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August 29, 2010

Deep Discussions with Decapitated Dan: Eric Trautmann

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Written by: DecapitatedDan
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Welcome back kiddies. I have lured Eric Trautmann into the depths this week to pick his brain about his new take on an old classic, Vampirella. So sit back and relax as he tells us about who he is, what he does, and what we can expect from him in the future. Trust me, you will like what you read!

Decapitated Dan: Hey Eric, thanks for taking time to talk with me about Vampirella.  First of all let’s talk about you. Who are you and what do you do?

Eric Trautmann:
I’m a freelance writer/editor/graphic-designer, currently based in the Pacific Northwest.

I mostly work in comics these days, but I’ve done fiction, non-fiction, dice-and-paper roleplaying games, videogames… and probably a bunch of other stuff I’m forgetting.

Decapitated Dan:
How did you find yourself getting into making comics?

Eric Trautmann: By flagrantly abusing my position at Microsoft a few years back.

I had been recruited by Microsoft, perhaps 10 years ago, to help build their “IP development” and entertainment licensing apparatus. I’d sort of spearheaded the creation of the Halo novels, among other things, and when the opportunity came for me to take point on developing a publishing program for the Perfect Dark franchise, I leaped at the chance, as I’d been a huge fan of that game in its Nintendo 64 incarnation.

So, the first thing I did was push hard to lure Greg Rucka aboard to write the Perfect Dark novels, which I ended up editing.

At the same time, I managed to convince Microsoft, Rare (the guys who made Perfect Dark), and Prima (a publisher of videogame strategy guides that was, at the time, considering branching out into graphic novels) to let me write the Perfect Dark comic, which dovetailed with Greg’s novels.

Not entirely sure how I managed to pull that off, honestly.

So after Perfect Dark, Greg and I — who had become friends — had contemplated working on a comics project together. We discussed some creator-owned 1930s pulpy…thing, which to date we’ve STILL not managed to get back to, and then out of the blue (and right about when I’d finally left Microsoft to go back to full-time freelance writing), he asked me if I wanted to cowrite his DC Comics series, Checkmate, with him.

And the rest, as they say, is history. Checkmate, Final Crisis: Resist, JSA Vs. Kobra, Action Comics, The Shield, The Mighty Crusaders

Decapitated Dan: So what can you tell me about the new Vampirella series from Dynamite?

Eric Trautmann: It’s designed to be a pretty accessible jumping-on point for new readers, and (hopefully) have enough there for longtime fans to, if you’ll pardon the pun, sink their teeth into.

At its core, “my” Vampirella is a harder-edged, more street-level Vampirella, with the simple goal of hunting down Dracula and his various nests of vampire minions.

(Naturally, there’s something nastier waiting in the wings.)

Decapitated Dan:
Who are the main characters of the new version?

Eric Trautmann: Vampirella, obviously; Dracula will figure prominently as well.

In addition, I’m adding a bit to Vampirella’s supporting cast — a young woman named Sofia, who assists her in her hunt; an old vampire minion of Dracula’s, named Le Fanu, and a few others.

Decapitated Dan:
Where did the ideas for this story line come from, and do you have ideas for more arcs planned?

Eric Trautmann: Heh. You know the old-school grizzled writer answer to that question, right? “Where do you get your ideas?” “Schenectady. There’s a place there, and you send them twenty bucks and they mail you a six pack of ideas.”

A lot of my approach to Vampirella was derived from simply taking a hard look at the character and figuring out, first, what’s at her core; then, figuring out what I didn’t like about other Vampirella stories and constructing a story that didn’t make those same moves, while still being true to that core.

And, of course, Nick Barucci and Joe Rybandt had some fairly explicit marching orders at the outset, an approach they wanted me to take, which logically informed the story.

As for future arcs, I have some ideas of where to go, but right now I’m focused on giving Vampirella as strong a push as I can give her.

Decapitated Dan: If you were to give this book a movie style rating (G, PG, PG-13, R, X) what would it get, and why would you say that?

Eric Trautmann: Probably a hard PG-13, “soft” R, mostly for violence and language. I try to keep things accessible to as wide an audience as possible, and graphic sex or obscene levels of violence work against that.

Decapitated Dan: In terms of past Vampi stories what can we expect?

Eric Trautmann: A tough, intelligent, competent female protagonist, with a clear mission to destroy a vile, unprincipled enemy.

I’m not delving much into Vampirella’s origin, because I hate it with the fire of a thousand suns, when a new creator or creative team comes on a book and specifically invalidates what came before. Vampirella’s origin is fairly convoluted, but for the purposes of this story, it’s not really relevant to go into detail: we know her motivation (she’s seen her home after vampires have drunk it dry, and she doesn’t want it to happen here), we know her abilities and powers, we know her enemy.

So, really, it’s more about telling a story that incorporates all that into what I hope is an entertaining, smart package.

Decapitated Dan: What are you hoping older Vampirella fans can take away from this book?

Eric Trautmann: Clothes don’t make the girl?

I hope older fans will enjoy seeing Vampirella in a slightly different light; a little tougher, a little wiser, a lot more ruthless. But it’s still Vampirella.

