Ahhhh, the 90s... Rightfully maligned for its over-the-top yet simplistic portrayal of superheroes. Nevertheless it holds a special place in my heart. You see, I was just getting into comics around 1991. Of course, I didn't understand half of what was going on in the industry, but it was quite an exciting time! Being 13-years-old, I was also the perfect audience for everything that came out during the following years – Image, Valiant, Wizard Magazine, you name it! Luckily, I grew out of that phase (eventually).
But enough reminiscing...
Sleepwalker comes from a dimension called the Mindscape, where his race act as sheriffs to all the nasty beasties which inhabit that plane. He is tricked into entering the mind of college student Rick Sheridan by his most wily foe, Cobweb, and can only appear in our world when his host falls asleep. The character is very alien looking with bluish-white skin, a bald head, and big, buggy eyes. He is dressed in all blue, with purple gloves, boots, and hood. He has superhuman strength, can hover above the ground, and has a warp gaze that he uses to manipulate inorganic materials.
We begin on a basketball court. Our protagonist is Rick Sheridan. He goes for a lay-up (everyone remember what those are?) but is blocked by a purple-gloved hand. It belongs to our titular hero, Sleepwalker (although he won't get this moniker for a couple more issues). His appearance is quite striking - he has bluish-white skin and is wearing a blue leotard with purple gloves and boots. Also, on his chest is a golden, four-pointed star that looks like some sort of badge. (This doodad will become very important later on.) Oh, he also has two large, bright-red reticulated eyes... which Rick focuses in just before he wakes up screaming.
Rick finds himself safe and sound in his room. Rick' dog, call Rambo, automatically starts turning on the TV and radio, just like he's been trained to do whenever his master wakes up. And guess whose mug pops up on the boob tube? It's our favorite web-spinner himself – Spider-Man! (Yes, the whole reason I'm doing this review is a tiny little image on a tiny TV screen in one tiny panel.) And hey, in the very next panel it is replaced by an image of the master criminal (hah, as if!) Eight Ball, who Sleepy is going to be encountering next issue. Holy foreshadowing, Batman!
Anyway, it's time for Rick to get up and go to school (he's a college student, natch). Along the way he is greeted by his girlfriend Alyssa who is on a pair of roller blades (yep, it's definitely the 90s). Then, we skip ahead a bit to the end of class as he returns to his apartment. He scares off some drug dealers who tried to set up shop on the steps to his apartment building. The landlord, Mr. Epstein, then has Rick clean up the mess the thugs left behind You see, Rick functions as a custodian and handyman for the building in exchange for not paying any rent on his apartment.
After that task is done he falls right into bed and starts dreaming again. This time he's thinking of Alyssa laying on the beach in a bikini. But. once again his fantasy is interrupted by that same alien creature who does nothing but hover over him menacingly. Rick yells to Alyssa to run and tries to grapple with the creature himself. Alyssa's image turns to sand and floats away while Sleepy uses his warp beam to open up a hole underneath rick. In desperation Rick snatches that golden medallion off his chest and Sleepy instantly disappears.
Rick wakes up again, and is very happy because he thinks he's got rid of the alien being for good. Rambo turns the TV again, however, and who does he see? Sleepwalker! A cop is talking about a creature that saved his life from some hoods.
So, by this time Rick is freaking out, thinking he's released a monster from his dreams into the real world. Well, not that freaked out, because later that evening he goes on a date with his girlfriend Alyssa to the Coney Island amusement park. (Is that still a thing people do? Eh, it was the 90s, let's go with it.) He tells Alyssa about his nightmares and she thinks a ride through the haunted house attraction will cheer him up. All it does is make him fall asleep. (Rick falling asleep in strange places is a contrivance that will be use ALOT in this series, so there's really no point in trying to argue how silly it is.)
Of course, once he falls asleep Sleepwalker pops right out from his head! Right in front of Alyssa, no less! She shakes Rick awake and of course our hero immediately disappears. Why doesn't she pick up on the connection between the two when Sleepwalker starts making regular appearances, I can't say. Maybe Rick is using her for her looks and not her brains. Anyway, Rick DOES put two and two together and is convinced that every time he falls asleep the creature is let loose from his head.
