“Sleeper: Season One” or Powers for Good or Evil?

By Jason McClain (@JTorreyMcClain)

It’s like a film noir for super folk.  Just saying that, without even opening the book to one of the well-drawn pages, you can see them in your mind’s eye, pulling on a cigarette and blowing out the smoke or casually cutting into a bloody rare T-bone and thoughtfully chewing between each sentence detailing how they got to where they are.  In addition to dames and money, it adds something more mysterious, something more powerful and every bit as tragic.

I recommend Sleeper: Season 1.  Pick it up.  Read it.  It holds up seven years later and it holds up to a second read.  Probably a third one as well.  Don’t believe me?  Eh, go to hell.

You’re still with me?  Good.  You can get all of what I said in the pages of the trade paperback as you sit in your comfy chair, immune to the ills of the world since you got a roof over your head and money to spend on comic books.  It sure as hell can’t make you any softer boyo.  The story’s all there, maybe the second most famous Holden serving as a double agent and trying to figure out the madness of his underworld boss.  Pretty simple stuff.  The twist?

Every instance of pain inflicted on Holden, no matter how deadly, can be transmitted in the same magnitude to whomever he touches.

Don’t tell me that power is not one for a bad guy.  He doesn’t feel his own pain.  He makes you do it for him.  You’ll die so that he can live.

That’s about as anti-Christ as they come.

As you read, the other villains in the upper echelons of this criminal organization slowly start to reveal their powers.  I won’t spoil them for you, but let’s just say they would only work for bad guys as well.  What polite society would consider bad at least, but I guess it depends on the society you keep.  For you, enjoying your iced tea and slab of pizza as you watch another episode of Spongebob, yeah, it’s bad.

So, it got me to thinking.  Do the powers that you have automatically make you good or evil?  Nah, that’s too simple.  We know the world has a lot more shades of grey than that don’t we boyo?  Still, would it be better to have any random power as a hero or villain?  Let me take you on a quick ride to the country and we can talk about it as we drive.


If the villains can’t hurt you, a hero can use less force to bring them to justice.  Kill or be killed isn’t the equation since one side is an impossibility.  On the other side, invulnerability means that the good guys can’t hurt you so that you can take more risks.  Jump into an active volcano.  Plunge off a 100-story building.  Hide on the bottom of the sea.

So, on one side, a bunch of villains can have fun, the hero can let them feel they’re doing well while they wail on his invulnerable self and he or she just waits until they tucker themselves out and he takes them off to jail for a nice nap.  It’s like being Dad to a world of super-powered three-year-olds.

On the other side, maybe a villain robs all the rich folks camping up on the side of Mount Everest, climbs to the top and sleds to the bottom, creating the single steepest, greatest thrill ride of all time.  Our villain dusts herself off, walks down to the sea and figures she’ll use her ill-gotten gains for Cuba Libres and helicopter lessons.

Advantage: Villain.


With the omnipresence of porn on the Internet, being a villain and sneaking into locker rooms just doesn’t hold the cachet it used to.  Riding an ant into battle?  If horses are smelly, ill-tempered beasts, I can’t say that riding an ant would be much better.  Stop, miscreant, or you’ll step on me doesn’t even put the fear of Tom Hanks into a person.  I guess these heroes and villains will always have reconnaissance and espionage.  Then again, that’s Archer’s realm, so they’ll have to take a distant second.

Advantage: People without Internet that live near a gym.


You might immediately think this one would go to the villains, but you’d be wrong.  What does a villain have to think about?  Head or heart.  Head or heart.  That’s it.  A hero on the other hand, gets to aim at wooden cross beams at their weakest points, causing them to collapse on the stack of water-filled vats, spilling a tidal wave of water toward the inflated inner tubes, pushing them up into the sharp bowl of knives that cut a rope, releasing a crate of guitars that gently nudge the villain into a pit of extremely viscous pudding.  The hero becomes the star of their own OK Go video every time they fight crime.

Advantage: Hero.


The hero/villain becomes an entrepreneur/inventor.  If you wanted to be Ron Popeil all your life and created super juicers and vacuum cleaners that get the hard to reach dirt, well then, this is the super power for you.

Dolls that come to life?  Combination night vision goggles and underwater breathing apparatus?  A hot plate that can be thrown like a Frisbee?  What great Christmas gifts for only $19.99 plus shipping and handling.

Advantage: The ghost of Billy Mays.

So, that’s that, and lookee here.  I’ve driven to a nice deserted field.  Well, what’s this in my trunk but a shovel.  Didn’t you say you liked to dig?  You didn’t?  You better learn quick boyo.  Think of yourself as The Shoveler.

You shovel well.  You shovel very well, because I ain’t got all night.  While you dig, I’ll ponder to myself other superhero powers like power beams, adamantium claws and talking to the fishes in a non-concrete galoshes kind of way.  But in an hour we’ll both be done.  I need my beauty sleep.

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