Dave's Corner of the Universe

Where strange fact and stranger fiction collide

Geek Obscura: Wild Cards.

 

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Now a days superheroes are both cool and legit. Everyone is looking for new supers. Why this time last year, The Guardians of the Galaxy would have qualified as geek obscura. Now they are the top grossing movie of the year. But silently waiting in the wings in a hot super property, Wild Cards, some production company could snatch this up, run with it and make a bazillion bucks. It is full of everything that makes a great cape and tights world. Amazing writers, colorful and deep characters, an astonishing world mythology and to top it off it has a powerful Hollywood heavyweight pedigree.

 

Wild Cards is the brainchild of George RR Martin, now some of you of course are jumping up and down and screaming, “hey that is the guy who wrote over half the scripts for the Linda Hamilton/Ron Perlman Beauty and the Beast TV show, and that old man Lancelot episode of the 80’s Twilight Zone, I love that guy! I wonder what happened to him. I hope he didn’t give up writing.”

martin

A younger George RR Martin

 

OK, OK I jest. I may be the only nerd in this quadrant of the galaxy that isn’t into Game of Thrones. But before RR was flipping off rude people asking about his health, and writing about hot blonde dragon babes, he created a shared super hero world. And the other members of the writing team read like a who’s who of eighties sci-fi. Melinda Snodgrass (Most famous as script editor for ST:TNG) Vic Milan (Cybernetic Samurai) Walter Jon Williams (Hardwired), Chris Claremont (X-Men) Roger Zelazny (Chronicles of Amber), Lewis Shiner (The Hacker Files) and Kevin Andrew Murphy (Who wrote game books for White Wolf and Steve Jackson Games)

 

The books started as a roleplaying game seasons in New Mexico. George RR Martin was the game master. They started off playing Call of Cuthlhu and Marrow Project, till Vic Milan gave Martin a game called Super World. That became the crews go to game. The writers spent so much time playing games that they were going broke, to the point that Martin might even lose his new house. So he decided to make the game into a mosaic world book. The rest is as they say history.

gurps wc

GURPS Wild Cards; the circle is complete.

 

In the WC world heroes first appear in 1946, when an alien Dr. Tachyon, steals a biological mutagen that his family was going to test on humans, because they are genetically close to his race. The battle with his space brothers exiles him to the earth. He is forced to turn the chemicals over to the US government but is stolen by the Evil Dr. Tod, the first hero Jet Boy swoops in to save the day and screws it up releasing the mutagen on Manhattan. It kills some people right off others it changed in to what is called jokers and aces.

Jetboy

Jet Boy the hero that didn’t save the day.

 

There are two main types of mutants; jokers and aces. There is some debate in world, as to what is the difference between an ace and a joker. In general an ace is someone who got an awesome power like flight or telekinetics. Jokers usually are the ones who got the short shaft of the mutation factor. They usually look hideous and if they have any positive powers, they tend to be things like super strength and regeneration. But the reality isn’t that clear cut. Peregrine a hot looking talk show host with wings can fly, but science says that wings shouldn’t lift her body weight, so the source of her flight power must be teleknetic. She is basically classified as an Ace because of her lovely body, but technically her wings qualify her as a joker. Someone who has minor powers like, the ability to lift only a penny with their mind, the ability to psychically communicate with goldfish, or shrink their genitalia to microscopic size, are called deuces.

 

Aces are universally loved. They have become the world’s heroes and super stars. Jokers are feared by humanity and have become scapegoats. A special unit was formed in Vietnam called the Joker Brigade. Ugly men to fight an ugly war. Discrimination is so bad that New York only has only two Joker cops and one is hidden away in the archives. Jokers are often forced to wear masks to hide the way they look. Resentment and hatred festers in the heart of many jokers, causing them to look for revenge.

pargrin

Peregrine making Joker-dom look good.

 

WC novels are a mosaic world, each chapter basically a short story, with some of the latter novels done as full one story arc novels. So they are the very definition of an ensemble cast books. Each story is a day in the spotlight story. That may make them a hard read for people who like to follow the exploits of one main characters, but I love how they become a melting pot of writing styles.

