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Comic Book / Sleepwalker

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A new superhero or just NYC performance art?

Created by Bob Budiansky, known for his contributions to the Transformers and his penciling work on Ghost Rider, Sleepwalker was one of several new superheroes given their own series by Marvel Comics in the early 1990s, also known as The Dark Age of Comic Books in many circles, an era particularly known for the '90s Anti-Hero. Unlike most of the other characters from that era, Sleepwalker was not particularly violent or bloody, being more inclined towards traditional superheroics in the vein of Spider-Man, Daredevil and other traditional superheroes. Starting in 1991, the series lasted three years, thirty-three issues (June, 1991-February, 1994) and one Holiday Special before it was canceled.

The Mindscape is an alien dimension that is connected to the minds of all living entities in our dimension. It is infested with horrible demons and monsters, many of which seek to prey on the minds of innocent humans. The Sleepwalkers are a race of beings charged with defending the minds of humanity, fighting the demons of the Mindscape and capturing them before they can do any harm. One of these Sleepwalkers became trapped in the mind of human college student Rick Sheridan by his enemy, the demonic Cobweb. The Sleepwalker's attempts to escape wound up getting him fused with Rick's consciousness, producing a bizarre side effect that allowed the Sleepwalker to manifest in the human world whenever Rick was asleep. Simply calling himself by his race's name due to his actual personal name being impossible for humans to pronounce, Sleepwalker took to battling crime in New York City while Rick slept, fighting criminals and supervillains the way he had the monsters of the Mindscape. This was not always easy, particularly since many people were horrified by Sleepwalker's appearance, Rick's life took a downward spiral as he struggled to cope with Sleepwalker's presence in his life, and Sleepwalker himself was plagued with survivor's guilt and loneliness.


The series put a unique spin on many of Marvel's traditional concepts, such as the hero being hated and feared by the very people he tries to protect, and the main protagonist suffering the consequences of trying to juggle his heroic and ordinary lives. While Rick was not in actual danger when Sleepwalker emerged from his mind to fight crime, he did suffer severe repercussions, including losing his job as a building superintendent and nearly being killed when Sleepwalker's addiction to a particular frequency of light led the alien to force his way out of Rick's mind, putting him in a coma.

While Sleepwalker has remained a C-list backgrounder since the series was cancelled in 1994, he nonetheless has a small cult following, including The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman. Quite unexpectedly, Sleepwalker made a big return in 2018's massive Infinity Wars event, featuring into the main story as well as in his own dedicated tie-in series.


Sleepwalker provides examples of:

  • Acid-Trip Dimension: The Mindscape is a strange and bizarre place by our standards, but in some respects it's a subversion as Sleepwalker is actually quite comfortable there. The interior of Rick's mind also bordered on this, mostly because of all the random thoughts and memories floating through it, but again Sleepwalker wasn't at all bothered by it.
  • Affably Evil: 8-Ball is an all-around nice guy with a wicked sense of humor. When Sleepwalker first encounters him, he's unfazed by the alien's bizarre appearance and tries to smooth-talk his way out of a fight. When Sleepwalker fights back after one of his henchmen attacks, 8-Ball kindly explains the concepts of money and power to Sleepwalker... right before he tries to murder the alien by dropping a bank vault on him.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: The man who would become Psyko tried to use one of these to escape the federal prison hospital where he was being held, before he encountered the demon that would turn him into Psyko.
  • Alien Among Us: Sleepwalker is trapped in the human world, but he's been able to make the best of it by catching criminals the way he used to capture nightmares and demons.
  • Aliens Speaking English: Sleepwalker learned to speak English from being trapped in Rick's mind.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Despite his attempts to help them, Sleepwalker was hated and feared by most humans because of his bizarre appearance.
  • Anti-Villain: Spectra, a woman who became a living rainbow after an encounter with Sleepwalker, started out as a criminal but is shown to have gotten an honest job when she reappears late in the series.
  • Arch-Enemy: Sleepwalker and Cobweb. Spider-Man and the Green Goblin. Batman and the Joker. Superman and Lex Luthor. You get the idea.
  • Ax-Crazy: The appropriately named Psyko.
