Issue(s): Sleepwalker #1, Sleepwalker #2, Sleepwalker #3
Supposedly, according to a note in the lettercol for issue #3, Bob Budiansky had been holding on to this idea since 1979. He was planning on calling the main character "Alien", but he put the idea aside when the Ridley Scott movie came out (which seems odd, and i don't really buy). But then, in 1988, when he was "beginning to run out of ideas for TRANSFORMER stories" he came back to this. It's not said why it took another 3 years to come to fruition, but Marvel is in an expansionary phase at this point, and seemed to be greenlighting ideas that might have otherwise sat for a while (that was also the case for Quasar, for example).
Despite Budiansky supplying the ideas, this series is best enjoyed as a vehicle for Bret Blevins' art. Blevins' New Mutants was polarizing, but there should definitely have been a place for his frantic cartoonish style and this book fits the bill.
One thing that struck me is that this is yet another white kid becoming a super-hero and getting his own book. In the past year we've had Ghost Rider, Darkhawk, and Sleepwalker all getting books and they are all white boys (high school or college age). Balancing out the scales somewhat, we will be getting a Deathlok ongoing series this year, but it's not surprising that Dwayne McDuffie and Denys Cowan will move on to form Milestone Comics in an attempt to add more representation of non-white characters in the comics industry. It's not the fault of any particular book, but it is interesting that Marvel, while expanding, didn't consider making an effort to reach out to other audiences (non-white or female).
Anyway, this book probably wouldn't have been the best place to start, because the main character isn't really a hero, per se. He's a guy that falls asleep, which allows the hero to leave his head and enter the real world. Frankly, that's the sort of character i can get behind. Any time i take a nap, i can rest easy knowing that i'm contributing to the war on crime.
Our protagonist is Rick Sheridan, seen here with his dog Rambo (and note the ominous menace of Eight-Ball being advertised in the background).
Rick is a college student; a film major. Here is his girlfriend Alyssa Conover, who has a waist so thin Rick can grip the whole thing in his hand.
There is actually a lot of sexualizing of Alyssa in these early issues.
That's a dream, and to be fair, probably as typical a college boy's dream as you can get. But they usually don't continue like this.
In the dream, Rick reaches out and grabs an amulet worn by the weird creature. He wakes up the next day and sees a news show interviewing a security guard describing the same creature. It scared away some people that broke into a warehouse.
Rick is under the impression that the creature that comes out of his head is a bad guy, so he tries to stay awake as much as possible. But he starts falling asleep everywhere he goes: the amusement park with his girlfriend, in school. He's dragging on the basketball court and in his day job as a handyman for the owners of the apartment building he rents at. Normally a top student, he starts to do poorly in school. He eventually gets knocked out by some local toughs while they are robbing a convenience store and is unable to stay awake.
So the creature comes out.
In addition to being able to take bullets to the chest, the creature has the ability to animate objects, using them to attack his opponents.
You have to love that in Marvel's New York, the bad guys are hardly phased by the existence of a monster, and are able to quickly figure out that he's responsible for the animated objects.
But also in the Marvel universe, strange looking heroes are hated and feared, so bystanders come along and take the side of the criminals.
The creature wraps the bad guys up in lamp posts and identifies itself as a Sleepwalker before disappearing just as Rick wakes up.
The name of the book and character is "Sleepwalker", so i'll be dropping the "a" when discussing him.
Alyssa seems to make the connection between Rick getting knocked out and the creature appearing, and vice versa when he wakes up. But we'll see later that she hasn't really. And Rick doesn't seem to understand that Sleepwalker only attacked criminals while it was loose.
Alyssa is in fact pretty unsympathetic about Rick's changes in behavior.
Depressed by everything that's happening to him, Rick wanders the streets and eventually falls asleep on a bench. That releases Sleepwalker, who comes out just as some kids are rolling Rick for his wallet.
We'll later learn that Sleepwalker is sort of a law enforcement agent in his own world. But he needs Earth crime to be explained to him.
