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Wild Cards

Posted 13 March 2002, 12.51 am by The_Roach

Wild Cards
George R. R. Martin, Editor

"The alien virus arrived on Earth just after World War II-and the world was never the same. For those who become infected, there are two results: death, or transformation. And depending on the recipient, death is sometimes the preferable outcome. Only a few lucky ones become superhuman aces as a side effect of the virus; the rest are turned into horrible, grotesque jokers. It's a strange and wonderful, terrible and terrifying world where anything can go."
-From the back cover of Wild Cards, Volume 1

Anthology series are always a bit of a risk when you first pick them up. There's the danger that the so-called collaborators aren't really that fond of working with one another, that the character development isn't given the attention it deserves in lieu of the cheap thrill that comes from crossing over stories, or that the characters are so fascinating that you want to beat the crap out of the publishers, writers et al. just to get another book into your grubby, sweaty palms. Were it not for the fact that Wild Cards ended it's run in the early nineties, the third possibility would be true of this intelligent and engaging series of (as they call them) "Mosaic" novels. Each story arc in Wild Cards spans three books, the third of which is a true novel (the first two consist of short stories), with characters (and writers) interacting with each other in a complete story without interruption.

Centering around New York city and it's inhabitants, this comic book fantasy / alternate history begins with the introduction of a virus, engineered by an advanced extraterrestrial race (Takisians), slated for testing on Earth. A lone Takisian, in a moment of blind guilt, comes to Earth hoping to prevent the unleashing of the "Wild Card" virus, which is so unpredictable that the odds of two people reacting identically are astronomical. The fortunate few become "Aces", with powers ranging from flight, to being able to metabolize any substance, and everything in between. The vast majority of those affected, however, become "Jokers". Deformed freaks of nature that are both pitied and feared.

Just like the old-fashioned comics, these stories deal with real conflicts in our society. The "Red Scare", civil rights movement and even AIDS are all viewed through the lives of the characters. Unlike your daddy's comic books, though, they die and they STAY dead. From Croyd Henson (who awakens after every sleep to discover that the Wild Card has dealt him a different effect) to Fortunato (the bad-ass sorceror-pimp), they are emotional, powerful, and flawed, just like the rest of us.

Immensely popular in it's time, Wild Cards is the longest running anthology series ever produced. iBooks has recently picked up the series and is republishing it in it's entirety, with plans to produce an additional two novels afterwards. It looks like my grubby, sweaty palms are going to have their work cut out for them.

Buy it at amazon
on 25 March 2002, 8.34 pm
I've got the first three, but got kinda bored with them after that. The first two books were good, though I didn't really understand the four aces (red scare) story too well at the time, preferring the more obvious superhero stuff with the Great and Powerful Turtle.

As anthologies go though, it's fine stuff: the bottom line is pulp style sci fi, and there's nowt wrong with that.

on 28 March 2002, 10.31 pm
Excellent review, Roach; I've ordered the first three on the strength of it.

on 4 August 2004, 7.18 am

on 4 August 2004, 7.20 am

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I done it in pencil on cotton bond 8 1/2" by 11" in November of 90. I call it "Self Portrait". That's me in the gas mask.

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Props to Green Mamba for bringing the weirdness


80s candy bars were pretty good

only because i traded it for a candy bar in the 80's.

lol we all know you don't have a soul ghoti

my soul for some carbs...

But of course!


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