  • Badass Normal: On the few occasions he gets into a fight, Rick is perfectly capable of defending himself. Alyssa also manages to hold off many of Cobweb's People Puppets in the last issue of the series.
  • Bad Boss: In his plot to overthrow the Kingpin, Crimewave very nearly kills his second-in-command. This is what prompts her to betray him to the Kingpin and join the Fat Man's organization.
  • Bad Guys Play Pool: Taken to its logical conclusion by 8-Ball, who is not only an ace pool player but actually based his whole criminal motif around the game.
  • Battle in the Center of the Mind: When the Thought Police invade his mind to capture Sleepwalker, Rick fights them himself using his own mental creations. Unfortunately, since he's already in a coma, he's dangerously overexerting his already weakened mind and comes very close to killing himself. Fortunately, Sleepwalker comes back Just in Time and takes over for Rick, driving the Police out of Rick's mind before he dies.
  • Big Bad Wannabe: Crimewave dreams of overthrowing the Kingpin and becoming the top mob boss on the East Coast. He fails, in no small part due to being a Bad Boss, something that is Lampshaded by the Kingpin.
  • Blessed with Suck: Rick can make Sleepwalker come out whenever he's asleep. Not that this helps Rick with his falling grades, his losing his job, his being dumped by his girlfriend, or being nearly driven into a coma by Sleepwalker's frantic attempts to get out of his mind.
  • Body Horror: Sleepwalker's race is sworn never to use its warp beams on living beings. When Rick accidentally zaps Alyssa Conover when he's trapped in Sleepwalker's body, we learn why as Alyssa's body becomes horribly contorted. This effect is only temporary, but the mental trauma Alyssa suffers doesn't go away so easily.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Psyko has all of Sleepwalker's abilities, plus the additional ability to inflict insanity on anyone he hits with his own warp beams, literally driving them crazy just by looking at them. Even Sleepwalker wasn't immune, and nearly ended up murdering Spectra while under Psyko's influence, an act that would have permanently driven him insane.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Rick has a terrible time explaining Sleepwalker's presence in his mind to his girlfriend Alyssa Conover, worrying that she'll think he's crazy or an outright freak.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: The first 11 issues were comparatively light-hearted, including an incident where Sleepwalker became a Costume Copycat of Spider-Man. Issue #12 featured Rick being Mind Raped with nightmares of Sleepwalker killing people in various gruesome ways. Issue #13 had Sleepwalker suffer his own brain-warping hallucinations from a Fantastic Drug. The series went full-on dark from issue #19 onwards. Highlights included Rick in Sleepwalker's body fighting demonic horrors from the Mindscape and getting his throat slashed on-panel by the Hobgoblin, Alyssa being used as a People Puppet in trying to seduce Rick and being turned into a Noodle Person when Rick hit her with Sleepwalker's warp vision, Sleepwalker's Evil Counterpart being created from a Serial Killer who cut his victims' hearts out with a kitchen knife, and a demonic invasion of New York where multiple victims suffered gruesome on-panel deaths.
  • Chained by Fashion: The Chain Gang derive their powers from the energized chain that they were all linked with when they were got superpowers, and need to stay chained together for their abilities to work.
  • Chained Heat: When two members of the Chain Gang are black and Hispanic, and a third is a white racist, it's a wonder the Chain Gang managed to accomplish anything at all. It's significant that they only posed a threat to Sleepwalker when he was seriously hindered in some way-when he was at full strength, he defeated them quite easily.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Sleepwalker's Imaginator, a device that allows him to travel through the Mindscape and imprison captured demons, disappears during the first issue and reappears in the very last.
    • Rick's fusion with Sleepwalker is broken in issue #24, and reestablished in issue #25. This saves Sleepwalker's life when he seemingly dies at the end of the last issue, but in fact is merely pulled back into Rick's mind to recover.
  • The Chessmaster: Cobweb.
  • Civvie Spandex: The Bookworm and Lullaby didn't actually wear costumes, and committed their crimes in their regular street clothes.
  • Comes Great Responsibility: Spectra uses her superpowers to get a legitimate job and get paid for it.
