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!

 

Our Official Schedule for Comic Con 2013!

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It’s going to be a busy four days for us at SDCC 2013! Stop by and find us at the Dark Horse Booth and get exclusive news straight from the horse’s mouth about our new Concrete Park limited series. Come talk and bring a book to sign. At each destination, Erika will be promoting her new drama series, Low Winter Sun (AMC, debuting August 11, after Breaking Bad). Come see the panel we’re on this year, or look for us at the Milestone 20th Anniversary Party, at Trickst3r or at Gam3rCon!

Thursday, July 18, 2PM-3PM, Rm 9 – Panel – “The Writer’s Journey, Breaking In To Hollywood and Comic Scriptwriting” – Moderated by Brandon Easton

Friday, July 19, 6PM-7PM – Signing – Dark Horse Booth, #2615

Friday, July 19, 9PM – Milestone 20th Anniversary Party

Saturday, July 20, 2PM-3PM, Gam3rcon – Independent Game Developer Panel

Thanks to Michael Davis for showing us so much comics love.

Thanks also to Lauren Selman of Gam3rCon.

Special thanks to Mike Richardson, Kari Yadro and their whole Dark Horse Comics SDCC team for making us so welcome to the Dark Horse family this year.

– Tony Puryear

Comic Con 2012 Wrap-Up

Team Concrete Park Rocked Comic Con 2012! From a panel that sparked an internet controversy to the cover of Dark Horse Presents (to DHP winning the Eisner!) to a couple of great signings to a flower and poster giveaway to a symposium at Tr!ckster, we were all up in that mug, making our story the talk of the con.

Our SDCC experience started Thursday with a 1PM Panel, “Dark Horse: Powered By Creators“. Hosted by Dark Horse Comics Founder/Publisher Mike Richardson, the panel featured Erika and Tony’s first San Diego appearance as creators, along with killer pros like Geof Darrow, Stan Sakai, Sanford Greene, Francesco Francavilla and Eric Powell. Without having to say a word about it, Mike Richardson had affirmed his commitment to a diversity of voices and creators in the Dark Horse stable. It was an honor and a treat be the new kids sitting in and talking with this crew of veteran comics artists.

The panel also produced the Con’s most memorable quote. Relating advice from a studio executive they’d pitched to, Tony and Erika told how the exec stopped them in the middle of a sci-fi pitch that featured black characters and said “Black people don’t like science fiction. It’s because they don’t see themselves in the future.” It was this casually racist advice that led them to create (with Erika’s brother Robert Alexander) Concrete Park. The story got a big reaction from the crowd in the hall, and went viral a few minutes later. You can see some of the coverage (and HUNDREDS of comments) here at Bleeding Cool. It provoked a lot of healthy discussion.

We followed the panel with the first of three big signings at the Dark Horse Booth. In the first, we signed copies of Dark Horse Presents #14 featuring Concrete Park on the cover alongside our new BFFs from the panel. We traded sketches with Francesco Francavilla, our new favorite artist.

It was a little surreal to be signing a book with our cover on it in the same location where, a year ago, we watched Dark Horse pros like Mike Mignola sign their books. Last year we came to the Dark Horse booth to do business with Mike Richardson, we shook hands on a deal within five minutes of meeting him, and a year later, we found ourselves on the dais signing OUR comic, smiling like loons to see Mike Mignola looking up at us.

Joining us at the Dark Horse booth playing “Luca” from Concrete Park was our awesome copslay performer Jazmin Castaneda. Jazmin is an up-and-coming new model from San Diego, and her appearance at the booth was a big hit with the fans. With Jazmin we handed out hundreds of our plastic flowers, and it was amazing to see women (and men) wearing them in their hair for the four days of the Con.

We did a second signing Thursday that was just Team Concrete Park. Jazmin roped people in to the Dark Horse booth with the promise of a free poster signed by Erika and Tony, and we gave out 200 posters and the same number of flowers in an hour!

Friday night, Dark Horse Presents won the Eisner Award for Best Anthology. We were thrilled to be even a small part of the success story of this historic book.

Saturday would bring another epic sign-a-thon, but first we stopped by the Tr!ckster space around the corner from Petco Park where Tony participated in a great symposium on “Worldbuilding” with comics luminaries like (from left to right in the two photos below) Ted MathotSteve Niles, Marc Andreyko, B. Clay Moore, Josh Fialkov, Craig Thompson, Dave McKean and Scott Morse.

The symposium introduced us to the great folks behind Tr!ckster, Scott Morse, Steve Edwards, Ted Mathot and Anita Coulter. They rock, and we hope they keep doing Tr!ckster next year.

A few other highlights: Catching the screening of our friend Matthew Spradlin’s new film Bad Kids Go To Hell, running into Rosario Dawson there, hanging out for days with out good friend T.C. Carson, who, in addition to having played Kyle on Living Single, currently voices both Kratos in the phenomenally successful God of War game series and Mace Windu in Star Wars video games. Spending time chilling with Sanford Greene and Daniel Vest in Artist’s Alley. Meeting the inimitable Ms. Kai Charles. Also, getting a drawing and a compliment for Concrete Park from the incredible Geof Darrow.

