Wild Cards is a "shared universe" Superhero book series, originally conceived by George RR 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"note German for "Dr. Death", 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. 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 & Masterminds much later) as well as several series of comics, most recently The Hard Call by Daniel Abraham.
Ace Custom: Jetboy's JB-1. May be considered a Super Prototype too, but it seems that the reason it wasn't mass-produced was both that it was experimental and that only Jetboy had the skill to pilot it.
Addiction Powered: averted with Captain Trips. His powers manifest after consuming several varieties of drugs, but he's not addicted to them.
Jube The Walrus; Justified, since he's a spy trained to blend into Earth culture.
All Myths Are True: Subverted. We've seen aces with powers and identities based on Haitian voodoo, Australian aboriginal mythology, Egyptian mythology, Guatemalan mythology, and even Tantric sex — but they're not literal gods, it's just the Wild Card virus manifesting in a way they understand (or something).
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 prejudice, 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).
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. How amoral is he? When the mother of Sprout - Mark Meadows' mentally-disabled daughter - hires Latham for the custody dispute, Latham sets Mark's apartment building on fire while Sprout is inside, forcing Mark to dose up in front of witnesses to activate his Captain Trips powers to rescue her. With Mark's drug use exposed, the state takes Sprout away from Mark - only to find that the mother has committed suicide. Sprout is thus sent to an asylum, but Mark breaks her out and goes on the run. Latham collects his pay without a second thought. Many believe he owes his lack of a conscience — and resultant skills as a lawyer — to the wild card. Latham 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.
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 when the levitation is blocked by her pregnancy.
Several Jokers and Joker-Aces (Jokers with powers) possess additional limbs of different usability.
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.
Kid Dinosaur, turns into his namesakes, limited by the requirement to know enough about the species and by conservation of mass.
Subverted with Lazy Dragon. He appears to change into any animal he can imagine, including mythical creatures. But his real power is to animate a miniature (statue, figurine, origami) of the animal in question and control it by transferring his consciousness, leaving his body behind.
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, Cameo, Gardener, and The Radical.
Crypt Kicker, who went postal and finally shot himself, turning his Ace at that moment. Ended up as walking Toxic Phlebotinum, with the additional power to secret corrosive poisons from his animate corpse.
Demise, who originally turned the Black Queen. The application of the Trump Card cure saved him at a price.
Cordelia Chaisson's ace allows her to revive someone dead or dying if they aren't too far gone.
Buddy Holly, who turned his Ace (courtesy of Typhoid Croyd) in a death&rebirth scene (live 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.
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 The Astronomer and Fortunato rival the Turtle in raw power. The Astronomer was killed by an attempt to phase through solid matter under the combined assault of Demise and Cordelia Chaisson and Fortunato lives the life of a hermit and doesn't like to interact with the outside world anymore. Furthermore, both Fortunato and the Astronomer must "charge" their powers (the former through tantric sex, the latter through sadomasochistic sex and human sacrifice) in order to use them at full capacity; the Turtle's only limit is his psychological dependance on hiding within his armored shells.
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.
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. Most specifically Midnight Angel, whose ace abilities gift her with Super Strength and the ability to summon a flaming sword, is also endowed with a enhanced metabolism, and is mentioned in all of her appearances as either being hungry or eating a huge meal.
Also anyone bitten by the Hunger, not that it does them any good.
Bizarre Alien Senses: The Mad Scientist Travnicek, after his infection due to Typhoid Croyd, turns the Card again, drawing a joker (or possibly a joker-ace) and develops a ring of unnatural, horn-like sensory organs around his neck.
"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.
Brain Critical Mass: the default powerset of takisian psy-lords seems to be the result of successful epochal eugenics. The psy-lords inherit their powers and can partially grant them to human-takisian children.
Mark Meadows — he's far too innocent for the setting. Results in the manifestation of a new personality.
Dr. Tachyon himself. Euthanizes his love interest in his first appearance. Gets transferred into a teenage girl's body and then raped and impregnated by his own grandson later on. Yeah.
Wally "Rusty". Oh, dear God. By Suicide Kings, both the child he sponsored and his first possible love interest are killed before his eyes, and he's traumatized by witnessing a Child Soldier grooming operation. All of which could have been avoided if anyone had listened to him.
