It took a long time for Rick Sheridan to awaken, for his conscious mind to penetrate the fog that surrounded it. Sitting up in bed, Rick fell back to his elbows, reeling from the sense of numbness coursing through him. Everything around him still seemed dark and hazy, and it took him several moments to focus his vision.
Shaking his head, Rick sat up again and slowly got out of bed, bracing himself against the nightstand before picking up his cane. He put his face in his free hand, took a deep breath, and started walking towards his bedroom door. Rick was scarcely aware of what he was doing as he made his way down the hall and entered into the kitchen. Pouring himself a bowl of cereal, he sat down at the table and began eating, as fog continued to swirl through his thoughts.
Rick's girlfriend Alyssa Conover came into the kitchen a few moments later, her dog Rambo in tow. Rick didn't react to Alyssa's greeting, or to the sounds of her pouring Rambo his dog food and getting some cereal for herself. It wasn't until she'd sat down next to him and begun shaking his shoulder that Rick suddenly reacted, starting as if he was waking from a dream.
"What?...Who? Oh! Aly!" Rick stammered, as he rapidly blinked. "Where did you…I…"
"What happened to you?" Alyssa asked, worry crossing her face. "Are you feeling alright?"
"I…I don't know…" Rick shook his head. "It feels like something's wrong…but…"
"But?" Alyssa asked in concern.
"I don't know what it is," Rick finished. "I just don't know."
AS LONG AS FOREVER
"You've been pushing yourself too hard, haven't you?" Alyssa ventured. "Worrying that you're forgetting something, right?"
"No, nothing like that," Rick shook his head. "I'm caught up on all my homework, and I completed my last writing assignment, but something still doesn't feel right."
"Is it something with one of our friends?" Alyssa persisted. "Did you forget to meet up with them, or…"
Rick suddenly stiffened, a look of horror crossing his face as he felt his blood run cold.
Alyssa was surprised by the look for a moment, but then she felt a sudden chill as she understood what Rick was thinking about.
"It's Sleepwalker, isn't it?" she realized, referring to the alien superhero trapped within Rick's mind, who emerged into the physical world to fight crime when Rick was asleep. Alyssa and the rest of Rick's close circle of friends had learned Rick's secret some time ago, and had become close friends with the alien warrior themselves. Sleepwalker had also come to their rescue several times when they were threatened by human supervillains or supernatural demons, even as they had helped him cope with the difficulties of being trapped in Rick's mind.
Rick only stared back at her, a haunted expression on his face, before he closed his eyes.
Sleepwalker… Rick thought to himself. Come on, are you there?
Rick felt nothing except his numbness. In the past, Sleepwalker had communicated to Rick from within his mind by making him feel a sudden burst of drowsiness, but he felt as awake as before.
Come on, Sleepy! Rick repeated frantically. Say something, anything!
Rick felt nothing in response.
Slowly opening his eyes, Rick felt Alyssa looking back at him, an anxious look on her face.
"…Nothing," he finally said.
"Sleepwalker's…gone," he continued, taking Alyssa's trembling hands in his own.
"Nothing?" Alyssa asked, looking up from her phone.
"Nothing," Rick shook his head as he locked his computer. For the last two hours, they had been searching the Internet for any news of what might have happened to Sleepwalker while Rick was asleep. Rick and Alyssa had consulted everything from social media services like Facebook and Twitter, news sites like the Daily Bugle and the New York Times, to Superhero Central and other superhero fan sites, in their search. However, all they found were accounts of Sleepwalker's past encounters with human supervillains, battles they were already familiar with.
"So what could have happened to him?" Alyssa asked, rubbing her head at the piercing headache she felt.
Rick could only shrug helplessly, as tears started to form in his eyes. Putting his face in his hands, he tried to hold back the sobs that were welling up within him. Alyssa was at his side in an instant, hugging him reassuringly.
"It's…all my fault," Rick whispered, as he wiped away his tears. "I caused this…"
"How can you say that?" Alyssa asked incredulously.
