Captain Trips (Wild Cards)

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Captain Trips
Wild Cards character
First appearance Wild Cards (1987)
Created by Victor Milán
Information
Aliases Dr. Marcus Aurelius "Mark" Meadows
Relatives Sprout (daughter), Sunflower (ex-wife), Dr. Tachyon (adopted cousin by Takisian law)

Captain Trips, also known as Dr. Mark Meadows, is a character from the Wild Cards series of books. Meadows is a renowned biochemist and a burned-out hippie, with the ability to use various drugs (usually derivations of psychoactive drugs such as LSD) to transform into several other forms, each with their own powers and individual personalities. Trips himself and several of his alternate forms would be considered Aces in the lexicon of the Wild Cards universe, though a few of his "friends" (as he terms them) could be classified as Jokers. It is theorized that since all Meadow's "friends" and their powers are ultimately derived from Meadows himself, that he is essentially the ultimate manifestation of the Wild Card virus.

Character overview

Marcus Aurelius "Mark" Meadows was born into a thoroughly bourgeois military family. Meadows, a naturally gifted scientist, pursued an advanced degree in biochemistry at college. For his PhD thesis, Meadows chose the topic of illicit psychoactive drugs. However, his generally straight-laced and "square" demeanor gave him problems in the sociological portion of his research as he found it difficult to insinuate himself within the radical youth culture of the late 1960s. While at a club in Berkeley California, Meadows renewed his acquaintance with Kimberly Anne Cordayne, a childhood crush of his who had joined the counterculture and now referred to herself as Sunflower. At her urging, and in order to impress her, Mark experimented with LSD for the first time in 1969. The drug triggered his latent Wild Card infection and Mark transformed into the super powered hero The Radical. As the Radical, Meadows intervened to stop a National Guard assault on an anti-war protest after which a smitten Sunflower slept with the Radical. When Meadows reverted to his own form he became obsessed with discovering the correct chemical combination to resurrect the Radical. His other "friends" are the results of attempts to recreate that formula. His Wild Card is dependent on the chemical stimulation of psychoactive drugs to manifest itself and Meadows often keeps preparations of the specific combinations that create each "friend" ready in case they're needed. Each of these preparations is a different color, kept in glass vials in a leather pouch that Meadows carries with him. Typically, the manifestation of each "friend" only lasts about an hour. Prolonged and repeated use of the Moonchild formula during Trips' sojourn in modern day Vietnam produced insomnia, nervous strain, physical exhaustion, and a kind of psychic bleed over where his personality would become garbled with hers.

It is stated in the Wild Cards book Aces High that Dr. Meadows was once "considered the most brilliant biochemist in the world, the Einstein of his field", but at some point vanished from the public eye amid rumors of divorce (from the aforementioned childhood crush), "personality deterioration" and drug use. From Meadow's addled behavior in later years as Captain Trips, it could be assumed that the drugs he uses to "call his friends" have effects on Meadows' normal form similar to those documented in long-term psychoactive drug users.

In the more modern times depicted in the books, Meadows runs the Cosmic Pumpkin, an "organic remedy" shop, and cares for his daughter Sprout, who has an unspecified developmental disorder which keeps her intellect at the level of a preteen child. He has expressed to Dr. Tachyon a desire to use his "friends" to "fight evil" and otherwise help people. The name Captain Trips has been assumed to be taken in tribute to Jerry Garcia, who was sometimes referred to by that name.

In the course of his career Trips has (with the help of his "friends") fought alongside the ace/rock star known as the Lizard King (Radical), participated in the raid on the Egyptian Freemasons of The Astronomer (Jumpin' Jack Flash), destroyed an asteroid headed for Earth (Starshine), defeated a genetically engineered Morakh soldier from Takis (Moonchild), impersonated President George Bush (Cosmic Traveler), traveled to the planet Takis and back, and even taken over the government of Vietnam.

In Vietnam, Meadows finally discovered a way to summon the Radical, but at the cost of submerging his own personality permanently. Over the next ten years, The Radical, going more often by the name Tom Weathers, travelled through various Third World combat zones with his daughter as he attempted to advance his political agenda. Eventually he ended up in Central Africa where he joined forces with the newly formed, Marxist state, the People's Paradise of Africa. Weathers, who appears to possess the powers of all of Trips' "friends" serves as the PPA's resident ace, violently advancing their agenda.

