Holden Carver

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Holden Carver
Publication information
Publisher Wildstorm
First appearance Point Blank (2002)
Created by Ed Brubaker
Colin Wilson
In-story information
Alter ego Holden Carver
Team affiliations International Operations
Notable aliases The Conductor
Abilities Absorbs pain and trauma, release absorbed pain and trauma when touched, regeneration.

Holden Carver is the protagonist of the DC Comics/Wildstorm comic book series Sleeper written by Ed Brubaker and drawn by Sean Phillips.

Fictional character biography[edit]

Early years[edit]

Holden Carver was the son of a military man, James Carver. He followed in his father footsteps and joined the military himself. John Lynch saw potential in Holden and became his mentor. During a mission in South-America, Holden and his team found an artifact that came from the Bleed. Holden touched the artifact and the artifact attached itself to Holden's nervous system. The process killed the other soldiers and Holden was secretly taken back to the International Operations base. Lynch saw a golden opportunity for Carver to infiltrate the nameless syndicate of the notorious criminal Tao when he discovered that the artifact prevented any form of mindreading done on Carver. Holden agreed and left behind his fiance Veronica. A cover story was set up for Holden: his recently deceased father was officially branded a traitor and Holden had become a rogue agent, blaming John Lynch for his father's disgrace. Holden had stolen the Bleed artifact and disappeared.

Point Blank[edit]

Months later, Holden was approached by Steeleye, a high-ranking member of Tao's organisation. He was recruited and slowly worked his way up in the ranks. Lynch was the only one in IO who knew that Holden was not really a traitor. When IO dissolved, Lynch asked his friend Cole Cash, also known as Grifter from the Wild C.A.Ts to help him bring in Carver. Grifter came under Tao's influence though and shot Lynch, putting him into a coma. Holden saved Grifter later and told him his story, but before Grifter could get help, Tao erased Grifter's memory, leaving Holden stuck in Tao's organisation.

Sleeper Season 1[edit]

A few weeks after Lynch was put into a coma, Carver's friend Genocide Jones killed Steeleye for sexually abusing children. Holden covered up for his friend during a hearing with Tao. Tao told Carver that he didn't believe the story, but promoted him for his courage. Carver was now one of the three Prodigals, the highest rank within Tao's organisation apart from Tao himself. Peter Grimm, another Prodigal, didn't trust Carver, but the third Prodigal, Miss Misery, took a liking to Carver and Misery had a sexual relationship with him that slowly grew into more. Despite his situation, Carver fell in love with Miss Misery and she returned his love, but Miss Misery's powers were unique: she thrived on evil and was physically strengthened by it. Anything she considered wrong would make her stronger, while taking the right action would result in disease and weakness for her. By having a meaningful relationship with Carver instead of just sex, the relationship was no longer "wrong" according to her and she began to fall ill. During this time Carver was forced to take many illegal and amoral actions to protect his secret identity and he came to rely on Miss Misery for comfort.

During a mission, Genocide Jones was killed and Carver knocked out Miss Misery to prevent her from being killed as well. Tao's troops rescued Miss Misery from the secret facility they were taken to, but Carver panicked and fled, now on the run from both the law and Tao's organisation. Tao finally managed to track him down and revealed that he had known about Carver's status as a sleeper-agent all along. Tao argued that Carver now was more at home in Tao's syndicate than anywhere else. He was a survivor, willing to do whatever it took to stay alive, beyond petty concepts like "good" and "evil." Believing Tao and seeing no other options, Carver rejoined Tao's syndicate and continued his relationship with Miss Misery. Unaware to both Tao and Carver, John Lynch came out of his coma.

Sleeper Season 2[edit]

John Lynch contacted Carver and offered him the one thing he wanted: a way to get rid of his powers. John Lynch revealed that IO had captured an alien in the same area the Bleed Artifact was found. Over the next few months both Lynch and Tao tried to manipulate Carver against the other. Carver formulated his own plan though, he hoped that Lynch and Tao were so obsessed with each other that they would stop noticing him. Carver recruited Miss Misery (though he didn't tell her the full plan) and together they brought down Tao's empire and captured Tao with a little help from Grifter. When Carver revealed to Miss Misery that he wanted to cure her as well, Miss Misery angrily attacked him, claiming she didn't want to be cured. Veronica St. James, Carver's former fiance, saw Miss Misery attacking Carver and shot her. Carver returned fire without thinking and saw that he had shot and killed Veronica. Having lost everything, Carver tore out Tao's tongue and had the alien operate on him to remove the artifact. The operation succeeded, but left Carver in a coma. John Lynch used his mental powers to create a permanent fantasy for Carver where he happily lived on a tropical island with Miss Misery and Veronica.