  • Compelling Voice: Compelling singing voice, actually-Lullaby has the ability to sing songs that put their listeners into mindless zombie-like sleeping trances and forces them to do whatever she says. Only Sleepwalker himself is immune, as his race doesn't sleep.
  • Cruel to Be Kind: One of Sleepwalker's lesser powers was his ability to detect Demonic Possession in humans. These humans were an exception to the rule tha Sleepy couldn't use his warp vision on living beings, since zapping them would actually break the demon's hold over them and free the human in the process. Unfortunately, most of the time other humans who saw Sleepwalker do this didn't know the humans were possessed and thought he was hurting them. This led to more than one misunderstanding.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Subverted by 8-Ball, who was a legitimate engineer before his employers fired him, and Mr. FX, who was kidnapping people to use as props in his otherwise legitimate special effects displays.
  • Dartboard of Hate: Crimewave has one for the Kingpin.
  • Drama-Preserving Handicap: Sleepwalker could have defeated almost any human opponent instantly by focusing his warp vision directly on them, but his race has a very strict oath against using its warp beams on living beings. The only exceptions are using it on humans who are suffering from Demonic Possession, which would free them from the demon's control, or against demons present on Earth, which would banish them back to their native realms.
  • Dream Land: The Mindscape, Sleepwalker's home dimension.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: When he reappears in Heroes For Hire, we learn that 8-Ball supports his sick grandmother with the proceeds from his robberies.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Sleepwalker just lets humans call him by his race's name, since his own personal one can't really be pronounced by human speech.
  • Evil Counterpart: Sleepwalker is a heroic alien who exists to defend the innocent minds of humanity from madness and nightmares, and became bonded with an all-around decent Ordinary High-School Student. Psyko is a human Serial Killer who became fused with an otherworldly demon and used his powers to Mind Rape people and drive them insane.
  • Eye Beams: Sleepwalker's primary ability is his "warp vision", special beams he can emanate from his eyes and that allow him to alter the physical shape and characteristics of any inanimate objects he strikes with them.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: Sleepwalker has the opportunity to return home several times during the course of the series. Unfortunately, whether it's because he has to stay behind and rescue endangered humans or rescue Spider-Man from another plane of existence, Sleepy always had to forgo his chance of returning to the Mindscape.
  • Fantastic Drug: The special type of artificial light Sleepwalker became addicted to for several issues might as well have been alcohol or heroin, since the alien used it to try and cope with his loneliness and frustration at being hated by everyone he tried to help.
  • Foe-Tossing Charge: Sleepwalker does one of these against Cobweb, the villain who trapped him in Rick's mind in the first place, in the final issue of the series.
  • Forced Sleep: Sleepwalker forced Rick to fall asleep so he could feed his addiction to a particular beam of light, which put Rick in a coma and nearly killed him. More recently, it's revealed that Rick's learned special meditation techniques that can put him into a sleeplike trance. Rick and Sleepwalker can speak in his mind while he's in a trance and Sleepwalker can also come into the physical world.
  • "Freaky Friday" Flip: Sleepwalker and Rick end up exchanging bodies for several issues and each one is forced to live the other's life. Sleepwalker ironically has more success with women in Rick's body than Rick himself does.
  • Girls Love Stuffed Animals: Alyssa Conover has a collection of stuffed animals on her bedroom wall. Sleepwalker is confused by them, and wonders if they're religious idols that she worships.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: A rare heroic version that's occasionally used for dramatic effect. Sometimes, when Sleepwalker is covered in shadow, his eyes will glow a bright red.
  • Green and Mean: Subverted. Sleepwalker has green skin, but he's also the hero.
  • Handwraps of Awesome: Sleepwalker and all of his race wear bandage-like wrappings on their legs and arms.
  • Healing Factor: Sleepwalker seems to have a limited version of this, triggered by mental energy. On at least one occasion, being pulled back into Rick's mind immediately begins to restore the injured Sleepwalker's strength.
  • The Hero Dies: Subverted in the last issue, when Rick's mind is returned to his body and he regains consciousness. Sleepwalker has dangerously overexerted himself in defeating Cobweb and freeing Rick's mind from the Mindscape, and he fades away as Rick wakes up. Sleepwalker probably would have died at that point, but since previous issues established that returning to Rick's mind allows him to rest and heal, Sleepwalker was likely able to recover.