Broken Aesop: There's a question about it with the Jokers. Are those who take the Trump and hate their lives really wrong given their gross deformities?
The Sleeper bears some resemblance to Robbie Reed, at least at first — a young boy gets the power to change into a brand new hero potentially every day. At first. But now he's an amphetamine-addicted freelancer.
Captain Geographic: Aces Abroad introduces a few, perhaps inevitably. Most recurring are the Living Gods, Egyptian jokers who resemble the ancient gods. (They eventually get jobs in Vegas to escape persecution).
Child Soldiers: created by Dr. Nshombo in Suicide Kings by injecting kidnapped children with the Wild Card Virus.
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 anythingto gold on touch, understandably lethal to humans. While not exactly a classic supervillain power, could have wrought chaos on the economy. Became a sculptor instead, his works are treasured by museums worldwide.
Deadly Decadent Court: One human character who gets to visit Takis describes "skullduggery" as being "like a fifth classical element" among the Psi Lord culture there.
Death Is Cheap: Averted. This is one of the things that distinguishes Wild Cards most strongly from 'traditional' superhero-genre works: unless a character's ace involves somehow surviving death (Demise springs to mind), death is quite absolute. Even a Healing Factor doesn't help much here: it just leads to the character's enemies using more extreme measures to make the death stick.
Deliberate Values Dissonance: The writers go to some trouble to try to depict the different cultural values of the decades the series spans, as well as working in the differences in foreign countries, and also the Takisians and the Network.
"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.)
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.
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) children of Wild Card carriers or latents 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 or latents is always a latent 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.
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 a 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.
Another anomaly is Angelface, an extremely beautiful woman whom many consider a Joker because of her cripplingly hypersensitive nervous system and skin that bruises at the slightest touch, leaving her in constant pain. She considers herself to be an Ace, because she spent a lifetime in a hospital bed after being run over by a cart in her late teens, until she turned her card and regained her health, strength, and youth.
Kings — carriers whose card has not yet "turned". (For "suicide kings".)
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".
Or the more sinister connotation that people without the wildcards are similar to "gnats".
In GURPS Aces Abroad (not to be confused with the anthology), Telephoto says "That depends. In 'Stralia, I'm a joker. In South Africa, I prefer to be an ace."
Dream Weaver: The Ace named Revenant could send dreams to a sleeping person.
Extended Greetings: Takisian etiquette and protocol require names, birth order and genealogy recitation as part of an introduction. Any omission or slip in correct order is a grave insult. Hence why Dr. Tachyon is given that appellation as a nickname rather than referred to by his extraordinarily long given name.
Fad Super: A few. From The Sixties, we have Captain Trips, a hippie whose powers activate by drug consumption, with multiple alter egos all named after popular psychedelia songs. From the same era, Fortunato, who has Tantric sex powers (studies into Eastern mysticism were big during that era, partly thanks to the Beatles).
It's justified for Fortunato, though. Everything he knows about Tantra he learned from a faddist prostitute he engaged.
The Great and Powerful Turtle, who fights crime from a flying car, decorated his "shell" with peace signs during the summer of love.
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.
The Federation: Apparently one spanning a few thousand planets exists. Jube the Walrus is actually an alien scout inspecting Earth for them.
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: the Arab-Israeli Wars were initially averted by a peace agreement signed under influence of an Ace; Mahatma Gandhi was saved from assassination in 1948, only to see his efforts to unite India fail because there is no common reaction to his death; Joseph McCarthy went after Aces instead of as well as Communists; Fidel Castro remained a baseball player, while Guevara's attempted revolution in Cuba was quashed, leaving Batista in power into the 1980s; Buddy Holly lived to become a has-been and then a shaman ace; Marilyn Monroe lived past the early 1960s; Elizabeth Taylor died instead of James Dean in that car crash; Joker civil rights became a major political issue, both in the US and worldwide, coupled with racial segregation issues.
Free-Love Future: The Takisians have this going on, which is why Dr. Tachyon is so promiscuous. While their Psi Lord nobility practice Arranged Marriage as part of a Super Breeding Program, nobody expects either the men or the women to remain monogamous, only to restrict actual procreation to partners specified by the breeding plan. Both genders keep concubines. Takisian commoners likewise have very open sexuality. The entire civilization has no concept of homophobia and procreation and love are regarded as two different things. Interestingly, Takisians have a very strong cultural taboo against rape and even Psi Lords, who have Mind Control powers, consider rape to be a sign of total depravity on the part of the rapist.
