I'm gonna live I'm alright
I'm gonna die it's alright
Welcome back. My name is Eric Trautmann. I should probably just call this an "occasionally monthly" newsletter.
I live in the Pacific Northwest. Today, the skies are the color of cold iron, but it's warm and muggy, and the rain hasn't descended like an anvil.
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 seriesLazarus 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
You may have noticed a change in e-mail address (from the old gmail addy to "firstname.lastname@example.org"). Apparently, something about the old mail address makes it unlikely that the paltry few of you who do read this won't be able to get it.
So, now I have yet another domain I won't be using for much.
You may also note some weirdness in formatting. I'm still coming to grips with how Mailchimp works.
The news has not been…good. The Brexit nonsense followed by an unbearable stream of reports of police shooting people (including a man who was complying with a police request to hand over his license and registration) followed by news of people shooting police officers.
I have a hard time unpacking it all, as I'm sure many of you do. I'm white, well fed, reasonably well off. I'm a gun owner, and a believer in gun ownership.
On the other hand, I think the NRA—once an organization that actually served a genuine educational purpose—has become a sock puppet of gun manufacturers, and I'm of the belief that their rhetoric inherently appeals to the lowest common denominator and is genuinely and profoundly harmful to the public good. I support gun control measures. I support action--even if it is flawed action--that might have even a ghost of a chance of preventing another Columbine or Newtown or a Dallas. If your first response to a spree shooting is "Oh, here they come to get our guns," I offer the following:
a) No, they aren't coming for your guns.
b) You have an incredibly messed up set of priorities, and I'm not sure we should be talking.
Add to that, the rise of blatant racism (notably in a certain Presidential election campaign) and I'm horrified and terrified about the future of my country. A young man who frequents the comic shop my wife and I own calls us, without irony, his "Mom & Dad." He's a reformed felon, and yes, he's black, and I couldn't love him more if he were my own flesh and blood. And I am terrified for him.
So, yeah. It's a scary time. Be safe, be kind to each other. Please.
We just put Lazarus #23 to bed, and #24 is well underway.
For issue #24, one of the things I got to design was a computerized interface for the main character's personal media center, including her library of e-books. Some are fictitious, inventions of the setting, while others are Lazarus-ized versions of existing books. It was a ton of fun.
In Progress / Coming Soon:
My pal, writer Greg Rucka (Lazarus, Black Magick, other stuff I work on) has been tapped to write the new Wonder Woman series for DC Comics. In turn, he tapped me to do a little bit of work on upcoming issues. I did some augmentation for the cover of issue #8 (which is some months off) and I was also asked to create the insignia/logo for a bad guy organization called "Godwatch." I don't know what it is, but it sure sounds bad.
PROJEKT: EVENT HORIZON
I am starting work with a dice-and-paper game company as a sort of Minister Without Portfolio, handling some branding and book layout chores. Every time I think I'm out, they pull me back in.
PROJEKT: SABRE UPDATE
Still stalled. Sigh.
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. Current status: about 60% complete.
Unannounced at this date, but the solicit copy and cover need to go out in the next couple weeks, so Lazarus fans: keep an eye out.
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 interest, but an unusual design challenge. Current status: 90% complete. Logo and trade dress designed; just a brochure to lay out and this one is done.
INTERVIEW: ROBIN LeBLANC
This month, I asked writer Robin LeBlanc some questions about her work. Robin's bio:
Robin 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.
She lives in Toronto and takes her coffee black with two sugars, thanks.
Robin is a longtime acquaintance of mine—she's got a vicious and laser-precise sense of humor, and she's got serious writing chops. She is best known for her critical writing about beer at her blog, the aforementioned The Thirsty Wench. She's also murderously funny via Twitter, @thethirstywench.
On with the show.
Eric Trautmann: I've "known" you online for what feels like forever, but we've never met in real life. Tell me a little bit about yourself.
Robin LeBlanc: Yeah, jeez, I think we’ve known each other for about nine years? Is that right? That’s insane.
Well, currently I live in Toronto, which is a city that is kind of a cross between New York and Chicago with a dash of Boston and universal health care thrown in. I originally went to school studying film, specializing in screenwriting, but then ended up working in music publicity while doing some freelance copywriting and photography work on the side. I love comics, movies, existential humour, Ghostbusters, recently fountain pens and inks, and newsletters put out by writers I dig. *waves*
EST: Now: Tell me about beer. Specifically, you've been blogging and writing and thinking about beer for rather a while now—what is it that drew you to the subject matter?