"It all started…started when Sleepwalker became trapped in my mind," Rick replied, his voice calmer now. "I thought about how much I wanted him gone, how much I wanted my life back. I know I got it, but…"
Alyssa just looked at him, taking his shaking hands in her own.
"…Not like this," Rick said, shaking as tears fell from his eyes again. "I wanted him to go back to the Mindscape, but I never got a chance to tell him that! All he ever got to see was how much I wanted him out of my life!"
"You know that's not true," Alyssa reminded him, putting her finger on Rick's lips to silence him. "If Sleepwalker could see how you felt in your mind, he saw how much you'd come to care for him, the same way we all did. How many times did you help him when he needed it most?"
"I…" Rick trailed off.
"And don't tell me you didn't, because I know you did," Alyssa continued. "You don't fight monsters like Psyko without bad things happening to you. Who do you think helped him through that?"
Rick seemed to calm at that, as Alyssa continued.
"We helped him too, when you were in that coma," Alyssa said, referring to the aftermath of a supervillain rampage that had nearly killed Rick. "Kenny, Julia, everyone…we gave him our mental energy, the same way you did. We tried to help him the way you did, but he…"
"He what?" Rick asked curiously.
"He never seemed happy about it," Alyssa continued, "almost like he didn't deserve it. We tried to convince him that he did, but I always thought he only pretended to go along with it so we wouldn't get upset."
"What do you mean?" Rick blinked.
"I mean that Sleepwalker carried a lot of pain within him, pain that we never fully realized," Alyssa continued. "And maybe, just maybe, even with how much we'll miss him…"
Rick couldn't think of what to say in response to that.
"Maybe Sleepwalker's finally found peace," Alyssa finished.
Rick only reached out and hugged her tightly.
"…Gone? Just like that?" Kenny Anderson asked in disbelief.
Rick could only nod, the pained look on his face saying more than his words ever could.
"How'd it happen?" Kenny asked after a few moments.
"I don't know," Rick finally said, shaking his head as he sat across from Kenny at the Coffee Bean. "I wish I did. All I know is that, when I woke up this morning, I couldn't feel him anymore."
"Are you sure?" Kenny persisted.
"He's been living in my head for two and a half years!" Rick snapped, raising his voice angrily. "Don't you think I'd know if he was still there?"
Kenny just stared back at Rick in disbelief.
"I…I'm sorry," Rick shook his head. "It's all just too much right now."
Kenny scarcely knew what to think as he continued staring at Rick. Out of all their friends, he'd had perhaps the least interaction with Sleepwalker. The alien warrior had rescued him and several other people from being held prisoner by the maniacal Mr. Hyde, and he'd drawn energy from Kenny's mind when he was trapped in the physical world during the time Rick was trapped in a coma. That said, he'd felt like he'd never quite bonded with the guardian of the Mindscape in the same way, never really gotten to know him.
And that's on me for not getting to know him better, Kenny realized, a sense of guilt coming over him. Did I even ever try? Sure, I proposed that whole mental energy thing, but was that really enough?
Probably more like just the latest in a long line of cock-ups I've been pulling all my life, he thought to himself with disgust, too stupid to realize I had my head up my ass.
"…Is there anything I can do?" Kenny asked, hoping he could at least cheer Rick up somehow.
"That's something I wish Sleepwalker and I had both borrowed from you," Rick grinned.
"Huh?" Kenny asked in confusion.
"That goofy optimism," he grinned. "That realization that everything's going to be all right, no matter what happens. How do you do it?"
"I…don't know," Kenny said, still somewhat surprised that Rick was bringing this up. "I just take it one day at a time, I guess."
"Maybe that's what we should have done more of," Rick said thoughtfully. "Not spend so much time wondering if Sleepwalker would be able to return to the Mindscape…"
"So he can never return to the Mindscape," Julia Winhill said with finality.
"I guess not," Alyssa shook her head.
