Glancing over this page’s whimsically minimalist approach to backgrounds—as in, almost none, other than vague hints of highway overpasses and cinder blocks respectively in panels 1 and 4—I find myself nostalgic for the breezy, carefree, devil-may-care days of early Empowered. See, yesterday I spent 6 g-d work hours drawing a single g-d detail-intensive establishing shot for Empowered vol. 10, whereas writing and drawing this entire vol. 2 page almost certainly took less than 6 hours—and, to be honest, this old page probably looks and reads better than yesterday’s maddeningly time-consuming panel.
See, during the first volume or two of Empowered, I was experimenting with how far I could bend—or outright break—some of the apparent “rules” of comics storytelling I’d internalized throughout my earlier career. One of said “rules” was the importance of clearly depicting the environment in which each scene of a given story was taking place, via plainly intelligible and crisply defined establishing shots. Ah, but in this series’ primeval era, I was gleefully throwing such sober, proper, responsible narrative practices right the hell out the window; if I recall correctly, Empowered vol. 1’s 240-odd pages of story boasted a grand total of maybe two or three conventional establishing shots. What shocked me then—and still does, looking through these old pages—is how well you can maintain readability and storytelling coherence while irresponsibly eschewing detailed background work.
Needless to say, if any young and/or easily influenced comic artists happen to reading this commentary, let me hastily append a follow-up piece of advice: Don’t try this at home, kids. By the time I began noodling around with narrative rule-bending in Empowered I’d spent at least 15 years writing and drawing comics professionally, and had already learned how to tell stories in a less off-the-wall manner.
UPDATE: Just thought I’d mention that the writing of this commentary was derailed by a rather startling wildlife encounter in the ol’ living room. As I pecked away at my laptop, an anomalous movement caught my eye, and I glanced up to behold a decent-sized garter snake slithering around the TV stand roughly a foot and a half from my face. (Happy to say that I exclaimed a gruff, reasonably manly “Christ!” as I hastily stood up from the couch.) The snake proceeded to flow over the adjoining coffee table’s stack of DVDs, tongue flickering as if to say, “Captain America: Civil War had more and better action scenes, but as a cohesive cinematic experience, it really didn’t measure up to The Winter Soldier here, did it?” By the time I’d run off, grabbed some potentially biteproof gloves and returned, my ophidian amigo had disappeared. Welcome to rural living in a very old and not terribly well sealed-up house, folks! Crickets and mice creeping in are annoying enough, but I must admit that a snake encounter was a genuinely novel experience. Yikes! To quote the Eegah! episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000: “Watch out for snakes!”
By the way, do you think it’s merely a coincidence that I had a reptilian close encounter whilst commenting on a page featuring King Tyrant Lizard? Perhaps my friendly neighborhood garter snake will serendipitously return 70-odd pages from now, when I’ll be commenting on Emp’s over-the-top cosplay as “the Sexy Librarian,” which of course boasts a garter belt and stockings. Hisssss!