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365 Reasons to Love Comics #135

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.

5/15/07

135. Sleepwalker

Sleepwalker 1.jpg

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.

Sleepwalker 4.jpgSleepwalker 3.jpgSleepwalker 2.jpg

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:

Sleepwalker 5.JPG

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:

Sleepwalker 6.jpg

Surprisingly, Sleepy’s got a profile on Marvel’s website. And there’s always the Wiki for more information.

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.

37 Comments

“Sandman done right” was DeFalco’s phrase for, leading Peter David to once jokingly call Sandman “Sleepwalker done wrong”

In Invincible, Mark’s ill-fated college roommate is named Rick Sheridan. A tilt o’ the the hat to old Sleepy I guess.

Flush it all away

May 15, 2007 at 5:09 pm

Bret Blevins? Ugh. I still remember the loooong, dopey faces he drew. Ruined an otherwise good bunch of New Mutants issues.

As for Sleepwalker, that first-issue cover is pretty awful. It’s also kind of amusing how those early ’90s comics NEVER stopped flogging the “collectible” angle: witness the “1st issue! Collectors item!” across the top. Gee, all they needed was a hologram, trading card, variant covers and sealed plastic baggie and it would be the perfect ’90s comic.

Okay, so I’m kind of bitter. Seeing these early ’90s issues is reminding me of how it all went awry for a formerly comics-loving kid.

hifidigitalboy

May 15, 2007 at 5:51 pm

Y’know, the weird things is that I hated Bret Blevins back in the day. Now, I appreciate his artwork. While he was not the best thing that ever happened to the New Mutants, I have to point out that Rob Liefeld ruined the NMs.

I read the two-parter that guest-starred Spider-Man. It certainly wasn’t “Sandman done right” (the most absurd thing to ever come out of Tom DeFalco’s brain, and I’m including Lyja the Skrull and Jacob Conover as the Rose in that statement), but it was a fun, quirky series. He showed up a bit in Kirkman’s Marvel Team-Up, too. He could work, with the right writer.

…What DID happen to Brett Blevins? Hewas really good. Excellent storytelling, even if his faces were too long for some people’s tastes (what a wierd- and frankly kind of dumb- complaint to have about a guy’s artwork).

Wikipedia says he went into animation, and links to an official website ( http://www.optimisticstudios.com/ ) I’m off to have a look at that now…

Yeah, I believe Blevins has been in animation for quite awhile. I recall seeing his name on at least one notable cartoon series.

Check this out: at his official website, there’s a link to his blog: http://www.bretblevins.blogspot.com/ and it looks like he’s doing comics again (scroll down to the second most recent entry)!

Yet another comics artist blog to add to my list of bookmarks!

Sleepwalker was a great book. I remember being 9 and being very excited to get his Marvel card.

Please tell me tommorow is Darkhawk….

That the series lasted nearly 3 years is proof the 90s sucked.

Not only is the supporting character in Invincible named Rick Sheridan, but he’s also falling asleep in class/sleeping extremely late all the time.

Dude I’m not putting it past Kirkman to have Mark suddenly fighting/teaming up with “Daymare” in the near future.

I really liked the series, especially when I was getting it from the quarter bin like, two months after the new issues came out.

The Mad Monkey

May 15, 2007 at 11:41 pm

“Sandman done right”
Hmmm…
They had to have been talking about Kirby’s Sandman.
The comparisons are closer than with Gaiman’s Dream.

I liked Sleepwalker. It wasn’t always great, but the premise and the characters were enough to carry it. If anything from Marvel in the 90s deserves a new lease on life, this is it.

I thought the whole “Sandman done right” thing was an urban legend, it had actually been described by someone at Marvel as “Sandman done the Marvel way” or something like that, and somewhere along the line it was misremembered and misquoted in the fan press. That would definitely be a good topic for a future Urban Legends installment.

Rohan Williams

May 16, 2007 at 6:46 am

In fairness, to a Marvel Zombie, “Sandman done the Marvel Way” is exactly the same as “Sandman done right.”

To everyone else, though, yeah, that’s crazy talk.

The Kirbydotter

May 16, 2007 at 8:32 am

Oh come on!
I understand soem of the choices here are purely for the outrageous factor…
But Terror Inc. and Sleepwalker, two very forgetable titles from the forgetable 90′s are two wasted slots on this series.

To affirm that Sleepwalker was better done than either Kirby’s or Gaiman’s Sandman has to be a joke or a comment made under the influence of some lousy s#!t.

Finding some obscure comicbook and shedding light on it is one thing, but Sleepwalker and Terror Inc. SHOULD be left in the obscurity.

