The first time I encountered Emp was when I was talking with a person about Franco Saudelli and how I really liked his "The Blonde" series and beyond having a lot of bondage, it was very plot driven. They recommended that I should check out Adam Warren's Empowered series and I am certainly glad I did. So this review won't be about just one of the books from the series but the series as a whole. Be warned that I am definitely a fan when you read this and it might not be completely down the middle neutral. Also keep in mind that this series is quite vast and I'll only be touching on little bits here and there.
Let's first start out with the namesake of the series, Empowered herself. Right off the bat you will realize that she probably has more going on upstairs than most her fellow Superhomeys. Though that doesn't save her from being harassed by her teammates on a regular basis. This is all due to her very fragile self-esteem. Though she has a body I would dare say we women all wished we had and that our guys wished we had too, Emp is not very comfortable in her own skin. There is were her super suit comes into play.
The super suit gives Emp superhuman strength, invulnerability and a host of other useful and not so useful powers. The downside of this suit is that it is super clingy and hugs ever single curve of Emp's body, though oddly enough not her cameltoe. Add the fact that while the suit keeps Emp nigh invulnerable, the suit itself rips very easily and when it does Emp loses her powers.
Due to the unreliable nature of the suit, Emp finds herself in many different types of bondage situations. Each and every one of these bondage prone adventures leaves Emp emotionally distraught and running back to the ones that do care for her: Thugboy and Ninjette.
Without getting too caught up in the backstory of every major character, let's just say that without Thugboy and Ninjette giving emotional support to Emp that she would have hung up her super suit a long time ago. Thugboy is Emp's white knight that loves Emp more than anyone or anything in his world. He is always there for his beloved even though his past makes him prone to hate "capes". Ninjette on the other hand is a heavy drinking princess from a New Jersey based Ninja clan. Yep, that's what I said and it makes her one fun friend to have for Emp.
One of the hallmarks of the series is that just about everyone in it has a messed up history that makes them who they are. Whether it's making demonic deals so one can achieve power and beauty like blonde hater Sister Spooky or having to watch your daddy die in front of you as Emp had to, just about everyone has a pain they carry inside them. I feel this gives the series a mature feel to it though some "tragic" backstories are fodder for some funny moments too.
But I know what a lot of you who are reading this are wondering, just how "adult" oriented is this? Let me make this extremely clear, Adam Warren is a huge tease with this series. Does Emp look hot? She most certainly does, but are you going to see her fully naked? Most certainly you will not. In fact you won't be seeing any full nudity in the series or any direct sex scenes and that's one reason why I like it. The series, though sexual, doesn't carry itself because Thugboy has abs of steel or Emp has a huge booty. It's all the quirky fun moments mixed with a distinct line of seriousness that will keep you going through the series.
The rest of you might be pondering just how bondage prone our heroine is. Would you call getting bound in steel, rope, smashed into a giant footprint, glued, cuffed and forced to do a tango because of a exosuit bondage enough? If you wouldn't, don't worry at all because Emp gets bound up in more ways than just that.
Now in trying to give a fair analysis of the series, let me focus for a moment on some aspects that may turn you off. Empowered is 99% done in black and white. There is virtually no color at all in the series so for those of you who are used to rich color with their comics, you won't find it here. The series is also done more in a manga style, which I'll be honest kind of made me nervous. I've seen other comics in this style and found the flow of the story hard to follow a bit. Now I had no issue with this in Empowered but if you have never seen manga before it may take you off guard.
The final nit pick is directed for those of you that love your comics to be dark and brooding, or lacking in emotional problems. If this is you, Empowered may be a problem. Relationship problems run thick within this series. Whole chapters might revolve around an issue between Emp and her boyfriend not getting along.
In closing, I barely scratched the surface of this well thought out comic. Dozens of adventures and characters reside within that I didn't even mentioned here, including the most talkative villain of all time. It is quite unique in both comic books and bondage communities.
Nicole: Since this review will be posted primarily on Deviantart, I thought I would first ask you what your tools of the trade are.
