World Premiere Signing! Erika Alexander, Tony Puryear and Robert Alexander Sign Concrete Park #1 at Meltdown Comics Sept. 3 @ 7PM!

 

signing-card

Concrete Park creators Tony Puryear (Eraser), Erika Alexander (Living Single, The Cosby Show) and Robert Alexander will sign the #1 issue of their new five-issue miniseries, Concrete Park: R-E-S-P-E-C-T at Meltdown Comics, Wednedsday, Sept. 3 from 7-9PM. Buy the first issue of the comic the Berkeley Graduate called “Brilliant”, buy original limited-edition art prints, get free Concrete Park posters and a chance to win original Concrete Park art by Tony Puryear throughout the night. There’ll even be a food truck.

Come on down to Meltdown Comics, 7522 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles CA, 90046 and get your Concrete Park on!

Erika Alexander and Tony Puryear sign for you!

Erika Alexander and Tony Puryear sign for you!

 

 

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Mapping Scare City

Laying out the world of Concrete Park™.

We like big books and we cannot lie. We like big stories. Give us a big, well-thought-out story world like Lord Of The Rings or Game of Thrones to live in and we’re happy campers. Tell us all the backstory, man, we’re suckers for it. Take us down the King’s Road from Winterfell to King’s Landing, we’re right there with you. We’re building Concrete Park to be as big and ambitious, (and, we hope, as roomy and rewarding,) as those two awesome models. Big story worlds with hundreds of characters and scores of locations are hard to keep track of. How do we keep track? How do our readers?

When the first issue of our long-awaited new 5-issue mini-series, Concrete Park Volume 2: R-E-S-P-E-C-T, from Dark Horse Comics, hits stores on Sept. 3rd, fans of the graphic novel will notice a new feature: Like J. R. R. Tolkein and George R. R. Martin before us, we made a map, and we promptly fell in love with it.

Map Of Scare City

Our story takes place in and around “Scare City™,” a mega-city built by humans on a distant, desert planet. Its real name is “New Earth Correctional Colony City Number Two,” but no one calls it that. Scare City is a city of gangs, and they exist in a constant, Hobbes-ian war of all against each. Scare City has neighborhoods, barrios, favelas, narrow alleys, twisting streets and wide boulevards. It has impregnable gang strongholds and contested no-man’s-lands. It has mysterious, forbidden precincts. It has place names that remind the lonely human exiles who live here of home.

map-square-4Like a shanty-town on steroids, Scare City was built haphazardly, and like Topsy, it jes’ grew. From its beginning, rival factions emerged to claim this or that piece of turf. The first gang was Gigante, whose motto, “construimos,” “we build,” is a reminder that they were formed from the enslaved construction gangs who built the original settlement here, close to what is now “The Old Town.” Gigante’s gang symbol, a skull with hammer “crossbones,” is a further reminder of their early role.

Older gangs like Gigante lost ground to newer ones like Las Cruces, won it back with blood and lost it again. The shape of the city changed as territory changed hands, with place names from the four corners of Earth bumping shoulders incongruously. This is a city where “Dien Bien Phu” is in “El Centro.”

map-square-1To make matters more confusing, the Earth authorities, represented by the New Earth Council, tried to impose a rough order on Scare City’s rapid, ad hoc 
development, cutting wide avenues like “Avenida Martin Luther King, Jr. right through contested areas. In this way, the map is like a palimpsest of battles fought and won or lost, good intentions and bad consequences.

We discovered something curious as we built this map out. Though it was originally intended just as reference, we soon realized that the map itself was a story-generating engine. The history of the city needed to be filled in. Who lived where, and where do they live now? Which rivals abut one another and which are across town? Where are Scare City’s conflicts and alliances going? The more place names and street names we created, the more stories seemed to just pour out of this map. Names from literature like “Sugar Street” and “West Egg” join with names from real-life slums like “Five Points” and “Cabrini-Green” and names from comics like “Kurtzberg” to give an off-kilter flavor to this crazy, crazy town.

