A comic book series by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, set in the WildStorm universe, combining Noir and superheroes. Originally introduced as 12-issue mini-series (March, 2003-March, 2004). It spawned the one-shot "Coup D'Etat: Sleeper" (April, 2004) and the sequel "Sleeper: Season 2". The later was another 12-issue series (August, 2004-July, 2005). Sleeper was preceded by a 5 issue miniseries called Point Blank that effectively acts as a prelude, so tropes present in Point Blank are discussed here.
Holden Carver used to be a black ops operative for the American government agency known as International Operations. When his late father was revealed to have been a traitor, Carver stole a retrieved alien artifact and went rogue, eventually joining a syndicate of super-powered criminals run by supervillain Tao (formerly of the WildCATs).
Except that's not true. Carver unintentionally became bonded with the artifact while on a mission; he was recruited to infiltrate the syndicate by his mentor John Lynch. The preceding is just a cover story.
That is until a failed assassination attempt sent Lynch into a coma, and the cover story became, for all intent and purposes, reality. Carver then has to find his own way out while doing more and more questionable things to maintain his cover.
Has a character sheet.
Not to be confused with the Woody Allen film.
Sleeper provides examples of:
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: Supervillains often get groupies who are young girls who need to be close to bad for a few hours at a time.
- Ancient Conspiracy: Mostly made up of Corrupt Corporate Executives. In TAOs Backstory, he tracks them down and, disappointed with their venality, completely screws them over by becoming a Treacherous Advisor.
- Art Shift: When characters tell each other their origin stories, the artwork becomes a bit simpler with much less background detail to emphasise it's simply a story being told; all you see is all you need to know.
- Bad-Guy Bar: The Tird Street Arms and the Alter Ego, with such trappings as Hero-faced dartboards, masked strippers and portraits of Old-School villains like Dr. Mind, The Undertaker and Hugo Lark on the walls.
- Bad Powers, Bad People: Several characters but Miss Misery is especially notable. The only way to get her to use her powers for good is to trick her into thinking she's doing something truly reprehensible.
- Big Damn Heroes: Holden rescues Grifter at the end of Point Blank.
- Bittersweet Ending: TAO is now back in his laboratory prison without a tongue to speak under Lynch's surveillance and his terrorist organization is disbanded, but Veronica and Miss Misery have been killed and Holden is now in a self aware permanent coma while mentally living in an illusory tropical world where he can spend eternity with his projected versions of Veronica and Miss Misery until brain death. It becomes a Downer Ending when you realize TAO will eventually be back and none of the issues that have gone on so far have been resolved.
- Black-and-Gray Morality: Borders on Evil vs. Evil:Veronica: He's a terrorist, Holden. He's destabilized governments across the globe. He's killed innocent people, and God knows what he's done that we don't know about.
Carver: What kind of black ops do you think I did for I.O.? Destabilizing governments, killing innocent people and lots of stuff you really don't want to know about.
Veronica: That's not the same. With I.O. there's a greater purpose...
Carver: Is there? Or is it just covert imperialism? Dead children are still dead children at the end of the day, Veronica... they don't care about the reasons behind it.
- Even Grifter is way more trigger-happy than usual, at one point slaughtering an entire I/O squad over what amounts to a misunderstanding.
- Despair Event Horizon: Holden was mainly teetering on it, but fully crossed this after Veronica killed Miss Misery and he killed Veronica by his own killer response reflexes.
- Fag Hag: There is a supervillain named Faghag who feeds on the life force of gay men. She got this power after being bitten by a radioactive gay Peter Parker.
- Flying Car:Holden: I hate flying cars. I really do. They're so super-spy.
- From Bad to Worse: For Carver when Lynch, the only one who knew he was really an undercover agent, was shot and put in a coma.
- Good-Guy Bar: "The Domino" (formerly called Clark's and run by an elderly Superman expy until they had to change their name "for legal reasons.") Mostly filled with Super Zeroes and '90s Anti-Heroes.
- Government Agency of Fiction: I.O. whether it stands for International Operations or Internal Operations. "Makes the CIA look like the IRS".
