorbing light and heat. He can do it to a person and leave a frozen corpse behind.
Mark Meadows, a hippie with the power to transform himself into several different superheroic alter egos, that he calls his "friends." He is also a genius biochemist. For his various alter-egos, see The Radical, Jumpin' Jack Flash, Moonchild, Cosmic Traveler, Starshine, Aquarius, and Monster.
- Alliterative Name: Captain Trips' civilian name is Mark Meadows.
- All Your Powers Combined: The Radical can use all the powers of all Mark's other identities. (Also, he is not the peacenik he appears to be. Do not mess with him.)
- Shout-Out: The names of his "friends" are taken from classic rock songs from the 1960s and 1970s.
- Super Serum: He has to ingest specially prepared powders to change into his various superhuman forms.
- Unlucky Child Hood Friend: Double Subverted. He eventually marries Sunflower, the girl he's loved since forever. But their marriage is not a happy one.
Billy Ray, a Justice Department agent who is stronger, faster, and tougher than a normal human. He also can heal very quick. Carnifex is a ferocious fighter that loves action and mayhem a little too much.
- Expy: Carnifex is a very physical fighter who heals very quickly. He even originally called himself "Wolverine".
- Neat Freak: In fact, spilling blood on his costume is a good way to piss him off.
- Required Secondary Powers: Averted. His healing factor lacks a sense of aesthetics. His face often heals all crooked.
- Superheroes Wear Tights: Carnifex is one of few Wild Cards characters who wears a superhero costume. He is a frequent source of ridicule for this, partially because he looks ridiculous in it, and partially because it's sheer white and blood frequently stains it — much to his frustration.
A Cajun girl with the power to shut down a person's respiratory and circulatory systems. She is the niece of Sewer Jack Robicheaux. Works as a young exec for Global Fun & Games.
Demise is James Spector, a failed accountant that was killed by the virus and later came back to life.
He gained the power to kill with a look (and he's pretty much unkillable too). Unhinged by his experiences, he became a hitman.
- Asexuality: One of the only characters in Wild Cards not interested in sex.
- Deadly Gaze: Demise can kill a person by looking into their eyes and telepathically transmitting the memory of the time he drew the Black Queen (the time he was infected by the Wild Card virus and died). Although he has the power to dial it down when he doesn't want the person dead, he tends to use the power very casually.
- Pet the Dog: He thinks of himself as a monster (and he is not that far wrong), but Demise hates to kill someone who's been kind to him. And in Ace in the Hole he almost has a Heel-Face Turn after meeting again a heroic school friend.
Philip Cunningham, a high-ranking criminal in the Shadow Fist Society. He can become invisible at will.
- Required Secondary Powers: A completely invisible person would need some kind of power that let them see, as light that passes through a person's eyeballs is by definition not actually interacting with the photoreceptors, which would be visible otherwise due to reflection or absorption of visible light. Fadeout lacks this secondary power, so he usually leaves his eyeballs visible when he goes invisible.
A half-black, half-Japanese pimp with the power of Tantric magic. One of the protagonists in the first trilogy of novels.
- Astral Projection: One of Fortunato's many abilities.
- Cartwright Curse: Genuine emotional attachment does not seem to reduce the likelihood that women close to him will end up dying, probably horribly. This contributes to his desire to retreat to a monastery.
- Deus Sex Machina: His powers work through Tantric magic. Fortunat(o)ely for him, he's a pimp.
- Disappeared Dad: Fortunato's father died of the Wild Card and he had to make his own way from an early age. Fortunato himself is this to John Fortune, his son with Peregrine.
- Groin Attack: Tachyon, trapped in the body of a teenage girl by his grandson Blaise, does this to Fortunato when the latter refuses to help him telepathically contact his home planet Takis. Tachyon notes with amusement that countless women have wanted to do that to Fortunato for years, and he was the one that got to actually do it.