He wanders the streets encountering more crime and more fear from the people he tries to help.
But i know what you are thinking. Forget all that, where is this awesome 8-Ball that keeps getting teased? Here he comes, cruising down the street with the the rest of his pool ball headed gang in their pool rack car.
Ha ha ha! Oh god, this is bad.
8-Ball's power is the awesome bank shot.
And yes, Sleepwalker shows up to ask him about crime, too. He still hasn't figured it out. Give 8-Ball some credit for quickly rolling with it and figuring out that Sleepwalker is potentially manipulable, but then deduct points for choosing such dumb goons.
Sadly, 8-Ball is just a normal human; that's a mask.
His origin is equally mundane.
Well, except for this Pimp Daddy panel. That is certainly not mundane.
Sleepwalker was getting knocked around, but it turns out that his power is inversely proportional to his distance from the ground. So when he's floating in the air, he's weak. But near the ground he's fine.
The fight between Sleepwalker and 8-Ball winds up out on the street, and Sleepwalker gets the police to let him continue to fight.
The problem is that a different cop notices Rick sleeping on the bench, and wakes him up. So Sleepwalker disappears. And the cops aren't happy about that. Sleepwalker dropped Rick's wallet when he disappeared, and when the police return it to Rick, they are still mad about Sleepwalker disappearing, and reinforce the idea in Rick's head that Sleepwalker is evil.
Any responsible editor would have stopped Bud Budiansky at first mention of a character called 8-Ball, but this series continues into issue #3, starting with Alyssa getting dressed up in a Barbarella outfit.
Rick, who is supposed to be filming, can't stay awake. And he's falling asleep again during the screening.
Seriously, any friends of this guy would at this point be suggesting a trip to the psychologist or something. But Alyssa just gets mad at him. Did i mention that she's a psychology major?
While Rick nods off again during the screening, Sleepwalker takes the opportunity to talk to him. He offers to show him a movie explaining what is going on. To add some drama to it, Rick has to remember the whole time that it's just a movie, or else there could be trouble. He also has to watch the movie all the way to the end in order to regain control of his life. Rick reluctantly agrees. He's actually really surly about it.
I don't know. If a monster was in my head, talking to me, i i'd like to think that i'd be more like "Cool! What's going on!?" than getting all angry.
Anyway, Sleepwalker is from a place called the Mindscape, "a world not found within your universe, yet it borders on the minds of all intelligent beings in your universe". The Sleepwalkers purpose is "to patrol the Mindscape and guard defenseless minds everywhere from the most evil of the Mindscape's inhabitants", creatures that want to invade the minds of others. Where were they when Shadow King was active?
Sleepwalkers fight evil with their, and i can't believe i'm writing this, "Imaginators". This is the amulet that Rick grabbed from Sleepwalker in his dream in the first issue.
Sleepwalker got trapped in his head while fighting a creature that is called Cobweb.
Rick panics during this part of the movie, and so Cobweb "comes to life" and attacks him. Issue #6's lettercol assures us that it wasn't the real Cobweb that was attacking him; it was only a manifestation of Rick's dream. Which is what is stated in this issue, although people seemed confused enough that the lettercol in issue #6 had to devote a fair amount of space to explaining that, and the MCP actually list Cobweb as actually appearing here (which could be due to a revelation in a later issue that contradicts what was said in the lettercol).
Anyway, Rick's panic leads for some reason to an appearance by all of Marvel's characters, clearly just a reason to get them on the cover.
Who is that behind Iceman. Mantis?
Anyway, after a lot of nonsense because of that, we eventually get back to Sleepwalker's story, which concludes with Sleepwalker indeed getting trapped in Rick's head while Sleepwalker was trying to defend him from Cobweb. In the dream where Rick grabbed the Imaginator, the Imaginator was lost or destroyed, and Sleepwalker lost his way to leave Rick's head. So that's the story. Sleepwalker will continue to look for his Imaginator, but also fight crime on Earth while Rick is asleep.
