Volume 2 Page 181
Posted February 13, 2017 at 12:01 am

UPDATE: I’m adding a bit of extra commentary in defense of the art choices of 2006-Era Me, after reading some comments that grated on me a tad. As I’ve mentioned before, comics readers—such as myself, worst of all!—hypocritically feigning a Sudden, Highly Selective Concern About the Importance of Realism in Deliberately and Profoundly Unrealistic Fantasy Media is a tendency that bugs the living crap outta me. Which brings us to… Emp’s upside-down breasts in this sequence!

Had someone tweet me about this scene that they loved my art—I’m not sure about that declaration, by the way—“but gravity doesn’t work like that.” That’s a perfectly legitimate criticism for, say, my life drawings from photoreference, which are intended to be as artistically realistic as my limited skills can make them. My deliberately cartoony and highly stylized artwork in Empowered, however, is almost never intended to adhere to standards of strict anatomical realism, for better or for worse. Believe me, I can rattle you off a nice, long list of the technically “unrealistic” liberties I take with the human figure in Empowered, starting with the rather important anatomical feature that is Emp’s goddamned head. Hey, dude who claims to “love” my artwork, I draw your attention to the larger issue that, regarding how I draw Emp, the human head and face theoretically don’t “work like that.” Guess what, though? The human head and face do actually work like that in the strongly caricatured and unabashedly “unrealistic” art style I am electing to use to tell this g-d story. If you’re looking for a strictly and rigorously reality-based approach to comics artwork—which, by the way, you aren’t, or you wouldn’t be reading this story or supposedly “loving” my art in the first place—you’d best look elsewhere, my friend.

Plus, let’s face it, a strictly realistic approach to anatomy could well be perceived as creepy as hell in many contexts. One likely reason that 2006-Era Me didn’t elect for a more—ahem—“realistic” portrayal of Emp’s upside-down boobs a-drooping? To my eyes, a more scrupulously referenced—and, no doubt, lovingly rendered—approach to said upside-down chest would’ve been even more distracting and attention-drawing than rolling with the published version’s less rigorous depiction. I know when I see intensely, painstakingly detailed and anatomically realistic rendering of female body parts in the high-speed, get-it-done-now, deadline-pressure-cooker milieu of comics artwork, often I’m not thinking, “Dang, that’s hella art skill!” but rather, “Dude is clearly a man of strong likes and dislikes, if you catch my drift.” (Ahem.) Your Mileage May, of course, Vary on this point.

So, in closing, feel free to attack Emp’s insufficiently saggy breasts on, say, sociopolitical grounds or the like. (Though you must have a remarkably idiosyncratic definition of objectification if you’re rolling with, “Hetero male artist paid inadequate attention to obsessively realistic rendering of female mammary deformation.”) But no one should bother attempting to hand me this horsecrap about their supposed Deep Concern About Realism in the Context of Profoundly Unrealistic Artwork, okay? No geek—including myself!—genuinely cares about “Realism” in the slightest, or we wouldn’t be insatiably consuming pointedly “unrealistic” fantasy media. No, the ritual invocation of “Realism!” is merely a wholly unnecessary rationale trotted out to justify bashing work you don’t like—or, in this case, nitpicking work you might actually like. (And Ford knows we geeks certainly do take an inordinate degree of pleasure in nitpicking genre media, down to an almost Jesuitically hairsplitting level at times.)

In-universe, by the way, Emp’s chest not sagging down in a more conspicuous manner is entirely justifiable. See, way back in Empowered vol. 1, I drew a whimsical joke about how Emp’s chest bounces around crazily when she runs. Ha ha! Ah, but then I immediately thought better of this whimsical japery, as it occurred to me that during the many action scenes that would later follow, such anatomical motion would be conspicuous and continuous—and, let’s face it, kinda creepy—if “realistically” depicted. So, though this point is never directly addressed by Emp, I decided that the supersuit’s inertial manipulation powers now extend to suppressing the motion of her chest more thoroughly than any sports bra ever could. The idea is that the suit, well, does things to ensure that Emp will keep wearing it, despite its many flaws; the often-mentioned riff about why the body-paint-thin membrane mysteriously doesn’t show “cameltoe” is another example of the supersuit’s covert functioning. So, in theory at least, the damaged but still functional supersuit might be preventing Emp’s chest from drooping “realistically” in this sequence.

Panel 1: Behold, my old, 2006-era flip phone, immortalized forever—or at least for a decade—in this Empowered chapter. I despised that g-d thing, given how maddeningly annoying I found the hassle of navigating its confusing menus and goofy controls; upgrading to a smart phone dramatically improved my cellphone experience. I occasionally run into folks my own age or older who proudly boast that they don’t trifle with “them newfangled smart phones,” seemingly unaware that modern phones are a bajillion times easier to use than the old-style “burners” they prefer to carry. In fact, gotta admit that I first acquired a smartphone primarily because I felt like I was falling outta touch with the wider culture. At the time, I was even writing stories with smartphone riffs—an obscure Iron Man story I wrote back then hinged on such matters—but had no direct knowledge of the devices. I could’ve technologically limped by for years more with just that crappy ol’ flip phone and dodderingly declared my old-fogeyness with increasingly greybearded and misplaced pride, but screw that.

Panel 3: Not a big fan of the cartoony “big head” look of Emp in this panel, a stylistic flourish which recurs throughout this early period of Empowered. That being said, decent enough shot of upside-down Emp’s face, here. 

-Adam Warren

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