Ed Jowett said this is the final comic before a crossover between characters we have been planning for 5 years, and I can’t wait to bring this into the world so that we can then show you what’s yet to come, the “Cascade” event! I was intrigued by his 5 year project and invited Ed to First Comics News to chat about Penumbra and let him share what it is all about with our readers.
First Comics News: Who is Penumbra?
Ed Jowett: Penumbra is one of the first in this world to gain superpowers.
She chose to make her life as a thief, using her control over shadows and ability to create objects out of them to penetrate security systems and take whatever she wants.
Her abilities include enhancing shadows to conceal herself and creating solid objects made from shadows. For comic fans, it’s easiest to explain that she has abilities a little like Green Lantern, but the constructs are made of shadows.
She’s far from the most powerful in the world, but she has a lot of intelligence and guile, which she uses to be near the top of the pile!
1st: Is she a hero or a villain?
Ed: To quote what she said herself in response to that question:
“You’re thinking like a kid again, Lacuna. There’s no good or evil, just winners and losers. Me? I’m not even that. I’m nothing but shadows.”
She would not consider herself either – she’s not terribly interested in the high-stakes fights that happen in the world, she does whatever she wants. In the end, though, she tends to gravitate towards the side of good when things go horribly wrong – she doesn’t want people to die unnecessarily.
1st: What is Empowered?
Ed: “Empowered” is the name used for super-powered individuals in this universe.
In-universe, these abilities have only recently emerged, and the term has only been created a matter of months ago. However, there are already a significant number of people who have appeared with Empowered Abilities, and more emerge every day.
This is part of an expansive universe, and we’re only dipping our toes into the start of the story with the comics we have published so far.
1st: Who is Lacuna?
Ed: Lacuna is another individual whose powers appeared early, specifically the ability to create and pass through portals to move quickly and emerge from anywhere. He has met Penumbra before, and Penumbra’s current adventure also takes place in the city he protects.
After being manipulated into helping her escape from the job she was doing (Lacuna: Revelation), he was left battered and beaten, with a broken leg and other injuries, as well as coming close to screwing up his life and revealing his secret identity.
Even so, he now sees that advice that Penumbra gave him for what it is – presented in a manipulative way to benefit her, but still important.
We will see Lacuna again very soon…
1st: Who is Blue-Shift?
Ed: Blue-Shift is a speedster and another of the early Empowered in this universe.
Unlike most other Empowered, she has it good in her city – she’s loved by the media and the people for her abilities and the way she uses them to save lives.
However, her recent adventures (Blue-Shift: Frenemies and Blue-Shift #2: Mindgames) have seen her become entangled with supervillains and have therefore left her pretty confused about where the lines between good and evil truly lie.
She will return soon in a combined adventure with other characters!
1st: Who is Violete?
Ed: Violete can fly and has super strength, along with enhanced toughness.
While she is powerful, she struggles with a lot of issues in both her personal and her superhero life, including the possibility that her parents may be deported, a stalker following her everywhere she goes, and, most recently, being betrayed by her Empowered partner (Violete #2: Backlash).
She has faced one of the most brutal villains ever seen in the Empowered universe (Violete: Unstoppable) and has come out alive, but her struggle is much more than one of raw power.
She will also be appearing again very soon, both in the crossover event and in an upcoming arc of her own set afterward!
Ed: Monolith is a whole load of raw power put together in one very intimidating package.
Undoubtedly the single most powerful Empowered we have encountered yet, he has the ability to neutralize the abilities of other Empowered (Blue-Shift #2: Mindgames), as well as being able to shapeshift into multiple different forms.
Prior to this comic, Penumbra has met him once and got the better of him by pushing him into a swimming pool to make her escape (Era: The Empowered Core Rulebook). He is – unsurprisingly – less than happy about this, so her encounter with him is unlikely to go smoothly!
1st: What is their world like?
Ed: Terra, the world that the Empowered inhabit, is similar to Earth in many ways.