 

So lets look at the cast. Dr. Tachyon, a genius flashy dressing alien who accidentally started the whole mess. He is kind of Like Dr. Who if the good Doctor was an alcoholic, guilt soaked leach. The Great and Powerful Turtle. He is a short fat geek (And Martin’s author avatar) He is also the world’s most powerful telekinetic. He travels his shell, a psychically powered airship, the original version of the shell was a modified VW, with dark windows so no one could look in on him. He is never seen outside the shell as The Turtle because he is so crippling shy, he would freak out if someone did.. Wraith a cat burglar with a conscious, who can pass through walls, but can’t carry much with her, forcing her to don a bikini and a mask  as a costume. Captain Tripps a hippie chemist who uses drugs to become five different heroes. The Yeoman, the token normal human bow and arrow marksmen. Fortunato, a half African half Japanese, expert on tantric magic. And Carnifax, a secret agent with incredible regeneration just he doesn’t always heal looking as good as he did before. Now I just skimmed the surface the books are full of awesome and quirky characters.

Dr t

I pity the fool that messes with Dr. T.

 

Great and powerful

The nerds strike back the Great and Powerful Turtle.

Wild Cards is a realistic and sometimes disturbing world of what it would be like if real people have powers. The characters are flawed and human, but on occasion they rise to the level of heroes. Wild Cards is dark and gritty but unlike Watchmen, WC is not so different form from traditional super hero fare to put off the type of audience that is attracted to main stream superhero movies.

wraith book

What on this cover sells more books Martin’s name or Wraith’s bikini?

 

This would be a great time to make a Wild Card Movie or even better a cable series. There was a lot of talk in 2011 about Sy-Fy and Universal making a Wild Card movie, but nothing since 2013. Which to me is not a bad thing, if this is going to be done, it should be done right. Invest the money in effects and actors, bring it up to the level of the stories writers. Make it game of Thrones or X-Men First Class level.

 

So why is it so obscure? Well there isn’t a lot of prose super hero stuff out there. It had a big following in the eighties but it never really grew much above the core cult following. Most of who still have their original books in boxes in their garages. Marvel did release a comic book, but WC is mainly a print product, that up until now comics have been the main medium for supers. But take it from me try out heroes in the novel format. I love comics anyone who has read DCotU knows that. But completely imaging what a hero looks like and having the story slowly evolve like a noir yarn is a great experience.

 

So do yourself a favor and check out George RR Martin before he was cool.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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22 comments on “Geek Obscura: Wild Cards.

  1. Loki
    September 1, 2014

    I’ve been wanting to check out Wild Cards for well over a decade now, but I’m probably too anal to ever get around to it — I’d want to read everything, and in some kind of organised order, and there’s just way too much of it. I’m woefully behind on my reading as it is, and starting this thirty-year-long multiple author avalanche of text is just too staggering a notion. 😦 Even though the size of it is of course of on the tantalizing factors. And even though I’m the guy who watched the entire “Beauty and the Beast” in large part simply ’cause Martin wrote for it (though it starring the awesome Ron Perlman didn’t hurt).

    • Loki
      September 1, 2014

      I buried my point there: Since I’ve been wanting to check it out since forever and never have (aside from the small glimpses in Martin’s “Dreamsongs” collections), I greatly appreciated this window into the world! Thanks for writing!

      • davekheath
        September 1, 2014

        I could understand what you are going through. As I look over at my to red pile. You might want to pick up the first one. Get an idea of what it is like. To some extent it does suffer from ‘origin story”-itise. but it is a fun read it even has a full chapter of ‘historical’ quotes about Aces and Jokers.

  2. Loki
    September 1, 2014

    The very first volume ever? What’s it’s title, and is it still in print?

    • Loki
      September 1, 2014

      *its title.

      • davekheath
        September 1, 2014

        It is called unoriginality enough Wild Cards. There is a 2010 printing with some bonus stories, that any book store should be able to order for you. I still see the original 1987 version at thrift stores and used books stores sometimes.

  3. Loki
    September 2, 2014

    Ah, of course it is, I should have guessed that’d be the title. Thanks! I doubt I’ll ever get around to it, but at least now I have a title to enter into my enormous reading list.

  4. J.Gi Federizo
    September 2, 2014

    Your post had me at “Beauty and the Beast” 😉 Nice to see a mention of ST:TNG also, my fave ST.