There's a basic idea here that is decent for a short term premise. I don't see how it was expected to work as an ongoing series. Who wants to read about a hero that needs to fall asleep in order to do anything? I can definitely see it as a mini-series, but not a permanent status quo. How long before the main character gets addicted to sleeping pills because he needs to be able to fall asleep any time there's an emergency? I mean, it's almost immoral not to be asleep with this premise. Beyond that, the story is written like it's intended for little kids, with the ridiculous 8-Ball as a villain and just very simple dialogue, but at the same time the book misses no opportunity to get Alyssa into a skimpy outfit. Telling Sleepwalker's origin via the format of a Dangerous Movie is incredibly boring. It's just a bizarre book, and it's hard to accept that Marvel published it for any reason beyond wanting to flood the market with whatever they could produce. Which is a shame because there should be a place somewhere for Bret Blevins to display his art style. I do like the art here moreso than his New Mutants run, because we're starting with new characters instead of taking characters that seemed to mature over time only to revert to teeny boppers when Blevins took over. The design for Sleepwalker is also interesting; kind of reminiscent of the Golden Age Vision (along with the similarity of the characters coming out of smoke vs. dreams). But these first three issues fail to establish anything interesting, and that's when they're not delivering total duds like 8-Ball (who, if he must exist, should at least be teaming up with the Orb).
Quality Rating: D+
Chronological Placement Considerations: I've kept these issues together because, taken together, they comprise the introduction of Sleepwalker, with issue #3 giving us his origin. But they are really three separate stories that take place on different days. Most likely there shouldn't be too much time between issues anyway, since people can only go so long without sleep. I've also pushed this back in publication time a bit to fit in a Spider-Man guest appearance in issues #5-6.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (7): show
The dissing of Sleepwalker will not stand! This guy was my jam as a youth.
Although, yes, objectively all your criticisms are right. On the other hand, I think Sleepy himself was pretty cool; I always thought Rick was a dopey head though. Sleepy's rogue gallery was also super lame although so lame they became kind of endearing I guess-how can you hate 8-Ball?
Sleepwalker in my head also sounds like Keith David. There's a lot of things wrong with this comic, but I think it works--maybe if Sleepy somehow had the power of switching hosts, the hokey "Rick must sleep" conceit might have worked. On the other hand, there's something potentially very avant garde and cool about a hero who is truly limited in the amount of time he has to do anything--not that the series really explored this potential.
Posted by: MikeCheyne | September 29, 2015 5:26 PM
Issue 3 is the only issue of Sleepwalker I ever bought and I did so precisely because of the other heroes on the cover. A valuable lesson in skimming the inside of the book before buying.
Posted by: Robert | September 29, 2015 6:26 PM
Fnord, I feel like I have to address two points. First is your complaint about the sexualizing of Alyssa. I would never speak for anyone else, but when I was a college age kid (which I was when this came out in real time), I sexualized the attractive girls I knew in my mind, especially if I was dating them! The sexualizing of her in *this context* makes sense and I have no real issues with it. If it was her always being shown lying around her house while wearing lingerie, THAT I would have a problem with. That is obviously gratuitous and serves no real purpose.
The second point is the complaint of the new characters being white guys. You're applying todays standards to a decades earlier era. That never really works. Of course nowadays, they go the complete opposite direction by changing white male characters into different genders or races. That's not a good answer either.
Still, you do raise a good point; this would be a good time to introduce new characters of different genders and races. I think Sleepwalker here would of had an interesting dynamic if Rick Sheridan had been a woman while Sleepwalker was himself. Darkhawk could have been Latino and Ghost Rider could have been black as examples. Actually, I can see that working! Now I wonder if Marvel gave any thought to that at the time?
Sleepwalker has a fun design and the beginnings of an interesting concept but it needed some refining and focus. A strong editorial hand would help with that. Unfortunately, it seemed Marvel lacked just that very thing in the early and mid 90's.