Human civilization is at roughly a modern level, and people live in towns, cities, or in the country. Political lines exist, as do conflicts that don’t involve the Empowered directly at this point. There are a few differences, however – for example, one of the things we have done to the world is making the internet, phones, etc. more similar to what it was in the late 90s, just to make superheroes a little more realistically able to operate without being interfered with.
To picture it, you can think of it as our world, if superheroes had suddenly started appearing about 6 months ago (with Lacuna: Revelation taking place about 4 months before the events in Penumbra: Tide)
1st: How do these heroes relate to RPGs?
Ed: Era: The Empowered is a Tabletop RPG, in which these characters exist and are playable. In fact, most of them are part of our normal demonstration session for the game. However, not all of their story has been told, and, even where it is, it’s not as fleshed out as we’d like to make it.
I think of it like this: if the universe is a house, perhaps the Tabletop RPG is a door that lets you access the first floor (I’m English, so that means the one above the ground floor!). You can look around, make yourself at home and do whatever you want, make your own story.
Comics are a window into the ground floor. It’s the basis for the whole thing that lets you understand a little better how the first floor is laid out and why, but they can both exist completely independently, and you can enjoy seeing what’s there without knowing anything else about the world.
They work together and complement each other, meaning that if you have both, you get a more broad view of the universe.
1st: How does the partnership with the various writers work?
Ed: I don’t like to write alone, because I strongly believe that another perspective almost always improves a story. As a result, I (as the creator of the Empowered universe and lead on the storyline) like to partner with different writers for each comic.
This has worked amazingly well because my writing style is quite chameleonic – I change what I’m doing based on who I work with. For example, Blue-Shift is a very upbeat comic despite dealing with a lot of heavy themes that Johnathan Lewis and I agreed on, but Violete is a much darker story because that reflects Jennifer Martin’s style.
This allows me to stay on top of the story because I usually work through what we’re going to do with the other writer and then plan what will happen on each page, while also splitting the writing. We usually write half of the pages each and then switch for a cross-edit (and, of course, call on each other if we think there is an issue).
It’s truly a fantastic collaborative process and extremely rewarding both for the writers and the people who enjoy the stories that result from it!
1st: What makes Rahmad Wisnubroto the right choice for this comic?
Ed: Even if you put his awesome artwork on one side, no one knows the Empowered Comics like Rahmad. He’s drawn more than half of all of the comics we’ve produced, including all of those that feature Penumbra, Lacuna, Blue-Shift, Violete, and Monolith in their previous appearances.
I’d like to go back to his artwork for a moment, because it is truly outstanding, especially the way he captures some of the more complicated scenes.
He’s a joy to work with, and I wouldn’t have anyone else delivering either Penumbra: Tide or the upcoming Cascade Event!
1st: What is the minimum pledge to get a digital copy?
Ed: $4 will get you the full Digital Version of Penumbra: Tide!
Perhaps also interesting to anyone hearing about the Empowered universe for the first time is that we have a pledge designed for you: all of the Empowered comics to date in one bundle. That’s $22 for 6 full-length comics!
1st: What is the minimum pledge to get a print copy?
Ed: $13 will get the Printed Version delivered to your door, along with the Digital Version included in that, so you don’t have to wait!
Once again, we have a catch-up bundle for anyone who wants all of our comics so far! That’s $60 for 144 comic pages, plus a whole load of extra material and, of course, the Digital Version.
1st: What makes Penumbra so cool no true comic fan should miss your Kickstarter?
Ed: If you like superheroes that aren’t just defined by their powers, that don’t die every week and come back to life and don’t have powers that would end the world just by thinking it…
…and, instead, are people with problems both in and out of their masks, who must face villains they don’t know how to face or defeat and overcome unpredictable challenges, you’ve come to the right place.
The Empowered universe has been crowdfunded since its inception, so there are enough people out there to help us keep going and building this world with its slightly different take on superheroes.
The writers involved are veterans of comic writing, with over five decades of comic experience in comics alone, plus much more in writing in general, and we, as a team are determined to continue to deliver fantastic stories with every issue.