Please if you are out of ideas, just milk the Apes or Canuck themes some more. The is still some good stuff left to explore, and even the worse stuff is better than most 90′s Marvel.

The Kirbydotter

May 16, 2007 at 8:33 am

Oh! And Brett Blevins is a terrible artist who has no sense of anatomy, proportions of the human body or perspective.

I agree. There should be more emphasis on serious, quality comics.

Like Darkhawk. We want Darkhawk!

Somehow, more and more of the “reasons to love comics” are matching up with my “reasons to be embarassed of comics”.

There’s nothing to be embarassed about in comics, Mr. Apodaiquiri. But if you think Sleepwalker is too silly, perhaps you could take up a less shameful hobby, like RPG cosplay or needlepoint.

I read the majority of the run not long ago (the first two years) and I was pleasently surprised. You can really see how Sleepwalker is a labor of love. Yeah a lot of it is clumsy, and amateurish by some standards, but the love is there. And I think THAT love, and the fact that a book could be that popular and even get made with that concept is a reason to love comics.

Oh, and Sleepwalker is on the cover of Avengers The Initiative #1. I guess he is registered.

There’s nothing to be embarassed about in comics, Mr. Apodaiquiri.

Oh, there absolutely is. That Mary-Jane-sexy-maid statue, for example. Or the way Joe Quesada dresses. Or the ever-present cleavage on the majority of superheroines.

Every medium has its embarassments.

But if you think Sleepwalker is too silly, perhaps you could take up a less shameful hobby, like RPG cosplay or needlepoint.

Not too silly, too lame. I love silly comics. Me and silly curl up in bed together and read Madman, stroking each other’s hair.

But Sleepwalker is just ugly, awkward, and indistinct. The dialogue in the page you put up there, for instance, is just awful. It sounds like this comic was written in the sixties.

Kirbydotter-

“Brett Blevins is a terrible artist who has no sense of anatomy, proportions of the human body or perspective”

Man, if you don’t like his style, fair enough; but that’s just not true. His technical skills are fine. If you don’t believe me, click those links I posted earlier. Amongst other things, you’ll find some excellent oil paintings, including several nudes painted from life. The guy is a very accomplished artist. As a cartoonist, he tends toward a particular brand of stylism, one that clearly isn’t to your taste. But that’s not the same thing as being a bad artist.

Besides, any fan of Kirby critisising an artist for poor anatomy and perspective is frankly hilarious!

The Mad Monkey

May 16, 2007 at 11:45 pm

David Wynne…
Your last comment was exactly what was on my fingertips just before I read it…lol.

Kirbydotter…
My use of the wonderfully silly Kirby Sandman was not an affirmation, but an alternative example of something that I felt was more appropriate to compare Sleepwalker to. It’s obvious that it’s the Gaiman title that is meant.
Although, upon further thought, I’d have to say that (the original New Universe) Nightmask is even more comparable to Sleepy.
And, hey, Blevins did some art on that book too…hmmm…

Flush it all away

May 17, 2007 at 4:55 pm

“Excellent storytelling, even if his faces were too long for some people’s tastes (what a wierd- and frankly kind of dumb- complaint to have about a guy’s artwork).”

Yes, it’s a very dumb complaint to want human faces to look, y’know, like real human faces.

“Yes, it’s a very dumb complaint to want human faces to look, y’know, like real human faces.”

Sorry if I offended you… it just seems kind of sad that you let such a small thing ruin a comic for you. And you know, Blevins’ work is no more stylised than plenty of other artists. Darwin Cooke’s faces don’t look like real human faces, nor do Mike Mignola’s. MOST cartoonist’s faces look like, well, marks on a page intended to represent human faces.

Which is why it’s called cartooning, and not, say, portraiture.

True, but all the same it’s perfectly reasonably to not like an artist’s work because their style doesn’t appeal to you. A lot of people don’t like Frank Quitely’s faces – though I can’t see why.

On the other hand I’m not fond of the faces Jon Romita jr’s been drawing recently – people’s chins seem to be getting smaller and smaller. I wouldn’t call him a bad artist for that, but I’m liking his work less and less.

crap

I know no one has commented on this in a while, but I had to find some place on the internet to say my piece. Sad to say, but if you want to talk about Sleepwalker, this place is pretty much it.

I got into Sleepwalker when I was 12 – at a time when every comic on Earth seemed to be over-the-top, 80′s action movies drawn (and more unfortunately, written) in something approximating Rob Liefeld’s X-force style. Sure, they were cool. They were sometimes drawn well. But I couldn’t relate to these guys. Most of the staples of that era – Cable, Deadpool, The Punisher, Wolverine even – were basically all little Rambos who existed solely to express angst. In 1991, at the age of 12, I couldn’t care less about that.