Okay, I guess I didn't disagree with you as much as I initially thought! Sometimes I think things out as I type :)
Posted by: Bill | September 29, 2015 6:32 PM
Sleepwalker has an awesome design and a unique premise, so it's too bad the stories are this terrible.
With this premise, 8-Ball should've been a dream come to life with an actual ball for a head. It's a real missed opportunity to make him a generic thief with theme-henchmen straight out of 50's Batman comics.
If this is supposed to be "Sandman done right", DC should've promoted Pete Milligan's Shade the Changing Man as "Sleepwalker done right".
Posted by: Berend | September 29, 2015 6:41 PM
"It is interesting that Marvel, while expanding, didn't consider making an effort to reach out to other audiences (non-white or female)."
Diversity didn't really take off until the mid-nineties. This was probably the last time you could introduce a bunch of white guys and no one (meaning both creators and readers) would really think about it too much at the time.
Posted by: mikrolik | September 29, 2015 7:04 PM
Regarding Alyssa- what I think is gratuitous is having Alyssa wearing almost nothing while Rick and his friends film her. Most boyfriends would probably not want their girlfriends to be wearing almost nothing in front of their friends and there's no reason Rick and friends couldn't have made the costume more modest.
Posted by: Michael | September 29, 2015 8:10 PM
eh, to be fair, that's not unrealistic for college.
Half the guys I knew in photo classes in art school wanted everyone to see their girlfriend-"models" in states of undress in their work.
Posted by: Bob | September 29, 2015 8:52 PM
Seems half of Marvels books were still printed on the old paper at the time, while others were printed on that cheap overly-bright stuff they started phasing in during fall of 1990.
Posted by: Bob | September 29, 2015 11:06 PM
Fnord, I believe that is supposed to be Talisman behind Iceman, judging by the colour scheme of what little we can see of her outfit.
As for Alyssa, I agree that her sexualized images do make sense in their context....but hopefully it doesn't become a constant thing (I've only read a handful of issues of SLEEPWALKER).
And although Rick does not get sexualized in the way that Alyssa does, he does seem to end up undressed in a lot of these issues, due to him going to bed in order for the superhero action to start. Not quite equal-opportunity exploitation, but still somewhat more balanced than you might see in other books.
Posted by: Dermie | September 29, 2015 11:30 PM
I'd actually argue thst Marvel's new crop of all white teen heroes is bacsliding, and in fact Marvel made notable, if unsuccessful, stabs at diversity a decade and more before this: Luke Cage, Shang-Chi, Bill Foster, several heroines who briefly got their own books. In the late '80s we got Hispanic female characters like Firebird and Poison, massively unsuccessful, but it seemed like a conscious attempt at diversity even at the time.
But I think Marvel isn't being exclusiobary so much as unimaginative: Ketch, Powell, and Sheridan are not only white teens, they come from basically indistinguishable suburban families, though of course they all easily run into violent drug gangs. These are three Peter Parkers, supposedly made cool and modern just by existing in the gritty and violent early '90s. It's a bizarre mismatch of the very retro and the desperately hip. DeFalco was giving us Archie-meets-the-Punisher years before that crossover actually happened.
8-Ball is terrific, though. C'mon, if you can love a fate nearsighted middle-aged dude with robo-arms who calls himself Doc Ock, you should be able to accept a guy like 8-Ball. He's ba classic.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | September 30, 2015 12:11 AM
I laughed out loud when I came to the part of the introduction of 8-Ball -- what a terrible character. I'm not sure if he is meant to be a joke character or legit; he'd definitely fit into a John Byrne She-Hulk rogues gallery, that's for sure.
A bigger effort should have been made by Marvel to create more diverse characters, this was a great opportunity to do so.
Posted by: JSfan | September 30, 2015 2:30 AM
I thought the person behind Iceman was maybe Firebird or Talisman.
Posted by: Berend | September 30, 2015 5:59 AM
It's supposed to be a collection of X-Men, X-Factor, the Avengers, and the FF. So Talisman seems less likely than Firebird. But all three (including my guess of Mantis) seem pretty obscure compared to the other characters.