So, now he is afraid of going to sleep and starts in on a high-caffeine diet of coffee, soda, and energy drinks. The results of which are not pretty. He's performing poorly on the basketball court, at college, and on the job at the apartment building. (Can't someone only go so long without sleep before it dies or goes crazy? Google says hallucinations start after 72 hours.)
Anyways, it's a couple days later and Rick he is shopping for more coffee at the local grocery store. Alyssa is with him and telling him he needs to get some rest. Of course, a couple of crooks decide to hold up the place. Rick feebly attempts to stop them himself but is easily smacked to the ground. Amazingly, this doesn't knock him out. But, he's so intent on keeping Alyssa from getting hurt that he actually wills himself to sleep (another gimmick that is done to death in this series)! He figures if Sleepwalker appears he will scare the hoodlums away.
Sure enough, Sleepy rises up from Rick's head, and floats about a foot off the floor looking very unearthly in front of the bad guys. The crooks shoot him and he is knocked back against a shelf. They then grab Alyssa as a hostage and scram. Sleepy doesn't really seem hurt by their bullets, though, and starts immediately chasing them. They quickly jump in their car, but are so freaked out by Sleepy that they leave Alyssa behind. Sleepy uses his warp beam on a nearby street lamp and makes it stab the car right in its engine block. The crooks are catapulted out the windshield but are seemingly unhurt. They start running away again.
This time Sleepy uses his warp beam to confine one of them in a mailbox while the other one grabs a pipe and takes a swipe at him. He connects and knocks Sleepy onto the ground. Then, neighbors run up to the scene and instead of thanking him they attack our hero! They start throwing cans and other stuff at him. In order to defend himself he shoots a warp beam at the pavement which twists upwards and restrains the crowd. The crook that started the whole thing tries to whack him with a pipe again but Sleepy snatches it and grimaces menacingly at his assailant who pleads, “Please, don't fry my face off!” Sleepy shoots his beam again, but this time he uses another light pole that wraps itself around the crook and lifts him off the ground. (In future issues it is revealed that Sleepwalkers have sworn an oath never to use their warp beam on sentient beings.)
Alyssa finally shows up and asks the creature directly, “Who are you?” And he replies “I am a sleepwalker.” His speech bubble is angular and rimmed with the same pink coloring his warp beam is. It's as a nice little visual effect that reminds readers his is different from everyone else. Before much more can be said or done, the store owner wakes Rick up and of course Sleepy fades away.
Alyssa returns to Rick and tells him what happened, which just proves his earlier theory is correct - whenever he falls asleep the Sleepwalker materializes. But, despite his recent actions in stopping the crooks and saving Alyssa, Rick still thinks of him as a monster and doesn't know what to do next. (Geez, kid, just go see Reed Richards already! It seems to work for everyone else in the Marvel universe!)
I still love this story even after re-reading it 30 years later. It was very different from the usual super hero fare of the time. All the main concepts are set up well here – Sleepy and Rick's relationship, the hero's alien nature that sets him apart from society (a Marvel staple), and his strange powers (floating, warp beam, and invulnerability). The main origin sequence for the character takes a couple more issues to run its course, however, as Sleepy and Rick only come to a mutual understanding after Sleepwalker #3.
I would rate this 5 out of 5 since the story is so solid, but have to take off one star because there's no Spidey in it. I highly recommend anyone interested in checking out the rest of the series. It gets really wonky at the end, but overall it is some really good early 90s storytelling before everything went all extreme.
Sleepwalker was one of those new characters that debuted in the 90s that was similar enough to Spider-Man to peak my interest. Spider-Man does make the requisite guest appearance in Sleepwalker #5 and Sleepwalker #6. He appears again in Sleepwalker #17 and the Hobgoblin, Spider-Man's longtime foe, shows up in Sleepwalker #21 (both of which I will be reviewing at a later time).
Unfortunately, his series was not that long lived (running for just 33 issues), and now he is relegated to being a one-panel background character that only shows up during universe-spanning crossovers. If he's lucky, he may receive a one-shot or a miniseries every few years just to keep the trademark alive.