In the early 21st century, Weathers was shot and apparently killed by the British ace Noel Matthews. He wasn't however, Weathers being healed by another PPA ace who could take the injuries of others into herself, and as soon as he was fully restored, resumed his role as the PPA's premier ace power, prompting Matthews to go after Weathers' daughter Sprout, successfully kidnapping her. In the last chapters of the novel Busted Flush, he very nearly killed a collection of United Nations and United States aces during negotiations for his daughter's return; the Radical gravely injuring his own hostage for the trade (a kid ace tagged as Little Fat Boy with an uncontrollable ability to explode into a nuclear fireball) to trigger the kid's explosive power just before he makes his escape, his daughter Sprout in tow. Afterwards Meadows became increasingly paranoid about the safety of himself and his daughter. He sent Sprout to live with a caretaker under an assumed name, visiting her when his schedule allowed. Believing themselves still in danger from the Matthews, who Weathers believes to be an Arabic ace named Bahir, Meadows has taken to sleeping in different locations every night, sometimes going so far as to sleep on different continents. He has vowed to kill Bahir/Matthews if he ever discovers the man's whereabouts.

Friends

Each of Trips' alternate personas, or "friends" as he refers to them, is manifested by ingesting a specific combination of illegal drugs. The friends have their own physical forms, super powers and, significantly, personalities. In the novel "Turn of the Cards" it is hinted that the various friends may have, or believe they have, lives separate from those of Captain Trips.

Each incarnation seems to embody some aspect of Mark Meadows' personality, for example Jumpin' Jack Flash embodies his extroversion and "machismo" where Moonchild is his anima and Starshine (who is prone to poetic monologues) embodies his sense of creativity and eloquence. When Starshine is killed, Mark temporarily loses the ability to speak and ever since has a feeling of part of him missing, and a loss of his sense of creativity being unable to express himself through painting or other forms of art. It is possible this loss is being healed, since Starshine briefly appeared alongside hundreds of unnamed "friends" to defeat Monster. Monster is possibly an expression of Meadows' id. Full of pain, lust, rage, and - at the root of these - fear, Monster is a manifestation of the dark impulses buried for decades deep inside the minds of good natured pacifists like Captain Trips.[original research?]

Over the years, Meadows has devoted considerable time and research into determining the true origin/nature of his "friends". It is possible his prolonged drug use has produced the most sophisticated case of disassociative identity disorder (DID) ever known, except that in most cases of DID the personalities are not aware of one another. Trips' "friends" know of and often have antagonistic feelings towards one another. It is also possible his ace abilities somehow use the chemical trigger of psychoactive drugs to tap into alternate realities from which he draws them. The Moonchild persona believes Captain Trips' "friends" are all real beings with their own lives to lead and karma to fulfill and that somehow Meadows' power has brought them all together.

Just prior to the first, and so far only, manifestation of Monster it was briefly observed that (barring Croyd's giant raccoon story) Trips had never really manifested any "friends" other than the elusive Radical and the later five he perfected his formulas for. However, after a violent rampage, Monster/Meadows was confronted and defeated within his own mind (or perhaps another dimension) by an army of infinite heroic personas led by the purple suited Captain Trips. These "friends" are all named after popular 1960s songs, except for Cosmic Traveler. Trips (and perhaps through him, creator Vic Milan) admits he got it wrong and should have called him Mystic Traveler. Jumpin' Jack Flash is named after the Rolling Stones song. The musical Hair, and thereby the 5th Dimension, is represented twice with Starshine and Aquarius. Even the negative manifestation of Monster was named after a song by rock band Steppenwolf. Moonchild was named after the 1969 King Crimson hit. Two theoretical friends Trips wondered about just before he became Monster might have been called Ramblin' Man (The Allman Brothers Band) and Crown of Creation (Jefferson Airplane).

Moonchild

Moonchild is a tall, exotic looking yet shy and polite Asian woman. She is graceful, with a well-muscled form and long black hair. She wears a skintight black costume, complete with gloves and boots. On her chest is a black and white yin-yang symbol. A similarly patterned half-mask covers her face; the mask covers a similarly-shaped port wine stain birthmark. A master martial artist, Moonchild is stronger than a normal human and much faster. She is also able to make the dark her home, becoming nearly invisible as well as teleporting amid the shadows[citation needed]. Moonchild also has the ability to accelerate her body's healing when exposed to moonlight, rapidly recovering from wounds and flushing fatigue toxins from her body. Moonchild has an extreme moral code against killing, and if she believes that she has caused the death of another, she can fall into a psychological state of shock bordering on nervous collapse. Moonchild is the only female alternate persona of Captain Trips. As a heterosexual, she caused some consternation for the other friends when she engaged in a sexual relationship with a man.