Posted by: fnord12 | September 30, 2015 7:37 AM
Well the 8-Ball images at least make him look cool.
Regarding diversity, sadly its like you can't have it both ways and it just becomes difficult to satisfy anyone. They tried diversifying in the 70s and 80s and most of the comics had a hard time being sold. Meanwhile these days its all about "lets take classic characters and make them more diverse because its just about the name". In both cases, you have elements where it actually does work (the early Luke Cage and Ms. Marvel on the 70s; or Rhodey becoming Iron Man and the second Captain Marvel in the 80s; or more recently the Kamala Khan Ms. Marvel) but at the same time its just going to piss people off about whether its just a publicity stunt or just a way of being diverse without doing too much work. I rather at least there be an attempt of diversity through new characters and whatnot myself since it doesn't step on the toes of riding on someone else's popularity just to create diversity but my guess with this period is that DeFalco's period does feel more like it wants to be like the 1960s...and creating "white teen heroes" was at least novel then. (not in '90-'91 but still...) It just shows the hard work of trying to improve a world that by this point has 30 years of history.
Posted by: Ataru320 | September 30, 2015 8:51 AM
Is it possible the woman behind Iceman is Sersi? At this time she was a regular Avenger and this would make some sense given the assembled heroes. The headband makes no sense, but....
Posted by: Mark Black | September 30, 2015 1:58 PM
Mark, that seems like the best guess i've heard. If so it would be a terrible Sersi, but she would be a logical character to include.
Posted by: fnord12 | September 30, 2015 2:54 PM
I think it's Jean Grey with her hair and chest miscoloured.
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | September 30, 2015 3:58 PM
Regarding diversity in 1991, it's worth noting that Comics Should Be Good recently did a feature about how Bishop was originally intended to be Filipino but he was made into a black man because there were lots of black fans wondering why there were no black male X-Men:
Posted by: Michael | September 30, 2015 10:20 PM
Jean Grey partly miscolored as Psylocke is my guess for the mystery female.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | October 1, 2015 1:08 AM
Jean Grey does make sense based on her placement near other X-Factor characters. I think mainly we can agree that it's pretty unclear (that headpiece?). I half expected that someone would come along and say that it's a character that Blevins drew for another company that he was sneaking in as an easter egg.
Posted by: fnord12 | October 1, 2015 8:11 AM
It's supposed to be the headpiece and costume she first wore around X-FACTOR #63-#64.
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | October 1, 2015 11:41 PM
I think i bought 2 issues of this and 2 issues of Darkhawk, then gave up on both. As Walter says, these definitely felt at the time to be attempts to make new Peter Parkers (i.e. They were new Novas), so i doubt they thought of making them anything other than white male teens that the majority of the readership could more easily identify with. (though personally as a white male teen i enjoyed a lot of the Milestone stuff more than the vast majority of Marvel/DC stuff of its time.) There were some small attempts at diversity in the early 90s, though not enough. Other than the aforementioned Deathlok and Bishop, we also had Night Thrasher, the latino Spider-Man 2099, and Rhodey becoming War Machine. Also Northstar actually coming out, and maybe it "not mattering" how Jim Wilson caught HIV in the Hulk. Can't think of many new women heroes, though DeFalco did unsuccessfully try + push Silver Sable. And Marvel Uk had Motormouth, but she was awful. Maybe there were others I can't think of. I guess Milestone put diversity on the table for the comics industry.
Posted by: Jonathan | October 7, 2015 7:07 AM
I kinda like 8-Ball; you have to take him in that "kooky Steve Ditko villain" way, which seems to be what Fingeroth was going for. He definitely needed a wilder origin story; perhaps Jason Aaron will come up with a new version who can foretell the future by shaking his head.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | October 13, 2015 7:46 PM
Mmm, nope. Still hate Blevins' art. Also agree that it's Jean Grey, albeit ineptly drawn and mis-colored.
Posted by: Erik Beck | December 27, 2015 7:55 AM
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