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!
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
Concrete Park Co-creators Tony Puryear and Erika Alexander took to the airwaves of Karachi, Pakistan this week with a groundbreaking interview on CityFM89’s “89 Chapters” with host Mahvesh Murad.
The two-hour interview on Pakistan’s premiere radio station covered a wide range of topics from creator-owned comics to to screenwriting to racism in Hollywood. Mahvesh, whose show features books and authors from around the world, spun a custom Concrete Park playlist of classic tunes hand-picked by Tony and Erika, including “Spanish Harlem” by Aretha Franklin and “Sukiyaki” by Kyu Sakamoto. Click the link below to hear the show in its entirety.
“We were thrilled to be asked to do this prestigious show” said Tony Puryear. “Mahvesh’s show reaches an audience of more than a million in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. Concrete Park may not be widely available in print in these cities, but with digital downloads from the Dark Horse website, anyone, anywhere in the world can buy our book. This chance to get the word out to 89 Chapters listeners, whom we know to be motivated readers, was very important to us”. Erika Alexander said “Getting to spin some great songs and talk about them with Mahvesh and her listeners was icing on the cake. She’s a book and music lover with great taste. Her questions were incisive and we really enjoyed talking about our book with her, but just as importantly, together, for a couple of hours one afternoon, we hosted a dance party Karachi will remember for a long time.”
Songs played on the show by the Concrete Park co-creators included “Funky Nassau” by The Beginning Of The End, “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)” by Pete Rock and C.L.Smooth. All of the songs played had a connection to Concrete Park. Some, like “Sukiyaki”, might actually be heard on Radio Gigante, the gang-controlled radio station of Scare City featured in the Concrete Park graphic novel. Some, like “Funky Nassau”, are just the kind of ageless, hard-core jams someone might spin at a Scare City dance party.
Other songs, like “Spanish Harlem”, were inspirations for the story. Tony Puryear said: “The image of a rose ‘growing in the street/right up through the concrete’, of something beautiful blooming in an unexpected place, was key to all of our work on this project. In addition to being a dystopian hell, the world of Concrete park is also a place where the miraculous can happen.” Another touchstone song for the show was Santana’s cover of Tito Puente’s monster 50s latin dance hit, “Oye Como Va”. In this song, the singers invite you to check out their cool rhythm, “Oye como va/mi ritmo”. They boast that it is a “mulata” rhythm, neither all black nor all white but something new and mixed. The idea that the more famous, Santana version is being played by a skinny kid from Jalisco, Mexico who grew up in San Francisco listening to Tito Puente’s Puerto-Rican cha-cha-cha (and now being grooved to somewhere in Karachi) is just a testament to the world-spanning power of this crazy mixed up rhythm.
The Concrete Park team looks forward to doing more international radio in the future. Said Puryear: “It’s all about reaching people where they are. Radio is unique in that we think of it as ‘broadcasting’, but for the listener, it’s remarkably intimate and personal.”
About Mahvesh Murad:
Mahvesh reads a lot of books. She loves dystopian fiction and lives in Karachi, Pakistan, sometimes pretending the two aren’t related. She writes book reviews and hosts two shows on Pakistan’s largest English radio station CityFM89. You can hear her talking about books on 89 Chapters, and indulging in the blues on Voodoo Nights. You can hear archived shows here: