The Shield #1, due in stores in SeptemberWe’ve been chatting with the creators on DC’s upcoming Red Circle titles, and today, we catch up with Eric Trautmann, writer on the September-launching The Shield, which will contain a co-feature starring Inferno.
Newsarama: Eric, you’ve been working primarily at DC and Image, but are still relatively new to the game. How did you break in?
Eric Trautmann: The glib answer is I flagrantly abused my position at Microsoft.
I was, among other things, the guy editing Perfect Dark novels, which are excellent, by the way; I had lobbied hard to get Greg Rucka to write the books, and everyone was really happy with the books, happy enough that I managed to convince the Powers That Be to let me write the Perfect Dark comic series, published by Prima a few years ago.
The comics bridged the gap between the novels, and meant I had to tightly map the continuity of the novels and games, which in turn meant I had to work closely with Greg. He and I became good friends, and he seemed to think I had some chops, so when he was looking for someone to collaborate with on Checkmate, he pulled me aboard.
I've done almost nothing for Image, save co-writing with Brandon Jerwa a short piece for Vol. 2 of the POPGUN anthology series; I've actually done more work for Prima, the publishers of the Perfect Dark comic, and of course, DC.
NRAMA: This is your first on-going assignment, how did you get the job?
ET: By not screwing up Checkmate and JSA vs KOBRA, I suspect.
Honestly, I don't know what process DC 's editors undertake to select writers; I'm told that Dan and Ian were pleased with the first issue of JSA vs. KOBRA, and that might be what put me over the top, but really, that's just speculation.
I do tend to write a lot of stuff of late with a military or espionage bent, and the nature of the character would seem to play to my strengths, so that may have factored in as well.
NRAMA: Had you been a fan of the Shield prior to getting the assignment?
ET: I like the idea of the character a bit more than how he's been used in the past. Obviously, he's a character with history and that appeals to me--he's got all that great, resonating imagery, but my exposure to the really old Red Circle stuff is minimal. It's too hard to find.
When the Impact line reintroduced the character years ago, I read those and liked them, but I must confess to being more enamored of some of the other Impact books, especially The Comet, The Black Hood. Rick Burchett! Always loved his work, and I'd kill for a chance to work with him, and The Jaguar were my favorites.
NRAMA: Rachel Gluckstern is your editor on the series, what did she tell you she wanted from the series?
ET: Well, Rachel Gluckstern is also my editor on JSA vs KOBRA, and she’s given me very clear direction on what DC is looking for from the book, but I've largely been given a pretty free hand to develop the stories. Mostly, she has the unenviable task of poking me with a stick from time to time so pages will spill out, and enduring my occasional descents into madness. "No, Eric, The Shield can not fight the Tiny Titans. Take your medicine." That kind of thing. The poor woman.
NRAMA: Joe Stracynski said he left a "bible" for writers of the ongoing series. What type of notes did he leave for you as the incoming writer?
ET: I received a "character springboard" which detailed enough of the character to have an idea of who he is, and what he does, while still being wide open enough to allow me some room to develop the material, to bring my own warped aesthetic to it all. And the scripts for the Red Circle series, which are pretty clear delineations of the character.
NRAMA: Although the Shield came before Captain America, most fans don't know that. In writing the Shield how are you going to differentiate the Shield from Captain America?
ET: For one, I don't plan on having him murdered by an assassin's bullet. Ahem.
The primary difference is, to my mind, that Cap, Steve Rogers, anyhow, is very much of his period; he's still a mid-20th century man; Joe Higgins, the Shield, is a contemporary man, without the years of history behind him that Cap has.
He's also still an active duty military officer, and I intend to write him as such. He's a superhero, sure, but with a specific mindset that's a but different from Cap's, I think.
NRAMA: DC doesn't have a popular Patriotic hero. Will the Shield be filling the role or be on his own out of the country?
ET: I don't see the two as being mutually exclusive. He's a symbolic hero, for sure, and that's a symbol for his own countrymen, but also as a living embodiment of the American ideal abroad, as well.
That said, the early stories aren't going to be focused too heavily on the DCU's North America. I hope to send him around the globe quite a bit.
NRAMA: What makes Lt. Joe Higgins want to be the Shield instead of the best G.I. he can be?
ET: Spoiler territory! Higgins has a certain vested interest in the Shield identity; there's also the fact that he's an American military officer, and he's been given, essentially, orders to fill this role. He's a good soldier, so he's going to follow those orders.
NRAMA: Fair enough. Finally Eric, what do you have planed for the Shield long term?
ET: A lot of action, a lot of globetrotting, and a lot of familiar threats and some new faces as well. Two-fisted military action.