Creating the map

We’d never made a map before, and thought a big-city map would be impossible to pull off, insane to even consider. The internet is full of maps of great, sprawling, cities like Mexico City or Cairo, though, and they had the kind of curvy, swoopy neighborhoods we wanted. We practiced by tracing pieces of these cities, but we began to enjoy the work so much we just started creating city blocks and neighborhoods from scratch, working back and forth between Illustrator and Photoshop.

We found that the city blocks seen in simple silhouette were beautiful in their own right. We started with the South East section of the city. Soon, we laid out Avenida Martin Luther King, Jr. and added three more quadrants. By the time we were finished, a bold and surprising graphic image suggested itself, that of a woman’s face, suggesting, in fact, our character, Luca™. It was a piece of artistic serendipity that wouldn’t have occurred if we hadn’t started this insane project.

map-development

 

We hope you enjoy our Scare City map. Look for it in Concrete Park Volume 2: R-E-S-P-E-C-T #1, which will be in stores Sept. 3.

 

 

Erika Alexander Stirs Controversy With New Blog Post “Why I Wrote A Mad Men Episode With Negroes”

Concrete Park co-creator Erika Alexander has a rocking new blog and a rocking new post to kick it off. The blog is called Showbiz Is Glamorous and the post is called Why I Wrote A Mad Men Episode With Negroes by Erika Alexander”, and it’s already generated a ton of discussion. As a black actress, she was tired of the lily-white landscape of cable TV drama, and really tired of the reasons show creators gave for why it had to be so.

So she did something about it. She wrote a Mad Men script with negroes, just in time for the season 6 premiere this past Sunday. You can read the script (called “Uptown Saturday Night“) in its entirety on her blog. It captures the Mad Men tone and time period, and commenters have praised her both for how skillfully she wrote it and what it represents.

mad-men-illustration-small

One commenter wrote: “1. simply put, you pulled together a great story. I enjoyed reading, you captured Mad Men perfectly, you get the characters, and it just WORKS. Could EASILY be a story line on the show. 2. You are showing Matthew Weiner that he (and others like him) can’t keep making these excuses.”

Erika writes “I needed to find a different way to contribute to the conversation, to answer the constant refrain from show creators that they don’t want to just “shoehorn” black characters into their shows. Respectfully, I believe a storyteller has permission to imagine and create unusual situations in his or her fictional world to tell a larger truth. But I get it, race is complicated.”

Judging by the comments and the record number of views, it seems she has done just what she meant to do, contribute to the conversation. Check out Erika’s post and her Mad Men script and let us know what you think!

Erika Alexander to co-star in new AMC series “Low Winter Sun”

Concrete Park co-creator Erika Alexander will co-star in a dark new crime series, Low Winter Sun from AMC. The Endemol/AMC Studios production stars Mark Strong and Lennie James and begins with the murder of a Detroit cop by a fellow detective. The seemingly perfect crime activates forces that will forever alter the detective’s life, pulling him into the heart of the Detroit underworld.

erika1aErika says: “I am thrilled to be a part of this exciting new series. From Mad Men to Breaking Bad to The Walking Dead, AMC has become the destination for quality drama. The dark, moody pilot for Low Winter Sun was directed by my dear friend, Ernest Dickerson, who has been doing such great work lately on Tremé, Dexter and The Walking Dead. The show has  a great, compelling premise and a cast of killers, headed up by Mark Strong and Lennie James. I can’t wait for my fans to see it.”

Low Winter Sun starts this Summer on AMC.

Press Release: TV and Film Star Erika Alexander Co-Creates “Concrete Park”

Motivated Hollywood multi-tasker smashes stereotypes with new series in legendary anthology magazine Dark Horse Presents, February 22, 2012

Los Angeles, CA – Feb. 22, 2012 – Actress and writer Erika Alexander has been a showbiz traiblazer, changing perceptions of what it means to be black and a woman today. She starred for five years on the hit Fox comedy Living Single, winning two NAACP Image Awards for best actress. She also starred in the groundbreaking The Cosby Show on NBC and the gritty Showtime series Street Time. On the big screen, she sent Denzel Washington back in time in Tony Scott’s Déjà Vu and most recently toplined opposite Benjamin Bratt in the controversial, critically-acclaimed independent feature La Mission.