Adam Warren: 4B Staedtler-Mars pencil leads, 8.5" X 11" copy paper, and some white-out. Yeahp, that's pretty much all I use; EMPOWERED is a very, very primitively produced book.
N: I must know if you use a dictionary/thesaurus when you come up with the Caged Demonwolf's dialogue.
AW: As you might have guessed, the character's more elaborate and complicated flights of alliterative fancy require some serious consultation of my poor, horrifically battered copy of Roget's Thesaurus. Note that, while I frequently attempt to limit the use (if not abuse) of alliteration in his dialogue, it always seems to creep right back in, despite my earnest efforts
N: I noticed that the amount of time in between episodes have been increasing. For example, #1 through #4 would come out about 5-7 months between each other. Now #6 is being released nearly a year and 3 months apart. Any specific reason?
AW: Several reasons spring to mind
A) As EMPOWERED isn't exactly a lucrative endeavor, I have to take on other, better-paying work to allow me the luxury of working on the book at all. These outside jobs often prevent me from working full-time on EMPOWERED, which means the gap between volumes has necessarily expanded. B) With the early volumes, I had a large number of pages (almost two full volumes) completed way the hell ahead of deadline, giving me plenty of lead time to print multiple volumes within a short timeframe. Alas, that cushion has long since dwindled away. C) Finally, the maddening vagaries of book-market ordering have played a role as well, since we've had to solicit books ever further and further in advance, which has led to scheduling problems for me.
Besides, if I may indulge in some bitter whininess, not many people seemed to notice or appreciate that the first four volumes were very large books (from 208 to 248 pages) released in very rapid succession. If manyor, indeed, anyother American writer/artists have succeeded in pulling off a similar feat within recent history, I'm sure as hell not aware of it. (End of bitter whininess.)
N: Why do you use Deviantart to promote your craft?
AW: Why not? I've never gotten around to setting up a conventional website for myself, but dA's turned out to be a pretty damn useful substitute. It's been a pretty cool experience to actually hear from people reading my work, since I've spent most of my so-called career largely clueless as to whether or not anyone is, in fact, seeing what the hell I do. Beyond that, the social networking aspects of the site have been especially handy, since I've met a veritable boatload of very cool people on dA... including a number of artists I've wound up working with, as it happens.
N: In #4 we see where Thugboy's hatred for Capes comes from. I was wondering if the guy that died next to Thugboy was just a friend or perhaps family?
AW: The ill-fated dude in the pickup truck was a fellow member of Thugboy's anti-cape "cell," and would hence be considered a friend. I should note, though, that equally ill-fated members of Thugboy's actual family have appeared in the background of one of his nightmares, back in vol. 3
and what happened to them is definitely part and parcel of his hatred for the "capes," as a future story will make clear.
N: Right off the bat you made it clear that Emp wasn't a "dumb blonde" (thank you on behalf of all of us blondes btw), how important was it that you established that?
AW: Honestly, I never even considered making Emp a "dumb blonde" in the first place, as from the start I'd imagined her as a reasonably smart character stuck in an unreasonably stupid line of work. She might be a tad misguided in her choice of career, perhapsnot unlike myself, coincidentallybut no, she was never meant to be a dimwitted stereotype. Besides, for some reason I know a goodly number of "flaxen-haired femmes" (to paraphrase the Caged Demonwolf) who thoroughly defy and debunk said stereotype, so this is one trope I'm not especially inclined to use.
N: The philosopher Søren Kierkegaard described one type of despair as rejecting the self and yearning to be someone else completely. And before dying Mindf*ck completely embraced Sister Spooky for the person she was and not who she is now...I wonder if Spooky hates herself at some level.
AW: No need to wonder, as that was absolutely the case before the climactic events of vol.5
and as will be depicted in future volumes, Spooky's self-loathing becomes even more severe and pronounced after she learns of the grim (and unforeseen) consequences of her failure to save Mindf**k's life. Jeez, this makes the comic seem like a rather unpleasant experience, doesn't it? No, wait, there's fun stuff in EMPOWERED too, y'know! Really!
N: While there may be a few minionesque females in the series, I don't really recall there ever being a supervillain woman anywhere. Why is that?
