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|Publisher||Dark Horse Comics (U.S. and U.K.)|
|Original run||2007 – Present|
Empowered is an original English-language manga style comic written and illustrated by Adam Warren. Described by Warren as a “sexy superhero comedy", Empowered began to take shape in 2004 with a series of commissioned sketches of a damsel in distress; these illustrations became the basis for short comic stories that helped develop the characters for the Empowered series.
Warren says that Empowered is "nominally a superhero title, yet it’s drawn by a clearly manga-influenced artist". The pages are greyscale reproductions of pencil "layouts", and they are neither inked nor toned (as in the screentones common in manga).
Empowered chronicles the story of the titular character, a superheroine whose civilian name is Elissa Megan Powers, but is more commonly referred to as "Emp" (originally after her initials, E.M.P.).
Empowered is a young blonde woman who is highly self-conscious about her figure, and has other self-esteem issues. She was inspired to become a superhero and help others after witnessing the death of her father at a very early age, going so far as to get a degree on "Metahuman Studies" while attending an unnamed college. She obtains a unique "hypermembrane" supersuit through unknown means but the suit is both very revealing and unreliable. Her concern over her appearance frequently serves as a dominant aspect of her career as a superheroine, as her "hypermembrane" supersuit is composed of an extremely fragile material; a material so thin and clingy that it outlines every curve of her body. Additionally, while her suit can provide her with several fantastic powers, such as super strength and directed energy blasts, these enhancements will usually fail if her suit becomes too damaged. Due to the fragility of her suit, this has happened frequently, and thus, she has earned herself a reputation for being ineffective and easily defeated ... and subsequently tied up. Despite these many limitations, Empowered still manages to triumph in both her personal and professional lives using her intellect and determination, even if she rarely gains accolades for said heroic acts from the public at large.
She is also an associate-level member of the Superhomeys superhero group, who are the primary defenders of the city in which they reside. Within the group, Empowered is an active participant in many of the battles against the multitude of villains that threaten the metropolis. However, because of the unreliability of her suit, she is commonly defeated and captured. And, because of the villains' unwillingness to violate the unspoken rules of superhero/supervillain interaction, she is frequently hogtied and left for the Superhomeys to eventually rescue. Due to the frequency of this, she has a reputation within the Superhomeys as being "bondage-prone" and is something of a laughingstock. Empowered continually fights alongside them despite their lack of respect toward her and her own suit's unreliable nature, due to her unwavering determination to help people as best as she is able. While her teammates often soundly dismiss her contributions, she has managed to save the lives of the Superhomeys singlehandedly on at least two occasions. Empowered is also portrayed as being more morally upstanding, idealistic and noble than the majority of her more powerful, cynical teammates and members of the superhuman community at large.
Although Empowered is continually subjected to humiliation in her career as a superheroine, she does have close companionship and emotional support from her boyfriend, who is only known as Thugboy. Thugboy, who is so-called because of his previous career as a thug and henchman to various supervillains, reforms to stand by Empowered's side after meeting her "on the job" and moves in with her in short order. He continually provides her with uplifting emotional support and encouragement despite her misadventures and nigh-on continual failure to live up to her own expectations. This love and support frequently manifests in the form of sex, which may be beneficial to Empowered's hypermembrane as well as her emotional state since the former seems to mirror the latter.
Emp is also a close friend to a young woman named Kozue Kaburagi, who prefers to be called by the pseudonym "Ninjette". Ninjette (or simply "'Jette", as she is colloquially known) is a highly trained ninja and runaway princess of the Kaburagi ninja clan, which is based out of New Jersey. She, too, met Empowered on the opposite side of the law but has since reformed, thanks to forming a close friendship with the idealistic Empowered. She has been shown to have both a drinking problem and an unresolved attraction to Thugboy but neither of these problems have ruined their close friendship yet.