- Heroic Neutral: Despite possibly being the world's most powerful Ace, Fortunato generally does not want to be bothered by anything that does not affect him. He initially becomes involved in fighting the Astronomer's Masonic conspiracy because the Astronomer killed some of his girls. Later, he would retire to a monastery in Japan to try to get away from what he felt were other people's problems.
- Jerkass: Could be obnoxious, even a bully, when he was in a mood. Also had a homophobic dislike for Doctor Tachyon based solely on his flamboyance, since Tachyon's preference for women was quite well known.
- Mind Control: A combination of Compelling Voice and Hypnotic Eyes.
- New Powers as the Plot Demands: Basically patterned his powers on books on Tantric magic he read when he first turned his card. For example, a passing reference to Tantric magicians being able to raise the dead by sodomizing their corpses leads Fortunato to (very reluctantly) try this on a dead crook he needs information from - and it works!
- One Name Only: He was known publicly as Fortunato even before he became an Ace.
- Psychic Powers: Telepathy, Telekinesis and Psychometry are among his more stock powers. His telepathy is not anywhere near as precise as Doctor Tachyon's however.
- Stuffed into the Fridge: The fate of a lot of Fortunato's women.
- Super Mode: Discovers that he has one when he has sex with Peregrine, the first time he had done so with an Ace. Her psionic energy greatly increases Fortunato's Tantric powers enabling him to finally take on the Astronomer.
- Superpower Lottery: Much like the Astronomer, Fortunato possesses such a broad range of powers that he can effectively pass as a "sorcerer".
- Time Master: Fortunato can stop time.
Golden Boy is Jack Braun, a WWII veteran and has-been actor with the power of superstrength, invulnerability, and eternal youth. He was a member of the superteam Exotics for Democracy in the 1940s, but has more or less retired from superheroics after being pressured into testifying against his friends in the paranoid political climate of 1950.
- Been There, Shaped History: Golden Boy has taken center stage in a lot of 20th century history and rubbed shoulders with a lot of famous people.
- The Big Guy: He is often this for any group of aces he's hanging around with.
- Black Best Friend: His teammate Black Eagle. Subverted in that Black Eagle is a fully-fleshed out individual who is also more of a true hero than Golden Boy.
- Complete Immortality: He doesn't age and is very hard to kill by violent means.
- Face-Heel Turn: Sort of. He finally broke down and reported on his fellow Aces during the HUAC hearings.
- Jerkass: Taken to almost Kick the Dog levels when he refuses Brain Trust the option of staying with him unless she sleeps with him. Has matured a lot ever since, though.
- Really Gets Around: One of Golden Boy's major character flaws is he's a shameless sex hound.
- Reality Ensues: It happens when Golden Boy jumps in front of a escaping automobile and is knocked back a hundred feet. Turns out being invulnerable doesn't mean you're heavy enough to stop a charging vehicle.
- Older Than They Look: One of the earliest Aces, he appears the same age he was in the Fifties.
- Steven Ulysses Perhero: His real name is Jack Braun and he got superstrength.
- World's Strongest Man
The Great and Powerful Turtle
Tom Tudbury, a nerd from New Jersey who also happens to be the world's most powerful telekinetic. His powers don't work when he is feeling threatened, so he fights crime inside a floating metal shell.
The Hero Twins
A pair of modern day Mayans living in Guatemala that become re-incarnations of the ancient legendary brothers, Hunapu and Xbalanque. They lead a resistance movement to recreate a Mayan regime.
Jumpin' Jack Flash
One of Captain Trips's alter-egos, probably the most well-known of them in the original novels, since he is a ladies' man and a showoff. Flash has fire powers and a personality to match.
A young, mentally disturbed German hunchback with the power to vibrate his own body out of phase with the physical universe. In doing so, he can walk through walls and use his hands as buzzsaw weapons.
Jerry Strauss, a man capable of changing his appearance at will. He's a big movie fan, and specializes in transforming into famous actors and actresses.
