Exclusive: Trautmann reintroduces Lady Rawhide in an August mini-series for Dynamite


[[wysiwyg_imageupload:8836:]]Continuing a new surge of strong women headlining their own titles, Dynamite Entertainment will soon be bringing back Lady Rawhide in a five-issue mini-series.

The iconic Western heroine will return under the pen of Eric Trautmann (Red Sonja, Vampirella) with interior art by Milton Estevam.

To discover the secrets behind the mini, Cosmic Book News Managing Editor Byron Brewer met exclusively with Trautmann south of the border and wired in this exchange:

Cosmic Book News: Eric, how did this limited series come about? Was it your pitch?

Eric Trautmann: Honestly, I’m not sure. Sometime last year, Joe Rybandt (my long-suffering editor) asked me if I had any interest in pitching a Lady Rawhide story. For a variety of reasons (not least of which was my writing three monthly books simultaneously when Joe asked) I didn’t write the pitch until a couple months ago. 

It seems Dynamite liked it, and I got the sense that they were sort of waiting for me to clear my decks, which is quite gratifying.  

CBN: We seem to be seeing a female character renaissance in comics. Why Lady Rawhide?

Eric Trautmann: Why not? 

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:8837:]]Dynamite’s Zorro books are great, and the character was unique since her creation (by writer Don McGregor and artist Mike Mayhew). She’s a fun character.  

CBN: For the unfamiliar, tell us about your protagonist.

Eric Trautmann: Lady Rawhide began as a spinoff of Topps Comics’ Zorro title in the 1990s; she’s set in the same universe as Zorro, and has a connection to that particular iconic vigilante. Lady Rawhide is the masked identity of Anita Santiago, who dons a mask after her brother is mutilated by corrupt government officials (having been mistakenly identified as Zorro). So, in her early adventures she was a foil for Zorro, but over time became more of a folk hero in the setting.   

CBN: What challenges is Lady Rawhide facing? And who are the Sisters of the White Rose, Eric?

Eric Trautmann: In my story, the biggest challenge is a staple of the Zorro universe: a corrupt governor in the pocket of American silver and rail barons. The citizens are being illegally and oppressively taxed, their land seized, the whole deal. As Zorro and Lady Rawhide have paved the way for vigilante justice, a new group, the Sisters of the White Rose, have banded together and are taking the fight directly to the government. And while Lady Rawhide certainly sympathizes with their aims, the Sisters’ methods are considerably more brutal — they’re fighting fire with fire in a way that our heroine can’t accept.   

CBN: You’ve written both Red Sonja and Vampirella, so you have a feel for strong female characters. Where does Lady Rawhide fit?

Eric Trautmann: I’m generally hesitant to lump individual characters together into categories like that. I approach every character as best I can, trying to “know” what he or she would think or do in any given situation. If pressed, I’d say she’s probably most similar to my take on Sonja than anything; she’s a thief, and she’s got a more playful, less grim edge to her. But Sonja has a capacity for anger and violence that far exceeds Lady Rawhide — Anita is tough and strong, but she’s not particularly ruthless.  

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:8838:]]CBN: Any piece of literature or other genre influencing this run of the character?

Eric Trautmann: I’m taking a lot of my cues from old Zorro movies and Johnston McCulley’s The Curse of Capistrano; McCulley created Zorro, so I figure he’s got a pretty good handle on the tone I should be striving for. (laughs)

One of the nice things about MuCulley’s Zorro stories is that they exist in this sort of “Mythic Mexico” — they’re not particularly historically accurate. So, my normal research routine could be put aside. I tend to research very, very thoroughly (often to an editor’s annoyance), and I obsess over little details; this gun wouldn’t exist in that year, stuff like that. In Lady Rawhide, I feel a certain freedom to just introduce the story elements I need, and I can let that kind of detail-wrangling lie. It’s very different for me, and that’s been a lot of fun. 

CBN: Any chance Zorro will be popping up anywhere? (laughs)

Eric Trautmann: Only referentially. From the outset, I didn’t want to tread into any other writer’s turf, and I also want to make sure Lady Rawhide is the focus of the story.  

CBN: Were you a fan of Lady Rawhide before this gig? Any of the older Lady Rawhide adventure plot threads finding their way into this mini?

Eric Trautmann: I quite enjoyed her early Topps issues. I ran a small comic book store in my hometown during that period, and amidst all the grim and gritty “Bad Girls” of the day, I liked Lady Rawhide because she was fun. The art was terrific (Adam Hughes and Esteban Maroto covers spring to mind, and Mike Mayhew is a terrific and vastly underutilized artist), but it had more in common with classic 1940s pinup art than the more heavily and overtly sexualized style that was in vogue. It had a quality of playfulness that was sorely lacking from other characters of that period. 

I have avoided bringing in other characters and old story threads from the original run for a variety of reasons. I really want this iteration to be a good jumping on point, but I also don’t want to reinterpret Mr. McGregor’s stories or inadvertently “get it wrong.” Plus, there’s an unfinished story from that era that I would dearly love to see McGregor and company finish, and I would be loathe to introduce something that would mess up his plans. 

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:8839:]]CBN: What does artist Milton Estevam bring to the series?

Eric Trautmann: He’s got a very clean and clear line (which is in line with my personal aesthetic), and stages action quite well. He also seems willing to draw horses a lot, which is helpful. (laughs

CBN: Eric, any projects current or future you would like to discuss?

Eric Trautmann: There’s Frost: Rogue State, which is published via Monkeybrain as a digital exclusive through comiXology. It’s a military/adventure book, a love letter to the trashy men’s adventure fiction I grew up rotting my brain with: stuff like Mack Bolan or The Destroyer. It’s a fun gig, plus it is creator-owned — Brandon Jerwa, Giovanni Timpano and I co-created it and we’ve been fortunate to find a home with Monkeybrain. It’ll be 5-6 issues at first, like a TV “season”; the “0” issue (a 6-page teaser plus a ton of back matter) is free and subsequent issues are a mere ninety-nine cents. Each issue after #0 includes a new cover, 16 pages of story, and anywhere from 3 to 10 pages of additional material. So, even if you hate the story it is a) beautifully drawn (Gio is just terrific) and b) really cheap, so we’ve got that going for us. 

You can find Frost: Rogue State on comixology, and “like” us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/frostcomic.

And I’d like to give a shout-out to Shooters, an original graphic novel that Brandon and I wrote (and which was illustrated by Eisner Award winner Steve Lieber), published in April 2012 by DC/Vertigo. It’s probably the work I’m most proud of, a stand-alone OGN — a contemporary military drama that deals with themes of PTSD, private military forces, and “why we fight.” It recently won a PRISM award from the Entertainment Industries Council, which was a genuine and pleasant surprise. In all honesty, the book didn’t receive a lot of support, and it’s now somewhat challenging to get, but is available on the Kindle platform and via Amazon; I’d love it if more people would check it out. 

Cosmic Book News would like to thank Eric Trautmann for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. Thanks also to Dynamite’s own Nick Barrucci and Keith Davidsen who helped make this interview possible.

“Lady Rawhide” #1 (of 5) hits shelves in August!