  • Heroic Bystander: Alyssa Conover, Rick's girlfriend and one of the few humans who actually saw Sleepwalker as a good guy, helped him capture the Bookworm.
  • Heroic Host: Rick himself.
  • Hero Insurance: Lampshaded and justified by Detective Cecilia Perez when a city accountant is complaining to her about how much replacing the property Sleepwalker has bent and twisted with his warp vision is costing the city. Perez replies that stopping Sleepwalker may not be a good idea, particularly since the crime rate has fallen 70% in the the areas he patrols since he first appeared.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Subverted in the last issue when Sleepwalker seemingly sacrifices himself to return Rick Sheridan's mind to his body. However, when Rick awakens in his body, Sleepwalker disappears and Rick thinks that Sleepy got pulled back into his mind. This is pretty much confirmed by later comics, and Sleepwalker apparently recovered once he could rest in Rick's mind.
  • Humans Through Alien Eyes: Sleepwalker comes from a dimension peopled with all sorts of bizarre-looking creatures. He's utterly confused by humanity's reactions to him, until he realizes that they're judging him only on appearance, which to him is extremely bizarre.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: One of Sleepwalker's enemies tries to run him through on a skewer. Subverted when Sleepwalker faked being run through, when he had actually used his warp beams to twist the skewer around himself.
  • In the Hood: Like all of his race, Sleepwalker wears a hooded cowl on his head.
  • Jackass Genie: The demonic genie Mr. Jyn pretended to serve his human masters, but in fact manipulated them into letting him cause more and more trouble until he could finally be released to run amuck on Earth.
  • Journey to the Center of the Mind: The Thought Police invaded Rick's mind in an attempt to capture Sleepwalker.
  • Karma Houdini: 8-Ball managed to escape justice after his battles with Sleepwalker, and the series ended before he could reappear.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Sleepwalker used to be trusting when he first came to Earth, but continuous poor treatment from those he helped made him rather bitter. He still helps when he can, but no longer take their word upfront when asked for help.
  • Knight Templar: The crazed Agent Tolliver Smith who led the Office of Insufficient Evidence and the Thought Police.
  • Let's You and Him Fight: Sleepwalker's lack of understanding of the human world meant he often ended up fighting other superheroes as well as villains, before these other heroes set him straight.
  • Losing Your Head: While he was trapped in Sleepwalker's body, Rick's head got knocked off by a demon from the Mindscape.
  • Meditation Powerup: When Sleepwalker reappeared during the Infinity Wars crossover, it's revealed that Rick has learned special meditation techniques from Doctor Strange that allow him to release Sleepwalker when he's awake. Rick concentrates and goes into a meditative trance, which allows him to speak to Sleepwalker in his mind and also lets Sleepwalker come into the physical world.
  • Mental World: When Rick was awake, Sleepwalker was forced to stay in Rick's mind, and could interact with his memories.
  • Mind Rape:
    • Psyko does this to all his victims, but especially Sleepwalker.
    • There's also what Cobweb does to all his victims. To the point where they'll be glad to have him around even as he destroys them.
  • Mind Screw: An in-universe example occurs when Cobweb puts Rick (who's trapped in Sleepwalker's body) through a nightmarish illusion to make him think that Sleepwalker and the rest of his race are in fact evil.
  • More than Mind Control: Psyko very nearly leads Sleepwalker to murder Spectra while he's suffering from Psyko's madness, an act that would have driven him permanently insane.
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: The guy's name is Psyko.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: When Jeremy Roscoe became fused with N'ogskak and was turned into Psyko, he began running amuck and spreading mass insanity across New York. Sleepwalker intervened to stop him, and had just about managed to subdue him when Spectra suddenly attacked him when Sleepwalker used his warp beams on a human bystander. The human was actually possessed by a demon, but Spectra didn't know that and attacked Sleepwalker anyway. While Sleepy was forced to fight Spectra, Psyko took the opportunity to escape and return to tormenting the innocent people of New York. Sleepwalker even lampshades the results of Spectra's intervention after she captures him. Fortunately, Spectra makes up for her mistake when she helps Sleepwalker finally bring Psyko to justice.
