Sometimes your tastes change. While going back and looking at all of these old “Palmer’s Picks” columns, I’m able to see how my interest in certain comics evolved as I was exposed to new creators and tried out new things. Writing for Wizard helped to fuel the process because I was eager to seek out different comics in order to keep up with the monthly grind. “Palmer’s Picks” would only be valuable if I looked for work by new creators and found what appealed to me. But that meant that I would have to leave some comics behind; I didn’t have enough time to keep up with every single “alternative” comic out there. Paul Chadwick‘s Concrete is a good example of a comic that slipped away from me. I clearly liked it enough at the time to write a full-length column, but I really don’t have any attachment to it.
When I wrote this “Picks” in 1993, the concept of reprinting an entire series into trade paperbacks was still a new idea, so there was a bit of a “treasure hunt” aspect to some comics. If you weren’t on board from the beginning, it could be quite expensive and time-consuming to track down early issues of a series, like Concrete, that was getting a lot of buzz. This was often seen as a good way to get a book some attention
—a comic wasn’t considered worthwhile unless the first issue was really rare and priced at $35 in the secondary market. Many publishers feared that if they were too quick to reprint a comic in an affordable trade paperback, they might hurt the value of back issues and in turn destroy some of the “heat” around the series. This tactic also meant that it was hard for new readers to jump on to a book without feeling left out.
Concrete therefore took a rather circuitous road to a sensible reprint program. The original Concrete series was collected two issues at a time, but the reprints were stopped before the entire 10 issues could be collected. It wasn’t until 1994 that the full series was available under one cover, six years after the tenth and final issue was published. When the first spin-off mini-series, Concrete: Fragile Creature, debuted in the summer of ’91, it was announced that a collected edition was off the table for at least three years. This plan might have made sense at the time as a way to build interest in the individual issues, but today it seems foolish to cut off that extra revenue stream. Thankfully, Concrete‘s publisher Dark Horse Comics wisely rethought their strategy for the new millennium and repackaged the various comics in Chadwick’s story in a series of more bookstore-friendly volumes.
Wizard continued its crawl towards respectability. After the much-needed redesign in issue 21, little adjustments and additions were made each month in an attempt to make the magazine look more like a real publication that could compete on the newsstand and less like a fanzine with nice production values. With this issue, the usual ad on the final page was dropped in favor of the short “Wizard Profile” Q&A, making for a nice closing feature. The editorial department also decided that all of the features and columns should have taglines, hence the new addition to “Palmer’s Picks” for this month. While my tagline was rather plain this first time around, it would soon become more irreverent, in keeping with the tone of the rest of the magazine.
I also had another piece of writing in this issue of Wizard, a profile of Tundra Publishing to follow up on the article I wrote for issue 12. This time around, things were a little more chaotic with Kevin Eastman’s company, but I’ll save that story for the next blog post.
Try Sinking Your Teeth Into Concrete
by Tom Palmer Jr.
Paul Chadwick is one of the most respected and talented creators in comics today. His comic book, Concrete, as well as Chadwick himself, has been the recipient of numerous comic industry awards, including Best Cartoonist, Best Continuing Series, and Best Black and White Series. You might think that Concrete does not deserve all of this praise for being what is just adventures of a guy stuck in a body made of rock, but Chadwick is able to bring a surprising amount of depth and sensitivity to his stories.
After earning a degree in fine arts at the Art Center College of Design, Chadwick drew storyboards for movies, like Strange Brew and Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, and painted paperback book covers. Eventually, he landed his first job in comics, penciling the final issues of Marvel’s Dazzler. After the series ended, he shopped his idea for Concrete around to various publishers, eventually settling with a company that was relatively new at the time: Dark Horse.
The first Concrete material to appear was a short story in the first issue of the company’s anthology, which was appropriately called Dark Horse Presents. The first story, as well as Dark Horse Presents, went over very well, prompting Dark Horse to publish the initial material that Chadwick had prepared for the series proposal as a black and white comic book. Not surprisingly, the series was met with critical praise, which soon turned to a large following.
The stories in the Concrete series revolve around some sort of adventure or feat for Concrete to go through, while the short stories examine a particular aspect of Concrete’s personality, or a mundane difficulty that must be endured while being trapped in an unwieldy, concrete body. Chadwick is a master of both long and short forms of storytelling and knowing how to pace the events and plot devices of an adventure story, while also being aware of the subtleties and nuances of a short character piece.