Jumpin' Jack Flash

Flash is a small man with a devilish grin. He has red hair, a handsome face and wears an orange bodysuit, open down to the navel, trimmed in red and yellow flames. His ace powers include the ability to fly (with or without a flaming contrail) and to create and control plasma-state matter, though he refers to it as fire. He can blast bolts of flame, create a flaming rope or net (that will not burn its captives), and extinguish fires. At times, he's been known to create and play flaming guitars. Flash is something of a glory hound and womanizer who wishes he could get out and about on a more permanent basis. It is possible that Flash is from a parallel dimension as he doesn't think of himself as an ace instead referring to himself as a superhero.

J. J. Flash

The Jumpin' Jack Flash persona has a near identical, though slightly older, non powered duplicate named J.J. Flash and met him once on a late night talk show. J.J. Flash is a lawyer, uninfected by the Wild Card, and has no idea why they appear so alike. Jumpin' Jack Flash is a fun-loving adventurer and shameless self-promoter that remembers another world full of costumed superheroes like himself from which he is "summoned" by Meadows.

Cosmic Traveler

His actual appearance is of a bald, stoop shouldered man with blue skin, a thin chest, arms and legs and a slight pot belly. Among his ace powers is the ability to change his shape, so he normally looks much more imposing. Traveler has a number of powers, including desolidification, invisibility, flight and a powerful will. He's also a coward, and is prone to flee from any threatening situation.

The Cosmic Traveler persona's real name is Damon Strange, which is about all Meadows has been able to discover about him. It seems the "real" Damon Strange committed suicide the night Meadows first successfully used a new batch of powder to manifest Cosmic Traveler.

Starshine

His costume consists of a yellow body stocking with an orange sunburst on the chest, and green trunks, gloves, and folded over boots. His powers are the manipulation of light itself, allowing him to generate bolts of pure light energy, create a protective field, fly, survive in space and transform himself into a beam of light. He is very arrogant and opinionated and will quite gladly lecture everyone on the evils of everything. Eventually Starshine "dies", nearly robbing Meadows of the ability to speak for a time.

Aquarius

Aquarius has grayish skin and is bald. His primary power is the ability to turn into a 20' long dolphin. His humanoid form is quite strong, but must remain wet or he begins to suffer. Aquarius is a somewhat unpleasant fellow, who does not like any land dwellers and has a particular distaste for people from whaling nations. The only thing that stops him from turning into a dolphin and swimming off into the ocean and never turning back is that after a couple of hours the transformation will wear off and Meadows will promptly drown.

Monster

Monster is a giant horned joker with fangs, scaled skin, inhuman strength, and a destructive energy blast. Only seen twice; first, when Trips, under great emotional distress, used a tainted batch of his powders in an attempt to protect his daughter. His second appearance was when Tom Weathers had lost control and desperately grasped for help from ANY of Meadows's friends, releasing Monster. Monster reveled in his superior size, physical strength, and the destruction he could unleash. Described in a nightmare sequence as having brown skin, immense horns bridged with lightning, slitted, reptilian yellow eyes, and an erect penis the size of a city bus, Monster enjoyed inflicting pain on those smaller and weaker than himself. Monster was virtually immune to physical attacks, either absorbing the energy released and even growing in size, or regenerating after moments, such as when a missile left a hole through his body and closed after moments. Monster was defeated first through a telepathic attack, and the second time when the Tom Weathers persona acknowledged defeat to Mark Meadows.

Radical

Trips' "ultimate" form, Radical has access to all of the other forms' powers, excepting Monster. He is a youthful blonde-haired man clad only in jeans and wearing a peace medallion. True to his name, the Radical can be quite violently militant, and constantly quotes 1960s Leftist rhetoric. When Radical first appeared in 1970 he manifested only enhanced strength, speed, and agility, employing a peace symbol medallion on a silver chain as a weapon. Decades later when Trips overdosed on a mixture of the powders that normally summoned individual "friends", Radical again manifested and has yet to disappear, apparently retaining full control of all the various personas' powers and completely submerging Meadows' original personality. The other conscious entities gradually restricted the use of their abilities, with Aquarius scoffing at the land-dweller. Moonchild and Starshine were, by this time, defunct, so Radical continued to use their abilities until Monster was summoned and they were both defeated.

Rocky Raccoon

Only a rumored transformation, which Trips himself does not remember. According to Croyd Crenson, better known as the Sleeper and another ace with a taste for drugs, he and Trips once tested a new batch of acid Meadows had concocted. During the subsequent trip Croyd swears Trips transformed into a giant human-sized, walking, talking raccoon. Whether this was a true manifestation of Trips' powers or a drug induced hallucination is uncertain.