AW: I will eventually get around to addressing this seeming disparity... and to introducing a supervillainness or two, down the road. The short version: Most run-of-the-mill supervillains (and minions) in the Empverse need to be very, very stupid and delusional indeed, given their exceedingly dismal caped-career opportunities
And frankly, if you'll pardon the sexism, males tend to have a bit of an edge when it comes to stupidity and delusion. Viewed more kindly, supervillainy is a very dangerous, arguably somewhat blue-collar profession, so it tends to attract a majority male demographic, like most jobs fitting that description. On the other hand, opportunities certainly exist for savvy, canny entrepreneurs to make a killing (pun semi-intended) in the supervillain trade, and we will eventually meet a few "bad girls" who are doing just that.
N: At first I never gave it much thought, but after seeing Manny expertly bind Emp up I have to wonder if you use any references for bondage in your art.
AW: Sometimes, but more for poses than anything else; on a purely technical level, the rigging I depict is rather far from rigorous. (Example: After the fact, a knowledgeable source informed me that I got Emp's vol. 1 "nylon versus hemp" preference exactly wrong
N: Do you have a master plan for the series? More importantly, when the time comes do you plan on ending the series properly or just leave the ending open?
AW: Oh, I most definitely have a master plan for the book, but it remains to be seen if I'll be able to afford to work on the book long enough to fulfill said master plan. In theory, the series might go on for a good 20 or more volumesthough not repeating itself, I hasten to add, since things change a great deal as the series progressesbefore it reaches the very definite ending I have in mind. Again, though, a lot depends on finances, how well my often-ailing drying hand holds up, whether or not sales slump over the long term, etc.
N: From Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Dungeon and Dragons references, a lot of pop culture finds it's way into the series. Are you ever afraid that the references won't age well as time goes on?
AW: That's a legitimate concern, but I'd rather pursue whatever humor appeals to me without worrying about how well the work will "age". Besides, it's kind of ridiculous for most of us working on (let's face it) pop-culture ephemera to obsess about "posterity," when our work is doomed to be forgotten or ignored fairly quickly. (Or, if we're not fortunate, forgotten or ignored IMMEDIATELY.) Short version: "Screw posterity."
On the other hand, hinging plot points on pop-culture references that have already shark-jumped before your book even sees publication? Not really a great idea either. Hell, if my books are fortunate enough to still be in print ten years from now (optimism ahoy!) and are burdened by anachronistic references, I can just "pull a Hergé" and go back and revise them out! (And replace 'em with NEW pop-culture references that will eventually need replacement!)
N: In the upcoming #6, previews imply "living impaired" heroes coming back. Since Mindf*ck also died in the last issue, will she be making a comeback?
AW: She does in fact make an appearance (or two, or three), but that doesn't necessarily mean all that much
After all, Emp's late father has yet another brief cameo in vol. 6, and he's been dead for quite a while!
N: Are their any specific comic or sci-fi storylines you might want to delve into? Like an alternate universe Emp who might be a tyrant with EunuchBoy and Samurette?
AW: Have to say, I'm inclined to stay well clear of any "alt uni" shenanigans for the time being, given how thoroughly and exhaustively that particular trope's been driven into the ground by thirty-odd years of comics, movies, and crappy TV shows.
In general, I don't intend to push the SF elements all THAT far in EMPOWERED, as I'm all too aware that I can bemuse and confuse (and lose) readers when I get too technologically abstruse or pseudo-scientifically high-falutin'. Since EMP has a rather broader readership profile than most of my previous work, I'm reining in my SF tendencies a little, so as to not alienate some of the less tech-enthused parts of the audience.
N: Breaking the unspoken rules of the girl's handbook of life, what are Emp's measurements?
AW: Shockingly, I'm really not sure about that. Your guess is as good as mine, if not better
N: Will we ever see Emp's first true bondage experience? I find it hard to imagine that a teenaged Emp never got tied up while babysitting.