Now she brings that trailblazing spirit to the world of graphic novels. It started with a remark from a Hollywood studio head. Erika and her husband, African American screenwriter Tony Puryear (Eraser), both major sci-fi fans, were in the mogul’s office pitching a science fiction film with a black lead. He stopped them after two sentences. “Black people don’t like science fiction” he said. “It’s because they don’t see themselves in the future.”

Stunned by the casual racism of the remark, the pair left the office fuming, but Alexander didn’t just get mad, she got motivated. That night she sat down with Puryear and her brother, writer Robert Alexander and together they sketched out an ambitious story world set in the future.

Today Concrete Park, Erika Alexander’s first comics project, appears in Dark Horse Presents #9 from Dark Horse Comics, the premier independent comics publisher. “Concrete Park is about hope in a hopeless place” Alexander says, “it’s about race, it’s about violence and tribalism and hunger. It’s also about beauty, that proverbial ‘rose in Spanish Harlem.’ Though it’s set on another planet, it’s about our world right now. It’s the kind of story science fiction was made for.” She adds “it’s a perfect fit with Dark Horse Presents, the legendary anthology comic that served as a launch-pad for challenging work by the biggest names in comics, including Frank Miller (Sin City, 300) and Mike Mignola (Hellboy).”

“I’m thrilled Mike Richardson of Dark Horse “got” Concrete Park” Alexander  says. “His record of success in finding and nurturing the best and brightest talent in comics speaks for itself.” Richardson says, simply “I love this strip.”

Concrete Park is a dark and provocative near-future story. It takes place in a turbulent mega-city on a distant desert planet (think Cairo or Rio in space). Young human exiles from Earth must fight to make a new world there. They are “young, violent and ten billion miles from home”. In its ambitious scope, it resembles nothing so much as George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones series, but with favelas and aliens, cops and cyborgs, ghettos and gangs instead of castles and armies.

With her extensive travels in Africa and her long-time advocacy for at-risk youth and women’s and girls’ issues, the fight to make the future is a theme dear to Alexander’s heart:

“The comment from that studio head really got me revved up on several levels” Alexander says. “First, I love sci-fi. My writing heroes are giants of sci-fi who happen to be African American like Octavia Butler and Samuel R. Delany. The biggest geeks I know are Sam Jackson, Will Smith and Rosario Dawson. Secondly, and more importantly, you wanna tell me about the future? Blacks and other minorities in this country and poor people all over the world live in the future. Our past may be pain, our present, precarious, but the future? The future is free.”

About Erika Alexander

When famed producers Merchant and Ivory discovered her at 15 in a tiny theater in Philadelphia and cast her as the lead in their film, My Little Girl, they launched Erika Alexander on a remarkable journey. She went onto tour the world in Peter Brook’s epic The Mahabharata with the Royal Shakespeare Company and to star in NBC’s The Cosby Show. Erika starred for five years as fan favorite “Maxine Shaw” in the hit series Living Single, winning two NAACP awards for Best Actress. She won raves as the on-the-edge parole officer in the acclaimed Showtime drama Street Time. She recently recurred on the USA drama series In Plain Sight. Her film work ranges from indie faves like Steven Soderbergh’s Full Frontal with Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts and La Mission with Benjamin Bratt to burly sci-fi blockbusters like Déjà Vu with Denzel Washington.

Active in a range of causes, Erika was a national surrogate for Hillary Clinton in her 2008 presidential campaign, and a 2008 William J. Clinton Foundation delegate to Africa. She is also an advocate for at-risk youth and for women and girls, speaking around the country and raising money on their behalf. She is married to screenwriter and Concrete Park co-creator Tony Puryear and lives in Los Angeles.