Powers and abilities[edit]

Holden's superpowers are the result of an alien artifact merging with his nervous system. Whenever he experiences physical trauma, he feels no pain but instead stores the pain, which he can then direct via touch into someone else. Enough pain can kill a person with no physical trace, making Carver an ideal assassin for Tao's purposes. Holden has little control over his power and causes pain to anybody who touches him. Another downside was that he is also incapable of feeling anything else, though a combination of pain and pleasure during sex can make him feel pleasure.

The artifact makes his thoughts unreadable to all telepaths and protects him against most though not all mental attacks. The artifact also quickly repairs all physical damage done to his body.

Holden has a number of other minor abilities. He has a hard time becoming drunk due to the artifact filtering out alcohol’s effects.[1] The artifact also filters the physical results of stress and fear, making it so that Holden never gets shaky hands or slowed reflexes.[2]


In the Sleeper Series, Holden Carver is a morally ambiguous character who is uncertain about his identity and mission as a double agent. As the series progresses, we see Holden forced to commit increasingly violent crimes to maintain his cover, all while forming friendships with criminal associates and growing more disillusioned with the mission.

Early in the series, Holden claims to believe in the mission’s cause, citing this belief as a reason for accepting the job in the first place. But while infiltrating Tao’s organization, Holden is forced to kill agents from the other side and participate in enemy operations destabilizing world governments. He also bonds with the members of his team, referring to them as his new friends and even falling in love. The disturbing similarities between how his old boss Jack Lynch and new boss Tao operate, both being similarly ruthless in how they manipulate others to their own purpose, cause Holden to see himself as a pawn in their own personal war against each other; and by the end of the series, Holden is simply trying to find a way out of the conflict alive.

Holden’s character is a somewhat grim and cynical secret agent who is, as other characters in the series note, willing to do whatever it takes to survive. He is extremely capable when it comes to physical confrontation and does not appear to be bothered by the violent nature of his actions as much as their moral implications. He struggles with the dichotomy of good guys vs bad guys and his inability define either category. The character carries a great deal of guilt about things he’s done in the past and appears to be punishing himself to deal with it, which makes the character come off as a pretty severe masochist. It becomes obvious later in the story that Holden is desperate to find a way to experience pain again, risking his life for the chance to remove the alien artifact embedded in his nervous system and falling in love with a dominatrix female character.

Florida's Destruction[edit]

Holden was partially responsible for the destruction of Florida and the Authority's subsequent take-over of the United States. He gave the American government access to booby-trapped Bleed technology similar to that used by Stormwatch and the Authority. (See Coup d'Etat)

Name Origin[edit]

Holden's name references, simultaneously, Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger and American short-story writer Raymond Carver. Brubaker chose the name because he is a fan of both writers, and he thought that "...naming a guy after Holden Caulfield in a book about everything being phony was a funny idea."[3] In the story line, Holden Carver and most members of Tao's criminal organization have code names reflecting their special abilities. Holden Carver's code name is "The Conductor" in reference to his ability to store and transmit pain. However, the character prefers to go by his regular name and is referred to as Holden throughout the comic.[4]


  1. ^ Brubaker, Ed & Phillips, Sean (2009). Sleeper Season One (pg. 29) La Jolla: Wildstorm Productions. ISBN 1-4012-2360-5
  2. ^ Brubaker, Ed & Phillips, Sean (2009). Sleeper Season One (pg. 170) La Jolla: Wildstorm Productions. ISBN 1-4012-2360-5
  4. ^ Brubaker, Ed & Phillips, Sean (2009). Sleeper Season One (pg. 16) La Jolla: Wildstorm Productions. ISBN 1-4012-2360-5