Panel 4: This panel was, in fact, where the skeeviness I mentioned earlier would’ve kicked off. Ah, but I thought of a dialogue change after I (re)scanned this page, which ironed out much of the skeeviness in question. To clarify, behold the original panel’s dialogue below:
Uh, yeah. Pretty g-d difficult to interpret Unnamed Criminal’s dialogue in a non-skeevy manner. Moreover, this isn’t just a tonally inappropriate fictional scene to begin with, but one that runs afoul of complications in-universe as well, as this is pretty g-d glaring violation of the so-called “Unwritten Rules” informally governing interactions between bad guys and superheroes. Rewriting the dialogue to specify that Emp’s ransom value was at at stake is, as I see it, a “win-win,” though we’ll soon see that even this revised version of the scene will raise the hackles of the Unnamed Criminal’s fellow poker players.
The original version of the next story page coming up did, in fact, invoke the Rules directly for (I think) the first time in Empowered, but with a flawed premise I soon reinterpreted differently: That is, that the Unwritten Rules seemed to be a regional phenomenon that the Unnamed Criminal—an out-of-towner, apparently—somehow didn’t know about, hence him attempting to use Emp in this manner. I quickly decided, however, that this was a bad call, and that few—in fact, no—bad guys across the entire g-d United States would be unaware of the dire consequences of pulling this sorta crap. Ah, but as I said, this might’ve been the first in-universe mention of the Unwritten Rules, and it took me a while yet to refine ‘em.
Now, I anticipate getting a wee bit o’ crap from fellas bitching that this amounts to “self-censorship” on my part, but hey, screw that, fellas. (I still get dudes complaining about the minor changes I made to a certain problematic Empowered vol. 2 scene, much to my chagrin.) Fixing minor story elements that now strike me as egregious isn’t—ahem—“compromising my creative vision,” but rather fulfilling my g-d “creative vision” as I see it today. Yeah, Empowered is theoretically all about embracing imperfection, but I’ve actually made quite a few different rounds of lettering and art corrections to the series over the years.