We recently ran an extended preview for the Red Sonja Omnibus Vol 4. Now Jai Nitz sits down with writer Eric Trautmann to talk about his time on Red Sonja, how he got started and just how long he could see writing the character.
JAI NITZ: What’s your first memory of Red Sonja?
ERIC TRAUTMANN: A black and white Howard Chaykin piece, if memory serves. Probably in a Savage Sword issue on the magazine rack at my dad’s drugstore. This, and a Solomon Kane tale, probably cemented my fondness for Chaykin’s work.
I got into Marvel’s CONAN comics not long after, during the issue 188-210 run and Sonja figured prominently in that.
JN: You’re known for spy genre comics and a lot of game writing. Are you a sword & sorcery fan? What are some hidden gems you love that most people don’t know about?
ET: I’m probably better known more for military rather than espionage work, honestly, but certainly traditional fantasy work isn’t my normal bailiwick.
I devoured fantasy stories as a kid, but abandoned the genre for science fiction, thrillers, and military nonfiction by my teens.
The Robert E. Howard material stuck with me, though, especially Bran Mak Morn. Conan was his most popular and polished work, but I preferred the rougher stuff for some reason.
There’s a terrific Marion Zimmer Bradley paperback, HUNTERS OF THE RED MOON, that — while it’s a sci-fi piece — reads like a good sword and sorcery yarn.
JN: How did you break in at Dynamite?
ET: (Chuckles.) By breaking in at DC, I expect.
I’d been friendly with Dynamite editor Joe Rybandt for a while, and he’d approached me to pitch a couple projects that ended up not sticking. (Buck Rogers and The Phantom, I think.)
One day, he called me and offered me a four issue arc on Red Sonja, and I was off to the races. The catch was, they needed it FAST.
I turned my first issue around in a day or two, and a few weeks later, as that first arc was wrapping up, he asked what my next arc was. I was maybe ten issues in before I realized I was the regular writer on the book now.
JN: You’ve written in huge collaborative mediums like video games, and smaller operations like comics. You’ve written with a writing partner. How do you approach a script on your own?
ET: Character first. I have to feel I know the character, what motivates her. Then plot and overall story. After that, it’s pretty much writing from the outline.
I tend to be a research junkie, too. I probably drove everyone nuts on FLASH GORDON, by trying to find authentic German locations, uniforms, weapons…
On Sonja, I scoured through all kinds of reference material on Hyborian gods, nations, and peoples, trying to bring that sense of place to the book.
So, overall, I tend to approach solo writing much the same way as I do co-writing projects, though without the normal back and forth that inevitably follows.
JN: This is a huge book. Do you feel like you said everything you wanted to say with Red Sonja? Or is there more in the tank?
ET: I could easily go a hundred issues with Sonja. I was shocked by how much I love writing her, especially given how I had more or less walked away from the genre as a reader. She’s deceptively simple in concept, but beneath the surface there’s a lot of emotional complexity. And she can support all kinds of stories: capers, revenge epics, comedic stories, battles versus nature…
Yeah, there’s more in the tank.
JN: I love the artists you had on this book. How was it working with them? Did you have to change up issue by issue?
ET: Terrific. Walter Geovani and Patrick Berkenkotter were my favorites if I have to pick, as they both brought a lot of power to their designs, but everyone did fine work.
Walter is just one of those guys who can just draw anything. I really liked the “acting” he brought to bear. His Sonja had distinct mannerisms that I could use in the scripting. It was like writing a TV show in a lot of ways.
In terms of “changing it up,” I try to find out what an artist wants to draw, and what they don’t, and tailor the scripts accordingly.
JN: What’s next for you at Dynamite? What other projects do you have upcoming?
ET: I was asked to do one of the all ages anniversary issues, LI’L VAMPIRELLA, which was just a blast to write and a nice change of pace for me.
I just finished the final script for LADY RAWHIDE: SISTERS OF THE WHITE ROSE, too.
I co-write (with Brandon Jerwa) a digital exclusive through ComiXology and Monkeybrain Comics, a military adventure series called FROST, which — after a brief hiatus — should be back on track shortly.
Here is an extended preview of Red Sonja Omnibus Vol 4
Jai Nitz is a writer in his own right having written for Marvel, DC, Image and currently Dynamite on Grimm: The Warlock debuting next month.