Great and Powerful Turtle

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Great and Powerful Turtle
Wild Cards character
First appearance Wild Cards (1987)
Created by George R. R. Martin
Aliases Thomas Tudbury

The Great and Powerful Turtle is a fictional character from the Wild Cards series of books. Created by series editor George R. R. Martin, Turtle has appeared in several stories penned by his creator as well as a supporting character of varying levels of importance in stories by other Wild Card authors.

Character background[edit]

Known colloquially as Turtle or The Turtle, his real name is Thomas Tudbury. Born in Bayonne, New Jersey in 1945, he exhibited his telekinetic powers during adolescence, thinking that his pet turtles had the ability to fly unsupported, through their own means. Tudbury dropped out of college his Freshman year in the wake of the John F. Kennedy assassination. Returning home Tudbury contemplated his options in life and considered becoming a super hero. However, his shyness prevented him from using his telekinesis in public. A friend of Tudbury's suggested that he outfit an old Volkswagen Beetle with discarded battleship armor, television cameras and monitors, and use it as a shell. This became the first of many "shells" used by The Turtle. Usually built around the chassis of old cars, they had armor to protect Tudbury as well as cameras and loudspeakers to allow him to interact with the world. One of Tudbury's early adventures brought him into contact with Dr. Tachyon, who at the time was an alcoholic recluse. Tudbury helped him attain (semi-)sobriety thereby establishing a rocky friendship which would persist for thirty years. Turtle became one of the most famous, and also most mysterious Aces in the world. Among the few straightforward superheroes in the Wild Cards series, The Turtle's identity was the subject of much speculation, with many believing that he was a Joker who hid his deformity in the shell. In reality, out of his shell, Turtle is of medium height with a slight beer belly, short brown hair, and glasses. For many years, Turtle's secret civilian identity was that of a simple TV repairman and proprietor of an electronics store. In light of his dayjob and the sedentary manner of his "patrolling the streets" as the Turtle, Tudbury is something of a TV junkie and couch potato. Eventually Tudbury faked his own death for insurance purposes and devoted himself full-time to super heroics. After his near death by drowning Tommy was plagued by nightmares and is still something of a troubled sleeper.

Notable exploits[edit]

One of the many Aces recruited to combat the Swarm invasion of Earth during the 1980s, Turtle is also among a handful of Aces captured by a Takisian starship around the same time. Sent to investigate the results of their genetic tampering with the human race and believing Earth to be doomed by the Swarm's arrival, the Takisians captured Turtle, Fantasy, Capt. Trips, and their prodigal prince Dr. Tachyon, intending to return to the planet Takis. In a rare instance of overcoming the psychological block of employing his powers outside of his shell, Turtle captures an alien artifact with his telekinetic powers and, activated by Dr. Tachyon's telepathy, the captives teleport back to Earth.

Later, due to his involvement in an attack on the Egyptian Freemasons' stronghold, Turtle is marked for execution by the cult's leader, a deranged, but incredibly powerful ace called the Astronomer. While floating over the East River, Turtle is ambushed by Imp and Insulin, two of the Astronomer's followers still remaining at large. Imp's electromagenetic powers disable the sensors and cameras of Turtle's shell and Insulin's power to alter blood sugar levels disorients Turtle with an effect akin to a sudden, massive attack of diabetes. Plunging into the river, Turtle assumes he is freed by some freak of water pressure, causing his sinking shell to burst apart. He has time for one showy flight over New York City in an older shell, done to dispel the rumors of his death, before his powers begin to mysteriously desert him.

Believing his powers have permanently faded, Turtle attempts to build a normal life for himself, but to no avail. A budding romance with a girl from his school days is crushed when he learns she turned her own Wild Card at age eight and was cured by a dose of the trump virus. Dr. Tachyon warns Turtle that the trump virus was never administered, leaving the potentially deadly Wild Card virus still latent in her system. Any children they conceive will inherit the Wild Card and likely die in childbirth or manifest as Jokers. Turtle, knowing his fiancée wants children, reluctantly breaks off their relationship, unable or unwilling to explain their genetic incompatibility.

Turtle's powers return with the realization that it was his own telekinesis that destroyed the sinking shell in a desperate bid to save his life. Selling three of his older shells to Charles Dutton, owner of the Famous Bowery Wild Card Dime Museum, Turtle is financially prepared for the next phase of his life. With the city under martial law in the wake of a new Wild Card outbreak that affects even those who have already been infected, Turtle must escape New York with his money and on foot. During this trek Tudbury briefly befriends the hideous Mish-Mash, but flees when the Joker attempts to kill a police officer. Enlisting the help of Dr. Tachyon, Turtle fakes his death as one of the many victims of this second Wild Card outbreak caused by Typhoid Croyd. Shortly thereafter he returns to active status as the Great and Powerful Turtle, complete with a newly designed and constructed high-tech shell.

