Heads Up! Drawing Every Character In Concrete Park™ Part 1

Concrete Park™ has a lot of characters. Let me repeat that. Concrete Park™ has a lot of characters, and god help me, it’s my job to draw them all. As the co-creator, co-writer and artist of this new graphic novel series from Dark Horse Comics, I helped to dream them up, and I now have the privilege of going to work every day with these brave, crazy, noble, cowardly, brilliant, dangerous, colorful, multi-ethnic, sexy people. It’s a big responsibility.

With the first issue of our new mini-series due in stores Sept. 3, and our new hardcover coming out Oct. 14th, (and with San Diego and Salt Lake Comic Cons around the corner) I was looking for a way to promote Concrete Park on twitter. It hit me: why not try and draw portraits of all the lead characters in our sci-fi epic, going back to our first publication in December, 2011 in the pages of Dark Horse Presents? Wouldn’t that be a fun challenge?

So I started drawing them. I quickly realized that it wouldn’t be enough to draw just the leads. With its sprawling, Game of Thrones-sized storyline, Concrete Park features scores of important, colorful characters with “speaking roles”, and they are each the stars of their own movies. I drew more. And more. I had to draw them quickly (I am still, as of this writing, working to beat the deadlines of the monthly book). And I found something interesting started happening.

I was cartooning. At last. Let me explain.

I’ve been a writer in Hollywood for more than twenty years. It’s what I’m known for, it’s what I believe I’m good at. Though I painted and pursued an art degree at Brown, venturing into drawing comics was a big step outside of my comfort zone. Let me put it this way. I’ve had the slightly surreal experience of having the first comics drawing work I ever did run in the pages of Dark Horse Presents sandwiched between stories by comics giants Mike Mignola and Neal Adams, each of whom has forgotten more about putting these marks on paper than I’ll ever know.

To say I was plagued by feelings of fear, inadequacy and doubt would be an understatement.

Three years on, I’m still scared every time out, but I’ve gotten faster at the work, and with speed has come a new understanding. Comics artists are cartoonists, we trade in a form of abstraction. We are precisely not making photographically “real” images, but rather images that are simplified and abstracted enough so that the audience may imagine themselves in them. (This thesis was best explained by Scott McCloud in his seminal work, Understanding Comics, and I acknowledge my debt to him here. The panel below is from his book).

McCloud2,jpg

When I first drew some of our Concrete Park characters, I thought I wanted them to look “real” or, in the case of the female characters, “real” and “pretty”, or just real pretty. Over time, and with hundreds and hundreds of repetitions, each of these distinctive people evolved into a series of simplified pencil and brush strokes. Like Charlie Brown with his one curl of hair, or Superman with his spit curl, each character in Concrete Park has started to boil down to a limited rhetoric of simple, repeatable gestures. Paradoxically, the more abstract and “cartoonish” they became, the more they looked like themselves. They were becoming, to use Scott McCloud’s word, iconic.

The first head I drew for the series is one of my favorites, the Big Mofongo, The Potato King™. I love his fat face, I love the scars that radiate out from its center to give his every expression an extra bit of energy. He’s become very easy to draw, and the lessons I learned drawing (and coloring) his un-pretty mug really came in handy when approaching the women, and those lessons are starting to free me from the trap of trying to draw pretty.

POTATO-KINGNext in the series was The Madman Fontaine™. This character is just batshit crazy, and he leads a crazy gang that operates more like a cult. He looks like an Indian holy man, but there’s nothing holy about him. His hair, his face paint, his pretty eyelashes, his big ears and his epic ‘stache make him a lot of fun to draw.FONTAINE

The third in the series was Lena™. She is also quite mad. (Is this a theme rearing its ugly, dare I say it, head?) Her hair does some serious acting for her, and her alien blue eyes and tongue make her jump off the page even when I draw her badly.

LENA

What do you think of the series so far? I’d love to hear from you.

Watch this space for more heads! Collect them all!

Concrete Park #1, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T”, hits you local comics store Sept. 3. The Concrete Park hardcover, Vol.1, “You Send Me” is available for pre-order now!

 

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Character Of The Day – Samad

Samad was born in Cairo to a wealthy family of doctors and lawyers. A sudden reversal of his family’s fortunes left a fifteen year-old Samad and his brothers and sisters out on the streets, where they were rounded up and transported to Oasis to work in the mines. He never saw his siblings again. In the mines and on the streets of Scare City, this entitled young prince of a boy became a man fueled by a burning rage. He is now The Potato King’s premier gunman and a danger to anyone foolish enough to look him in the eye. Except Luca, and he’s not sure how he feels about her.

Character Of The Day – The Potato King

He is the single biggest living thing on Oasis. At more than 600lbs, he can probably be seen from space. He leads one of the biggest gangs in Scare City and he has cornered the market in alcohol in there. Both he and the gang that follows him go by the name “Potato King.” His “King” label on a bottle of vodka or gin means at least you won’t die from the contents. Unless you want to. One more thing. You don’t want to piss this 500lb giant off. He has been known to eat his enemies.

Character Of The Day – The Madman Fontaine

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More of a cult than a gang, Bama stands out as an insane, nihilistic group even by the crazy standards of Scare City. Their leader, Fontaine, is a madman with a method, a paranoid visionary responsible for some of the darkest deeds ever done on Oasis.
They live in the desert, shunning the temptations of the city. They have no women .
Their raids on other gangs are notable for their ferocity and their total absence
of mercy. Bama doesn’t want influence, doesn’t want money, doesn’t want power.
What, then, do they want?

Character Of The Day – Silas

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Silas is the big bad in the story world of Concrete Park. He puts the scare in Scare City. He only looks like a human (and that’s strictly part-time), but he’s actually an ancient and malevolent demi-god from the days when the now-desert planet Oasis was young and green. As the leader of Las Cruces, Silas’s intrigues are felt everywhere, and soon, if this monster has his way, the very planet will sway to his beat, and bow to his word. Stay tuned.

Character Of The Day – Lena

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With her blue eyes and blue mouth and a blue haze that rises off her wherever she goes, Lena does not look human. She came out of Luca’s dreams, dripping wet, steaming in the desert night. She may be a spirit from the heart of the planet Oasis itself, ancient, malign, unknowable. Not everyone can see her, but one thing is certain: Luca loves her with a love that is hard and desperate.