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PDZ.com interview with Eric Trautmann, Part 2

Original interview transcript from PerfectDarkZero.com.

In part two of our three-part interview, "Welcome to the War" designer, scripter and letterer Eric S. Trautmann gives us a closer look at the comic book design and development process.

Question: What tools are used to design, script and letter a comic book?

Eric S. Trautmann: Probably one of the most important “tools” I used to create the comic script was a massive amount of comics trivia and history stored away in my brain.

A copy of Greg Rucka’s excellent Queen & Country Scriptbook was also invaluable. I’d only ever attempted one “comic” that has seen print – a 12-page story included in WizKids Crimson Skies Clix game – so I wanted an idea of how and why Greg’s stuff worked so well.

During a Q&A session I attended, Greg – who is an extremely prolific and excellent comics writer and novelist – also opened my eyes to something I always understood in general, but never really thought about in practical terms, specifically: the act of turning the comics page is a means of scene transition. In essence, it’s like camera movement. Once that “clicked” it informed every aspect of the script.

Question: What kinds of design limitations were placed on you by the fact that PDZ was still in development?

Eric S. Trautmann: Very little. The very first script I turned in to Rare was approved almost immediately. I already knew the general storyline and where the game was heading – and consequently, I didn’t want to ruin any of the big twists and turns of the plot. I knew the universe very well, both as a (rabid, drooling) fan of the original game, and as the writer of what’s now being used as the setting “story bible.” Any “limits” were imposed by the property as I understood it.

John Dongelmans, the marketer assigned to Perfect Dark Zero, had specific requests for the story: it had to showcase Joanna, and her deadly skills; it had to showcase the near-future setting and technology; it had to show Joanna as not only lethal but also as attractive; and it had to hint at the nature of the conflict between the hypercorps.

Since I was hoping to do all that anyway, it’s hard to view those as “limits.”

Question: Can you tell us a little about the process of scripting the book? Did you conceive the overall story and just begin writing, or is the process less linear?

Eric S. Trautmann: My process was fairly linear; I knew the elements I needed to include, so I had to figure out how best to implement them for dramatic purposes. I sketched out a few rough starts, longhand on a legal pad (because I’m nothing if not high-tech). I abandoned a few elements as extraneous and not terribly easy to implement in a mere 16 pages. Once I decided on the setting, and what the action set pieces would be, I sat down and typed out the story in script form.

Question: “Welcome to the War” shows us Joanna Dark’s world through the eyes of Mr. Abbot, a computer technician. Why him and not the agent trainee herself?

Eric S. Trautmann: A couple of reasons, actually. First, Joanna was going to spend a lot of the story fighting dataDyne goons, so she wouldn’t have a lot of time to chat. Second, if I was going to showcase this universe of espionage, corporate infighting, and some truly high-stakes office politics, using someone who really inhabits that world would prove useful as a storytelling device.

And once I started writing it, I discovered there was a great opportunity to play with the subtext of the scene. In the narration, it’s clear that Abbot is “spinning” his involvement in the story to impress his boss, making himself look far more heroic than he really is. It just felt more plausible, interesting, and “real.” Abbot’s captions versus his appearance in the scene were, I think, a fairly sly joke.