Not much springs to mind about this title-page image in terms of potential commentary fodder. So, today, here’s an excerpt from a recent interview that discussed upcoming Empowered material due out in the first half of 2017, including both vol.10 of the regular series and the new three-issue miniseries Empowered and the Soldier of Love, featuring art by Special Guest Artist Karla Diaz.
One of the questions addressed “bigger-picture” issues for the series, which I thought might interest Empowered readers:
2) Given the changes in the comics market since Empowered began, do you feel like you were a little ahead of the curve? Overtly tackling some of the themes that your book tackles seems like something that would be an easier sell now than ten years ago.
Five or so years ago, Empowered was unsuccessfully pitched as a TV series. To be honest, I very likely escaped disaster thanks to that failure, as I suspect the TV version that was pitched would, if it had been made, have gone so far afield from the comic as to be essentially unrecognizable. Ah, but at the time I was unquestionably carried away by the prospect of a TV adaptation, though not by greed as such—not that much money would’ve been involved for me, I should note. (No, really!) Rather, during a time when DC wasn’t doing much with Batgirl or Supergirl, and well before Marvel’s recent “superheroine renaissance,” I was entirely too thrilled by the prospect of my own arguably disrespected and disreputable superheroine potentially making strides where corporate-owned heroines seemed to make none.
Ah, but the state of contemporary superheroines is rather a different one than in the bygone era of 2007, with characters—and creators!—succeeding without the troublesome baggage inherent to poor Emp’s unsavory origins as a series of (semi-)subverted “damsel in distress” sketches. Then again, Empowered has enough strikes against it as a concept to begin with that it’s hard to say exactly which of them might have limited the series’ potential. A “sexy superhero comedy” series of B&W graphic novels drawn in a manga-influenced art style—arguably, too “manga”-y for the superhero crowd and too “superhero”-y for the manga crowd—isn’t exactly the ideal recipe to take the American comics field by storm. Good thing I relish taking on challenges with a severe degree of difficulty, huh? (Cut to close-up of me grinning widely but unconvincingly, while giving a hearty “thumbs-up.”)
Then again, let me now proceed to completely contradict what I just said. Your question used the term “easier sell” in a figurative sense, but in a more literal sense, Empowered really wasn’t all that tough of a sell when it debuted in 2007. In fact, our early volumes often ranked in the direct market’s top 10 in graphic-novel sales during their release months, an impressive feat that we’re certainly not able to pull off nowadays. Then again, graphic-novel sales made up a far more limited category with much less competition a decade ago. (Though, I should hasten to boast, Empowered usually tops the direct market’s manga sales charts on its release months, despite not technically being manga as such. Hey, I’m just glad the series can still top any chart, folks!)
As of Empowered vol. 9, we now get more orders for the series in the “book market” of bookstores, Amazon, etc. than in the direct market of comics retailers. That’s partly a good thing, as our orders for Empowered have been trending nicely upward in the book market, but also a not-so-good thing, as Empowered orders in the direct market have been trending downward at the same time. The dreaded phenomenon of “standard attrition” that inexorably whittles away at the order numbers of “floppy”-format comics as a series progresses also applies, it seems, to volumes in a graphic-novel-based franchise like this one.
Part of the direct-market drop-off can, I think, be attributed to the sadly lengthening gap between volumes of the series. That’s an interesting difference I’ve noted, though—the book market doesn’t appear to care very much at all about the elapsed time between Empowered volumes, given that our sales have been trending upward in bookstores even as the orders have fallen off a bit in comics stores. In any event, Dark Horse and I are addressing this issue with veritable onslaught of Empowered material slated to be released in 2017, in the hopes of drumming up a bit more attention and interest about the ongoing series.