In the early 90s the Turtle makes two separate visits to the Rox, a street name for Ellis Island, which had become a stronghold for Joker criminals, rogue Aces, and a gang of body-swapping teenagers known as Jumpers. Recently escaped from the Rox after months of imprisonment, Dr. Tachyon - jumped into a runaway teenage girl and several months pregnant - flees to Turtle's junkyard hideout. After some initial disbelief, Tachyon establishes her identity and enlists Turtle's help. Returning to the Rox intent upon recovering his friend's true self, Turtle and Tachyon arrive in the wake of the disastrous first Battle of the Rox. Initially repelled by Bloat's Wall, Turtle deduces the psychic barrier around the Rox can not extend upward indefinitely and flies over it. Witnessing the torture and execution of some National Guard soldiers, Turtle uses his telekinetic power to protect those left alive and threatens to crush the victorious Joker "like ants" if they do not cease and desist. The Jokers comply.

Too late to capture Blaise and Kelly, the girl occupying Tachyon's body, Turtle flies at top speed to the warehouse containing the doctor's ship. Smashing the warehouse roof open, the organic starship attempts to escape and Turtle briefly manages to halt its progress through a prodigious exertion of his powers, telekinetically seizing it in the air. The ship's engines are too strong, effectively towing Turtle's shell behind it, and the jump to faster-than-light speeds shortly thereafter breaks his control, sending the shell tumbling back to earth. Limping home, Turtle drops Tachyon off on the roof of the Jokertown clinic. Later recruited by Tachyon to accompany her to Takis alongside Capt. Trips, Turtle is forced to remain behind when the Network ship that will take them off planet proves too small to accommodate his shell. Deprived of his shell, Turtle's usefulness is limited by being able to only levitate small objects such as pencils and rocks. He is replaced at the last minute by Ace private eye, Jay Ackroyd.

Left behind on earth, Turtle agrees to participate in the second government assault on the Rox, which as now been declared a Joker homeland and officially seceded from the United States. The largest team of Aces ever assembled is sent, backed up by the US Army, to quell the Joker rebellion once and for all. The inhabitants of the Rox, not without powers of their own, defend their claim on Ellis Island and the single largest instance of all out Wild Card combat erupts. In defeating Dylan "The Huntsman" Hardesty, Turtle was responsible for the destruction of the Brooklyn Bridge. When his current lover Legion was apparently murdered in front of him by someone on the Rox, Tudbury became enraged and used his powers to send a tidal wave down the East River, apparently destroying the Rox and everyone on it. In the wake of this Tudbury retired as The Turtle and has since gone public with his identity and published his memoirs, only briefly reappearing to help another Ace, Zoe Harris, better learn how to control her powers.

Powers and abilities[edit]

Tudbury is the most powerful telekinetic on earth. The upper limits of his powers are unknown, but some of his notable feats include lifting a battleship out of the water for several minutes, temporarily halting a Takisian starship in mid-flight, ripping off the leg of the second robotic Modular Man, destroying the Brooklyn Bridge, and creating a tidal wave to drown the Rox. However, Tudbury is also incredibly insecure about his powers which causes them to wilt to almost nothing when not in a shell. Outside his shell, Turtle's telekinesis is limited to levitating small objects such as pencils and beer cans or, when in a calm, confident state, objects about the size and weight of a bowling ball, including an alien teleportation device and the first Modular Man's decapitated head. In or out of his shell, Turtle tends to best employ his powers through acts of visualization where he imagines giant, invisible hands, fists, shields, battering rams, wings, and other "props" he can focus on. Once, when flying three shells simultaneously Turtle found it easier to imagine all three welded to the points of a giant triangle rather than trying to levitate them separately.

The shells[edit]

During his career as an Ace the Turtle employs a variety of shells, typically one right after another, the newer, more high-tech models replacing their older, outmoded counterparts. Occasionally, most often upon the loss or destruction of his latest shell, Turtle must fall back upon an earlier model until a new one can be constructed, usually assisted by his childhood friend, Joey, an accomplished mechanic.