  • '90s Anti-Hero: Averted, as Sleepwalker was much more law-abiding and upright than the likes of Cable or Deadpool.
  • Noodle People: A literal case with people hit by the warp beams. They typically get better, although the mental trauma they can suffer doesn't go away so easy. Even then, the mental trauma is typically averted when the humans who get warped are People Puppets, since the demons controlling them take the brunt of the blast and are banished back to their home dimension.
  • Out-Gambitted: Crimewave by the Kingpin, with the Fat Man making use of Crimewave's disgruntled second-in-command before manipulating Sleepwalker and Spider-Man into taking out Crimewave for him.
  • People Puppets: Cobweb's minions frequently enslaved peoples' minds and used their bodies to carry out their master's evil plans.
  • Puny Earthlings: Subverted. Although Sleepwalker and his race are far more powerful than humans, Sleepwalker's human enemies can match him because of humanity's knack for gaining superpowers via Freak Lab Accidents and specialized equipment like 8-Ball's weapons.
  • Purple Is Powerful: Sleepwalker wears a purple cowl, gloves, boots and arm and leg wrappings. His warp beams often had a fuchsia tint to them in his first series.
  • Race-Name Basis: Sleepwalker has his own unique name, but human vocal cords can't pronounce it. He's fine with everyone just calling him "Sleepwalker."
  • Refusal of the Call: Rick refused to synchronize with Sleepwalker at first which would have given him the ability to let Sleepwalker come out at any time instead of just when he's sleeping. So when he did gave it a try when danger comes knocking, it didn't turn out correctly and he got mixed up in the Two Beings, One Body below.
  • Rogues Gallery: Sleepwalker fought a surprisingly large number of enemies during his short series. 8-Ball, the Chain Gang, the Bookworm, Crimewave, Lullaby, Spectra, Mr. Jyn, the Thought Police, Mr. FX, Cobweb, and Psyko. He also found time to pick fights with Nightmare, the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, and the Hobgoblin.
  • Sealed Inside a Person-Shaped Can: Sleepwalker is trapped in Rick's mind whenever Rick is up and about. He can only come out when Rick is asleep, entranced or otherwise unconscious.
  • Secondary Sexual Characteristics: Several female Sleepwalkers appear both in Sleepwalker's hallucinations and as part of Cobweb's attempt to manipulate Rick into thinking Sleepwalker was evil. Sleepwalker women have Hartman Hips and hair on their heads. When one letter writer asked why female Sleepwalkers are the only ones with hair, the letter column sarcastically said "because there's no Hair Club For Men in the Mindscape!"
  • Serial Killer: Jeremy Roscoe, the man who would become Psyko, was behind bars for cutting out the hearts of at least fourteen women with a kitchen knife. At least.
  • Shaping Your Attacks: Sleepwalker's warp beams are essentially this. They let Sleepwalker reshape matter, which he's used to for everything from creating restraints and protective barriers to breaking locks to creating melee weapons to digging his way out of deathtraps.
  • The Sleepless: Sleepwalker's race never actually sleeps, which makes him immune to the songs Lullaby uses to put people in hypnotic trances.
  • Smug Snake:
    • Crimewave is a flamboyant, arrogant Jerkass who thinks he can outsmart the Kingpin and become the new head of the New York rackets. No prizes for guessing how it turns out.
    • Psyko turns into this trope when Sleepwalker finally overcomes his Mind Rape. He's reduced to stammering that he only wanted what was best for Sleepwalker, and Sleepwalker takes him down with one brutal punch.
  • Spanner in the Works: When the mindspawn have been defeated and it looks like Sleepwalker had gained the trust of the Avengers and the rest of the humans, Sleepwalker plans to restore Rick. Before he can do it, though, Alyssa accuses him of having murdered Rick. That isn't really the case (see Superdickery below), but Sleepwalker is attacked and driven away by the Avengers before he has a chance to explain himself.