AW: It's possible, but I haven't yet decided exactly what that first experience would've been, or if she even had a pre-superhero bondage experience at all
For a personal reason, she definitely wouldn't have been tied up while babysitting. Why, you theoretically ask? Well, I was semi-traumatized as a young lad by the nihilistic 70s suspense novel LET'S GO PLAY AT THE ADAMS', which depicted a "babysitter tied up by her charges" scenario gone very, very, VERY wrong indeed. (Look it up on Amazon.com, and you'll see numerous comments from folks who had similarly scarring experiences from reading this nasty little thriller
N: What is your stance on fanart? Would you rather amateur artists not to do fanart of Emp and company? Or at least ask permission first before doing any?
AW: Oh, I'm quite in favor of it, and always get a kick out of seeing cool new pieces of EMP fan art. Hell, I got started in this line of work by cranking out oodles of (luckily never seen) Dirty Pair fan art and comics, so I'm not likely to crack on somebody for doing the same thing with my own characters. (Just as long as I don't actually have to look at the more, um, exotic porn takes on Empverse characters. Carry on, folks, but I reserve the right to pretend that some of more out-there fan art isn't actually happening.)
N: How did it feel when you actually had a cosplayer being dressed as Emp?
I thought that was entirely awesome, especially since Emp's suit REALLY doesn't lend itself especially well to cosplay, even when it's not all torn up. Subsequently, I've seen some thoroughly badass Ninjette costumes being rocked (and even used for reference by me!), not to mention a recent Spooky/ Mindf**k two-costume combo... and, for an older career reference, a very fetching Magical Drama Queen Roxy costume I saw last weekend! Sweet! Yeah, seeing high-quality cosplay of your own characters is a pretty darn cool experience
N: Did you base Empowered on any real life women or models? And not meaning just looks, but also in regards to personality?
AW: Personality-wise, her characterization is definitely influenced by a (perhaps) surprising number of women I've known who are quite attractive (in some cases, extremely so) but nonetheless plagued by serious body-image issues and considerable insecurity about their appearance... Or, as in the "Schroedinger's Catgirl" riff in vol. 2, they might sometimes vacillate wildly between the opposing states of overwhelming self-doubt and actually perceiving their own patently obvious (to the rest of us, at least) beauty.
Anyhoo, though I'd dealt with the concept of an insecure superheroine before (in GEN13), it occurred to me that I'd never considered how a female "cape" already uncomfortable with her own body would react if she were required to wear some especially outrageous superhero costume... and lo, Empowered was born.
Side note: Just now occurred to me that Emp might have been able to better cope with her situation if she'd done some cosplay in high school or college... Then again, her Sexy Librarian outfit smacks of cosplay, doesn't it? (Maybe she did, in fact, cosplay at some point, but had a negative experience?) I'll have to think about this further; might be able to get a story out of this random speculation!
N: How old is Sistah Spooky? I ask because in #4 page 158 the Superhomeys are all losing their powers and one of them looks at a depowered Sistah Spooky and says she looks "all underagey".
If she is, wouldn't that mean that Thugboy would technically be guilty of rape?
AW: Jeez, I hadn't really considered that fact... Luckily, though, Spooky was supposed to be a strikingly underdeveloped 16 years old, maybe even 17, in the flashback scene in vol. 1 that showed how she acquired her powers. Thus, when she slept with Thugboy roughly two years later, she'd have been 18 or 19 and hence of legal age, though not by a very wide margin. Whew!
N: From previews of #6, I am under the impression that the undead or such will be about. Was any of this inspired from such series like DC's Blackest Night or Marvel's Zombies?
AW: Quite the opposite, in fact; I almost spiked the volume's "Superdead" plotline when I first heard about Blackest Night. After I learned more about the DC event, though, the differences between their ideas and mine seemed sufficient enough for me to proceed. The EMPOWERED 6 plotline isn't really about heroes who come back from the dead, but rather about heroes who find themselves unable to die properly in the first place.
As for Marvel Zombies, well, EMPOWERED's superdead aren't at prone to conventional zombie-style behavior (except for decomposing, that is), and tend to take great offense at being referred to by "the z-word"...
N: Will there ever be wedding bells in Emp's and Thugboy's future?
AW: All I can say is, it's certainly a possibility!