Shell # Description
Shell I Turtle's first shell very clearly resembles the Volkswagen Beetle frame around which it is constructed. Protected by heavy steel plate salvaged from World War II battleships, it housed a swiveling chair and banks of TV monitors connected to external cameras. Hot, stuffy, cramped, and having more than one blindspot in its monitor system, Tudbury looks back on the old shell with fondness, but obviously prefers the later models. This shell, along with two others, was among the three sold to the Wild Card Dime Museum.
Shell II Slightly larger and more advanced than its predecessor, the second shell is a memento of Turtle's "Summer of Love" phase when he and other Wild Cards, both Aces and Jokers, became part of the Civil Rights and counter-culture movements. Spray painted with flowers, peace symbols, and slogans such as "Make Love Not War", this shell was used by Turtle to accompany various student marches and immediately quell any outbreaks of violence with his massive telekinetic powers. Tudbury vividly recalls the march when a beautiful young college girl lay atop his shell, seductively whispering that she loved him and didn't care what he looked like, if he was white or black, an Ace or a Joker. During one of his sporadic fits of self-pity and depression, Turtle wonders what his life would have been like if he had been brave enough to open his shell and invite her in.
Shell III The third shell was retired due to battle damage and the impending construction of the fourth, much more advanced shell. Slightly battered, this shell bears two significant dents acquired during Turtle's early career as a crimefighter. One is a caved in plate of armor caused by a cannonball hurled at Turtle by a super-strong ace criminal. The second, much more distinctive mark is a woman's handprint in the bottom of the shell, left by an Ace bank-robber called the Sculptress, who could make stone and metal flow like wax. Captured by Turtle, she avoided prosecution by agreeing to work for the FBI as one of several government Aces.
Shell IV Little is known of this shell other than it was not the most advanced to date. After Shell V jettisoned by the Takisians, Tudbury reverted to using his last intact model. In retaliation for the Cloisters raid described below, this shell was destroyed by Imp. Imp succeeded an attack on the seemingly-impregnable turtle, using his electromagnetic powers to jam its cameras and then attaching a napalm explosive to its side while another ace attacked Tudbury's blood sugar levels, leaving him incapable of concentrating on his telekinesis. On fire and out of control, Turtle crashed into the East River, completing the destruction of his own shell by smashing free from it with his telekinesis. The loss of this shell and Shell V put Tudbury in severe financial straits, leaving him without the means to build a new one.
Shell V The fifth shell possessed a high-tech camera/monitor system, an air conditioner, expensive recliner chair, and a small cooler for beer and sandwiches. The vacuum tubes, transistors, and stationary cameras of the older models have been replaced by computerized circuitry and remote operated cameras. Larger and more comfortable, this shell was Tudbury's most expensive one to date. Used during the Great Cloisters Raid, wherein The Astronomer's cult of Aces involved in human sacrifice was broken up by one of the earliest large gatherings of "heroic" Wild Carders, including Turtle, Dr. Tachyon, Fortunato, Peregrine, Jumpin' Jack Flash, the Howler, Kid Dinosaur, Mr. Magnet and various other unnamed participants. When he is captured by the Takisian ship checking on the progress of their experiment with the "Enhancer" (as they called the Wild Card), this shell is jettisoned as unnecessary cargo for the journey back to Takis. When informed of the loss of his shell, Turtle flies into a rage. Deprived of his powers, he threatens to physically attack the leader of the Takisian expedition, but is warned off by Dr. Tachyon. The Takisian captain would not think twice about killing Turtle (an unimpressive physical specimen outside his armored transport) if assaulted.
Shell VI Constructed shortly after Thomas Tudbury faked his own death, this shell was funded by money generated from the sale of shells I - III to the Famous Bowery Wild Card Dime Museum in addition to his life insurance settlement. Meant to be Turtle's largest, toughest, and most advanced shell ever, this is the only shell to ever experience catastrophic reentry. Pulled to the upper edges of the atmosphere while trying to telekinetically restrain Dr. Tachyon's stolen spaceship, Turtle gets unexpectedly cut loose when the ship shifts into "ghost-drive" and disappears. Tumbling through the air, Turtle temporarily loses control and can not slow the shell's descent back to earth. Heating up dangerously, several cameras burn out and computer components begin to overheat. One of the monitors is shattered by Dr. Tachyon's elbow after the alien brings Turtle back to his senses and the shell suddenly slows to a stop. This shell was his first and only airtight, self-contained unit with many human comforts as well as advanced circuit boards controlling camera movement, screen control, and interior atmosphere controls.


Thomas Tudbury owns a dog named after one of his personal heroes and favorite comic-book character Jetboy. Jetboy the dog is a big, black Labrador-doberman mix, freely roaming Turtle's junkyard lair. Jetboy once gave Dr. Tachyon (both female and pregnant at the time thanks to the Jumpers) some trouble reaching Tommy's front door.


External links[edit]