RLB: I think my interest in beer came to me in stages. The taste was my first draw. Going from the odd Heineken to my first flavourful beer of a Chimay Première, a Trappist Belgian Dubbel with its deep flavours of dark fruit and caramel, was a lot like going my whole life eating waxy Halloween chocolate and finally taking my first bite of 75% cacao dark chocolate. The rich deep flavours blew me away and, as I started trying more beers, I realized there was a whole universe of flavour out there and I wanted to learn about it.
The second thing that drew me in was its history. Humankind has been making beer since the days of the ancient Sumerians. The first recipe ever was one for beer. Throughout our history, beer has been in the background for all of our developments.
Finally, in the modern sense, beer is a fantastic sign of human innovation because since the dawn of civilization we’re still finding new ways to make unique beers that can pair so deeply with our surroundings. I like that and want to celebrate that as much as possible.
EST: I focus on process here a lot, so I'm curious about yours. When you approach a new article, blog entry, book project, etc. is there a series of steps you take? A research routine? Tools you prefer to use?
RLB: I really hate the typical stories that are out there that are like “beers paired with watching the game” or something else that feels like a cheap jab for readers, so I try to come up with ideas that personally interest me and are capable of contributing something that hasn’t been said before. I tend to have an incubation period with my ideas, letting them brew in my head for a while, gathering further information through research and interviews throughout that time. Shortly before I put fingers to keyboard I handwrite some point form notes in my notebook. Sort of like a checklist of points I want to get across. Then I slam it all out, editing as I go. Afterwards I read my piece aloud, checking for tone and flow.
Q: You recently co-authored a guide to Ontario craft beers (congratulations, by the way—my copy finally arrived, and I'm only about fifty pages in—it's excellent!); most of my exposure to your work has been solo by-line stuff (like your Thirsty Wench blog). Was this your first time working with a collaborator? How does your process differ when working with someone else?
RLB: Yeah, this has been my first time writing with someone and I’m fortunate that my experience in working with Jordan has been a positive one. In terms of personal dynamic, we’re kind of like a Mr. Show-esque sketch comedy duo, with plenty of jokes and references to boot. For the book, it was great to see that we were very much on the same page for things and it helped that when we started working on it, that we set up some ground rules of exactly what we wanted to do and how we wanted to do it. We also complement each other on work things as well, doing well in areas where the other might have trouble in.
Five stars would collaborate again.
EST: Do you have a favorite beer that you think more people should be drinking and aren't?
RLB: More of a favourite type of beer, that doesn’t fit into just one style. When drinking craft beer, it’s easy to think that the only kind of drinks out there are the ones with wild and crazy flavours. The bourbon barrel-aged imperial stouts, or the Mango citrus IPA hop-bombs, etc. I tend to favour “simple done well” beers, which are just beers that don’t command your attention and are complex in their simplicity. My favourite type of beer is one that I don’t have to think about if I don’t want to, but if I did it would only be good things. Beers that fall into this category for me are Sixpoint’s The Crisp, Founder’s All-Day IPA, Folly Brewing’s Flemish Cap, or even a good ‘ol Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Some may call those beers boring, but I call them reliable and well-made.
Cheers, Robin! Thanks for taking the time to play along!
Visit Amazon to purchase a copy of The Ontario Craft Beer Guide by Robin LeBlanc and Jordan St. John.
Burned through Stephen King's End of Watch, completing the "Bill Hodges" trilogy. I much preferred the first book, Mr. Mercedes—and to a lesser extent the middle book, Finders Keepers. I liked that they didn't veer into supernatural territory, whereas End of Watch steers right into it. Still, King's prose remains accessible and arresting, and in Brady Hartsfield, King has crafted a memorable villain. I'll miss these characters. Stephen King, End of Watch, via Amazon.
What I'm Watching: Mostly re-watching old tv series on DVD—E.R., mostly. It's easy to forget how influential that show was. I also recently watched the Solomon Kane movie, and was not horrified by it. I wasn't expecting much (given the general awfulness of the recent Conan the Barbarian movie) but it more or less worked as a film, something the Conan pic singularly failed at. Worth a watch. Solomon Kane (Blu-Ray) via Amazon.
Stuff I Worked On You Might Not Have Seen: Crimson Skies (Mass Market Paperback), Del Rey Books. I contributed (along with co-writer Nancy Berman) a pulp-fiction piece based on the Crimson Skies videogame property (which I worked on for many years). Also included are stories by Eric Nylund (of Halo fame) and Michael B. Lee. Familiarity with the setting is a plus, but not necessary. I had a lot of fun with that one. Nylund, Trautmann, Berman, Lee, Crimson Skies via Amazon.
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.