Chadwick does not take the traditional path in writing his Concrete stories. He focuses on more human concerns and character-driven tensions instead of the typical comic-book hero/villain struggle. In the longer Concrete stories, Chadwick pays close attention to the small details of each situation. For instance, he drew from his experiences on the set of the movie Alter Midnight for the Concrete mini-series Fragile Creature. During a break from Concrete, Chadwick returned to production design and storyboarding for movies, gathering details and story material. The story involved Concrete being hired as a stunt man and special effects handyman on the set of “Rulers of the Omniverse.”
Chadwick is very concerned with environmental issues, and is able to work his views and ideas into his Concrete stories. Aside from basing some of his stories around environmental problems and concerns, he has printed some of his Concrete books on recycled paper and even devoted an entire Concrete special to celebrating, and raising awareness of, Earth Day.
Chadwick has just started Eclectica, a collection of new Concrete stories, along with installments in the new 100 Horrors series, and promotional artwork and watercolor paintings. This is a book that you should definitely pick up to experience Chadwick’s rich artwork and excellent writing.
Aside from Eclectica, there are several other items out this month that hopefully won’t be lost among the other books on the stands in this blood-bath of a summer. One of these is the first part of Ho Che Anderson‘s King, a three-volume biography of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. Anderson has thoroughly researched King’s life, and he also adds a bit of his own interpretation to the story. Using vast amounts of photo references to depict the lives of such figures as King, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Dr. Ralph Abernathy, and Loretta Scott King, Anderson has created an important and inspired work that deserves your attention. This 80-page black and white graphic novel is published by Fantagraphics.
Also from Fantagraphics is Like A Velvet Glove Cast in Iron, a collection of the dream-like story serialized in Dan Clowes‘ Eightball. The 10-chapter book follows Clay Loudermilk as he wanders in search of the answers behind an avant-garde film and the “Mr. Jones” icon, involving himself in a very bizarre cast of characters. This book is valuable to readers who came late to the story, but you should still track down the original issues of Eightball for Clowes’ excellent and hilarious self-contained stories, featuring Dan Pussey and other Clowes characters. Your local comic store should carry both this book and King.
Next month I’ll feature Love and Rockets, by Los Bros. Hernandez. I’m still open to suggestions and comments, so if you have anything on your mind, or even absolutely nothing on your mind, just jot it down and send it off to me at Palmer’s Picks, do WIZARD Press,
100 Red Schoolhouse Rd., Bldg. B-1, Chestnut Ridge, N.Y. 10977.
Tom Palmer Jr. is a freelance writer based in New Jersey when he isn’t at college in Fredericksburg, Va.
Tom’s Recommended Reading
Concrete – The first issue of the regular series appeared in March 1987. Ten issues have been published in black and while since then. Chadwick plans to continue Concrete in the regular series in full-color with #11, as well as in the self-contained mini-series.
Limited Series – Fragile Creatures was published from June 1991 to Feb. 1992 as a four-Issue color series. All of the issues (except for the second) were printed entirely on recycled paper. There are no plans to publish a collected edition until at least 1994, so the only way to read this story is to hunt down the original issues. The second issue of Eclectica, a two-issue series, should be on sale right now. If you’re lucky, you can still find copies of the first issue. This full-color series contains new, self-contained Concrete stories, as well as new 100 Horrors and Sky of Heads stories.
Reprints – Three books, Land & Sea, A New Life, and Odd Jobs, have been published that collect the first six issues of Concrete. Each volume collects two issues and contains expanded story pages and behind-the-scenes sketchbook drawings, as well as full-color wraparound covers. The Complete Short Stories collects all of the Concrete short stories that appeared in Dark Horse Presents from 1986 through 1989. The stories originally appeared in issues 1-6, the even-numbered issues from 8 through 22, and issues 28 and 32.
Miscellaneous – A variety of Concrete speciais and short stories have appeared in a variety of places:
Concrete Color Special – Published by Dark Horse in early 1989, and contained a new story and a reprint of the first two short stories in full color.
Concrete Celebrates Earth Day – Appeared in 1990, with two new Concrete stories, a reprint of an old short story, paintings by Charles Vess, and a story by Moebius, all in full-color.
Dark Horse Presents Fifth Anniversary Special – Contains an 8-page Concrete story, and work by Frank Miller and Matt Wagner.
Within Our Reach – This Christmas benefit book contained a color Concrete story and a painted cover by Paul Chadwick, and work from P. Craig Russel, Eric Shanower, and Norm Breyfogle.