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Interview: Adam Warren - Part 2

Comics Creator, Empowered and Artist/Writer, Dirty Pair


Adam Warren at TCAF 2012

Adam Warren at TCAF 2012

© Deb Aoki / manga.about.com

In Part 1 of my conversation with Adam Warren, we talked about his early manga influences, his forays into selling his doujinshi at Comiket, boys' love in Empowered, and the "Damsel in Distress" aspects of his super-heroine with a super-flimsy supersuit.

Here in Part 2, we delve into Warren's fondness for 'strong female characters' in his comics, get into some of the twists in store for readers in the Empowered Volumes 7 and 8, discuss his drawing and writing style, and learn which karaoke song is surprisingly difficult to sing. Let's get to it, shall we?


Q: With Dirty Pair, and Empowered, you've established that you really like drawing (pardon the cliché) "Strong Female Characters."

Adam Warren: I do indeed, though I generally avoid making preening, self-aggrandizing, "look at me, ladies!" pronouncements about that tendency. (Come to think of it, in the interests of self-promotion, maybe I should actually do that.) I should clarify, though, that I'm more interested in Strong But Flawed Female Characters, as flawless, idealized paragons of perfect awesomeness are just as boring, tedious, and uninteresting in female incarnations as in male ones.

Q: Is there a particular reason why you like to put female characters front and center in your stories?

Adam Warren: The main reason is that I tend to find a female lead character inherently more interesting than a male one. That's in large part true because, let's face it, I am a guy, and I feel like I understand guys pretty well, whether they're working men or pasty übergeeks or wan hipsters or raving sports fans or ideology-addled poli-sci types. I cannot, alas, make the same broad claim of easy, automatic understanding in regard to female characters, which is probably why they interest me more.

I might not really know all that much about women, but I do try to make the best of whatever knowledge I've managed to scrape together; and that process, I find, is just plain more fun than writing your average male character.

Q: Which character do you most enjoy drawing? Which character is the most challenging to draw / write and/or for you to relate to?

Adam Warren: The character I probably enjoy drawing the most is Emp herself, but for a rather laughably mundane reason: her blonde hair takes me much less time to render in pencil than any other (dark-haired) character. Thus, a close-up shot of Emp is often a panel I can knock off very quickly, which is arguably the closest I get to truly enjoying drawing.

For similarly mundane reasons, the most challenging character to draw is Sistah Spooky, thanks to her rendering-heavy costume (complicated by the sad fact that I can't draw capes especially well). At first, she was also a rather challenging character to write with any degree of sympathy, thanks to her relentless abuse of long-suffering Emp; but once I figured out her motivations, she gradually turned into one of my favorite characters in the entire series. In truth, as I'm working on her arc in Empowered Vol.8, right now I'm identifying with Spooky more than any other character in the book.

Q: Oh? In what way? Can you give any non-spoiler-y examples of how/why you're identifying with Sistah Spooky?

Adam Warren: While everything I've devised for Sistah Spooky's emotional arc in Empowered Vol. 8 is, I believe, consistent with her character, a few elements have overlapped to some degree with my own attitudes. Her increasingly bitter regret at her markedly poor decision-making in the past is not unlike my own views, I soon realized.

Similar, too, is Spooky's growing ambivalence about the brilliant career for which she sacrificed everything-a career which she ends up pretty much burning to the ground in the course of the volume's catastrophic events. (I'll have to hope THAT element doesn't end up overlapping too directly with my own brilliant career...)

Q: You've hinted in the story that the flimsiness of Emp's costume is directly relational to her low self-esteem. But as the story progresses, Emp is getting just a little more confident, a little more competent. Are we headed toward a day when Emp isn't a total loser?

Adam Warren: I'd like to think we're already there, as I don't see Emp as "a total loser" in the first place. Persevering in the face of galling rejection and bitter disappointment and gnawing insecurity makes her pretty danged heroic, as far as I'm concerned. (Go figure: On some level, Empowered isn't really about superheroes at all.) On the other hand, I get your point; yeahp, our heroine is indeed slowly journeying towards a point when her "supranym" (superhero name) is no longer ironic in the slightest.

Q: Are these characters influenced by the women in your life?

Adam Warren: Yes, they certainly are, but I'd prefer to keep any discussion of direct correlations between Empverse characters and real-life women as vague as possible, for understandable reasons. I can tell you, though, that I interviewed female friends of mine for the long-ago miniseries Gen13: Magical Drama Queen Roxy, to pick their brains about Roxy-relevant issues; I've repeated that process several times for Empowered, as well.

Q: If you could date any character in Empowered, which one would you pick?

Adam Warren: GAAAAAHH! Down this road lies madness! Madness, I tell you!


Q: Empowered is a comic about heroes who don't always act heroically - they have hang-ups, they have egos, they can be petty. They have office politics, and (haha) the villains have focus groups.

Adam Warren: Really, why should super-villains be exempt from the more noisome aspects of modern pop culture? ("Looks like you're lagging in the key demographic, Deathmonger.")

Q: Ha! It's been mentioned that Empowered is also a 'workplace comedy.' I'm assuming you've spent most of your career doing freelance work / working as a comic artist (a very non-cubicle, 9-to-5 life). Where do you get your inspirations for the business/office/work is hell aspect of Empowered?

Adam Warren: Mainly from friends with, ahem, 'real jobs,' and from my own brief but crappy experiences as a part-timer in the normal-human workplace.

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