My name is Eric Trautmann. I'm a writer and graphic designer. (Mostly a designer these days, but still.)
I live in the Pacific Northwest. Today it is grey and about 65° with a light drizzle. Last week was azure skies and record high temperatures. Washington weather has commitment issues.
I am a graphic designer.
I design logos and trade dress for business and entertainment publishing (notably comics). Ongoing projects include book design and various and sundry tasks for the Image Comics series LAZARUS and BLACK MAGICK.
I can do stuff for you, too, for reasonable rates.
I write comic books.
I have written comic books for DC Comics (including Action Comics and Checkmate) and Dynamite Entertainment (including long runs on Red Sonja, Vampirella and Flash Gordon). For a complete list of My Mighty Works™, you could visit my website.
And if you enjoy this newsletter, please share the info around, so I'm not just screaming into a void. Currently, this list is very tiny, but hopefully it entertains you.
WHERE I'M AT TODAY
I started writing this in early May (sigh), so a bunch of this is old news, alas. The Lazarus Sourcebook, Volume 001: Carlyle his hit shelves (which I contributed a not-inconsiderable amount of material for and did all the design stuff—including my first ever cover art), as has the very big giant Lazarus: The Second Collection hardcover.
I have recently completed some Lazarus promotional material for retailers—posters and postcard type-stuff, to help push the series—Issue 22 hit stores this week, in fact, so we're off to the races.
We've also redesigned our approach to the covers for the foreseeable future, and I'm pretty happy with how it turned out:
(Cover art by Michael Lark; these are the "solicit" covers for the catalog, so it's not the final cover art or trade dress—Michael's tweaking the color saturation in the first one. But it's close.)
LAZARUS poster sent to retailers. Art: Lark, Design: Me.
In Progress / Coming Soon:
PROJEKT: SABRE UPDATE
The Sekret roleplaying thing I'm working on has hit some stalls due to other jobs stacking up, alas, but hopefully, I'll have more to report next time.
Some short fiction I'm working up in collaboration with my pal, Gareth-Michael Skarka has moved up in my queue as well. If you liked my Red Sonja stuff, keep an eye out for SCABBARD.
Initial discussions on a follow-up to a recent comics-industry project * cough * sourcebook * cough * have begun, too. Nothing is on the schedule, but yeah.
PROJEKT: CRAZY QUILT
New design client: a small business that needs logo design/brand design. "Computerized quilting," which is, it seems, a Real Thing™. Not of widespread interested, but an unusual design challenge.
I've been doing album covers for comedian Gabriel Rutledge for a couple years, and his newest album is coming soon. Gabe is super-funny; I did the design chores on his book, too, and you should definitely give him a listen/read.
Front cover, tray card insert, and CD art for the forthcoming comedy CD from Gabriel Rutledge.
My pal, Brandon Jerwa (about whom more in a moment) is, among other things, a musician. He has a new project coming along, and he's asked me to develop branding designs and "art direction" for it. I'm having a blast.
Later Humans wordmark.
INTERVIEW: BRANDON JERWA
Brandon Jerwa is a writer, filmmaker, and musician (among other things), based in the Seattle area. For many years, Brandon wrote dozens and dozens of comics—notably, long runs on G.I. Joe for Devil's Due, Battlestar Galactica and related series for Dynamite Entertainment, as well as Vampirella, Highlander, Red Sonja, and many others.
He was a regular contributor to the popular Geek Nation podcast (produced under the auspices of Seattle area broadcasting juggernaut B.J. Shea).
Brandon and I wrote a PRISM Award-winning original graphic novel, Shooters, published by DC/Vertigo and illustrated by brilliant, multiple Eisner Award winner Steve Lieber.
We've been friends for a long time.
He recently started a new chapter of his career, moving into development/writing for a Seattle-area mobile gaming company and is currently putting together a new electronic music project.
Eric: Okay, let's talk about your music. First, people who've seen the "Brandon and Eric show" on Twitter know that we frequently bust each other's chops to a degree that could be called "merciless." But when it comes to your music, I'm a big fan—all kidding aside, you're the real deal. In fact, of your albums was my entry point into electronic music. So: You're a musician. Where did that start? Was there a formative "I need to do this" moment that you can relate?
Brandon: I’ve always loved music. For me, it was comic books and music…literally as far back as I can remember. To be perfectly honest, I don’t know when the “I need to do this” moment actually happened, but I can tie it back to a couple of things:
Wanting to be Freddie Mercury, and/or Rick Springfield, my air guitar and crowd work fully present as early as 7 years old.
Seeing bands like Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys, and even Duran Duran; loving the music, and realizing that learning to play a synthesizer was a hell of a lot easier than trying to find five people who could all play individual instruments.
Eric: And now you've got a new musical project with a new band, this time a duo, if I'm not mistaken. Again: you're sitting down to write a song. Tell me of your process, sir.
Brandon: I have a new musical project with Craig Jones, who is my former mate from the band Relay, which we formed many years ago in Kansas City. We definitely had a case of “unfinished business” on the musical front, and we’ve finally come back around to seeing that through.
We’re called Later Humans, and we make atmospheric electronic music, for lack of a better term. We’re just getting into the swing of things, but it’s coming together nicely. We have a track on RESPECT THE PRIME, an industrial/electronica tribute to the soundtrack of the classic TRANSFORMERS animated movie that came out in 1986. I played that soundtrack until my cassette copy snapped, and it’s great to be a part of this tribute.
