New RED SONJA Writer to Flesh Out Character With Less Flesh

DYNAMITE SEPTEMBER 2010 Solicitations

It may sound a little provocative to say, but Eric Trautmann is getting his hands on more than one beautiful lady.

Last month, Trautmann was announced as the writer of Dynamite's relaunch of Vampirella, the blood-sucking heroine in the iconic yet revealing red costume. Yet he surprised fans by admitting his Vampirella would be a bit more modest, as he plans to concentrate on quality storytelling more than titillating action.

At the same time, the writer is taking over Dynamite's other voluptuous heroine, Red Sonja, starting on the title with this month's Issue #51 with artist Walter Geovani. And just as he's doing for Vampirella, Trautmann admits he also plans to cover Sonja up a bit.

Trautmann is best known for his work on DC titles like Checkmate, Action Comics, JSA vs. Kobra, and the current Mighty Crusaders. But he also won fan recognition for his work on Perfect Dark: Janus' Tears, as well as his work on the video game bibles for Perfect Dark, Crimson Skies and Hal0.

Now he's diving into fairly new territory as he takes over both Vampirella and Red Sonja for Dynamite. Newsarama spoke with the writer to find out more about his take on Sonja and why he likes her in the chain mail tunic.

Newsarama: Eric, we talked before about how you're dealing with a Vampirella that isn't scantily clad. How are you approaching Red Sonja?

Eric Trautmann: It's the same answer as what I said for Vampirella. I'm probably going to annoy the fans of these characters a little because I insist on putting clothes on them.

But with Red Sonja, there's a distinctive reason why I put her into the chain mail tunic. It cements it to a certain period in her timeline. For anyone who is familiar with that era of the character, they'll automatically expect a certain tone, and I intend to play with that.

I also think people that are familiar with my writing know I don't do the type of stories that go for titillation. That doesn't mean I'm going out of my way to keep her covered. It just means that, when I do things like that, like if I have a nude scene, there's going to be a purpose to it besides just saying, "Wow, look. She's real purdy." I want it to have a story impact.

Nrama: Red Sonja has a pretty convoluted continuity. Do you have to understand her past to read this story?

Trautmann: Not at all. I got to do a story about whatever I wanted to do, and because I wasn't too caught up on current continuity, I asked if I could go back to her beginning. So the story is pretty up-front and easy for new readers, but people who've read Red Sonja before should enjoy this take on her too.

The story takes place fairly early in her career, and there are some clues in her costuming and other things that place her somewhere before the old Roy Thomas/Barry Windsor-Smith storyline, "Song of Red Sonja," with the chain mail tunic. So it's early in her mercenary days.

There was a lovely gap there that hadn't really been filled, and it was suited to the kind of stories I enjoy telling. I seem to have carved out a niche as a guy who writes military stuff. So they wanted clashes between armies, and since Red Sonja's a mercenary, I could put her into this great place where she has contacts where multiple armies clashing in battle. I figured I'd have the illustrator going nuts drawing all day.

Nrama: Were you a fan of that era?

Trautmann: Yeah, I was a huge fan of the old Marvel Conan books, and particularly Barry Windsor Smith's take on Sonja. I was really drawn to that. So it fun to find a way to focus on that in this story.

Nrama: What can you tell us about the story you're telling in your four-issue debut on Red Sonja?

Trautmann: Like I said, I wanted to go back fairly early in Sonja's history, prior to "Song of Red Sonja." In that period, Sonja was a mercenary and thief, which forms the spine of the story.

Sonja is a captain in a mercenary army, an army hired by a rebellious prince seeking to overthrow the legitimate king of Argos; predictably, this uprising is on the verge of being crushed, and -- in a last ditch effort to save the day -- Sonja and her men are dispatched on a desperate mission.

When the story opens, Sonja is on this last-ditch mission for her general, as all of the armies of the kingdom are riding down upon them to crush this insurrection. But unbeknownst to the people she's commanding, there are some things going on behind the scenes of this mission.

Of course, Sonja being Sonja, she has her own agenda, as do the various armies riding into the field of battle to seize territory in the chaos of the attempted coup. To quote Tony Curtis in one of my favorite films of all time, "In confusion, there is profit."

It's definitely more of a mercenary Sonja. She's a little harder in edge than we've seen her in awhile.

I guess a good touchstone for the kind of story that it is would be the Jim Owsley series of Conan the Barbarian stories from Marvel, back in the late '80s/early '90s. It was a similar set-up, where Conan was a mercenary general who had a team of guys with him. It was his first brush with having a crown, and it was a wonderful story. It was eye-opening to me. I was 14 or 15 at the time, and I was amazed at the change in his outfit and how he worked with this ensemble cast. I always remembered that and loved it. So this is that kind of story. Obviously, I'm not doing what Jim Owsley did, but it's in the same type of story.

It's not just her. She has to interact with people around her who have all these competing agendas that will ultimately end up in armies all riding into the same location to have a showdown.

Nrama: Will we recognize any of these other characters from that time frame in Red Sonja, or have you created a new cast?

Trautmann: They're all new. One of them is a hunter who is sort of our Wolverine in the story. He owes a debt of some time to Sonja that I'll deal with in the epilogue issue. There are a couple of Hyrkanian horse soldiers. And a simple scholar named Rogatino, who decided he liked women and sword-fighting better.

The name Rogatino is kind of an homage to the Red Sonja character herself. Robert E. Howard had written a historical story where the heroine protagonist was Red Sonya with a "y," not a "j," of Rogatino. That was the character's name. So they let me name one of the characters after that.

Nrama: How long will your run on Red Sonja last?

Trautmann: At least five issues. They seem pretty keen to get me to do another four-issue arc and a done-in-one. That's how it's going. I'm doing a four-issue story, with an epilogue, and if that works out, then I'll do something similar again.

It strikes me as kind of like Saturday Night Live, where they won't tell me if I'm hired, but they just ask me when I'm going to turn in the next thing.

Nrama: Then to finish up, Eric, anything else you want to tell fans about how it's been working on Red Sonja?

Trautmann: It's a nice change of pace from the superhero stuff I've been doing the last couple years. I'd never done any sword and sorcery or fantasy stuff for publication, so these have been nice things to explore with Red Sonja. 

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