Bloat (Wild Cards)
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|Wild Cards character|
|First appearance||One-Eyed Jacks (1987)|
|Nickname(s)||Governor, the Outcast|
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Bloat is a fictional character from the Wild Cards series of books. He was created for the books by Stephen Leigh. An adolescent boy transformed by the Wild Card virus into a monstrous Joker, he resembles a tiny human torso atop a massively bloated sluglike body. Introduced in One-Eyed Jacks as Governor of the Rox he comes to prominence and full awareness of his vast powers in Jokertown Shuffle.
Born Theodor Honorlaw, Bloat is a shy, overweight boy with a talent for painting and a fondness for role-playing adventure games such as Dungeons and Dragons. Picked on by school bullies and ignored by girls, he seems destined to become an accommodating non-entity like his parents. When infected by the Wild Card virus his weight problem surges wildly out of control, especially in the lower half of his body, eventually obscuring and absorbing his legs. Unable to cope with their son's transformation, much less properly feed or care for him, Bloat's parents abandon him around the time he reached the size of a small bus.
Much of what occurs between that time and Bloat's first appearance as the governor of the Rox is uncertain. Throughout One-Eyed Jacks various characters notice graffiti bearing such slogans as "Bloat Floats" or references to the Rox, a street name for Ellis Island, which has become a hideout for homeless jokers and the jumpers that supply them with drugs and new bodies. Bloat finally appears towards the end of One-Eyed Jacks as leader of a gang of machine-gun toting jokers and possible mastermind behind the jumper reign of terror. It isn't until the beginning of Jokertown Shuffle that Bloat is seen to be just as much a prisoner of his criminal accomplices as he is an asset to their operation.
It seems likely one of the joker or Asian street gangs comprising the Shadow Fists discovered Bloat soon after his parents abandoned him and decided to put his telepathic "wall" to good use. Transported or possibly towed ("Bloat Floats") to Ellis island, Bloat became the psychic security system of the Rox. The larger Bloat grows, the further out his Wall, a telepathic barrier inducing a nearly uncontrollable fear response, extends. Only those with icy self-control or the overwhelming desire to reach the Rox can pass this barrier which seems to almost physically push the intruder away.
Governor of the Rox
While it is uncertain if he was elected or appointed, Bloat naturally falls into his role as governor of the Rox, using his mind-reading powers to adjudicate disputes between his joker and jumper "subjects." Immune to the jumper power, he cannot be replaced and, having grown too large to escape the island, has a vested interest in making things run smoothly. Eventually, he masterminds the "Jump the Rich" scheme, giving the jumpers direction and purpose rather than letting them blindly rampage through New York. In exchange he receives a cut of the loot, including the original triptych The Temptation of St. Anthony by Hieronymous Bosch. Bloat's obsession with this piece of art grows ever greater as more and more control of the Rox (and the Jump the Rich scheme) slips from his hands. The island is overcrowded and his "loyal" joker followers are hooked on highly addictive rapture and pandering to buy fresh Nat identities from the jumpers. Worse, the jumpers come under the control of a new leader, Dr. Tachyon's psychotic grandson, Blaise.
In addition to the jumpers, several other human teenagers live on the Rox, awaiting their initiation into the jumper gang. Among these is a teenage girl named Kelly Jenkins toward whom Bloat develops a powerful unrequited love. When Blaise captures Dr. Tachyon and jumps him into Kelly's body, Bloat demands the Takisian be released. Bloat's messenger returns with photos of the now female Tachyon being stripped and sexually assaulted by "her" grandson. In an attempt to console the imprisoned Tachyon, Bloat appears to her in dreams. His obsession with Kelly and the Dungeons and Dragons game casts these dreams in the mold of a romantic fantasy adventure. Tachyon (much to her annoyance) is placed in the role of captive princess and Bloat becomes the handsome swashbuckler known as the Outcast. Blaise is represented as a toad-like monster with a human face dubbed the Pretender. However, even in this dream world Bloat is unable to overcome his enemies and, when Tachyon finally conceives after multiple rapes, his depression deepens. Growing more desperate as the pregnancy progresses, Tachyon begs Bloat to take action and help her escape.
Around this time another figure appears in Bloat's dream world, an ice-skating penguin depicted in part of the stolen Bosch triptych. Representing an aspect of Bloat's subconscious, the penguin jeers at Bloat's seeming helplessness, urging him to use his full potential. This precipitates the creation of the caverns beneath the Rox, the first true manifestation of Bloat's energy-to-matter powers. Devising a rescue plan, Bloat employs his nascent reality-altering abilities to create a secret passage into Tachyon's cell. The dimwitted, but loyal joker called Peanut is sent to lead Tachyon out through the haunted caverns beneath the Rox. The plan fails and jumpers capture the two fugitives. Bloat is forced to telepathically listen in when Peanut kills himself, thus preventing Blaise from discovering who truly engineered the escape attempt. Tapping into the telepathic powers of the one-eighth Takisian fetus inside her, Tachyon manages to resist Blaise's mind control and preserve the secret Peanut died to protect. In retaliation, Blaise beats and rapes Tachyon once more, and - as with Peanut's death - Bloat is forced to share her agony.
Ultimately, Bloat manages to secure Tachyon's release through a deal with the ace vigilante known as Black Shadow. Assisted by the joker girl Chalktalk, Black Shadow had invaded the Rox, intent upon assassinating Bloat and dismantling the Jump the Rich operation. Bloat realizes via telepathy that the vigilante has been under the influence of Puppetman for many years and promises to reveal the other telepath's identity only if Shadow frees Tachyon from her basement cell. Fleeing in a boat provided by Kafka, Black Shadow and Tachyon are separated when the craft is blown apart somewhere in Hudson Bay by National Guard machine guns. Mostly by luck, Tachyon manages to reach the Jersey shore. She and Bloat will not meet again until after the first Battle of the Rox wherein the full potential of Bloat's vast powers is revealed to the world.