"So what was it all for?" Julia demanded, her voice starting to rise. "What did he get, for constantly risking his life for us? How many times did he nearly get killed protecting us? Now it's actually happened! How is any of that fair?" she continued, her voice rising as she spoke in a hurried tone.
Alyssa was surprised at the sheer rage in Julia's voice. It wasn't like her to get that angry, and she couldn't imagine why Julia was so furious.
"As if I needed any more proof that there is no fucking God," Julia continued, the anger in her voice replaced by a seething bitterness.
"Julie, why are you-" Alyssa started, before trailing off.
"It isn't fair, that's all," Julia shook her head. "I wanted him to go home again, to see his friends and family. We've all been able to do that, so why couldn't he?"
"You spoke to him too, didn't you?" Alyssa asked him. "Maybe more than any of us, didn't you?"
The look on Julia's face answered the question for her.
"So you know how much protecting people like us meant to him," Alyssa replied. "That was what kept him going all the time he was trapped in Rick's mind."
"But he died without ever-" Julia started, before Alyssa interrupted him.
"I made Sleepwalker promise me something once," Alyssa told him. "He promised me that he wouldn't let himself get killed, if there was some other way he could still live. You and I both know he would never have broken that promise."
"…So what are you saying?" Julia asked after a moment's pause.
"That if Sleepwalker's gone, the reason it happened is because there wasn't any other way around it. If he had to die, it was because he was protecting humanity. And if he was a Sleepwalker, then how do you think he would have wanted to go? Don't you think it would have been doing exactly what was so important to him?"
Julia closed her eyes at that, as tears came down her cheeks.
"I get what you're saying," she muttered, as Alyssa wrapped her hands around one of Julia's. "That doesn't make it hurt any less, though."
"Believe me, I know," Alyssa nodded.
"I know all too well…" she continued.
"Are you really sure you want to do this?" Tania Rivers asked Red Ericsson with concern.
"Yeah, I am," Red nodded. "Believe me, I've thought long and hard about it."
"But why this? Why now?" Tania persisted. "I mean, why didn't you enlist when you graduated from high school?"
"For one thing, I wouldn't have been able to go to OCS," Red explained, referring to the Officer Candidates' School, which recruited university students and recent graduates. "And I didn't want to waste my football scholarship, either."
"But you've got the internship at Fort Hamilton," Tania persisted. "You're a history buff-I mean, isn't it what you always wanted?"
"Maybe my priorities have changed," Red explained, rubbing his eyes as he stood up. "I finally realized what it is I should be doing with my life."
"What do you mean?" Tania asked curiously.
"I lost a buddy of mine recently," Red explained after taking a deep breath. "He was what you could call a soldier, even if he wasn't in the military."
"What do you mean?" Tania asked in confusion.
"It's not important," Red shook his head. "What was important was what he taught me. He lived up to Semper fidelis as much as anyone I've ever known, and he reminded me about what courage is really supposed to be. I can't just sit around while guys like him are risking their lives to protect us, not when I could be a hero too."
"So what about us, then?" Tania asked in concern. "What am I supposed to do if you get shipped off to Iraq or Afghanistan?"
"You're forgetting, I'm joining the Marines," Red reminded her with a smile. "You do know what Semper fidelis means, don't you?"
Tania could only shake her head, a curious look on her face.
"Always faithful," Red translated for her, "always loyal. That applies to you too," he smiled, as he brought her in for a hug.
Once again, Tania was reminded of why she loved him.
Alyssa had dreamed of joining the New York City Ballet for years, although she'd never mustered the courage to do so until now. Only now, despite the pain she still felt, had she managed to steel herself enough to do it.
Thoughts of Sleepwalker filled her mind as she lost herself in the choreography of Swan Lake, in the alternate ending where Odette mourned the fallen Siegfried. Despite her anger at Siegfried's betrayal, Odette had forgiven her beloved, who then gave his life to protect her from the vile Rothbard's vengeful magic. Odette would live, but she was left alone to mourn the fallen hero who had sacrificed himself for her.
