CRASSLY COMMERCIAL UPDATE, effective through 4/21/2016: In the interests of commercial floggery, I should hasten to mention that Comixology is holding a "Dark Horse Heroines Who Rule" sale on digital comics, including all volumes of Empowered. In case you'd like to jump ahead—waaaaaay ahead—of the vol.1 stories currently being serialized on this site, through 4/21 you can snag all 10 existing volumes of Empowered for the sale price of $5.99 each, as opposed to the normal price of $9.99. Here's a link to the sale (or you can just click the Comxology link in the upper right of this page).
In panel 1, behold the very first Empowered reference to Ninjette’s father, a throwaway riff that would gradually develop into a long-running plot thread with future volumes. Here, her father sounds like a bit of an abusive asshole—but down the road, we’ll eventually see that he is a genuine monster, arguably on a par with other Empverse Big Bads like Willy Pete, Fleshmaster, Deathmonger and Spooky’s Infernal Service Provider. (Er, SPOILERS, I guess?) Also, this constitutes one of the first hints that problem drinking is rather a thing in poor Ninjette’s background, which will become a bit of a recurring issue as well.
Panel 3’s very specific gun references have, I’m afraid, not aged all that gracefully since 2006-Era Me wrote em up. Then again, these were meant to be decade-old—or older—references for Young Thugboy, and no doubt seemed entirely appropriate at the time. But tack on the sad fact that years have passed in real time while only months have elapsed in the Empverse, and I find old Empowered stories plagued by wee anachronisms that seem to multiply like salmonella in warm tunafish. Then again, this is surely a good problem to have, that my decade-old comics work is still finding a new audience. Believe me, the other comics I worked on during this rough timeframe—say, the Marvel miniseries Livewires and Iron Man: Hypervelocity—are long out of print and will never, ever be seen again.
I vaguely remember one of my comics-writer friends declaring that you should keep your work as free of contemporary pop-culture references as possible, so the writing won’t seem mired in its original timeframe when future readers encounter it. That’s certainly a valid sentiment, but one that blithely overlooks the cruel reality of our field: Most of the comics work being churned out at any given time will be discarded, ignored and forgotten in short order. Many writers don’t really need to worry about posterity’s view of their comics when, alas, no one’s gonna be reading ’em by the time that their potential anachronisms would become clear. So, c’mon, comics writers, why not live for today, and stop worrying about the posterity your work will likely never enjoy! (That being said, I’m not advocating that you slather your work with references that will be obsolescent within months, as is sometimes the case. “Moderation in all things, including moderation,” right?)