Friday, August 19, 2016

Sleepwalker - a lost gem of a comic book

The early 90s were a weird time to be into comics. What has come to be known as the dark age of comics were in full swing. Grim and gritty for the sake of being grim and gritty anti-heroes were busy looking cool, killing bad guys and being cynical.

One comic book that stood out for me during this time and stuck around in the back of my head was Marvel's Sleepwalker.

Sleepwalker, the hero and namesake of the book, was an alien from a place called the mindscape trapped in a normal person's mind, only able to come out when his host is asleep. He looked like a cross between a scarecrow and an insect. His powers included super strength, flight and eye beams that could turn things into Salvatore Dali paintings.

Since Marvel pretty much invented the whole hated-and-hunted superhero lifestyle, it should come as no surprise that Sleepwalker was routinely met with violent hatred and was even hunted by a branch of the government whose only purpose seemed to hunt Sleepwalker.

And how did Sleepwalker handle being treated worse than the X-Men? He vigilantly  protected and defended people and fought evil whenever he came across it. Which,N being a comic book, was pretty much every night.

Which wouldn't have been that weird ten years earlier or even ten years later. But Sleepwalker came onto the scene when comic books were full of beautiful people were busy being cynical and bloodthirsty. A character who is actually altruistic and heroic when he has plenty of excuses to be a jerk, that was like a breath of fresh air.

Sleepwalker being an actual hero wasn't the only thing that made the book a good read. His adventures, taking place, had a definitely dreamy quality. He had a rogues gallery full of strange and quirky characters. They managed to combine a level of silver age silliness with more modern sensibilities. 

Rick, the poor blighter who had Sleepwalker stuck in his head, was also a great part of the ensemble. Having to go to sleep whenever there was trouble made his life worse than Peter Parker's, costing him his job and messing up his personal life something fierce. But, just like the creepy alien in his brain, Rick always showed pluck and never stopped trying to do the right thing.

Sleepwalker had a short run, less than three years. In a market that was full of shallow deconstructions of heroes, it managed to say something entertaining and original about heroes and I still remember for it for that.

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