Talent and feeling were as one in Alyssa's performance, as she thought again of the promise she had made Sleepwalker pledge to her. She thought of the alien warrior's constant efforts to protect Rick and his loved ones, and how in the end, Sleepwalker's dedication to his duty had paid the ultimate price.
Alyssa knew that Sleepwalker likely felt no grief at whatever had led to his passing, but that did nothing to ease the pain she felt. At first she'd hated the alien for his effects on Rick's life, but after she'd seen his efforts to protect Julia and then the rest of their friends, and gotten to know him better, she'd come to understand who he truly was, and what he had lost.
She didn't realize the dance was over until she came out of her trance, and instinctively bowed to the choreographers holding the audition.
She could see tears reflected in some of their eyes, amid looks of appreciation and admiration.
Alyssa knew then and there that she had passed the audition, and that one of her most cherished dreams would come true.
"I still can't quite believe it's over," Adilah Moghadam told Kenny Andersson as they left Slice and Dice Studios' farewell party. "I don't know what Tom was dealing with the last few months, but still…"
"Hey, just be glad we didn't turn out like Ion Storm," Kenny pointed out to her, "and that we were never associated with shit like Daikatana," he continued, referring to the infamous game development studio and the game that had been emblematic of the studio's implosion.
"And we'll have better fates than John Romero," Adilah pointed out, adjusting her toque so that it fit better over her hijab. "I wonder what's going to happen with Tom, though…"
"Twilight Sky Games gave him a pretty good buyout," Kenny reminded her. "Financially, he won't have much to worry about. I just hope he'll get the help he needs. I can't even imagine how much pressure he was under."
Kenny shuddered, having seen firsthand the effects of a nervous breakdown. Rick had suffered one when he'd learned of his parents' murders, and it hadn't been a pleasant experience for him.
"So are you still working on the new Crystar: Crystal Warriors release, or did you get reassigned too?" Adilah asked. "They moved me to that Howard The Duck project…"
"No, I'm still with Crystar for the time being," Kenny shook his head. "I have to admit, the whole Howard idea is too out there for my liking…"
"Whatever sells, sells," Adilah shrugged. "We should just be thankful the Twilight Sky Games brass decided to keep us all on."
"Tom may have been an asshole before he finally snapped, but he knew his shit for a long time," Kenny pointed out. "At least now he can get the help he needs, and we'll be alright for the time being."
"That's something to be thankful for, isn't it?" Adilah said, hugging herself against the bitterly cold wind that was picking up.
"We have a flexible schedule, so you should be able to balance it with your studies," Carrie told Julia as she led the younger woman down the hallway. "You can probably even do a lot of the work from home."
"I appreciate this, really," Julia said gratefully as Carrie showed her into an office. "Even with everything that happened…"
"You mean with Sam?" Carrie asked, a shadow passing over her face. "Forget it. Those bastards deserve everything that's happening to them."
"Even after I made the party look bad?" Julia asked in surprise.
"You did what you had to do," Carrie shook her head. "That's the thing about politics-too many people would have let Sam and his cronies do that shit, and just ignored it. You didn't, though-and that shows you have more of the kind of integrity we need in politics. It's a blood sport, sure, but…"
"…But there's a difference between blood sports and collateral damage," Julia finished for her.
The two women only smiled sadly at each other.
"What's wrong, Peter?" Gwen Stacy asked her boyfriend Peter Parker as they sat on the couch together.
"…What?" Peter asked in surprise, seeming to come out of a trance. "Is something wrong, Gwen?"
"Not with me," Gwen shook her head, a look of concern on her face. "With you, Peter. You seem distracted, like you're upset about something. What is it?"
"I really don't know," Peter shook his head sadly. "It's something I can't quite describe…"
"What do you mean?" Gwen asked, an edge of worry coming into her voice. "Is it something to do with your being Spider-Man?" Gwen had learned about her boyfriend's secret identity as the amazing Spider-Man some time ago, and while she respected it, she was never entirely comfortable with it.