Also "Jokertown Boys" keyboard player Gimcrack. He's annoyingly literal-minded, but that just means he can make universal remotes that do everything and literal X-ray glasses without realizing that they don't work that way. According to Tachyon, the gadgeteers are actually using telekinesis and / or limited reality-warping powers, since their gadgets usually don't work unless operated by the inventor.
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.
Dr Tachyon. He is generally a kind, well-meaning and helpful person with high moral standards, and also a very sensitive guy, easily hurt and who can cry for not much. However, when he feels he is in his good right, he will do anything to achieve his goals. Even cold-blooded murder is not averse to him if it is necessary and morally justifiable.
Yeoman. A traumatized war veteran engaged in an outright personal war with organized Ace crime. The criminal organization he's going up against houses fugitive war criminals, too. Yeoman has little scruples to pay them in kind of their deeds.
Grand Theft Me: The primary hat of the Jumpers. However, the Jump power doesn't work on those with a Psychic Block Defense, which is what allows part-Takisian Blaise to avoid being jumped and instead take over as the leader of the Jumpers. Jumpers must also be able to see the target. The government capitalizes on this by tricking captive Jumpers into an "experiment" where they have to jump elderly test subjects in another room that they can see through a window. Most of them not being very bright, they oblige, only to discover that the window is mirrored on the other side, and they cannot jump back to their own bodies or anyone else. The conspiracy then kills them in their elderly bodies, leaving the minds of "valuable" individuals in the bodies of the young adult Jumpers.
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 shortly thereafter because only his ace was protecting him from the consequences of his drug use).
Bentley, Croyd's mentor in crime, fox-like joker turned back to nat.
subverted with Demise. The Trump card overwrote his Black Queen — into an Ace.
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.
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.
Intimate Healing: Water Lily, who can 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.
Laser-Guided Karma: Senator Joseph R. McCarthy spent his entire career leading the anti-wild card hysteria that swept across the nation in the early 50s. Many victims saw their lives blighted and destroyed: they lost jobs and careers to the blacklist, lost friends and spouses, inevitably lost custody of their children in the all-too-frequent divorces, suicide. McCarthy's most lasting achievement was the Wild Card Acts which required any person exhibiting wild card powers to register immediately with the federal government. His campaign worked so well that once he got everything he wanted, his continued persecution of wild card victims was seen as overly excessive, and McCarthy was seen as an unfettered fanatic. Joe McCarthy died a broken man who talked incessantly about those who he felt had betrayed him.
Long Lived: Takisians. Commoners live for three to four centuries, possibly due to their race's advanced biotechnology and medicine. The eugenically-bredPsi Lords can live for thousands of years. However, among the aristocracy assassination is the number one cause of death, with old age trailing a distant second. Those Psi Lords who do survive to old age command great respect. On Earth, some Ace's appear to be unaging, but not enough time has passed to really know for sure.
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 partially true for Mod Man, who otherwise would have broken down after Travnicek lost his Ace. Mod Man's 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 can not 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.
Malfunction Malady: Peregrine is shocked to discover that loses her ability to fly while she is pregnant.
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.
Father Squid — face full 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
The Living Gods who all turned into living representations of the animal-headed deities of Egypt.
Several incarnations of Croyd AKA The Sleeper were technically Joker-aces — a super-strong winged flying gargoyle, a nightmarish wolf-like mutant (although the only witness here was Captain Trips on LSD), a bat-like flyer again. The partial ratio of joker to Ace changes every time, from pure Ace to pure joker.
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. The development of the Trump Card cure would earn him a few honoris causa doctorates anyway. Tachyon's knowledge of genetics, biology, and medicine is such that it would be easy for him to get several Earth doctorates, he just sees no reason to.
In fairness, Tachyon didn't invent the name. The U.S. military personnel and scientists were uncomfortable with his extremely complex string of names (including his complete pedigree), 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 and he himself addressed all human scientists by their adequate academic title. "Tachyon" was a nod to the then-theoretical particle that powered his symbiont ship's FTL drive.
