Oh. My. Garsh. How awesome were Adam Warren’s responses to my 5 question interview? Answer: Quite. Quite a bit, in fact.

First, please to look here and remind yourself what my review of Empowered: Vol. 7 was like. Then…just revel in the awesomeness.   ~Prof. Jenn


5 Questions: Adam Warren

interview by Jenn Zuko Boughn

1.) Rich Johnston once said of Empowered: “It’s so tongue in cheek that the tongue pokes through and blows a raspberry.”  How important is snark and self-awareness to your characters, and what made you infuse them with this vibe in the first place?

I probably wouldn’t use the term “snark” in regard to the characters in Empowered, because I tend to characterize most so-called “snark” as a cheap, dismissive, insincere, kneejerk travesty passing itself off as humor. I’d like to think that most of “the funneh” in Empowered is less obnoxious and more warm and inclusive, but (as they say online) Your Mileage May Vary on this point.

Many the characters do, however, possess some degree of self-awareness, though the series’ often-deluded villains rarely can boast such reflectiveness. Of course, in the periodic “metatextual” interludes before and after chapters, the lead characters briefly wax supremely self-aware as they break the fourth wall and address the reader; this just struck me as a fun way to point out “meta” aspects of the stories without directly disrupting the stories themselves.

2.) What artists / writers inspire you? Is there any work that directly influenced Empowered, and is there anyone that you still try and emulate in your own work? Also: why manga?

I have to say that, in particular, the example of one slightly obscure mangaka, Takeshi Okazaki, inspires me greatly. Okazaki debuted with the manga Explorer Woman Ray back when I was still in art school; in the years since, he’s repeatedly reinvented himself as an artist, changing up his art style and narrative approach on numerous occasions. I find that flexibility keenly inspirational—and “aspirational”, to use a current buzzword—given that most comic artists and mangaka tend to eventually plateau, become numbingly repetitive, or even regress in their approaches to art and storytelling.

I’m not sure I can say that any work specifically influenced the creation of Empowered, as the series came about in large part because I wasn’t seeing any comics—or stories in other media—quite like it at that time. After the early stories that would become Empowered were already well underway, though, I did stumble across two superhero-related classics that were not entirely unlike what I was working on: The Venture Brothers and The Incredibles, both of which briefly threw me for a loop. (“Oh, man, I’m doing something vaguely similar… Bogus, yo.”) I soon calmed down, thankfully, once I realized that Empowered was headed off in a very different direction than either of those fine creations.

I also can’t say that I try to emulate any given writer or artist in my work, as I pretty much gave up any interest in directly imitating other creators quite some time ago—as in, decades ago. On the other hand, I constantly pick up wee, discrete elements of artistic riffs and storytelling techniques and fresh approaches from looking at other folks’ excellent work.

Why manga? How about, because it can sometimes be frickin’ awesome?

3.) What other media do you enjoy in your (no doubt copious) spare time? Is there any medium of art you haven’t worked in yet that you’d like to?

Books, books, and more books, with bonus helpings of books, and books as a garnish. I tend to read a great deal more nonfiction than fiction, as my standards for prose quality have become very lofty indeed after a lifetime of reading. Both when working and not, I listen to endless hours of podcasts and sports talk, not to mention podcasts of sports talk (and even occasional podcasts analyzing sports talk, which gets even more recursive). I do happen to own many, many box sets of TV on DVD, but rarely get a chance to watch any of them, thanks to my perpetually overbearing schedule; instead, the DVDs end up getting passed around to friends and relatives—so at least someone is getting entertainment value out of my purchases.

As for art media, I’d love to revisit a few media that I actually have (briefly) worked in, though with little success. My short-lived forays into videogame character work were quite fun, and I’d love to give that field another try. A decade ago, I had a similarly fleeting flirtation with the animation field during a tragically failed pitch to a TV network; I definitely wouldn’t mind giving that collaborative medium another stab, though I must admit that I have my doubts about how effectively I could play with others, given my solitary history as a freelancer.

4.) How has the comics world changed since your career began? What predictions do you have for the future of comics, and your work in that world?

I first began working in the comics field back in the, ahem, “adolescence” of the direct market, which was still some years away from its 1992-ish sales peak. Since then, well, many things have changed in the wider world of North American comics. The market peaked, then collapsed, then kept on collapsing. (Actual quote from an editor, circa 1994: “I can’t imagine sales getting much worse than they are right now!” He was, we soon discovered, a tad mistaken in that assumption.) Manga went from an obscurity to a ubiquity, then began to decline along with the rest of publishing in general. Webcomics sprang into being, and then print comics began a transition into digital formats, and blah blah blah *snore*

Whoops, just bored myself to sleep with the previous paragraph! Sorry, but I prefer to leave the wry analysis and historical recaps and windy pontificating to others with more insight—and more time on their hands—than this chronically overcommitted, comics-creating doofus. (Unless, that is, you catch me at the bar after convention hours are over, at which time I am most certainly prone to the very windiest of pontificating.)

As for predicting the future of comics, I can only quote the ever-quotable Mr. T’s classic line from Rocky III: “My prediction? Pain.

5.) Animated Empowered? Or even what they’re doing over at Geek and Sundry with other Dark Horse titles? Hm? 🙂

No one’s approached me about an animated version of Empowered, sad to say. I do find the Geek and Sundry motion-comic YouTubery to be quite intriguing, though; I doubt that Empowered would be at the top of Dark Horse’s list for such consideration, but a creator can always dream, can’t he?