Decapitated Dan:
What are you hoping newer Vampirella fans can take away from this book?

Eric Trautmann: Ha! Hopefully the same thing.

Decapitated Dan: How do you approach a series like this that has so much history behind it?

Eric Trautmann: With great trepidation, and as much research as I can do; with respect for the work of the creators who came before; and the intention of adding my own stamp to it, to provide a fresh look at a venerable character.

Sort of the same way I approach all my work, really; one has to treat the characters with respect, and craft stories that are worthy of those characters.

Decapitated Dan: Can we expect more titles from you in the future?

Eric Trautmann: I sure hope so.

I’ve written quite a lot for DC Comics over the last couple years, and my friend and frequent collaborator, Brandon Jerwa, and I are moving toward the halfway point of our Mighty Crusaders miniseries for DC. (Again, another case of updating older characters.)

I’m also writing Red Sonja for Dynamite.

And hopefully soon, DC/Vertigo will announce the original graphic novel Brandon and I wrote for them, though I’m still prohibited from discussing specifics.

We’re also close to being able to announce some forward motion on our long-delayed webcomic, Wide Awake.

Decapitated Dan: What was it like being asked to write a story with such a huge history in horror comics?

Eric Trautmann: Flattering, certainly. And more than a little unnerving, as I’d not read a Vampirella comic in quite a while, nor am I particularly known for horror comics. (DC pegged me as their “conspiracy” and “military” guy for a long time.)

Decapitated Dan: Any strange or interesting stories from shows you care to share?

Eric Trautmann: My favorite is the guy who walked up to me at Emerald City Comic Con (one of my favorite shows), spoke to me at length about how much he loved my work, which was really nice. That doesn’t happen too often for me, honestly, and I was pretty pleased, until he mentioned how much he missed my work on “Scout.”

“Uh, do you think I’m Timothy Truman?”

“Aren’t you?”

“No, my name is Eric Trautmann, just like it says on the sign.”

“Well, jeez. Why didn’t you tell me you weren’t Tim Truman?!”

He was genuinely angry at me for my stubborn insistence on not being Tim Truman.

My other favorite is much shorter: the organizers of the excellent Spokane Comic Convention were just wonderful hosts the first year I went; my pal Jerwa had made some reference to burritos at some point, and the next year they had us as guests, they had brought in a cook who made Brandon these amazing homemade burritos. Just this massive amount of homecooked burrito excellence.

Decapitated Dan: Were you into any horror titles growing up that led you to want to create a book like this?

Eric Trautmann:
I wasn’t much of a horror comic guy as a kid; I stuck to science fiction titles, war comics, and, of course, my lamentable teenage X-Men period. I was a huge devotée of the sword-and-sorcery titles of the 1970s and early ’80s: Conan, The Warlord, Red Sonja, Kull, Claw the Unconquered, Arak, Son of Thunder, and so on. A lot of those — particularly the Robert E. Howard-derived ones — had a “weird tales” pulp history, so there was certainly some horror elements in those.

That said, and I’ve written about this at length elsewhere, when I was in junior high, I’d managed to gain access to two massive boxes of old, stripped-cover books from the late 1950s to late 1970s, which I read, in total, over the course of a summer.

There were lots of old House of Mystery, Tales from the Crypt, and Vault of Secrets books in that box, and, now that I think of it, probably my first issues of Vampirella, as well.

Decapitated Dan: What comics are you currently reading?

Eric Trautmann: Hellboy, B.P.R.D., Doktor Sleepless, Freakangels, Penny Arcade, Stumptown, House of Mystery, pretty much anything by Warren Ellis, Matt Sturges, Greg Rucka and Brandon Jerwa. Fraction’s Invincible Iron Man is amazing, as is the Boom! Studios adaptation of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? I’m eagerly awaiting Darwyn Cooke’s next “Parker” adaptation, The Man With The Getaway Face.

I’m sure I’m forgetting something, but those are the ones I actively seek out.

Decapitated Dan: So where can readers find out more about this book?

Eric Trautmann:The official Dynamite website, www.dynamiteentertainment.com, of course, and I tend to be pretty up-to-date on my own website, as well: www.eric-trautmann.com / www.erictrautmann.us.

Decapitated Dan: So in summary, give me a quick recap on the new Vampirella series and why fans should give it a try.

Eric Trautmann: Sure!

A tough-as-nails supernatural heroine, battling legions of the undead, with the fate of the world in the balance, plus highly-detailed, evocative artwork by the excellent Wagner Reis.

Vampirella: violently beating the sparkles off of wimpy vampires for your amusement!

Decapitated Dan: Thanks so much for your time Eric.

Eric Trautmann: My pleasure!  Thanks very much.

Decapitated Dan



  1. Billy

    Seems like a very cool and approachable guy. I can’t believe some clown argued with him about who he was at a Con. lol

  2. @Billy: Dude, you have NO idea.

    That was a much nicer story than the guy who sneezed directly onto my eyeball.

    Writing comics: SO much glamour. 😉


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