Peter's eyes lit up at that remark, to her surprise.
"That's it…" he said, more to himself than to Gwen. "I wondered what it was."
"What 'what' was?" Gwen asked curiously.
"I kept feeling like something was wrong," Peter shook his head, "but I couldn't think of what it was. Now, I think I know."
"What is it?" Gwen blinked.
Peter bit his lip, realizing where this was probably going to go.
"You've seen how your Dad probably gets when something bad happens to another cop, right?" he asked, referring to Gwen's father George Stacy, captain of the New York Police Department's Organized Crime Unit.
Gwen only frowned, realizing the melancholy she'd seen come over her father when he'd lost a brother or sister in uniform.
"For some reason, I feel the same way," Peter continued. "Like I've lost somebody who fought the way I did, who knew what I've gone through."
"You don't mean…" Gwen began. "What, another superhero? You don't even know who any of those other guys really are!" she continued, referring to the fact that few of New York's superheroes knew each others' secret identities.
"Maybe I don't know their real names, but I've seen enough of them to realize what they're about," Peter replied, frowning reproachfully. "And now…"
"So who's gone?" Gwen asked, more than a little skepticism in her voice. "And how do you know they're even gone?"
"You ever get the bad feeling that somebody you know, somebody you care about, is gone?" Peter asked her. "Even though you don't have any proof?"
"I…" Gwen trailed off.
"That's how I'm feeling right now," Peter sighed. "I don't know who it happened to, or even how it happened…but somehow I know it has. That's why I seem out of it tonight."
Gwen merely took Peter's hand in her own, squeezing it tightly as she saw the look of grief crossing Peter's face.
Rick only smiled at the A-minus he got on his assignment, before folding it and putting it into his school bag. Making his way out of the classroom, he took the elevator two floors down to where his next class was due to start, although he had a wait of an hour and a half ahead of him.
That was fine with Rick-he wanted to go over his copies of this week's class readings again, and to check on whether his client was satisfied with the last writing job he'd done.
Opening up his e-mail account, Rick brightened at the sight of the e-mail he was waiting for. To his delight, it contained a money order for the payment they'd agreed on, and further comments:
This is exactly what we were looking for. I really appreciate your getting back to us so quickly on this, and for being so understanding about the price. If things go the way I expect for the rest of the quarter, we may be talking to you again-and we might be able to give you a better deal next time.
In the meantime, I've been mentioning you to some of my friends who are running start-ups of their own. With the economy being what it is, they need all the help they can get.
Good luck, Rick-I know times are tough, but you've got real talent. I'm sure you'll land on your feet.
All the best!
Going back to his inbox, Rick's eyes lit up at the other three e-mails he saw waiting for him, all of which came from the accounts of different businesses.
Glancing through the e-mails, Rick could see that the writing assignments they contained were straightforward, and could easily be completed within the deadlines the businesses were asking for. He would have to juggle things a bit with his studies, but it wasn't anything he hadn't done before.
A hopeful smile crossed his face.
Sv'ara, the Sleepwalker warrior who was the former beloved of Terren'sk, walked the corridors of the large crystalline city her clan of Sleepwalkers called home, contemplating her last encounter with her former mate.
Terren'sk had somehow returned to the Mindscape, in pursuit of some malign presence he said was affecting the minds of the humans of the physical world. Neither Sv'ara or any of the other Sleepwalkers who had remained in the Mindscape had been able to detect anything of the sort, but Sv'ara had not been able to dismiss Terren'sk's words so easily. When she had shared her concerns with her fellows, they had tried searching for the presence Terren'sk had described. Unfortunately, all they'd been able to find was the fading remnants of some malign energy in the minds of several humans. It wasn't enough for the Sleepwalkers to trace, and in any case they'd realized that the threat, whatever it was, had likely been defeated.
