Welcome, webcomic readers, to Empowered vol. 2, the next installment in our long-suffering heroine’s epic saga! The book was first published in September 2007, a scant six months after Empowered vol. 1’s March 2007 release. This relatively rapid release might have seemed a startling change of pace for my work, given that I was never previously known for blindingly fast production speed during my time in mainstream (print) comics. I’d written and drawn multi-issue miniseries and arcs for titles like Dirty Pair and Gen13, but was never a fast enough artist to handle a true, ongoing monthly script-and-art gig. So, when the first four volumes of Empowered were released in roughly a two-year span, those books’ 470-odd story pages represented by far—nay, by faaaaaar—the most comics work I’d ever put out during a comparable timeframe in all my illustrious career.
Alas, can’t say that many folks seemed to notice or appreciate the fact that a notorious slowpoke artist like myself was suddenly cranking out 200-page graphic novels twice a g-d year. (Not that I am bitter, as Dave Barry used to say.) If anything, this rapid release pace early on in the series set me up for criticism down the road, as my production speed trailed off and the gaps between volumes escalated to years or more. My pace slackened in large part over the last decade because the series’ artwork became more and more demanding and time-consuming as the storylines grew increasingly ambitious (he typed, defensively).
Another reason, though? I’d been noodling away at the stories that would become Empowered since July of 2004, and had worked up a formidable backlog of hundreds of finished pages before the series debuted in 2007. This once-impressive headstart soon dwindled away, alas, as the every-six-months release schedule of early Empowered volumes inexorably caught up to me. Even in those carefree and artistic-detail-scant days of Empowered yore, writing and drawing a volume’s 200+ pages would still take me most of 8-10 months, even when working on the book full-time—sooner or later, I was going to fall behind.
In truth, we might’ve been better served by spacing out the series’ releases from the start. Then again, those early volumes did really well in the comics stores, to the point that early Empowered was often in the Top 10 of graphic-novel releases for whichever month an installment appeared in—and the rapid release schedule might well have helped our sales by keeping the series “top of mind” with comics retailers. (Nowadays, unfortunately, the situation is rather less rosy—but more on that matter later.)
Now, a quick few words about vol. 2’s cover art above, which features inked art by me and color art by my buddy Ryan Kinnaird, who worked with me on projects such as Dirty Pair: Run from the Future, Battle Chasers and a bajillion-odd illos for the videogame magazine PSM.
One of my many, many putatively “unrealistic”—insert eyeroll here—artistic idiosyncrasies is a tendency to exaggerate how far a character’s head could turn in order to enable a full 3/4 view when she’s looking back over her shoulder. Case in point, here, would be Ninjette’s headshot on this cover—but, as I’ve said before, if you’re looking for scrupulously “realistic” and painstakingly true-to-life depictions of the human face and form, you are definitely looking at the wrong g-d artist. I am, in fact, far more annoyed by the fact that her unseen neck would be wildly out of alignment with the rest of her body; I presume that I never drew Ninjette on a separate piece of paper, but instead crammed her into the space remaining beside Emp on the initial cover rough, causing the unintended distortion of her form. Oh, well.
Not sure why, but Emp’s torn-up supersuit in this illo strikes me as offputtingly and almost alarmingly shredded, perhaps because it features many long, thin tatters stretching hither and yon, which is a riff I no longer use nowadays. In my eyes, this somehow makes Emp appear even more nekkid and exposed than she would with the same square footage—or inch-age—of hypermembane allocated to fewer discrete sections.
For the record, the hulking Barrett .50 cal rifle that Thugboy’s hefting really wasn’t intended as a g-d phallic symbol, but it certainly seems to have struck many readers that way. What can I say, folks? Sometimes an intimidatingly oversized, long-barreled, large-caliber anti-materiel rifle really is just an intimidatingly oversized, long-barreled, large-caliber anti-materiel rifle.