Here’s another “Empowered Extra” bonus page from the back of Empowered vol. 2. This is a Sharpie®-based illustration I contributed to a benefit book for the charity The Hero Initiative (at the time named A Commitment To Our Roots, or ACTOR), which is the first-ever federally chartered, not-for-profit corporation dedicated strictly to helping comic book creators in need. I should note that several friends of mine have benefited from The Hero Initiative’s aid, so perhaps I am not wholly unbiased towards the charity.
I was going to skip this bonus-page illo because it’s a primo example of the oft-discussed Mysteriously Intermittent Post-Millennial Torso Glitch that often plagued my drawings circa 2006. Emp’s wonky, excessively wasp-waisted midsection bugs me a fair bit nowadays, not because of any concerns about—ahem—“unrealistic” anatomy but because this was an unintended bit of wonkiness on 2006 Me’s part. Most of the time, my work didn’t feature this inadvertently cartoony flourish; I have no real explanation why the Torso Glitch popped up at random.
Ah, but here’s the fun part: Care to guess who many folks—other than myself, that is—actually complained about Mysteriously Intermittent Post-Millennial Torso Glitch over the last decade, as far as I’m aware? To quote Dean Wormer: “Zero. Point. Zero.”
Which brings us to modern-era Emp torso issues! Below is the cover illustration for Empowered vol. 10, due out on June 21st; more info on the release here.
And guess what? I’ve already received more complaints—or contemptuous snark, at least—about Emp’s torso in this pic than I ever heard about the Mysteriously Intermittent Post-Millennial Torso Glitch. Several oh-so-witty individuals have asked variations of, “Is she pregnant, or what?” When I posted work-in-progress images from Empowered vol. 10 over the last year or two on Twitter and Instagram, people—okay, let’s be clear about this, dudes—snarked repeatedly about Emp appearing fat and/or pregnant. “Fat-shaming” of a fictional character, folks!
See, starting back during Empowered vol. 8—meaning, several years ago—I started deliberately drawing Emp a bit softer and fuller-figured, in part as an attempt to differentiate her physique from that of the leaner, more athletic Ninjette or magically sculpted Sistah Spooky. Then again, this might be an after-the-fact rationale, as I very likely started doing this simply because I thought a slightly plumper Emp looked, well, cute. (Note: “Cute” is, as you might suspect, a polite euphemism deployed by an aging fella like me to come off as a tad less creepy than might otherwise be the case.) Gotta say, I’m mildly surprised to experience a mild aesthetic shift like this so late in life, but what can I say?
We explore this a fair bit in Empowered vol. 10, but the idea is that, of late, Emp has become more comfortable with her body and notably less obsessive about how she looks in the mercilessly revealing supersuit. She’s actually more muscular now than she was at the start of the series, but she’s nowhere near as maniacally concerned about her food intake as she once was, so her body-fat percentage has increased as well.(Then again, the relentless action of the last bunch of Empowered volumes has given our heroine little down time to obsess about her body image and caloric intake.) I’ve only tangentially addressed the topic during the series—in part because I covered vaguely similar territory in Galacta: Daughter of Galactus—but it’s safe to say that, early on, Emp would absolutely have been dealing with fairly pronounced food issues.
No doubt some will complain that Emp’s active lifestyle would keep the pounds off, but that’s underestimating just how powerful her suit’s superstrength really is—all her climbing and leaping and punching really is close to effortless on her part. Plus, her activity mainly comes in short, violent bursts, rather than long, grueling feats of endurance; keep in mind that certain types of elite athletes can maintain muscular but far from sculpted physiques if they’re not deliberately keeping their body-fat percentages low. (See powerlifters versus bodybuilders, for example.)
Now, this approach has led to rather the opposite of the problem that I had during the era of the Mysteriously Intermittent Post-Millennial Torso Glitch. Presently, I have to guard against inadvertently giving Emp a bit too much torso, rather than too little. Several times already, I’ve had to go back and nip in her waist a little in drawings during the last year or two. Along those lines, as I’ve mentioned previously, in early Empowered I often erred on the side of making Emp’s head arguably too large for her body, as a cartoony stylistic flair I found inexplicably appealing; nowadays, I have to be on guard against making her head too small, accidentally generating a “Robert Crumb drawing” sort of look. (One Empowered vol. 10 panel in particular springs to mind, one that I was unable to redraw before publication; I’m sure the “fat or pregnant?” fellas will have a field day with that one.)
In any event, who knows? Maybe I’ve already overshot this particular aesthetic shift as an artist, and Empowered vol. 10 will represent “Peak Pudgy Emp.” (Or maybe not.) Let’s find out together, shall we?