Q: I'll admit that at first, I was uncomfortable with how much bondage and cheesecake there is in Empowered. But as I read more and more of Empowered, it's really clear that you're having a laugh about it. I mean, a little boy with cancer does perfect Japanese rope bondage?! Whuh.
Adam Warren: Please, don't even joke about "perfect Japanese rope bondage," or you'll rouse the sleeping giant that is the shibari subculture, and wild-eyed "J-rope" fans will start demanding the truly bizarre crap found in Japanese B&D circles. Seriously, I've been given reference from shibari enthusiasts that has to be seen to be believed; then again, some of the material was so alien and off-putting that I still couldn't believe I'd seen it.
Q: Do your readers/fans get bummed out if you haven't met your quota of bondage in a given volume of Empowered?
Adam Warren: I never hear very much from DiD ("damsel in distress") fans, save for the two or three of 'em who are perpetually complaining about the inadequate level of bondage imagery in Empowered. (Seriously, I'm not making that up.) Beyond that, the overwhelming majority-upwards of 99%, at least-of the feedback I get on Empowered comes from readers who couldn't care less about the series' DiD content, save for the degree to which it embarrasses Emp.
An impressively substantial portion of the responses to Empowered comes from female readers who find Emp and friends to be flawed but relatable, which pleases me a great deal. (Then again, I was recently told that Jim Balent's Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose allegedly has a sizeable female readership as well, which took the wind out of my sails just a tad.)
Q: If you had your way, (fans be damned) would you phase out the bondage aspect of Empowered, or would you (haha) do more of it?
Adam Warren: Well, if I'd had any clue that Empowered was gonna evolve into a long-running series, I'd definitely have minimized the use of bondage imagery in the book from the start, since that stuff must surely be alienating for a wider audience. As an ongoing element of the franchise, though, I'm kinda stuck with it; some portion of the readership appreciates the DiD content, so I'll continue to throw 'em a bone for the time being.
That being said, thinking of viable ways to incorporate DiD material without repeating myself is getting trickier and trickier. Good news, though: I recently stumbled across some peculiar sociopolitical implications specific to the trope of super-heroines as damsels in distress, implications that a smart person with a bachelor's degree in "Suprahuman Studies" like Emp would surely have noticed by now. So, we can look forward to some pleasingly wacky, academic-speak deconstruction of the "SuperDiD" stereotype, I'm happy to predict! Yay!
As for doing more DiD imagery, definitely not, as I have zero interest in doing a full-on fetish comic. I only bother continuing Empowered because, at least occasionally, I find the work personally fulfilling on some level; an all-bondage, all-the-time version of the series wouldn't be fulfilling for me in the slightest.
Q: Speaking of torment, truly, only one who has lived the horror of being a young boy stuck in the mind-numbing tedium of a fabric shop could write a scene like the one in Empowered Vol. 1. Did that really happen to you?
Adam Warren: Oh, yes, it most certainly did. To this day, I get twitchy even driving by a fabric store. A while back, I was out with a female friend, who idly suggested that we should pop into a nearby So-Fro, just for a minute or two; I immediately (over)reacted like she'd hit me with a cattle prod. 'I'm a grown-ass man,' I declared, voice shaking with outrage. 'As long as I still possess voluntary muscle control, I WILL NOT BE DRAGGED INTO ANOTHER G-D FABRIC STORE EVER AGAIN.'
Q: (laughs) Do a lot of the observations about relationships and families come from your personal experience, or from experiences of people you know?
Adam Warren: Yeahp! Sadly, though, all too many of the more, shall we say, interesting relationship anecdotes-such as Emp's personal grooming bit in Vol. 1, the "hurricane Elissa" riff in Empowered Vol. 4, or the doctrine of "the Clingy Monkey" in Vol.6—came from other people's real-life experiences. Oh, well.
Like I said, I sent a whole lot of questions to Adam, and he gamely answered almost all of 'em, which is great - but it also means that this interview will be continued in Part 2!
In Part 2 of my email chat-fest with Adam Warren, we touch upon the 'strong female characters' of Empowered, the hangups that heroes have, detour a bit into talking about his drawing and writing style, and discuss his plans for Empowered Volumes 7 and 8, including new one-shots and mini-series to come.
For more about Adam Warren and Empowered:
- Check out a preview of Empowered Volume 7 at DarkHorse.com
- Get a super-sized hunk of Empowered goodness with the Empowered Deluxe Edition hardcover, featuring Empowered Volumes 1-3
- Read Empowered Volumes 1-6 on your computer, phone, or iPad at Dark Horse Digital
- Visit Adam Warren's Deviant Art page for his latest illustrations, commentary and more