Her rival in most respects is respected fellow SuperHomey Sistah Spooky, a powerful, goth-styled black sorceress. She is very resentful of Emp and hugely successful. The reason for this is that as a kid, she went to a private school full of "shallow, preppy bitches" with perfect bodies, icy glares, and flowing blonde tresses. She was so scarred by this, she attempted to contact eldritch magickal entities in order to murder them, but was told that they were already their clients, as part of a package to sell your soul for the power to be perfectly hot for the rest of your life. She eventually went through with it, but was told that a decimal point was misplaced, giving her "waaaaay too much mystical power", and she used it to become a superhero and achieve international fame. Emp, who shares characteristics with the preppy bitches (all seemingly without selling her soul), as she already had the blonde hair, but she mentions continually that she has to work out constantly and diet to within an inch of her life without looking like a fat slob in what basically amounts to a coat of body paint, is shown to be a constant target of her attention. She has a pathological hatred of blondes, leading to a breakup of her lesbian relationship with blonde telepath Mindfuck.
The final member of Empowered's primary supporting cast is an immortal, cosmically powerful being called The Caged Demonwolf, whom Empowered prevented from destroying the Earth. She did so by imprisoning its essence within a "bondage belt" gained from another of her previous misadventures but when the Superhomeys refused to take the now talking, enraged belt into storage, Empowered was forced to hold on to it, much to her chagrin. While The Caged Demonwolf was initially hostile, it has since become both an advisor and friend to Empowered, Thugboy and Ninjette. The Caged Demonwolf also has a humorously unfortunate tendency to speak only in turgid, long-winded and unnecessarily alliterative speeches, which often obscure the points it is attempting to make. It also breaks the fourth wall to address the audience directly on occasion. To keep it entertained, Emp has placed The Caged Demonwolf on her living room coffee table so it can watch TV, listen to sports talk radio, and generally interact with the comings and goings of Emp's household.
A running gag in the strip is the promise to show people things that never get delivered along with some of the things that do, such as why Emp's suit doesn't show cameltoe and the appearance of "Were-giraffe by Night".
Empowered is based in an as yet unnamed city on the West Coast. Similar in respects to fictional cities such as DC Comics’ Metropolis or Gotham City, the City is nearly constantly beset by a plethora of super-powered and non-powered villains that largely are never shown to have any goals beyond causing chaos.
Alternate locations within the Empowered universe include the "Homey Crib": the central headquarters for the Superhomeys superhero group, the Joint Superteam Space Station 3; commonly referred to as "the D10", and various underground locations only accessible through a matter transportation system known as the Lotus Network. Also mentioned is the "world famous suprahuman treatment wing of the Purple Paladin Memorial Hospital."
Powers and abilities
Emp’s super suit imparts both voluntary powers, controlled intentionally by the wearer, and involuntary powers; passive abilities that become active without conscious intent of the wearer, and physical attributes that do not necessarily enhance the function of the suit but are active nonetheless. Most of the suit's powers function only for Emp, but it is unclear as to whether this is by the suit's decision, or its nature. Most of the suit's powers degrade or vanish as it takes damage. The suit does not function if covered with any material, so Emp cannot protect it with additional armor. It has been shown that Emp can retain some of its powers through confidence.
- Voluntary abilities of Empowered’s super suit
- Superhuman strength. Emp herself describes her physical strength, while the suit is undamaged, as approximating that of ten fit men.
- Invisibility. This ability is purely voluntary, but the invisibility effect does not extend to the wearer, essentially making Emp appear nude whenever she tries to use it. It is also possible for Emp to make sections of the suit turn invisible while other sections remain visible. This ability was advantageous for her to trick dWarf/Fleshmaster into allowing her into the back-stage control room from which he was orchestrating the sabotage of the Caped Justice Awards ceremony.
- Various visual enhancements including magnification and x-ray vision. These visual enhancements remain usable, even if the suit has been damaged to the point that all other voluntary powers have ceased functioning.
- The ability to cling to all surfaces. Emp discovered this power accidentally when she was flung to the underside of the outstretched hand of a large statue.
- High-intensity directed energy discharges. Emp has marginal control of these energy blasts, and varying ability to direct them. She has improved in this area as the series has progressed, but this has not deterred the foes that she faces, not does it seem to discourage the frequency by which Emp is captured. For example, the ability to use this power becomes markedly more accurate when Thugboy was in danger of death.
- The suit can be used to make phone calls, although whether the suit is acting as a mobile phone or as an extension of an already existing landline is not clarified.
