The Final ’80s Countdown, Part Seventeen.

§ July 26th, 2023 § Filed under final countdown § 11 Comments

At last, we’re up to the three-voters from my little ‘ol “Favorite 1980s Indies Comics” survey. Just for my own sanity/need for sleep, I may only do entries with one title at a time (like last time and today), but we’re in the home stretch so we’ll be done relatively soon!

And here we go:

Concrete (Dark Horse 1987-1988)Paul Chadwick’s large rocky fella has been missing from the stands for quite a while (though with the occasional promise of a new series coming down the pike), but the character retains a beloved following among the comics cognoscenti even today.

First appearing in Dark Horse Comics’ premier publication, Dark Horse Presents #1 in 1986, Concrete was primarily presented in short stories for the first year or so of his existence. The mostly down-to-Earth stories, told in a purposefully mundane and introspective style, presented the life of Concrete, a person in a huge rocky pody trying to adjust to living in a world too small and fragile for him. At the same time, Concrete uses the advantages conferred upon him by his body to go on exploratory adventures around the planet.

In this early period no explanation is given for Concrete’s existence, until early in his brief ongoing monthly series (the one listed in the header above). It’s aliens, what took political speechwriter Ron Lithgow and a pal who were on a hiking trip and for reasons yet unknown transplated their brains into these large artificial bodies. Aside from this origin (and an expanded retelling in a later mini-series), we don’t get any more aliens or monsters or whatever in the strip, leaving Concrete as the one fantastical element.

[NOTE: in the original telling of the origin, Concrete escapes the alien’s craft as it departs, while his hiking buddy remains behind. Chadwick had said in the past that his idea of the last Concrete story beginning with Concrete’s pal showing back up on his doorstep. In the expanded original, it appears that during the escape Concrete’s pal is killed, so either this was a fake-out or Chadwick’s changed his name on the ending.]

That monthly series ended in ’88, and was followed by several mini-series and one-shots (in color and in black and white). The most recent mini (The Human Dilemma ended in 2006 (on one heck of a cliffhanger), and some short stories that appeared in the revived Dark Horse Presents anthology were reprinted in a one-shot in 2012.

The Concrete stories have been reprinted a number of times in a number of formats, but the most convenient method of reading everything (or at least most everything, but I’m pretty sure these are comprehensive) would be this set of 7 trade paperbacks. This has everything except the 2012 one-shot. The books don’t appear to be currently available from Diamond but they should be relatively easy and inexpensive to find.

A movie was in the planning stages but alas was never to be. I think…Bill Murray was one of the names floated to voice the character? I still believe the comic would lend itself well to some form of adaptation, be it live action or animated. I would fear, though, it would stray too far from its low key comic origins and just go straight to “Concrete Vs. Aliens.”

This is a great series, well worth checking out in those collections or even just sampled out of back issue bins. And I hope we see new stories with Concrete again someday.

11 Responses to “The Final ’80s Countdown, Part Seventeen.”

  • Sean Mageean says:

    It has to be said, Paul Chadwick’s drawing style is superb…he seems to belong in that same cohort as Jaime Hernandez, Steve Rude, Paul Smith, and Dave Stevens–artists whose style was fully formed from the get go!

    Re: the corner cover blurb on Concrete no. 2, I thought Reid Fleming, world’s toughest milkman, was actually the most obnoxious man in the world.

  • Oliver says:

    I’m sorry that Concrete just seemed to peter out, but then again given the state of the world, Concrete in 2023 would be even more depressing.

  • Thom H. says:

    I only read a few Concrete stories (maybe from Dark Horse Presents?), and I thought he was stuck in a suit a la DC’s Blue Devil. His real origin is even worse. Those aliens were mean!

  • Brian F says:

    I love love love Concrete – Paul Chadwick on twitter shared some artwork of an upcoming new Concrete story, but geeze, that was what, 4-5 years ago?
    “the occasional promise of a new series coming down the pike” indeed.

  • DanielT says:

    If I had to choose a defunct series from the 80s to revive, it would be a hard choice between Concrete, Flaming Carrot and Reid Fleming.

  • DanielT says:

    And The World Below! Would have loved to see that continue.

  • Mike Loughlin says:

    When I was 19, I went to the next state over to visit a friend. We ended up getting into a fight, and had a huge falling out. On the way home, I stopped at a comic book store I passed, and bought the first Concrete trade. In addition to the obvious strength of the art, the character writing grabbed me. Concrete’s depression mirrored my own melancholy that day. It was exactly the piece of fiction I needed that moment, and I’ve been a fan ever since.

    Also, the cliffhanger from Human Dilemma still drives me up the wall, and I kind of know how all those Song of Ice & Fire fans feel waiting for the story to finish.

  • Snark Shark says:

    “Those aliens were mean!”

    I’d go as far as to say they were outright Jerks!

    “the cliffhanger from Human Dilemma”

    Anyone know why that was left unfinished?

  • Rob S. says:

    Oh, man — I didn’t realize there were more Concrete Trades in those snazzy little Dark Horse editions after the first two! Something to hunt for at cons, I guess. Meanwhile, I’ve got the original issues…but damned if I know where some of those books are.

  • ExistentialMan says:

    Chadwick’s The World Below is one of those offbeat stories I reread every two or three years and love it more every time.

  • Pal Cully says:

    I loved Concrete. That’s all I got.