Sv'ara and the other Sleepwalkers could guess who had achieved that victory, and what the cost had been. She had visited Rick Sheridan's mind briefly while he was asleep, and had seen enough of his memories to realize that something had happened to Terren'sk. Unfortunately, Rick didn't know any more of Terren'sk's fate than the Sleepwalkers did.
Now, Sv'ara could only hope that it was enough.
Stepping into the appointed room, Sv'ara closed her eyes and began the summoning.
Come my lords, she thought, broadcasting her thoughts into the ether, so that a final reckoning might be determined.
It was not long before the six entities appeared. They resembled Sleepwalkers, but they were far taller and more gaunt than any ordinary Sleepwalker. Their skin shone with a bright emerald green, and their eyes glowed in lights of indigo and lake blue. They were dressed in long, hoodless purple robes, a brighter violet than the duller colors the lesser Sleepwalkers wore.
Three of the entities were male, and three were female. They were some of the Silent Ones, those Sleepwalkers who had ascended to a higher level of power and wisdom, and served as their race's rulers, lawmakers and judges.
"You have summoned us, daughter?" one of the Silent Ones communed to Sv'ara, his lips unmoving as his very thoughts formed his voice. "What is the nature of your inquiry?"
"My desire is to speak to you regarding our kinsman Terren'sk, he who was entrapped within the mind of the human Rick Sheridan," Sv'ara communed back. "I come to you now regarding a final verdict on his honor and fate."
Some of the Silent Ones looked at one another. Two of them, one of the males and one of the females, had been among the Silent Ones who had originally tried to judge Terren'sk for his becoming trapped in Rick's mind, and the chaos and suffering that had occurred in the human world because of it. They had been prepared to execute Terren'sk for his foolishness, until Rick had interfered and forced them to reconsider their decision. The Silent Ones had then decided to postpone making a new verdict until Terren'sk had been able to permanently return to the Mindscape.
"What are the circumstances that would lead to such a verdict?" one of the Silent Ones asked, before Sv'ara related everything she and the other Sleepwalkers had found.
"It is my conviction that Terren'sk has thwarted the machinations of whatever malign entity was responsible for these actions," Sv'ara concluded, "and that he is deserving of a final verdict on his honor and recognition among his people. Are you prepared to render such a verdict?"
The Silent Ones communed among themselves for several minutes as Sv'ara waited anxiously.
"Let it be known, then, that we have come to a consensus regarding our fallen son Terren'sk," the Silent Ones said, as Sv'ara bit her lip with worry. "We conclude that we were erroneous in our initial decision to execute Terren'sk for his original sins, as he later proved himself capable of redemption. With his actions, he has proven himself a true Sleepwalker, worthy of his name, and a warrior of honor. Would that we could honor him, and make amends for our initial misjudgement, but his fate clearly precludes such an action. We possess only the capacity to ensure that his name is renowned among his people, and that his memory shall never be forgotten."
Sv'ara felt a thrill of joy at that, mentally thanking the Silent Ones for their verdict.
At the back of her mind, however, she could only lament that Terren'sk would never learn how his honor was redeemed.
It was a chilly night, but Rick hardly felt the cold as he looked out over the roof of his apartment building. He was admiring the beauty of the city lights, which shone like a galaxy of stars as they reflected off the waters of the East River, both in Manhattan and on the other side in Brooklyn and Queens. Sleepwalker had told Rick before about how much he admired those lights, and how much they reminded him of the Mindscape, the home he longed for.
Home…Rick thought to himself, something I take for granted every day. But Sleepwalker will probably never get to see it again, will he?
Hoping against hope, Rick concentrated, calling within himself to Sleepwalker, asking his cherished friend to give him something, anything, to let him know, that he was still within him.
Rick felt no response, which was what he had expected, but not what he wanted.
And to think, he realized, when Sleepwalker first became trapped in my mind, this was exactly what I wanted. I wanted him gone, I wanted him out of my life…
…but now, without him, I feel like I've lost a piece of myself, Rick realized.
