Volume 10 Page 177
Posted June 8, 2023 at 12:01 am

And now, my latest attempt to paste in an excerpt from another chapter of long-defunct prose experiment I Am Empowered, a Year-One-ish first-person account from Emp in 140-character Twitter format detailing her earliest days as a superheroine.



<Note: The unfinished opening of this chapter would’ve clarified that this chapter was meant to explore the parameters of the Empverse’s “Unwritten Rules” re: permissible conduct between capes.>

As far as I can tell, the last example-setting atrocities of Unwritten-Rule enforcement date back to the era before the San Antonio disaster.

Example: The notoriously brutal heat-ray castrations and tentacular dismemberment of the entire Squid Squad took place over seven years ago.

Supposedly, they were ambushed by rival supervillains, but it's an open secret that a vigilante cabal of vengeful superheroines killed them.

Same deal with Waterfoul's gory fate, Sloppy Joe's disappearance, and Cold Shoulder's horrific mutilation: All of 'em predate San Antonio.

I've even heard that Unwritten Rule violations might actually have triggered San Antonio's nightmarish cascade of escalating catastrophes.

Certainly can't confirm that rumor, though, as nobody in superhero circles ever talks about what really went down back then. I mean, NOBODY.

Not to advocate maiming and murdering bad guys—not at all!—but I admit that old-style brutality did seem to work pour encourager les autres.

Or, I suppose, "pour DIScourager les autres", to be more accurate. Okay, fine, "pour décourager les autres", to be more accurate still.

I should admit that, before I racked up work experience in this field, I used to be rather more liberal in my views regarding supervillains.

In Suprahuman Studies, it's long been de rigueur to resist buying into "the demonization of so-called supervillains", as my teachers put it.

We're taught to look askance at the dominant cultural paradigms and biased media stereotypes that label some capes as good, and others bad.

Questioning the simplistically Manichean, black-and-white dichotomy between so-called "superheroes" and "supervillains"? Very basic stuff.

And from my experience, there really IS much truth in my profs' rhetoric about dogmatic ideologies and prejudiced viewpoints. No, srsly!

Okay, some of the alternate terms for bad guys—"antagonism-oriented suprahuman", say—may strike you as wishy-washy, euphemistic PC-speak.

(Even the term "antagonism" is suspect in some Suprahuman Studies circles, as it's perceived to be loaded with ideological presumptions.) 

Honestly, though, many if not most of the "bad guys" I've encountered in the line of superduty really aren't all that "bad", as such. 

Some see "supervilling" as just another crappy line of work, as a flawed vocational option in a brutal, opportunity-scarce job market.

Others? Forced into the role by sociocultural pressure, desperate financial need, familial obligation, or extortion by other supercriminals.

Few of them consider themselves to be (scare quotes on) "evil" (scare quotes off), despite what media depictions would have you believe.

Many supervillains romantically perceive themselves as "rogue superheroes," rebels who refuse to buy into The Man's corrupt system.

Okay. Time for a Big Sigh, followed by a reluctant, caveat-laden "However."

A handful of bad guys truly ARE implacable monsters who can't be reasoned with, who really do only understand the language of pure force.

Some of them actually are Utterly Fucking Evil, no two ways—or mealy-mouthed, euphemistic handwringing—about it. (Cue my professors' gasps.)

Long ago, Very Bad Apples like these spoiled the whole Bad-Guy Barrel and, arguably, made the Unwritten Rules' sheer brutality necessary.

Bloodsoaked and ugly as the Unwritten-Rule-enforcing atrocities might've been, they've kept generations of sociopathic bad guys in line.

Ah, but here's an additional problem: There are, in my sad experience, things that I'd have to label as "Unwritten Rule borderline calls."

An NBA superstar will always get the benefit of the doubt from the referees, right? An obscure, "who's he?" journeyman player, not so much.

Same thing with superheroines. If some of the degrading crap I've endured had happened to an A-list "capette", there would be hell to pay.

If bad guys ever treated a popular heroine like WetNurse or Angelfish like they treat me, they'd be perceived as Unwritten-Rule violators.

But because I'm a nobody, because I'm a "joke cape", supervillains—and superheroes, too!—feel free to demean me in some VERY dubious ways.



Wellp, if this actually worked, webcomic readers, I’ll try again shortly with another excerpt from I Am Empowered, which should wrap up this particular chapter.

Today’s Patreon update: Originally done as a means of scratching out more worktime to complete the long-gestating Empowered vol. 12, I've switched over to a Monday/ Wednesday/ Friday Patreon posting schedule that won't feature the fixed content format I previously used. However, my vast archive of years of Patreon posts—extensive Empowered previews, vintage con sketches, work stages on covers, "damsel in distress" commissions, life drawings & much, much more—remains available for Patrons' perusal.

-Adam Warren

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