The voluntary abilities of Emp’s suit are usually lost when too much of the suit’s fragile material is ripped away. Despite this often-exploited drawback, Empowered’s suit also has many abilities that are not directly controlled, and usually remain functional.
- Automatic functions
- The suit is able to absorb or deflect all damage that may be directed at it while leaving Empowered unharmed. This has been demonstrated with gunfire, various bladed weapons, blunt impacts, and even a shark bite. Although this usually leaves the suit itself greatly damaged, Emp has never been subject to bodily harm.
- The suit is capable of self-repair - very slowly, however. This appears to somehow be tied to either Emp’s sexual activity or her self-confidence. and it has been implied that Emp has become something of a sex maniac since she began using the suit.
- The suit can protect Empowered while exposed to outer space, seemingly keeping her body pressurized, protected from extreme temperatures, shielded from ambient radiation, and allowing her to breathe as if in normal atmosphere. This can happen despite the suit being damaged in several places, exposing Emp’s bare skin.
- The suit can manifest structures somewhat resembling the skeleton of a bat's wings, enabling Emp to hover. At the same time, when manifesting this "skeletal" wings, the suit can shoot wide-radius energy blasts that are incredibly more powerful and damaging that Emp's normal discharges. Emp is unaware of this ability, as the suit apparently was mind-controlling her the only two times it was used.
In addition to voluntary and involuntary abilities, the suit also has some abilities that are active regardless of the person interacting with the material of the hyper memberane:
- The suit can “knit” itself around the hair follicles on Empowered’s scalp, giving the appearance that the cowl of the suit is really an accessory mask. This may be one of the only “abilities” of the suit that is not reliant on Emp being the user as this function occurred with a male wearer of the suit that stole it from Emp in an attempt to gain the suit’s abilities.
- The suit can greatly accentuate the sensations from sexual stimulation. It is not clear if this effect can be experienced by anyone, as long as Emp is involved, or if this is another example of the suit having a passive effect on anybody.
- The suit sometimes acts autonomously, taking on the physical dimensions of Emp without her actually wearing it. The only character shown to interact with the suit while it does this is The Caged Demonwolf, who uses it to telephone and talk to Emp's mother.
The following collections were released as Trade Paperbacks by Dark Horse:
|Empowered Vol. 1||March 21, 2007||ISBN 978-1-59307-672-6|
|Empowered Vol. 2||October 3, 2007||ISBN 978-1-59307-816-4|
|Empowered Vol. 3||March 5, 2008||ISBN 978-1-59307-870-6|
|Empowered Vol. 4||October 29, 2008||ISBN 978-1-59307-994-9|
|Empowered Vol. 5||June 24, 2009||ISBN 978-1-59582-212-3|
|Empowered Vol. 6||Sep 8, 2010||ISBN 978-1-59582-391-5|
|Empowered Vol. 7||May 30, 2012||ISBN 978-1-59582-884-2|
|Empowered Vol. 8||December 18, 2013||ISBN 978-1-61655-204-6|
|Empowered Vol. 9||August 19, 2015||ISBN 978-1-61655-571-9|
The following volumes were released in hardcover format:
|Empowered Vol. 1 Deluxe Edition||February 29, 2012||ISBN 978-1-59582-864-4|
|Empowered Vol. 2 Deluxe Edition||August 29, 2012||ISBN 978-1-59582-865-1|
A comic book titled Empowered Special: The Wench With a Million Sighs was released in 2009 and is the first Empowered book in a traditional comic book format. These specials have continued, with seven issues to date. Starting with the second comic, the specials have included art by other artists, generally in color, though special #5 is entirely in black and white, with the guest artist's pages being inked rather than shot straight from the pencils as Adam Warren's are.