Disappeared Dad: John Fortune's; his father, Fortunato, went off to find himself.
Missing Mom: Sprout, daughter of Mark Meadows AKA Capt. Trips; justified in that her parents got a messy divorce. The mom later shows up and tries to get custody - with "Loophole" Latham as her lawyer. Mark finally kidnapped his own daughter to keep her.
The Amazing Bubbles parents also abandoned her when she sued them for spending her modelling money behind her back.
Never Smile at a Crocodile: "Sewer Jack" Jack Robicheaux, the alligator-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.
Kid Dinosaur's animorphism is limited by coservation of mass, so he e.g. turns into a small T-Rex.
Mr. Nobody automatically absorbs or dispenses heat and / or electricity to transform — his transformation from human to King Kong caused a city-wide black-out.
Rahda "Elephant Girl" O'Reilly has successfully used the energy surges which accompany her transformations as improvised EM pulses.
Croyd "The Sleeper" Crenson and Midnight Angel fuel their powers by massive food consumption.
No Export for You: Eksmo-Press owns the rights in Russia. As of 2013, they've released the first 4 books and butchered several more to release the contributions of Zelazny as a stand-alone out-of-context novel.
An amphibious Philadelphia schoolteacher who kept her gills concealed beneath her clothing saved a drowning child — only to become a victim of the Wild Card Act.
When the first Hardhat got involved in a violent clash between hippies and the police to stop them, he got attacked by The Radical.
One Person, One Power: zig-zagged in the setting. Many Aces (and joker-aces) play this straight, but there are notable exceptions like Fortunato (a powerset), The Radical (a case of All Your Powers Combined) and Cameo (channeling powers of others) to name a few.
Out with a Bang: The power of a female assassin Ace named Roulette, whose secretions upon orgasm could be a pleasure drug or a fast-acting and lethal poison. Roulette learned to control her originally random power. She ultimately turned the Black Queen from Typhoid Croyd.
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 complete Badass and generally considered one of the most powerful Aces on the planet, along with Fortunato. And since this is purely a Magic Feather issue, other psychic Aces can opt to help him.
Personality Chip: Modular Man is designed to replicate human emotions and psychology.
Crypt Kicker: voluntarily secretes a corrosive poison from his palms. Crypt Kicker weaponized this ability.
Quinn the Eskimo: voluntarily secretes a whole list of organic substances in his blood and injects them via needle-like claws. Substances are analyzed and marketed as designer drugs. Quinn also weaponized this ability for close combat.
Lamia: a joker-ace with snake-like features, including fangs and poison glands.
Roulette: used her ability to secrete a poison during her career as an assassin.
Cocomama: can transmute organic substances into cocaine. Runs a "drug"-smuggling operation by making cocaine from common flour on the spot. Poisonous by being able to perform the transmutation on living humans, thus administering cocaine directly into the bloodstream by transmutation.
Kurari, as numerous other jokers and joker-aces, permanently secretes his namesake poison from the skin.
Played straight with Ti Malice. Ti Malice is a joker-ace who feeds on human blood and controls his "puppets" by releasing a powerful pleasure drug into their bloodstream.
Averted with Puppetman — he's a powerful empathic Ace who controls emotions and drives on a large scale, but lacks parasitic traits.
Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Blaise jumps his grandfather into the body of a teenage girl and then rapes him/her. All the more horrific for Tachyon because rape really is extremely taboo to Takisian's. Also ironic, because they believe that rapists are hopelessly depraved, which Blaise kind of proves.
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 — averted. Even under the assumption that his virologist background would allow Tachyon to work on curing AIDS, curing the Wild Card beats any other virus in urgency. The Wild Card spreads like the common influenza, has a 90% lethality rate, and can be used as a bio-weapon in its native state, as used by disease-powered Aces and the Card Sharks.
Tachyon's specialty is a mutagenic mass-empowering virus, released on the planet for beta testing, and failing spectacularly - <1% empowered Aces, <1% useless Deuces, 9% disfigured jokers (give or take the joker-aces), 90% dead Black Queens. This makes neither a good empowerment method, since the Aces are more than likely to want revenge for the Black Queens; nor a good weapon, since the very same Aces among the survivors will be out for revenge if the Wild Card was used solely for its lethality. Tachyon is neither a world-saving superhero by nature, nor does he have a high opinion of the human race — especially after all the grief he received despite all his efforts to fix what his family did.
