John Nighthawk
Biographical Information
Real NameJohn
Wild Card TraitsPrecognition, life absorption
Social Information
Place of BirthMississippi
Base of OperationsMobile
AlliesCameo, Curtis Grubbs, Magda, Robert "Lightning" Nash, Usher
First AppearanceDeath Draws Five
CreatorJohn J. Miller

John Nighthawk is a fictional character in the Wild Cards series of books.


Born in Mississippi, in 1852, John Nighthawk was born into a life of slavery on a plantation. His mother died the American Civil War when the main house of the plantation was set ablaze, and unwilling to follow his father into life as a sharecropper, John left and headed north in 1868.

John lived a long and natural life, but by 1946 he lay dying in a charity hospital when the wild card struck. Reacting in fear to the horrors transpiring around him, he reached out to his friend Robert Nash in the bed next to his and the physical contact immediately drained the life right out of the man. Nighthawk had turned an ace, and not fully understanding what had happened he drained the lives from numerous others in the hospital. He soon found that each time he drained someone he added some of their life to his own, and by the time he walked out of the hospital he was effectively fifty years younger.

In the following years John turned to life as a mercenary, using his ace sparingly to accumulate a comfortable living, and in this role he found his way into the ranks of the Allumbrados, a papist sect with centuries-old ties to the Inquisition. In one of his missions for them he and his team were sent to recover first the Mandylion, a shroud that had supposedly been in contact with Jesus Christ, and then the ace medium Cameo. These tasks brought Nighthawk and his team into a web of intrigue surrounding Cardinal Contarini's desire to rid the world of the Anti-Christ, who in Contarini's view had taken form in the boy John Fortune. Neither one for the murderous streak of his employer, nor Contarini's extreme philosophical outlook, Nighthawk expertly circumvented some of Contarini's darker requests, and eventually turned on him and the Allumbrados altogether, draining Contarini's life in the process.

Wild Card TraitsEdit

John Nighthawk has a vampiric ability to rapidly drain the life from another living being. This he does through physical contact with his left hand, and the touch results in almost instantaneous death. He has no control over this power, and always wears a glove on his left hand to prevent accidental killings. The life energy of those killed by Nighthawk's ace is then transferred to Nighthawk himself, making him younger.

Nighthawk also has a limited precognitive ability which manifests on rare occasions in the form of a cryptic vision of a future event. They can occur at any time, and generally show events connected to his own future, although they can be vague and open to interpretation. He calls these flashes his "revelations."


John Nighthawk is a small man with very dark skin and fine wrinkles at the corners of his eyes and mouth. His gnarled, rough hands indicate a person who has done hard physical work for much of his life, and the left hand is almost always covered by a kidskin glove.


John Nighthawk is a shrewd and calculating man. While never having been formally schooled he has learned much from various sources, and has become uncannily streetwise through his long years of shady work.

From the time he turned his ace to the time Cameo channelled his old friend Nash for him, John was gripped by a fear that his power somehow destroyed the immortal souls of his victims.

Selected ReadingEdit

Wild Cards Volume XVII: Death Draws Five

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