Sweet! A cover image from Concrete Park Vol.2: R-E-S-P-E-C-T is featured in this week’s “Best Art Ever (This Week)” column in Comics Alliance. Drawn by Concrete Park artist and co-creator Tony Puryear, the image features Isaac™ and Luca™, the series’ two leads, locked in a bloody, post-combat embrace.
“It’s a real honor to be featured in this week’s “Best Art Ever”, Puryear said. “To be included with heavyweights (and friends) like Francesco Francavilla and Afua Richardson, not to mention Dark Horse stablemate Phil Noto and comics legend Walt Simonson is also very humbling.”
Concrete Park is the new graphic novel series from Dark Horse Comics. The series is written by actress Erika Alexander, star of Living Single, The Cosby Show and the new #The BFF Chronicles with Erika Alexander and Kim Coles. Puryear handles penciling, inking and coloring chores.
Concrete Park Vol.2: R-E-S-P-E-C-T is the eagerly-anticipated follow-up to the series’ award-winning first volume, which was selected as one of The Best American Comics, 2013. The new book is in comics shops April 29th, 2015, and is available now for pre-order from Amazon.com.
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!
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.
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.
Like 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.”
To 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.
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.
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).
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.
Next 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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
Erika 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.