- Hired to Hunt Yourself: TAO's organisation goes on a hunt for the undercover operative in their midst. Naturally, Holden is right in the middle of it.
- How We Got Here: Point Blank opens with Grifter about to be shot.
- If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten: Turned on its head. The mission to get Tao is so important, Holden will do anything and everything to keep his cover, including mass murder. A lot of his character arc revolves around him reconciling how he deals with eating so many kittens and can still be considered a "good guy."
- Luke, You Are My Father: Lynch commissioned the experiment to create TAO, so TAO refers to him as Dad.
- MacGuffin: TAO often sends his people on missions for meaningless things just to test their loyalty/fuck with them.
- My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels: One of the few comedic moments in the series. "That's right, horse breathers! I shit your branch!" It is of course followed by violence, death threats and murder.
- Not What It Looks Like: Grifter walking in on Kenesha A.K.A. Savant having sex with a supervillain in a parking garage. He assumes the villain is raping her and is disappointed to find out that his heroic rescue was a mistake.
- Oh, Crap!: Grifter wakes up groggily after a skirmish and finds himself face-to-face with Tao.
- OOC Is Serious Business: When Genocide Jones reveals his origin story, he becomes very somber, a stark contrast to his usual Boisterous Bruiser personality. Also applies within the context of the story. Origin stories are meant to be told in the third-person, but as Jones's story goes on, he switches to the first-person.
- Powered by a Forsaken Child: Lynchs decoding facility is based around a kid with a giant brain hooked up to incredibly painful machines. When Holden sees this, he shoots him and tells Lynch that he is a monster for doing this. Lynch claims that the man in the machine was a 30 year old mutant who just looked like a child, but he may have been lying and that doesnt make it much better.
- Reassigned to Antarctica: Lynch says this verbatim of an informant, and comments that once he tells them everything about his contacts, he'll be "disappeared".
- Rock Beats Laser: Subverted. Energy weapons do far more damage than conventional ones.
- Shoo Out the Clowns: After Genocide dies, the series becomes noticeably more dark and lets you know things have just become dead serious for Holden.
- Shut Up, Hannibal!: Tao's main weapon is his voice, and his ability to talk people into almost anything. At the end of the series, Holden rips his tongue out.
- Sorting Algorithm of Evil:There was a hierarchy. TAO, of course, was at the top of the pyramid, and just under him were the Prodigals — his three closest agents. If anyone knew TAO's motives, it was probably them. Beneath the Prodigals were the Torpedoes. Which is what I was, sort of a lieutenant in the organization. There were maybe 30 of us. In between missions we did as we pleased, answering only to the four people above us. Under the torpedoes were the Blackguards — Our soldiers. These guys orders and kept the peace among the rank and file. Higher level Blackguards, like the ones that caught me and Genocide red-handed, reported directly to TAO. And below them was everyone else — the Quislings. These guys were small-time post human crooks, some working just the odd mission here or there, and some eventually moving up the chain.
- Superman Stays Out of Gotham: The events are handwaved as being beneath the notice of the more public superhuman teams like The Authority.
- Supernatural Fear Inducer: Peter Grimm has the ability to trap someone in a mental loop reliving their greatest fear until they die.
- Superpowered Mooks: Many henchmen on both sides are described as having low level cybernetic enhancements that serve no purpose but to spark when the characters are hit.
- Super Hero Origin: In-universe villains use it to kill time between missions, and its the done thing to tell your origin story in third-person.
- Talk to the Fist: When Holden finally has Tao at his mercy, the man won't shut up, so Holden slaps him around. Tao comments on the pointlessness of this.
- Tropical Epilogue: for Holden. Although given the setting, it's not too surprising that it's only the side-effect of a Lotus-Eater Machine.
- Title Drop: The Vanity License Plate on Lynch's Flying Car reads "SLEEPER1". The dialogue hilariously lampshades this, to boot.
- Un-person: A reporter who stumbled onto a meeting of these shadow power players thought he got away with it when he's let go... only to return to find no one at his newspaper claimed to have known him, his apartment was occupied by someone else, his family suddenly vanishing and he ended up dying of a drug overdose on the streets.
- Unrealistic Black Hole: A suitcase black-hole bomb.