A super-sophisticated android created by Mad Scientist
Maxim Travnicek. Mod Man is mostly a nice guy, but forced to follow the orders of his sociopathic creator. He fights crime as a superhero as a ploy from Travnicek to gain publicity and wealth.
- The Casanova: A love machine, literally.
- Fantastic Racism / What Measure Is A Non-Organic: Mostly he suffers this from his own jerkass creator. The term "toaster" to refer to an android may have originated in Wild Cards.
- Flying Brick: Mod Man can fly, is incredibly strong, durable, has an array of sensors, and a veritable arsenal of ranged attacks.
- Magic-Powered Pseudoscience
- Personality Chip: An in-built version, Modular Man is designed to replicate human emotions and psychology.
- Reed Richards Is Useless: As has been noted, he could revolutionize warfare. But his creator can apparently only create one of him at a time, and is a selfish bastard beside that.
- Ridiculously Human Robots: Modular Man looks completely human, and he is even fully functional. He can also eat and drink.
- Three-Laws Compliant: Averted. Travnicek has hardwired imperatives into Modular Man that compel him to obey his creator, but he can fully hurt other people.
- Turned Against Their Masters: Travnicek programmed him to be unable of this. Mod Man manages to work his way around it and arranges for Travnicek to be killed anyway. But considering that Travnicek is a sociopath that treats Mod Man as a slave, it's a happy ending.
One of Captain Trips's alter-egos. She is a beautiful Korean woman with superhuman martial arts prowess.
Russian ace with the power of pyrokinesis. Used to be a bigwig in the Soviet secret service.
Jay Ackroyd, a private detective with the power of teleporting any object he can point his finger at to any place he has ever been. Also known for his sense of humour. Hates firearms.
Senator Gregg Hartmann, seemingly a liberal, idealistic politician that fights for the rights of Wild Carders. He's secretely Puppetman, a manipulative emotional vampire.
- Aura Vision: His detection and manipulation of emotions is often described through color.
- Big Bad: For the second trilogy of novels.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing
- Emotion Control: Hartmann cannot directly control minds, but he can pull "strings" inside of them which correspond to various emotions, allowing him to subtly twist people to do what he wants.
- Emotion Eater: Gets a definite visceral thrill from the negative emotions of others, and often cultivates them for exactly that reason.
- The Empath: A very evil version.
- Enemy Within: An interesting variation, in that Gregg and Puppetman are more like accomplices than a good side/bad side.
- Evil Feels Good: He's addicted to infliciting pain and suffering.
- Faux Affably Evil
- Hypocrite: Gregg views his psychic powers as belonging to a separate entity inside his head; the Puppetman. So that he can still pretend that he's somehow pure as he commits atrocities. His difficulty in acknowledging that he is Puppetman sometimes verges on Selective Obliviousness.
- Mind Rape: His victims often have no idea it is even happening, his power is so subtle.
- Morality Chain: Hannah Davis is this for him in the Card Shark novels.
- President Evil: More like Senator Evil, but the Presidency is his final goal.
- Redemption Equals Death: Sacrifices himself to save Jerusalem from atomic holocaust.
- Villain Protagonist: Unusually for such a monstrous villain, he is often a POV character.
- Villain with Good Publicity
A high-class prostitute that can kill men by having sex with them.
She is an agent of the Astronomer.
Jack Robicheaux, a Cajun transit worker with the power to transform himself into a big alligator.
Croyd Crenson, a man that changes his appearance and powers every time he falls asleep. Works as an ace for hire.
- Alliterative Name: Croyd Crenson.
- Big Eater: His metabolism is very accelerated.
- Breakout Character: Croyd has appeared in more Wildcards novels than any other character.
- Deadpan Snarker: He's created by Roger Zelazny, after all.
- Involuntary Shapeshifting
- Left the Background Music On: Since the 50's, the one power he manifests with every change is the ability to make "As Time Goes By" play on anything by saying "Play it again, Sam."
