Panel 1’s line from “Kirby Helmet Chick” is, to some degree, the mission statement for the early volumes of Empowered: yes, there really are “always a boatload of sexual overtones with superhuman stuff, isn’t there?” That is something that always amused me about superheroes, even during the mainstream era of “BIFF! BAM! POW! Comics Aren’t Just For Kids Anymore!” that The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen arguably kicked off: You could get all grim ’n’ gritty ’n’ brutal ’n’ putatively “adult” with the ol’ cape-based violence, but you’d best steer the hell clear of any sexual shenanigans, okay? (Which might explain how I blundered into trouble with an early mainstream effort, the “Grunge! The Movie” arc from Gen13 Bootleg—but that’s a tragic tale for another commentary.)
In panels 4 and 5, I kinda like the hint of at least a bit of friction between Emp and Ninjette, whose relationship is depicted as extraordinarily “lovey-dovey” in later volumes. Then again, they’re also notably more emotionally codependent as the series progresses, especially as we learn that the superficially tougher and confident Ninjette turns out to be even more wounded and vulnerable than Emp. Then again, as the volumes flew by, that’s an interesting fact that I only realized after the fact: While the other lead characters like Ninjette, Thugboy and Sistah Spooky appear tougher and “harder” than the seemingly weaker and “softer” Emp, she’s emotionally resilient in a way that they aren’t. On some level, they’re “brittle,” where she isn’t; as we’ll see, Emp is as damaged and even broken as any of them, but she’s better able to recover and bounce back from her psychological setbacks than anyone else. The fun part? This situation was completely unplanned, and is something I only belatedly came to realize. As I so often blither, gotta love the organic and freewheeling process of working on Empowered, as opposed to the more inflexible and “top-down” approach I used on my earlier comics work.