Sleeper (Wild Cards)

Croyd Crenson
Wild Cards character
Wc05c.jpg
The Sleeper on the cover of Down and Dirty.
First appearance Wild Cards (1987)
Created by Roger Zelazny
Information
Nickname(s) Whiteout, Typhoid Croyd
Aliases The Sleeper

The Sleeper is a fictional character from the Wild Cards series of books.

In September 1946, ninth-grader Croyd Crenson, native of an unspecified borough of the New York City metropolitan area, was one of the first victims of the alien virus dubbed "the Wild Card", which generates random mutations in humans, many times leading to an altered appearance and/or superhuman abilities. In Croyd's case, however, his mutation induces the virus to periodically re-infect his body (similar to malaria), causing him to develop a different appearance and set of powers every time he sleeps. Fortunately, the primary constant among these changes is an altered sleep cycle: he can spend anywhere from days to weeks at a time with no need for sleep, followed by equally varying periods of extended sleep, analogous to a pupal stage, during which his body alters to a new configuration. Croyd's root mutation is generally considered an Ace, though the classification of his abilities changes from mutation to mutation. He shows no sign of the effects of advancing age, though in the later eras depicted in the novels, he would be approaching his sixties.

Croyd constantly fears that he will one day wake up as a permanent Joker, immune to the virus, or that it will simply kill him, as the virus does to the majority of those it infects (known as "drawing the Black Queen"). As he starts to feel tired, he usually turns to amphetamines to stay awake, becoming increasingly violent and paranoid. Depending on where he is in his sleep/wake cycle, he can be a friendly rogue, a coldly brutal mercenary, a twitchy junkie and thief, or a deadly, raving psychotic.

His unique sleep cycle and constantly altering appearance makes it all but impossible for Croyd to hold down a regular job, and he usually supports himself through criminal activity (though in later years he begins investing in the stock market as a supplement to his income). This began after Croyd's initial transformation, when his father had died. Martial law still ruled New York City in the wake of the initial wave of Wild Card victims, and stealing was the only reliable way to acquire necessary supplies for himself and his family. Later, he continued to steal to support his family, as his father had suffered a fatal reaction to the virus and his mother had slowly gone insane from witnessing her husband's death, leaving Croyd the primary source of income for his brother and sister. This continued until his siblings became adults and his sister was married, during which Croyd, who had awakened before his latest change was complete, unintentionally disrupted the wedding ceremony when he fully transformed into a bat-like creature. Croyd seems to have completely broken ties with his family after the wedding incident.

Croyd has worked on and off over the years with a small-time career criminal named Bentley, whom he first met as a Joker with a dog-like appearance after waking up from his initial transformation; Bentley would later volunteer for the risky treatment developed for the Wild Card called the Trump virus, and was one of the lucky few who was completely cured. Bentley has shared some of his tricks of the trade, and sometimes plans robberies for Croyd, based on whatever superhuman powers he wakes up with, in exchange for a cut of the proceeds. The pair have little concern for police investigation, as by the time the authorities begin to recognize Croyd's current form and abilities, he is usually "lying low" and changing into a new, unrecognizable form.

Using his ill-gotten gains, Croyd has established several living spaces of varying size and quality throughout New York City, so that he is never too far from at least one of them when he is unable to stay awake. At least one of these is located in Jokertown, NYC's former Bowery district that has become a local haven to those unfortunate enough to "draw the Joker"; Croyd made efforts early on to establish a base there and make friends within the Joker community, knowing that on the occasions that he assumes a Joker form, he will have to live among them.

Croyd has assumed any number of forms in the decades since his initial infection; Ace, Joker, and, once, an almost completely non-powered human form. His first form was that of a hair-covered joker with the ability to turn invisible. Various Ace powers he has manifested during his waking periods include the ability to melt metal, enhanced speed and reflexes, heat conduction, flight, and super strength. His Joker manifestations have been equally varied: pink, stunted, and batlike; a humanoid Gecko lizard; two different winged demon forms; something like a giant armadillo; a 7-foot-tall (2.1 m), wingless bird with retractable claws; a wolf-faced freak with multi-jointed legs and acid for urine, and other even less attractive forms. Often Croyd awakened with a mixture of the Joker/Ace traits. During his stint as a fact finder for the Mafia, the Sleeper was a handsome brown haired Ace with strong bioelectric abilities - - and faceted, mirror-like compound eyes.

Arguably Croyd's most dangerous form was his incarnation as a super strong albino. During this period the Sleeper's Ace "power" manufactured a contagious, mutated form of the Wild Card virus that could re-infect and re-mutate those already transformed. Dubbed "Typhoid Croyd" (a reference to the historical Typhoid Mary), he was subdued and quarantined before this new infection became widespread and created a panic similar to the original wave of infections in 1946. It is notable that at least one person he re-infected, the Joker Snotman, had his quality of life improved, as Snotman was re-mutated into an ace. Amongst others infected during his Typhoid Croyd phase include high priced lawyer Loophole Latham, the ace Water Lily, militant Joker activist Gimili, call girl/assassin Roulette, washed up rock hero Buddy Holly (who did not die young in the Wild Cards universe, as he did in real life) and the android Modular Man's creator Maxim Travnicek - who loses his ability to repair Modular Man as he mutates into a joker.

In the late 1990s Croyd would team up with the ace vigilante Shad after the two had been imprisoned on Governors Island at the behest of the "Card Sharks" conspiracy. Seeking revenge, the two mean organized a prison breakout and then killed most of the remaining Card Sharks. Croyd was last seen traveling with Shad to Afghanistan where one of the lead Card Sharks had been doing humanitarian work.


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