He shook his head, wiping away the tears he could feel starting to form in his eyes again.
How many times did you save us, Sleepy? Rick wondered. How many times did you save other people in this city? How many times did you save the city itself?
You never regretted doing that, Rick knew. That was the sort of thing that gave your life meaning-if you couldn't protect their minds in the Mindscape, you'd protect them in the human world. You fought sickos like 8-Ball, the Bookworm, Electro, Lightmaster, Firefly and God knows who else, to protect people who could never pay you back. And all that time, you wondered if you really deserved your name, and to consider yourself a Sleepwalker. You couldn't consider yourself part of this world, because that would have meant giving up your identity as a Sleepwalker…but you didn't feel like you deserved to return home, either. The only way you could was if you atoned for your sins…and if you did that, you wouldn't be able to go home anyway.
Rick felt a well of bitterness rise up inside of him at that thought.
But you wouldn't have it any other way, would you? That was one of the things that you thought defined you as a Sleepwalker. Maybe it did, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.
Besides, there was so much more that defined you, Sleepy. All the things you did for us-sure, you fought for us, but there was so much more. You made me grow up, forced me to change…I can't even imagine what I would have turned out like without you.
You gave us so much, and all you ever wanted was to go home. But now, you never will, Rick realized. No one knows what happened to you, or where you are now.
We still have our memories of you, and like Alyssa said, you may have found peace…
…but I just wish I'd been able to say goodbye, Rick finished.
He continued looking out over the horizon for the rest of the evening, thinking of what had passed, and what was yet to come.
After ten years, Ultimate Sleepwalker: The New Dreams has finally come to an end. It has been a long road, one which has seen me grow tremendously as a writer, reignited my childhood interest in comics, and provided me with countless hours of enjoyment.
However, as Bob Budiansky wrote in the concluding issue of the official Sleepwalker comics, we must all wake up sometime. I had decided a long time ago that I would end the series at issue #100, as I felt I had done everything I could with the characters and I had said everything I wanted to say.
Part of my inspiration for this series was my loathing for the tendency in some circles to view C-list superheroes and supervillains as "losers", even when their own accomplishments could be quite meaningful. This series served as a metaphorical middle finger to such attitudes, to show that minor characters like Sleepwalker and 8-Ball could stand alongside A-listers like Captain America or the Green Goblin. The minor characters have their own stories to tell, and their own potential, which I wanted to explore and illustrate. Now that I have done so, it is an appropriate time to end the series.
Obviously, I could never have gotten to this point by myself. Thanks are due to fellow fanfiction writers like Meriades Rai, Derrick Ferguson, Dino Pollard, Chris Munn, and Neil Kapit, all of whom provided invaluable feedback and inspiration over the years. Everyone who has read this series deserves thanks and appreciation as well, as does everyone who has reviewed this series, ranging from Bookworm Gal to T-100000 to pacficuser to Victor Canonizado to Reader-anonymous-writer.
Thanks are also due to Stan Lee, Steve Ditko and John Romita Sr., whose epic run on The Amazing Spider-Man confirmed in my mind what a superhero comic should be like. They have been a constant inspiration, as have later Marvel writers like Danny Fingeroth, Tom DeFalco, Roger Stern, Peter David, Bob Layton, Chris Claremont and David Michelinie.
Finally, more than anyone else, I owe the deepest thanks and appreciation to Bob Budiansky, Sleepwalker's original creator and writer of the original Sleepwalker comics. Without him, I would not be writing this series, much less have gotten back into collecting comics. He, more than anyone else, is the reason for this series.
In closing, I want to assure anyone who's interested that Ultimate Spider-Woman: Change With The Light is going to continue, and that I do not have any plans to end that series any time soon. I also want to apologize for the slowdown in updates to both my Ultimate Marvel series, as real life complications have gotten in the way. I am also shifting to other writing projects, ones which I plan to post on Fanfiction . net once they are complete.