Panel 1: This is the very first mention of the Purple Paladin Memorial Hospital, which becomes an important part of future Empowered stories. Or, more accurately, the as-yet-unseen Suprahuman Treatment Wing of this hospital develops into an important setting for later chapters. In fact, one of the more popular Guest Artist one-shots—Empowered: Internal Medicine, with art by the great Brandon Graham—takes place almost entirely in the very, very strange environs of the Suprahuman Treatment Wing.
Panel 2: In the years before this story, I’d had to spend a fair time in hospitals as both my parents were experiencing serious health issues. More than a few times, back then, I witnessed the rather disturbing sight of a doctor trying to explain very complicated medical issues to an unnerved and largely uncomprehending relative… and each time I thought, “Y’know, I really should use this in an story sometime.” To be honest, I hadn’t really imagined that I’d use this idea in a comedy like Empowered—but, as you’ll see, this chapter represents the point at which I began to realize that the series could be whatever the hell I wanted it to be, that it wasn’t limited to being merely a whimsical, consequence-free satire or the like.
Gotta say, I actually tend to dislike intensely wacky comedies in which nothing truly matters, anything can happen, and no real, lasting consequences ever face the story’s characters. Nahh, I prefer wacky comedies which can, well, “Take A Turn” into emotionally charged or straight-up dramatic territory, preferably without warning. That’s what happened for me while writing Wildstorm’s teen superhero book Gen13, which went from goofily loving tributes to Hong Kong action cinema and Sailor Moon all the way to (I hope) wrenching scenes of heroic sacrifice and extreme tearjerkery. And that, as we’ll see, is also what happened with Empowered as the series progressed.
Panel 5: I believe the term “skank” was still in play circa 2006-7, but one hears this particular pejorative far less often nowadays. Um, yay, I guess? (Then again, the perennial “b-word” certainly hasn’t dropped off much in popular usage over the last decade, alas.)