As for my process, it’s embarrassingly low-tech: I write songs in GarageBand, on my phone. I love the immediate gratification of being able to get my ideas down quickly. We’re still working out the process, but basically it goes like this: if we’re working on a song that I started, I do my parts in GarageBand, send the tracks to Craig, and he makes his contributions in Abelton (a much more sophisticated program), in addition to swapping out my sounds for more robust offerings from his own library. Craig’s much more clever with the machinery than I am; I’ve always been a bit of a Luddite when it comes to the technical aspects of…well, anything.
Once we agree on the parts, it gets mixed in Abelton. Given that Craig is in Joplin, Missouri, and I’m in Seattle, we definitely have an interesting process for making music together. I’m sure it will adapt into something a little more elevated as time goes on…but for now, the songs are getting written, and that’s all that matters. For me, it’s as simple as doing what you must to exorcise the sounds in your head; everything else is just part of the process of making it sound good to other people.
We’ll have some original music out by the end of the year, so keep your ear to the virtual ground for that. We're currently hard at work on our first original single, called THE FIRST WOMAN IN SPACE. It should be released around the same time as the Transformers compilation.
And our Facebook page is up, and it features some excellent art and design by the esteemed Eric Trautmann. You know this guy? He seems like your type.
Eric: Dude's a total hack. You could do so much better.
Thanks for taking the time, Brandon!
A look at the LATER HUMANS "logo"/wordmark.
Work in progress/proof of concept "single cover" for Later Humans upcoming track, The First Woman In Space. Design: Me.
Next installment, I'll be interviewing author and beer blogger Robin LeBlanc.
Robin LeBlanc began writing about beer in 2011, shortly after being captivated with the deep complexities of the beverage. Her web site, thethirstywench.com, has won multiple awards, including the Saveur Magazine Best Food Blog Award in the Best Wine or Beer Blog category (The first Canadian-based site to do so). She also writes two regular beer columns; the bi-weekly ‘Inherent Weisse’ for Torontoist and the syndicated ‘On Tap’ for Metroland North Media. She has appeared regularly as a beer expert on various media outlets such as Rogers Daytime Toronto and 680 News Radio. When not writing, she works as a photographer and publicist.
What I'm Reading: Almost done with Eric Schlosser's Command and Control, and it remains excellent. (Schlosser approaches American handling and mishandling of nuclear weapons from World War II through the Cold War, framing long sections about military history with the 1980s "Damascus Incident," a fire in a nuke silo.) Eric Schlosser, Command and Control, via Amazon.
What I'm Listening To: Futurebirds EP, specifically the song "Breathe for Days" has been haunting my playlist a lot. Jangly, spooky, low-fi stuff. Futurebirds — EP, via Amazon.
What I'm Watching: Binge-watched the 30th anniversary edition of The Right Stuff (and holy crap, that movie is 30 years old? I saw it in theaters during its first run oh god i am practically a mummy) and the HBO series From the Earth to the Moon. Turns out, I can't get enough of rooms full of smart guys, smoking a dangerous amount of cigarettes, and superbraining their way through difficult problems. The Right Stuff holds up far better than I would've predicted, and FTETTM is solid enough despite some painfully dated CGI.
Terrific performances and a pitch-perfect series right up until the ill-conceived and massively egomaniacal final episode (where series producer Tom Hanks essays the role of George Méliès and attempts to draw a parallel between moviemaking and putting a human being on another planet). It's…next-level awful. It's mawkish, and self-aggrandizing, and embarrassing. For a series running at a full-on sprint, that last episode trips the series up right at the finish line.
In any event, there's something about the glory days of NASA I find profoundly compelling, and deeply sad. I worshipped the very idea of astronauts as a kid (I was too young to be cognizant of the last Apollo missions as the program fizzled and died, and Mercury and Gemini happened in the decade before I was born), so I got to watch NASA devolve into commonplace suborbital lobs that barely rated news coverage unless a shuttle blew up. Now we put RC cars on Mars, and that's great, and some incredible engineering, but it lacks…grandeur. Stepping off our planet into the universe should be grand, I think.
We've denied ourselves the stars. And the general monkeymass doesn't seem to notice that it's lost something important and glorious. We should be on Mars, not just for science, not just because "it's out there," not for international prestige.
No, we should be on Mars and turning it into a viable habitat, because putting the entirety of a species' breeding pairs on one planet is asking for trouble.
But here we are, and here we stay. Oh, look, America's Got Talent is on.
Stuff I Worked On You Might Not Have Seen:Happiness Isn't Funny, the aforementioned book by my pal Gabriel Rutledge. Gabe's a stand-up comedian, and a damn good one. He's one of those guys who grinds it out on the road. He's been on Comedy Central, he's a winner of the Seattle International Comedy Competition, and he's crushed every room I've ever seen him work. His book started out as a blog, and—while Gabe's not a trained writer—there's something really raw and funny and honest about the material. So I hounded him for months to shape the text up and publish it, and I edited it, and did the layout and book design, and if you're someone who likes peeks into uncommon professions, check it out. It isn't just jokes—Gabe is painfully up front about his work and what it's like for his family, too.
Vector Art: Some crass commerce. I create the occasional vector art set for sale (generally about $5 per set). The sets are themed, and are royalty free for commercial and personal use. You can find that stuff here.