Battle of the Rox
Shortly after Tachyon's escape, National Guard units are sent in to clear out the "joker squatters" and other assorted riff-raff infesting Ellis Island. Bloat's expanding psychic wall is interfering with shipping lanes and encroaching on the shore of New Jersey. The assault is well planned, consisting of multiple attacks on several different points along the perimeter of Bloat's wall. The wall itself is overcome by staffing the units solely with fanatical racists who possessed the overwhelming desire to reach the Rox-and, once there, kill everything that moved.
Several boats and helicopters carrying troops manage to break through. Despite a vigorous defense mounted by jokers and jumpers alike, troops penetrate all the way to Bloat's throneroom in the old Administration Building. In the process of capturing the huge immobile joker, gunfire from a National Guardsman destroys the antique Bosch triptych. Incited to a murderous rage by the ruined painting, Bloat fully taps into his reality-warping power and creates an army of demons, monsters, and fish-knights.
A complete rout follows. Less than half of the National Guardsmen escape. Some troops are still being hunted down or tortured when Dr. Tachyon returns to the island with help from the Great and Powerful Turtle. Tachyon petitions Bloat to hand over Blaise only to learn her grandson fled to parts unknown amid the chaos, taking her stolen body with him. Bloat can only offer the mental image of a seashell (glimpsed as Blaise's mind shields slipped during the attack) as a clue to his location. Tachyon quickly concludes Bloat has interpreted a vision of her organic spaceship as a seashell. Realizing Blaise means to steal her ship and permanently trap her not only upon earth, but in Kelly's pregnant body, Tachyon and the Turtle immediately set off to stop him. Bloat will never see Dr. Tachyon again.
Deprived of his mentor and unrequited lover, angered by the recent National Guard attack, and intoxicated by his new level of power, Bloat declares the Rox to be the joker homeland. In a televised broadcast he officially announces the Rox's secession from the United States and new status as a sovereign nation. This action has devastating consequences. Under the leadership of General Frank Zappa, Jr., (fictional Wild Card universe son of real musician Frank Zappa), a second invasion is already in the offing. Unknown to Bloat, before Tachyon left earth in pursuit of Blaise, she was briefly detained by government agents and questioned as to the strength and disposition of the forces upon the Rox. This time, the assault force is backed not by Nat soldiers, but by an elite team of aces the like of which has never been seen before. Among those recruited to end the Rox crisis once and for all were the aces Carnifex, Legion, the Great and Powerful Turtle, Reflector (the former Snotman), wind-controller Cyclone and his daughter Mistral, Detroit Steel, Black Shadow, Cameo, Jerry Strauss (calling himself the Impressionist to hide his true identity), and others.
Meanwhile, Bloat marshals his own forces. Modular Man's creator, Maxim Travnicek, offers the services of his powerful android bodyguard in exchange for asylum in Bloat's private kingdom. Dylan "the Huntsman" Hardesty flees to the island and offers his services to Bloat after narrowly escaping government agents led by Carnifex. Kafka, Patchwork, Andiron, Mustelina, Shroud and various other jokers with useful skills or aggressively oriented mutations also play a role in the coming battle. Some jumpers flee the Rox when the government makes a bogus offer of amnesty, while other jumpers sent into New York replace the aces Pulse and Mistral, joining their powers to the joker cause.
Cyclone is killed in battle when Molly Bolt, the jumper occupying Mistral's body, turns his daughter's powers against him. Maxim Travinicek is killed in an explosion, which frees Modular Man to obey his own judgement and flee the Rox. The nearly unstoppable Reflector is immobilized beneath tons of rubble, preventing him from getting enough leverage to use his vast strength. Bloat is compelled to reinforce the gates of his wall, which is now an actual physical barrier, against the Great and Powerful Turtle's telekinetic battering ram. Believing his lover, the ace Legion, to be killed in action, Turtle channels all his rage-fueled power into creating a massive tidal wave, which rolls over the entire Rox. At the last instant, Bloat pushes his power to its limit and transports the Rox into a pocket universe, where the Jokers can finally live free.
Powers and abilities
Bloat's main power is the ability to project a psychic "wall" around himself, preventing any who are not intensely emotionally driven or strong-willed from entering it. He cannot consciously control or shut off the wall, and it expands over time roughly in proportion to his physical growth. He can read the minds of those within the radius of his wall, and communicate somewhat with other telepaths or those with sensitive minds.
Bloat later develops a powerful ability to make his fantasies real, transforming the Rox and the land around and under it into a surreal landscape and creating animated beings based in part on the images from the Hieronymous Bosch painting, The Temptation of Saint Anthony, and from The Lord of the Rings, Dungeons and Dragons, and other fantasy sources. He eventually becomes powerful enough to warp the Rox into a parallel universe.
Bloat's body is able to absorb nearly anything organic to fuel its massive growth. The cheapest food available on the Rox is the garbage and feces of the other inhabitants, which the island's sewage system pumps directly into his body through pipes. The concentrated waste he produces is called "bloatblack", which is continually expelled from all parts of his body; cleaning it is the least desired job on the Rox, often reserved as punishment for minor infractions.
Bloat has vast powers, but his greatest weakness is that he is still an insecure child and thus easily manipulated or intimidated.
- "Wild Cards Characters". Retrieved 31 December 2013.