The Empowered Specials are:
|Empowered Special #1: The Wench with a Million Sighs||December 2, 2009||Adam Warren|
|Empowered Special #2: Ten Questions for the Maidman||June 8, 2011||Adam Warren (B/W pages) Emily Warren (Color pages)|
|Empowered Special #3: Hell Bent or Heaven Sent||December 19, 2012||Adam Warren (B/W pages) Ryan Kinnaird (Color pages)|
|Empowered Special #4: Animal Style||June 5, 2013||Adam Warren (B/W pages) John Staton with Guru EFX (Colour pages)|
|Empowered Special #5: Nine Beers with Ninjette||September 25, 2013||Adam Warren (Prologue) Takeshi Miyazawa (Main story)|
|Empowered Special #6: Internal Medicine||March 26, 2014||Adam Warren (B/W pages) Brandon Graham (Color pages)|
|Empowered Special #7: Pew Pew Pew!||November 25, 2015||Adam Warren|
The first six Specials have been collected into a trade paperback:
|Empowered Unchained Volume 1||April 1, 2015||ISBN 978-1-61655-580-1|
Critical reception to the series has been mostly positive, with volumes of the series receiving positive reviews from Comic Book Resources, Pop Culture Shock, and Comics Alliance. Of volume 6, Comics Alliance said that "even in the middle of constant T&A, Warren's strong sense of humor and character shines through. Without it, "Empowered" 6 would be just another lame softcore comic, but the narrative, the characters, and the self-indulgent winks at the reader prop "Empowered" up as something more than your typical sexy superhero fare."
- Empowered Vol. 1, Page 64
- Empowered Vol. 1, page 182 & 183
- Empowered Vol. 4, page 175, 178 & 179, 182-185
- Empowered Vol. 2, page 184&185
- Empowered Vol. 5, page 11-15
- Empowered Vol. 4, page 169&170
- Empowered Vol. 1, page 192
- Empowered Vol. 5, page 149
- Empowered Vol. 1, page 16
- Empowered Vol. 2, page 77
- Empowered Vol. 1, page 95
- Empowered Vol. 2, page 159
- Empowered Vol. 5, page 197
- Empowered Vol. 1, pages 22, 110 & 111
- Empowered Vol. 2, page 22
- Empowered Vol. 3, page 12
- Empowered Vol. 4, pages 15, 58 & 169
- Empowered Vol. 5, page 16 & 17
- Empowered Vol. 1, page 113
- Empowered Vol. 4, page 141
- Empowered Vol. 5, page 21 & 22
- Empowered Vol. 2, page 142
- Empowered Vol. 1, page 27-29
- Empowered Vol. 2, page 143 & 144
- Empowered Vol. 2, page 150
- Empowered Vol. 3, page 116
- Empowered Vol. 5, page 49
- "Empowered Volume 6 :: Profile :: Dark Horse Comics". Darkhorse.com. 2010-09-15. Retrieved 2010-10-21.
- SOLICITATIONS: Empowered gets deluxe treatment Major Spoilers Press Release
- Empowered Deluxe Edition Volume 2 HC Dark House official page
- "Empowered Special: The Wench With a Million Sighs". Tfaw.com. 2009-12-04. Retrieved 2010-10-21.
- Review: Empowered, Volume 5 Comic Book Resources
- Manga Review: Empowered, Vols. 1-2 Pop Culture Shock
- Adam Warren's 'Empowered' 6 Has Its Cheesecake and Eats It, Too Comics Alliance
- ^PULSEINTERVIEW Jennifer M. Contino (2007-03-23). "Adam Warren empowered with comic books". Pulse (comic book magazine). Retrieved 2008-07-24.
Well, for one thing, Empowered is nominally a superhero title, yet it’s drawn by a clearly manga-influenced artist. (...) The unique thing about Empowered's artwork is that it’s reproduced directly from my very, very tight penciled pages... (...) grayscale repro of this type is tricky, but can be highly rewarding, I’ve found. (...) In fact, Empowered's pages are just a tightened-up and cleaner version of how I’ve been doing my (notoriously tight) layouts for the last decade or so. Somewhat to my chagrin, almost everyone (or, at least, every artist) who’s seen my so-called “layouts” has said that they like them better than my published, inked-and-toned/colored pages. (...) and roll with an extra-tight incarnation of my layout technique for this and other future work.
- Empowered Profile, Dark Horse Comics website
- Press Release for volume 1, volume 2, Dark Horse Comics website
- Empowered Vol 1 Preview, Dark Horse Comics website
- Free online short story, official Dark Horse Comics MySpace page