Self-described by Warren as a “sexy superhero comedy", Empowered began to take shape in 2004, with certain people on the 'Empowered Mailing List' receiving a long series of JPEG images. Empowered had initially begun as a series of commissioned sketches of "damsels in distress"; eventually these illustrations began to transform into short comic stories, developing Empowered's personality, as well as supporting characters and villains.
Empowered Vol. 1 was published on the 21st of March 2007 by Dark Horse Comics, later than planned due to difficulties printing. Volume 2 was released on October 3, 2007 and Volume 3 was released on March 15, 2008. Dark Horse Comics has approved a fourth volume which is scheduled to be released later in 2008.
Empowered is the story of Empowered (Elissa Megan Powers - E.M. Powers - or "Emp" for short), a lonely and self-conscious young woman who works as a superhero. She is constantly berated by the community at large, including her self-absorbed teammates from the super-group, "The SuperHomeys". Empowered is a constant source of ridicule, as her costume, which gives her super strength and invulnerability, tends to shred at the gentlest of touches. Luckily, her suit can regenerate itself in time; however, the suit's fragility (which often leads to her being nearly unclothed most of the time) leads to her failing on nearly every mission and needing rescue by her teammates.
Just as Empowered's self worth drops to a new low, she finds love with Thugboy. A former henchman to supervillains, (as part of the Witless Minions) Thugboy has a checkered past but has nothing but love for Empowered despite her persistent doubts. Empowered also gets encouragement from Ninjette (Kozue Kaburagi, 鏑木 梢), a runaway from a ninja clan based in New Jersey who once captured Empowered when under contract, but when the pick-up crew failed to arrive let her go and took her drinking instead.
Ridicule and humiliation are common occurrences as most of the villains and her fellow superheroes spend an inordinate amount of time mocking her, despite the fact that she's actually beaten at least two villains who knocked them all into the ground (The Caged Demonwolf and prior to that, Crimera). Her primary tormentor is Sistah Spooky, a black superheroine who got her powers when the demon she summoned granted her eternal youth and beauty accidentally made a mistake and also granted her "WAAAAAY too much mystic power". But her own insecurities from being taunted by the demon's other clients, peers who sold their souls to be barbie-ultra attractive blondes, both left her deeply insecure about herself and solidified her pre-existing hatred of blondes; she takes them out on Empowered who really doesn't deserve it.
After trapping The Caged Demonwolf, an extradimensional Lovecraftian-like being whom Empowered imprisoned in an energy-draining alien bondage belt, Empowered begins to gain confidence in her abilities as a hero. The Caged Demonwolf tends to speak in florid, loquacious and often alliterative monologues, much like the early supervillain creations of Stan Lee. The ornate yet bulky design of the belt that houses him is also reminiscent of the early work of Jack Kirby. While initially hostile towards Empowered, The Caged Demonwolf soon warms to the comforts of Earth from his stationary place on Empowered's coffee table, specifically enjoying Earth film and TV. The Demonwolf tends to manipulate her friends, when it is not watching television on Empowered's coffee table. Despite his occasional encouragement of Empowered, The Caged Demonwolf has subtly instigated a growing, awkward attraction between Ninjette and Thugboy behind Empowered's back, possibly more out of boredom than actual spite.
Ninjette decides to steal Empowered's suit and use her "mad ninja skills" to build up her best friend's reputation, but most of the thugs realize this Empowered isn't the old one.
Empowered's superhuman abilities are granted to her by a "hypermembrane", a super-suit which provides her with invulnerability, superhuman strength, and the ability to shoot beams from her hands. In Volume 2, Empowered's mask is shown to provide a number of enhancements to her vision, which function even if the rest of the suit is torn. She could read a crossword puzzle a thug was holding, and detect that he had a developing aneurysm in his brain. The suit is also stated to possess various other powers. Only two have been shown to date: The suit can become invisible, though Empowered does not yet know how to extend this effect to herself, assuming this is possible, and it can form wing-like structures for flight, of which Emp is unaware.
The costume is not without drawbacks. The hypermembrane is "thinner than a soap bubble" (Volume 1, pg.122) and is torn by almost any contact; the slightest tear drastically diminishes its effectiveness; fortunately, the suit also possess the ability to repair itself, although the time required is approximately eight to twelve hours. It is also extremely form-fitting: Not only can she not wear underwear under it (as it clearly shows), but if she doesn't shave her pubic hairs they show up on the outside of the suit in a weird steel-wool fashion. The suit will not work if she wears anything on top of it, so she cannot protect it from damage with addtional clothing and armor. Furthermore, the suit grants her and only her these powers; should anyone else wear it, it will act only as a ridiculously tight bodysuit (Volume 1, pg. 29).
In Volume 2, Empowered theorizes that the suit's functionality is linked to her self-esteem, so that if she is feeling "down" and her confidence is low, the suit is easy to break, but if she's determined and focused, then it becomes far stronger. This seems to be true as in Volume 1 she easily defeats a large number of thugs who were about to kill her boyfriend, and later the suit remains intact when Empowered is bitten by a shark.
In Volume 3 the suit can now work (to some degree) even badly damaged; it also seems to autonomously utilize a new function, forming the wing-like structures mentioned above. This angel-like appearance also grants Empowered's powers (such as her energy blast) increased potency. Lastly, the suit is also revealed to be sentient; the Caged Demonwolf insists that it is female (though the suit itself claims otherwise). Only the Demonwolf is aware of the suit's (as yet unrevealed) true nature and origin.
Adam Warren says "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 (tones are greyscale sheets, like japanese manga).
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