O Say Can You See: The Greatest Patriotic Super Heroes of All-Time
Okay, so maybe everybody does hate 90’s comics. Oh well. Here’s another one. My favorite one, in fact, with a wonderfully odd premise. If you believed the hype back then, you’d know this is “Sandman done right.” I wouldn’t go that far. It is, however, a fun comic.
Sleepwalker was a title that probably wouldn’t last a year today, but it had a nearly three year run in the early 90’s. Created and written by Bob Budiansky, mostly known for his pencilling work, or his contributions to Transformers lore, the title followed the adventures of a “noble alien” character. Everything in the book, however, was just left-of-center enough to become unique.
Sleepwalker was about a protector of the Mindscape getting stuck in college student Rick Sheridan’s brain, only able to walk the Earth when Rick was asleep. Naturally, he becomes a superhero, and poor Rick is forced to go along with it, constantly being forced to take power naps or get knocked unconscious in order to let Sleepwalker loose. Sleepy eventually got used to living on Earth and dealing with criminals with such bizarre powers as his warp vision, which enabled him to reshape whatever he stared at to suit his purposes– like on the cover above.
The rogues gallery was brilliant, too. There was 8-Ball, a criminal with a billiards gimmick who really should’ve been a Batman baddie from the 60’s; the Chain Gang, who had superpowers as long as their legs were chained together; the Thought Police, who basically did what their name implied; Spectra, who had light powers (in one storyline, Sleepy became addicted to a certain wavelength of light– there’s a bizarre drug story for you); and, of course, archnemesis Cobweb, the scourge of the Mindscape. Everything was a cool kind of weird in this book. You can read more about these wackos on the Marvel Appendix.
My favorite supporting character, however, was probably Rick’s dog, Rambo.
The first artist on the series was Bret Blevins (whatever happened to that guy?), who exhibited a perfect style for the book. He had a great eye for detail and a superb sense of layout and draftsmanship. Everything just had a dash of Ditko (perfect for the Mindscape) and a sprinkling of a Paul Pope kind of pulpy twist. Have a page:
The next artist on the book, Kelly Krantz, was a lot looser. Depending on the inker, the art would range from “a mess” to “pretty darn cool.” It served the book fairly well for the rest of the run, and I liked it, but it was not as well-crafted as Blevins’.
Also, in a fill-in or two, as well as on the Summer Special, you can find early work by one Joe Quesada, current editor-in-chief of Marvel. So c’mon, Joe, let’s bring Sleepy back to the forefront. I know Rob Kirkman loves him– he did do the failed Epic revamp, and brought the original Sleepy back in the same Marvel Team-Up arc that featured Terror– so let’s see the ol’ bug-eyed green fella again! (I wonder if he’s registered? Hmm. Probably not. Probably didn’t care. Maybe he’ll show up in Thunderbolts. Heh.)
This comic wasn’t perfect, but there was a lot to love. Weird ideas, actual character development, and some bizarre twists and turns in the mighty Marvel manner! And, okay, yeah, it was the 90’s, so you’ve got some guest appearances by Spider-Man, Darkhawk, Deathlok, and Ghost Rider, but them’s the breaks. It was a very good series, and you can surely find it in the cheapie bin at your local comics shop or convention. I’ve managed to track down almost every issue (there’s 33 and a holiday special), and it’s totally worth it.
Fun bonus fact: The series also featured the greatest cover gimmick of all time: the cover to #19 could be removed and worn as a Halloween mask:
Sandman done right? I wouldn’t say that– they’re completely different! It was, however, one of the absolute best superhero titles from either of the Big Two during that particular infamous decade. Pick up an issue if you get the chance.
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