    That said, I have only first played a real role-play card game around two weeks ago. My officemates are into card games right now and I got to play Sentinels of the Multiverse. Haven’t had time to join Pathfinder and especially Legend of the Five Rings.

    Think I’ll write about my experiences when I actually have experienced enough he he…

    • davekheath
      September 2, 2014

      That would be cool.

      Last year when I was at Rose City Comicon, Greg Ruck (A novel and comic book writer) Said role playing games where the best form of practice for aspiring writers.

      • J.Gi Federizo
        September 3, 2014

        I forgot to mention that they also play League of Legends. Personally, I think LoL, L5R and Pathfinder would be too overwhelming for a newbie like I am. I’m probably not good with tactics and stuff. Currently, I’m trying to create my own character for Pathfinder but not done with my ideas, and then I will have to draw her (eek).

        Incidentally, we just played Ultimate Werewolves last night, which isn’t really that hard to play. Then out of the blue, I asked if there is ever an X-Men card game and my friend said next week (or month, I forgot), they’re actually launching one. I’d like to try that.

        After last night’s quick game, we went to a store where they sell card game stuff. Saw there Call of Cthulhu as well as Arkham Horrors with expansions Dunwich Horror and Miskatonic Horrors. The Arkham ones claim to be “classic game of lovecraftian adventure.”

      • davekheath
        September 3, 2014

        Arkham horror is a lot of fun. My brother in law hs all the add ons. Betrayal at the House on the Hill is another good one.

      • J.Gi Federizo
        September 4, 2014

        Well, I just saw the boxes on display. I don’t think the guys have any of those yet. I just join. I don’t think I can afford those stuff (they’re not cheap here) and even if I could, they’re not really in my priority list. So it’s great that my friends can let/urge me join them instead 🙂

      • davekheath
        September 4, 2014

        Absolutely games are expensive so it is cool that friends can get together and each have some to bring.

      • J.Gi Federizo
        September 4, 2014

        Maybe I can start buying my own cards bit by bit, but can’t afford the whole game, he he.

      • J.Gi Federizo
        September 3, 2014

        Oh, and Avalon! Forgot to mention THAT. They’re playing that now and I think I’d like to join one of these days–er, nights (after work)

      • davekheath
        September 3, 2014

        Seen Avalon haven’t played it.

  5. moonminded
    September 2, 2014

    I became friends with a woman when I lived in Chicago ten years ago because we were always on the same commuter train. She was reading a book called Joker Town, said it was really gritty, then recommended Game of Thrones “by the same author” instead. It might be time to further investigate …

    • davekheath
      September 3, 2014

      Martin is great. He is one of the best authors out there for creating characters. When Wild Cards was jsut an RPG game his fellow players said that he had a folder with over 100 fully rounded out NPCs.

      My only problem with the Games of Thrones is so many people have spoiled it for me before I got to read it or watch it myself. So someday I wil read it to see the landscape even though I know the destination.

      • Loki
        September 3, 2014

        If it’s any consolation, I’ve enjoyed the books (almost) as much on re-read as I did the first time around, so knowing some plot elements shouldn’t be too detrimental, I hope.

        That said, I do find my enthusiasm for the television show is a lot lower than those who didn’t read the books first, so I guess I can’t say the same there. I enjoy it, but not to the same extent as I’ve enjoyed other, otherwise similar shows. I guess it’s because you don’t get nearly as close to the characters on the show, which leaves the plot as the main attraction, making knowing what happens up front more of a problem for enjoying it. I find I (amusingly) enjoy the show a lot more these days since it’s been moving further and further away from copying the plot points of the books exactly in the later seasons.

      • davekheath
        September 3, 2014

        Thanks the info on the re-read helps. I know I got to read it sometime or they are going to ask for my geek card back.

  6. Dennis the Vizsla
    September 7, 2014

    I think I only read one or two of these — the one where they were all trying to stop Tiamat from coming to earth, I think? I remember TGAPT getting all bent out of shape because someone suggested he must be a Joker due to never coming out of his shell …

    • davekheath
      September 7, 2014

      that was probably Aces High.

      And isn’t that so true if we (humans) don’t know the facts we make up an interesting story.

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This entry was posted on August 31, 2014 by in Uncategorized.
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