- Loveable Rogue: He's this most of the time, but is also a partial Subversion in that Croyd can turn really nasty, almost reaching Ax-Crazy levels when he is on a bad drug trip.
- Older Than They Look: Croyd regenerates every time he sleeps, so he never grows old. He's active as an ace since the 1940s.
- Repower: stays awake for about a month, sleeps for two to three more, wakes up with new powers - and a new appearance - every time. Since there's a very real chance of him waking up dead from this, it's also Superpower Russian Roulette.
- Seen It All: He occasionally comes across like this, although given that he's been around since the 1940s, it's not unjustified.
A hideously atrophied joker-ace with the power to possess people by attaching itself to their necks. Its victims (called "mounts") become completely addicted to Ti Malice's kiss.
A former prostitute of Fortunato's, Veronica has the power to make any man weak and helpless. Seriously.
Jane Dow, a young woman with the power to control water. Born in a small town, she comes to New York City in 1986, and gets involved in the ace scene.
Hiram is the owner of the Aces High restaurant, the chicest meeting place for aces in the 1970s and 1980s. He is a powerful ace himself, with mastery over gravity. He had a short superhero career as Fatman.
- Acrofatic: Not quite, but he is susprisingly light on his feet, considering that he uses his power to decrease his own weight.
- Break the Cutie: Poor Hiram. His life takes a nosedive when he becomes a slave to the monstrous Ti Malice.
- Camp Straight: Not as much as Tachyon, but Hiram is quite flamboyant.
- Embarrassing Nickname: He hates it when they call him Fatman.
- Gravity Master
- Karma Houdini: Played with, considering he suffers no punishment for the murder of Chrysalis but his life is already destroyed by Ti Malice.
Jennifer Maloy, meek librarian by day, daring jewel thief by night. She can become insubstantial at will.
Joker leader in the Jumper books. Bloat is an immobile, gigantic montain of pale flesh, with the head and shoulders of a teen boy perched atop it. He has extraordinarily potent Psychic Powers
. His home base is the Rox, formerly known as Ellis Island.
Gigantic joker bruiser with superstrength and a club-like right arm. Works as muscle for the mobs.
Chrysalis is the owner of the Crystal Palace nightclub in Jokertown, and is the unofficial queen of the Joker underworld, brokering information to all parties. Her skin is invisible, her organs and skeleton exposed for all to see.
The so-called Mayor of Jokertown, Desmond has an elephant trunk where his nose should be. He is the founder and leader of the Jokers' Anti-Defamation League and a major champion of joker's rights.
The host of a Good Morning America
style TV show. Peregrine is a superheroine who is technically considered a Joker but has kept her natural beauty. She has big, bird-like wings and is capable of flight. This leads many to consider her an Ace.
The Oddity is actually three people permanently merged into one monstrous, constantly shifting, painful whole. They're superhumanly strong and tough and act as a vigilante in Jokertown.
- The Big Guy
- Blessed with Suck: One of the most heartbreaking cases in Wild Cards.
- Fusion Dance: A permanent version.
- Killed Off for Real. An odd version. In Fort Freak, it is revealed that John, one of the personalities controlling Oddity, has early-onset Alzheimer's. In order to stop this, Oddity takes the trump cure, which works-to a point. Patti, who is controlling the body at that time, is ejected with her own mind and body fully intact from Oddity, while John and Evan's minds and bodies stay behind in the form of Oddity, who then die.
- Split Personality: Three distinct minds inhabiting the same body.
- Three Beings, One Body: formerly Evan Crozier, Patti Roberts, and John Sheak.
- Two Guys and a Girl: Merged. Evan and John are Sensitive Guy and Manly Man, respectively. Patti is the voice of reason.
- Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: John was at least.
Hunchbacked joker-ace with the powers of superstrength, precognition and teleportation. He's a friend of Father Squid, and handyman of the Church of Jesus Christ Joker.
Priest of the Church of Jesus Christ Joker. A former Catholic priest who created a unique version of Christianity especially for Jokers.