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.
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.
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.
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, and Manfred Mann via Quinn the Eskimo.
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.
In Jokers Wild, we see some people of his family call him "Tis", despite the fact that it is explained in the first book that using any sort of nickname is seen as rude on Takis. On the other hand, these particular family members are his political enemies (or at very least rivals) so it is possible they are deliberately rude to him.
Stock Dinosaurs: Dinosaur KidKid 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.
Stock Superpowers: 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 speculated to be a unique malaria-like case of permanent re-infection. Croyd would be 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
chooses the life of a freelancer rogue
is completely healed and has changed his appearance entirely after every new sleep
regains his memory and can learn things during sleep (which has led him to the habit of tuning into a news-monitoring radio station right before falling asleep)
has experienced and learned almost every Ace power (in criminal applications)
artificially prolongs his time awake by using amphetamines (largely because he's terrified he might turn the Black Queen in his sleep).
apparently doesn't age and has started accumulated interest gambits
Croyd probably should be listed under nearly every entry below, but we're mentioning him here to save time.
Bagabond - an Ace with control over the "city's vermin" - dogs, cats, rats, pigeons etc. Apparently not limited to them, as she can influence Sewer Jack when in his crocodile form.
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 carry and spread various dusts on their wings, including diseases up to the Wild Card itself!
Animating the Inanimate
Blowjob [see above]
Dragon Girl aka Dragon Huntress brings stuffed toys to life as what they represent: 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 brings soap carvings and/or origami (any representation he makes himself) to life as what they represent; he projects his own consciousness into that which he animates.
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.
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.
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 — without pain resistance.
Xbalanque [see also Super Strength and Super Speed]
Lohengrin and Midnight Angel — both manifest a suit of armor
Tiffany — an odd partial case, could be knocked unconscious, but her diamond skin protected her from serious injury.
Kinetic energy maniplation
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.
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 into syringes. He is a biochemist and works for the drug-trafficking mafia by reverse-engineering his creations into designer drugs
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
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.
Rosa Loteria turns into anything depicted on her Loteria cards when she draws them. The powers are useful even with cards are like La Agave [the Cactus] and Platano [plantain or banana].
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.
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
Bloodhound — associate of the Astronomer, canine joker-ace with the ability to pursue others and lead "hunting parties" through some sort of Hammer Space.
Chalk Talk — a mute joker-ace girl. Her crayon drawing serve as portals and gates and can lead into parallel dimensions.
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
Noel Matthews (Double Helix) is a born intersexual. The wild card allows him.. her... Noel to turn fully into either sex. When male, he can only teleport during the day. When female, she can teleport during the night.
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.
Captain Flint as part of the Wild Card. He became a living statue.
Cocomama, limited to transmuting organic matter into cocaine.
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.
The Takisians. They were sufficiently advanced enough to envision and research a mass empowerment virus. 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 or joker-aces of the Flying Brick category without the 90% Black Queens.
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.
Super Human Trafficking: possible fate of Aces (and deuces with potentially useful powers) if they lack combat power to defend themselves.
Mai Minh, healer Ace. Escaped her fate during the Swarm attack.
Roulette, Ace with a randomly triggering Poisonous Person power. Her power to dispense either a pleasure drug or a lethal poison during coitus baited those tired of life. Roulette later learned to control this power and became an assassin.
Superpowered Alter Ego: Captain Trips' "friends", each of whom has a different physical form, personality and set of superpowers.
All children of 2 wildcarders are latents, although most turn their card at birth. Illustrated with Roulette's child drawing the Black Queen at birth 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. It's assumed it was Cyclone because no one knows anything about Mrs. Cyclone except that there was one. For this scenario to work at all, she had to be a latent, a carrier— or, possibly, a deuce with the ability to modify DNA (as in Anne McCaffrey's short story, "A Womanly Talent").
Unproblematic Prostitution: Fortunato's "geishas", high-class call girls who received higher education as part of their training to become ideal fantasy women. In addition to making a lot of money, most of them had advanced degrees and extensive contacts in upper-class society by the time they were too old to continue in the business.