Special thanks to Mike Richardson, Kari Yadro and their whole SDCC team for making us so welcome to the Dark Horse family this year.

All in all, a con we’ll never forget.

– Tony Puryear

Making A Promotional Giveaway Flower For Comic Con, Part 3

The flowers have arrived! We will be giving them away to lucky readers at Comic Con in San Diego!

Join us at the Dark Horse booth, booth 2615, Thurs. 7/12, 5-6PM and Sat., 7/14, 3-4PM for a chance to get this great collectible! This is a special limited edition of 500, never to be made in this way again. Get yours and get it signed by Concrete Park co-creators Erika Alexander and Tony Puryear!

The flowers arrived yesterday from China, and they look spectacular! Big ups to our 3D partner artists Valandar and hongyu for the awesome design work, and thanks to Bank of China and all our partners in the PRC for the finance and production.

– Tony Puryear

Making A Promotional Giveaway Flower For Comic Con, Part 2

We posted a while ago about the promotional giveaway we’re making for Comic Con 2012 in San Diego. We’re going to be making a plastic flower that’s a replica of the one our lead character, Luca, wears in her hair in Concrete Park. We’re documenting the process here in the blog.

The first step in the process is to make a real, life-size prototype for our factory in China to work from. Last time we showed you the digital 3D model our friend Bill Chamberlin made. Next we needed to print out a real-world prototype, and for that we turned to one of the most talented 3D artists in the world. Hongyu is a Chinese designer who makes some of the finest (and best-selling) virtual clothes in the business. I’ve worked with him for four years, and it’s a real honor to have him contribute to this project. Hongyu took our virtual model, in .obj format, prepared it carefully and “printed it out, and the result is what you see at bottom, an exact, real-world version of Luca’s iconic flower that you can hold in your hand, or more importantly, use to make a mold.

It’s so exciting to see this latest step, because it makes our goal of seeing hundreds of people wearing one of these flowers in their hair at Comic Con seem suddenly possible and real.

We asked him to tell us a little about himself and about how he got involved in this work:

“My name is hongyu and I’m 35 years old and I live in southern China. I studied art and clothing design in school. I became interested in 3D because I cannot paint as well as others. In the late 90s I began to learn computer graphics. I found using a computer can make it easy for me to do the drawing and it is the most advanced tool for designers. A designer always comes with a prototype, and a 3D printer makes any designer’s dream come true, it not only makes prototyping faster than ever but also makes it possible to improve a design in the early stages. Iin the past, problems are always found when it is already in the market.”

Next steps: Now that we have our awesome prototype, it’s on to the toy factory, where we’ll make some more magic! Stay tuned!

More on this step in our next installment. Any questions? suggestions? feedback? We’d love to hear from you!

– Tony Puryear

Making A Promotional Giveaway Flower For Comic Con, Part 1

Comic Con 2012 is coming up soon. As a promotional giveaway, we’re going to be making a plastic flower for women (and men too, if they’re so inclined) to wear in their hair. The flower will be a replica of the one our lead character, Luca, wears in her hair in Concrete Park. We thought it would be fun to document the process here in the blog, and to see how the final product comes out months from now.

Luca’s flower is her trademark, her logo. If her red sarong is  her Superman’s cape, her flower is her big red “S”. Because nothing grows on the planet Oasis, her flower is, of course, a cheap plastic one. So we set out to reproduce that in cheap plastic. We also wanted the flower to carry the Concrete Park logo.

The first step in the process is to make a real, life-size prototype for our factory in China to work from. To start that, I turned to my friend and colleague, the 3D digital wizard Bill Chamberlin, who is known as “Valandar” in the 3D community (below).. There’s no one I know better suited for the job of turning my 2D drawings into a digital 3D model. Valandar produced a fabulous model, (below).

We asked him how he did it: “I made the base mesh in 3D Studio Max by simply altering some basic primitives. I then brought the base mesh into ZBrush, increased the overall resolution, then used an image of the Concrete Park logo as an alpha in ZBrush to emboss it on the petal. After decimating it to a slightly more manageable size without losing any detail, I sent the final mesh off to Tony.” He tends to speak like that.

We also asked him how he came to be a 3D artist, and what he enjoyed most about the work: “I’m entirely self taught after roughly 14 years of playing and then working in 3D. And my favorite part is bringing things into form that previously had no form except my imagination.”

Next steps: Now that we have this rockin’ 3D model, we’ll send it to China, where another fine 3D artist partner of ours named hongyu  will turn it into a real-world prototype using a 3D printer.

More on this step in our next installment. Any questions? suggestions? feedback? We’d love to hear from you!

Concrete Park Rocks The Cover of Dark Horse Presents #14!

Big news! We got the cover! This iconic image ofLuca will grace the cover of Dark Horse Presents #14 for July, 2012, just in time for Comic Con!

Concrete Park is currently on hiatus in DHP, but will return in the July issue of the legendary anthology with Part 4 of the story “You Send Me“. In this introductory story, Luca, a gang leader in the teeming outer space ghetto known as Scare City, is set up as a pawn in a dangerous three-way game. Meanwhile, on Earth, Isaac, a confused and nihilistic young gang member is transported in chains to an uncertain fate in an unknown prison. How are their fates linked? Pick up Dark Horse Presents #14 for the answers!