To me, Sleepwalker was like the last Silver Age Marvel hero who somehow fell through a time vortex and ended up stranded in 1991. He was noble, thoughtful and maybe even a little naive. He had a good, original gimmick. He looked like no superhero I’d ever seen. His book was even a little corny and weird. Of course, this made him lame by 90s standards, but, to my 12 year old eyes, they made him something else. An actual, honest-to-goodness, you know, hero. I remember his adventures fondly the way some people might look back on Golden Age stories about Superman. Maybe not literature, per se, but damn fine stories.

I think the anachronism of this character coupled by the 3 deadly words allegedly spoken by DeFalco, has made Sleepwalker seem like a joke to people who didn’t actually read his comics. But really, Sleepwalker is fricken cool. He deserves to be reexamined. Forget “Sandman done right.” I’m interested in seeing Sleepwalker done right.

Heh I’m posting here even LATER…
but I have to throw in my support for Sleepy as well.
I was completely turned off to mainstream comics (and almost comics in general) by the time Sleepwalker came out.
So I barely gave it a second glance. But about a year ago I got a bunch of 90′s comics from am aquaintance who had bought them as an (*ahem*) investment. The first 11 or so issues of Sleepwalker were the best of the lot.

Well written with realistic characters and a truly bizarre but noble and sensitive protagonist. Sleepy reminded me of early Silver Surfer comics mixed with Nightmask (an underated 80′s gem) and that’s pretty cool.
Don’t let your 90′s prejudice get in the way of a good read. DEADPOOL still has a comic and this is forgotten/Lampooned? Is there no justice?

I liked Rick’s dog too.

If that “Sandman Done Right” quote isn’t an urban legend, it’s completely ridiculous except for the “dreaming” aspect the too couldn’t be more different. It was clearly just Marvel marketing hyperbole in the Stan Lee tradition (although Stan had some respect and always called DC their “Distinguished Competition.”)

Sleepwalker is one of the most underrated series Marvel ever published. At a time when the grim, gritty anti-hero was in vogue, with his leather straps, big guns, and I-don’t-take-crap-from-anyone attitude (Wolverine, the Punisher, Cable, Spawn, etc. etc. etc.), Sleepwalker was a hero with morals who had a little more than a hair-trigger temper or an “edgy, modern” personality. In a way, it was almost subversive when you consider how big things like Spawn were.

A lot of people here have commented on the uniqueness of the hero, the supporting cast, and the villains, and so forth, and they’re fully right. What I really like about the series is how in the background there was an overarching plot by Cobweb to invade Earth and frame Sleepwalker as the leader of the invasion-if you read between the lines of the series, you’ll see it going on in the background, and how Cobweb screwed with Rick Sheridan’s mind.

It’s nice to see Sleepy getting his due here, and it’d be great if Marvel revived some of the old villains and turned them loose-it’s criminal that guys like Cobweb, Psyko and the Office of Insufficient Evidence haven’t been seen since then. I bet J.M. DeMatteis could have a field day with Psyko.

Granted, if you’re looking for more Sleepwalker stuff, hopefully you’ll find this worthy…

http://www.ironrodstudio.com/av2000/issue.asp?titleid=OWSWLK

Kris Wright summed things up quite nicely for me. I think I was even the same age when I was reading these!

Continuing along the Silver Age concept:

Somewhere on the internet, there was once an April Fool’s post (or along those lines) detailing how Sleepwalker was originally an unpublished silver-age Stan Lee and Steve Ditko collaboration, which the 90′s comic was based on. I thought that it was the perfect missing link to Sleepy’s story :)

Interestingly enough, Ditko did draw some aliens once in an old Marvel monsters comic that looked a lot like Sleepwalker…sort of.

Thanks Kris for formulating Sleepwalker’s appeal so well! I’d love to see that as an intoduction to a Marvel Masterworks edition :)

sleepwalker rox…and ricks dogs name is ranbo :)

I have every single issue of this comic. It is my favorite superhero comic of all time. I agree with the vast majority of the compliments, but Lullaby was a crappy villain. Bret Blevins is an amazing artist and the series suffered in his absence.

I absolutely love this series and still haul it out from time to time! It’s a ton of fun, and Sleepwalker is a very good sensitive protagonist in a way that is similar to the Silver Surfer. We could use more characters like that in comics.

Also, a guest appearance that Sleepwalker had in Ms. Marvel during the Civil War lead me to my favorite character in comics, Carol Danvers. Even after all these years, ol’ Sleepy still comes through for me!

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