Trautmann Cracks the Whip with "Lady Rawhide"

Thu, July 25th, 2013 at 8:58am PDT

Comic Books
Andy Liegl, Contributing Writer

This August, Dynamite Entertainment adds a new series to their growing pulp hero line that includes titles like "Miss Fury" and "The Shadow" in the form of an all-new 5-issue "Lady Rawhide" miniseries by writer Eric Trautmann and artist Milton Estevam.

Rawhide first appeared in 1995 as a "Zorro" spinoff series published by Topps Comics in the height of the decade's "Bad Girl" comics craze. Now, Trautmann continues the legacy of Anita Santiago, introducing her into the new millennium for a different generation of readers.

Trautmann spoke with Comic Book Resources about his "Lady Rawhide" run, explaining how he's adapting the character for a modern audience, the way her revealing costume serves a story-driven purpose and even giving his take on "Rawhide" creator Don McGregor's comments about Dynamite's relaunch.

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CBR News: Eric, Lady Rawhide hasn't been seen in an original comic book story since the 1990s -- how are you approaching her revival in the new millennium for a modern audience? Are you sticking with her '90s "Bad Girl" roots?

Writer Eric Trautmann and Dynamite Entertainment revive "Lady Rawhide" in August

Eric Trautmann: Pretty much, yes, though I'd argue Lady Rawhide has been mislabeled as a "Bad Girl." I ran a small comic shop in my hometown in the middle of that period in the '90s, and Lady Rawhide always stuck out to me as being more akin to classic "Good Girl"/pinup girl art in style. Certainly the costume was revealing but just seemed more "cute" than her heavily sexualized contemporaries of the day.

I've endeavored to not make any changes to her origin. If anything, I've pushed her timeline ahead a couple years.

Joseph Michael Linsner's cover for "Lady Rawhide" #1 looks identical to her original outfit. Does the interior art by Milton Estevam reflect this or does your interpretation of Lady Rawhide don a new look?

I've stayed faithful to the original material; her costuming remains unchanged.

While we're talking about the costume, Anita Santiago is a confident person and her outfit reflects this -- ComicVine even cites one of her super powers as "Attractive Female." In Dynamite's press release announcing the series, you said, "[Lady Rawhide] exists in a time and place where, as a woman, society has strictly defined what her behavior should be. Her vigilante, Robin Hood-esque actions are subversive, and her overtly flamboyant costuming rejects those social conventions." Can you get into this a little more and the relevance of Anita's costume in terms of who she is as a person? Additionally, how have you ensured lady readers of today can give this book a shot without feeling like the material is overly sexualized?

Clearly, Anita has a rebellious streak. Her vigilante career began with her desire for vengeance (over the blinding of her brother, who was mistaken for Zorro), but it seems fairly evident that she chafed under the role her society placed her in -- that outfit sprang from her imagination, after all. And while the outfit is revealing and probably a little impractical (though I'd argue Zorro's cape lacks a certain practicality, too), it would have been completely shocking to both men and women in that time, in that place. She must've been aware of that, I would think.

As for female readers, I'm not sure that I've done much different than I've ever done. I've written quite a number of strong, attractive female characters -- from Power Girl in "JSA Vs. Kobra," to the modern Mademoiselle Marie in Checkmate, to Lois Lane, to Red Sonja, to Vampirella. I try to approach every character I write as honestly as possible. In "Lady Rawhide," I've approached her as the strong, intelligent, resourceful woman she always has been. Her foes treat her with wariness and respect, so how could I do less?

You've mentioned elsewhere on the internet classic Rawhide characters like her nemesis Scarlet Fever, her vampire ally Carmelita Rodrigue and even Zorro himself will not be appearing in this miniseries. Can you tell us who will be rounding out the supporting cast, especially in terms of the Sisters of the White Rose?

I've posited it's been a few years since her last appearance, and she's amassed a small following; in particular, there's Captain Reyes, a young officer in the Mexican army, whom Lady Rawhide has a flirting cat-and-mouse relationship with. He secretly likes and respects her, but he's duty-bound to apprehend her, despite loathing the corrupt government he's forced to serve. Aside from that, I'll be establishing a small "hideout" for her -- one of many she's set up around Mexico, with the implication that she may have "agents" or allies at each. In this case, there's Father Arturo -- a priest she saved from the gallows -- and Leonor, a former midwife whom Lady Rawhide had saved from an abusive husband.

While the character will be new to many readers, Trautmann sees the story as a continuation of the '90s series published by Topps

That's probably the biggest "thing" I've tried to bring to the table. I have a fondness for pulp stories, and I always loved how The Shadow recruited "agents." I'm suggesting a similar paradigm for Lady Rawhide, though in a much less dark and grim context. That way, future writers can add new characters to her retinue as needed, without contradicting anything that came before.

There's also Judson Cole, an American bounty hunter, hired by the Yanqui silver and rail barons attempting to purchase control of the Mexican government. He's a nasty, vicious piece of work (and is consequently a joy to write).

