John Oakes was born the youngest of seven brothers. Like his father and grandfather before him, he was the seventh son of a seventh son, and as such, developed a natural affinity for things of a mystic nature. When John turned eighteen, his father gave him a tattoo on his right arm, which was a banner containing the words, "Born to Lose". Every male member of the Oakes household going back several generations had this same tattoo. After receiving this supposed mark of manhood, John left home to seek his own fortune.
Living in California, John became a petty criminal and was eventually arrested on a B & E charge. He was sent to prison in Soledad for a five year stretch. While there, John became cellmates with Abel Tarrant, the super-villain known as the Tattooed Man. Although John didn't realize it at the time, Tarrant specifically targeted Oakes on behalf of a Yakuza mob boss named Mizoguchi Kenji. Over the course of five years, Tarrant and Oakes grew close, and Tarrant took him on as his personal apprentice. He showed him the magical ink he used to craft his tattoos and tattooed an intricate series of designs and chakras across John's back, chest and stomach. Like Tarrant, John's tattoos contained special mystical properties. He first demonstrated this power while defending himself against an inmate named Ott (an inmate that Tarrant allegedly killed some time later). 
When John was released from prison, he severed all ties with Tarrant and opened up his own tattoo studio in San Francisco. John became very successful, cultivating high end clients including super models.
Tarrant's benefactor, Mizoguchi Kenji, knew of the mystical properties of John's work, and recognized that his designs could open up doorways to enlightenment and power. His Yakuza assassins and he came to the United States and began systematically killing all of John's clients, skinning them in the process. A police inspector named Elliot began to suspect that Oakes was guilty of the murders, but John had an alibi for each night that the murders took place.
During this time, John met and fell in love with a woman named Yuko. Yuko was the granddaughter of Master Kobo, the best Irezumi master in the world and the mentor of Abel Tarrant.
Mizoguchi Kenji soon found Oakes and attacked him, at which time John unleashed the power of his tattoos to protect himself. During this fight, Kenji injured Oakes and killed Inspector Elliot, though John did succeed in escaping. 
Yuko and he traveled to Kyoto, Japan to meet her grandfather, Master Kobo. Kobo took a quick liking to John and furthered his education in the art of tattooing. Kobo told John how Kenji was once his greatest student, but was seduced by corrupting influences and joined the Yakuza. 
Kenji followed Oakes back to Japan where he became the Oyabun of the Red Mist gang of the Yakuza. Kenji brought the original Tattooed Man along with him, and together they baited John into a trap. John soon realized that Kenji was not only Master Kobo's pupil, but he was also his son. Kenji captured John, but John was able to use his tattoo magic to open a spiritual doorway allowing Master Kobo's essence to merge with his own. Together, they were able to defeat Mizoguchi Kenji. 
- Body Art Animation: Through his tattoos, John Oakes can call upon the mystical properties of his tattoo ink, to open mystic portals, project fields of black energy and spiritually merge with the essences of other people.
- Irezumi: John is a master in the art of Irezumi, Japanese tattoo art. He was instructed by the greatest Irezumi master in the work, Master Kobo, and was first trained by one of Kobo's students, Abel Tarrant.
Tattoo gun and magic ink.
- Being the seventh son of a seventh son affords one a natural mystic affinity in the DC Universe. Other famous "seventh sons" include Johnny Thunder and Jakeem Williams.
- 4 Appearances of John Oakes (New Earth)
- 1 Images featuring John Oakes (New Earth)
- 3 Quotations by or about John Oakes (New Earth)
- Character Gallery: John Oakes (New Earth)
- The Tattooed Man at dccomics.com
- Tattooed Man at Wikipedia.org
- Tattooed Man at DCU Guide
- Tattooed Man chronology at DCU Guide
This character exists under the Vertigo Imprint which is intended for Mature Readers. Vertigo titles although they may cross over into regular DC continuity.
This template will categorize articles that include it into the category "Vertigo Characters."