  • Starfish Alien:
    • Borderline example. He's humanoid, human-sized, speaks English and fills the societal role of a Super Hero almost instinctively. However, he definitely doesn't look human, his race has powers bordering on reality warping, and he's native to a dimension of thought and personified ideas that connects the minds of all sentient beings in the universe. For one example of the difference between how he thinks and how humans think, the idea of judging something by its appearance is bizarre to him — no, not morally wrong, just bizarre, because in the Mindscape what something looks like has nothing to do with what it wants or can do. From what we see of the Mindscape, it's filled with a wide variety of bizarre races that interact with each other on a routine basis. Most humans on Earth generally don't interact with creatures that look any different than they do, and are often twitchy even with humans that have unusual appearances or powers, as any mutant will tell you.
    • Along with Sleepwalker and Cobweb, we also see some of the other inhabitants of the Mindscape, many of whom wouldn't look out of place in a Doctor Strange or Fantastic Four story.
  • Starfish Language: Sleepwalker's native language is this. Sleepwalker tells Rick that human vocal cords wouldn't be able to pronounce his real name, implying that the rest of the Sleepwalker language is like that too. When Rick is in Sleepwalker's body, one of the disguised mindspawn he meets shows the Sleepwalker language, which looks like a long series of glyphs and runes.
  • Superdickery: Done in-story with the invasion of the mindspawn when one issue ends with Sleepwalker seemingly destroying Rick's mind. It's eventually revealed that Sleepwalker only pretended to destroy Rick's mind, while he actually kept it for safekeeping to prevent the mindspawn from killing him for real. Sleepwalker knew that if he tried to fight the mindspawn, Rick could have gotten hurt in the crossfire, but this way he can keep Rick safe while getting on the mindspawn's good side. This allows him to secretly free the mindspawn's human prisoners from their cage later on.
  • Touched by Vorlons: Sort of-in this case it's the Vorlon that gets superhuman powers, namely the ability to manifest on Earth whenever Rick is asleep.
  • Tranquil Fury: Sleepwalker exudes this when he finally overcomes Psyko's insanity.
  • Two Beings, One Body:
    • Jeremy Roscoe tried to kill N'ogskak but ended up fusing with him to create Psyko.
    • Before they end up in each other's bodies, Rick and Sleepwalker become fused into one hideous amalgamated being. It didn't work out too well when it turns out that the fusion weakens Sleepwalker's powers.
  • The Unpronounceable: Sleepwalker's real name can't be pronounced by human vocal cords, so he just has people call him by his race's name when he appears on Earth.
  • Villains Never Lie: Subverted by Cobweb. The lies he feeds Rick are an essential part of his master plan.
  • We Are as Mayflies: Sleepwalker implies that his race is extremely long-lived, as Cobweb has been stalking the Mindscape since before recorded time and Sleepwalker has fought him on multiple occasions.
  • Who's Laughing Now?: When he got his powers, the first thing the Bookworm did with them was take revenge on the bullies who picked on him.
  • Wolverine Publicity: Sleepwalker himself obviously didn't suffer from this, but it did lead to Spider-Man and Ghost Rider appearing in Sleepwalker's series.
  • Word Of God: The letters page was used to answer a number of questions readers had about Sleepwalker and the Mindscape.
  • Working on the Chain Gang: The Chain Gang took this trope to the extreme, being four convicts who gained superpowers while chained together and who had to stay chained together for their powers to work.
  • Xanatos Gambit: It was revealed that Sleepwalker being trapped in Rick's mind was part of an Evil Plan by Cobweb to invade Earth while framing Sleepwalker as the invasion's leader to hinder the alien hero's attempts to stop him. And if Sleepwalker escapes, he'll be heading back to the Mindscape where he cannot interfere. How sneaky.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: Cobweb's first plan to send his demonic minions to invade Earth while framing Sleepwalker as the invasion's leader is thwarted by The Avengers. Having learned from his mistake, Cobweb tries again by ordering his minions to attack the minds of vulnerable humans and use them as puppets to murder other innocent humans. Spreading fear and paranoia in this way proves to be a much more effective way of getting the job done.
  • Your Mind Makes It Real: When Mr. Fantastic, the Thought Police, or Sleepwalker himself were in Rick's mind, they were vulnerable to anything Rick could think of to attack them with, if he felt like it.