As for the Sisters of the White Rose, there are several dozen. The group is lead by a woman named Adelina, the Sisters are all women who have been mistreated by authority figures of all types, and have taken the examples of Zorro and Lady Rawhide and banded together for mutual protection and to punish those they deem evil.

That said, they have adopted more ruthless and violent methods, so while Lady Rawhide can sympathize with them, she can't condone their methods. Adding to the complications in her life, many of the citizens of Mexico -- who have themselves been mistreated by the government -- have embraced the Sisters.

Is the Dynamite series a complete reboot of the character or a continuation of the previous Topps Comics run?

I consider it very much a continuation, yes.

A number of the classic Lady Rawhide solo adventures had her dealing with smaller, localized threats such as clearing the names of the wrongly accused. In your story, the scope gets bigger as she takes on a corrupt governor who servers as a patsy for the American silver and rail tycoons. You've mentioned this series "isn't a grim, gritty book. It's pulpy, swashbuckling fun at heart." How have you accomplished these feelings while she takes on a man of political stature and the problems he presents?

In terms of tone, it's not terribly dissimilar to a Zorro tale. There's a backdrop of political corruption, but that's always been an underpinning of Zorro's Mexico. There are fairly large political implications in the villains' motivations, but in this kind of story, those problems can be dealt with by a masked vigilante with a true heart and quick reflexes.

Lady Rawhide uses not only a sword, but her fists and a whip -- can you discuss her fighting style and how series artist Milton Estevam approaches the fight scenes?

Generally, I write fairly detailed fight choreography; I've tried to loosen up a bit on this project. The emphasis is on the fights looking "cool" and dynamic. Milton's strengths, along with his clear line and storytelling, is to make those fights feel like they're taking place in an actual environment -- it's not just a series of fighting poses.

EXCLUSIVE: Black & white art from "Lady Rawhide" #1 by artist Milton Estevam

What are your thoughts on Lady Rawhide creator Don McGregor's pointed comments when the series was announced by Dynamite? Have you spoken to Don at all, or has he reached out to you?

I was pretty dismayed, honestly.

I think the whole situation got out of control rather quickly; I know Nick Barrucci, Dynamite's CEO/Publisher, took it very personally. I can say, from personal experience, that Nick is a good guy. I can assure you, failing to mention Mr. McGregor in the press release that sparked the whole "controversy" (or, for that matter, the other co-creator of Lady Rawhide, Mike Mayhew) was an accidental oversight.

I'm glad Nick and Mr. McGregor made their peace, but -- because, hey, it's the comics internet -- the sudden intrusion into the situation by a number of people who had no dog in this fight was... less than ideal. In any argument, when someone feels it necessary to "correct" Kurt Busiek on the nature of the comics business, you just know you're in Crazytown.

And actually, you're the first person to ask me about the whole affair. There were all manner of wild assumptions about what was going to be done to the character, but for all the fiery rhetoric, no one bothered to talk to the guy who was actually writing it.

Do you have any favorite "Zorro" stories?

My favorite is still Johnston McCulley's "The Curse of Capistrano" -- the first Zorro story. I have great affection for the character's many adaptations to film and TV; the first Antonio Banderas "Zorro" film holds up rather well, I think.

What are other comic book works you have in the pipeline?

I've been working with Brandon Jerwa again (my frequent collaborator), this time on a digital comic through the excellent Monkeybrain Comics imprint. We're working with a terrific illustrator, Giovanni Timpano (along with his handpicked colorist Andrea Celestini) and my friend Simon Bowland (one of my favorite letterers). It's called "Frost: Rogue State." The series is a contemporary military/action piece, a kind of love letter to the trashy men's adventure fiction books I grew up loving (stuff like Mack Bolan or "The Destroyer"), as well more-serious fare like Ludlum's Jason "Bourne" books. On one level, it's a dissection of that kind of paperback-spinner novel, and on another is a pretty solid, action-driven tale.

Issue #0, is a teaser -- it contains six pages of story, plus a substantial amount of backmatter, and is completely free. Each subsequent issue is 16 story pages, plus anywhere from 3-10 pages of additional material (as the muse strikes us), for ninety-nine cents. Issue #1 came out in April; sadly, we hit a bit of delay, but we seem to be through that period now. Issue #2 is almost done, and will likely be out in the next month or so, and hitting on a much more regular schedule from then on.

I also pitched in and did some last minute graphic-design work for the new Image series, "Lazarus." It's a great post-apocalypse story (in this case, the disaster is economic), by my dear friend Greg Rucka and his "Gotham Central" partner-in-crime, illustrator Michael Lark. It comes out, as of this writing, this week, and is well worth your time.

Dynamite Entertainment's "Lady Rawhide" #1 by Eric Trautmann and Milton Estevam goes on sale in August.

TAGS:  dynamite entertainment, zorro, lady rawhide, eric trautmann, milton estevam, joseph michael linsner, don mcgregor

 
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