This post compiles a series of posts from five years ago about one of my favorite comic books: Concrete. All but one of my Concrete books got sold off several years ago, but I miss them and would like to replace them soon. While I re-read my graphic-novel-sized collection of Concrete’s short stories, enjoy this retrospective and discover some sublime artwork.
Concrete began in the pages of the first volume of Dark Horse Presents as a series of short stories. Many of the plots involved the fact that Concrete was a writer before his strange metamorphosis. The naturalistic pages above and below come from a simple story about Concrete having to sleep in the desert while his human companions stop to sleep at a hotel.
If you got stuck in a nearly invulnerable body with incredible strength, endurance, and eyesight, what would you do? Dress up in tights and play superhero? Doubtful! No, you’d want to see the world and have adventures! In the second issue of Concrete, Chadwick’s creation tackles one of many heroic feats: swimming across the Atlantic Ocean!
Collector’s Guide: The back cover of Concrete #1; Dark Horse, 1987. Full story appears in Concrete #2. Reprinted in Complete Concrete with issues #2-10. Reprinted in Concrete TPB #1 with issues #2-5. Reprinted in Concrete Land and Sea with #2 and expanded material.
In the sixth issue of Concrete, our cement superstar takes a break from his adventures to help a struggling family on a farm. With his incredible strength and endurance, he plows fields, builds aqueducts, clears land, and more. The character interaction is especially strong in this story. Chadwick gives Concrete plenty of room to explore ideas about sustainable agriculture — a subject you don’t often see covered in comic books!
One of Concrete’s more traumatizing moments comes when his strange body begins to change in ways he can’t explain. It starts with little horns growing out of his forehead. He keeps them under control with a belt sander for a while, but soon his entire body gets out of control. It’s an interesting story, and Paul Chadwick uses the strange growths as a compelling visual element.
In issues #8-9 of Concrete, the rocky hero tackles Mount Everest and undertakes a humanitarian mission to dam an alpine river for a village. Don’t worry, it doesn’t spoil the story to know he makes it. Many exciting twists of fate await you if you climb with Concrete!
The back cover of Concrete #9 shows Concrete’s last visit to his elderly mother. The point of view is from his mother in the bed, and she is reflected in the mirror over Concrete’s shoulder. Paul Chadwick made the story moving while working in lighter comedic moments about how difficult it is for Concrete to get around unnoticed. This story serves as a good example of the humanism shaping this series.
Concrete was a writer and avid reader. (And a thinker, too, despite his rugged appearance!) Paul Chadwick draws Concrete at home, in his modified chair, enjoying a good book.
Also included here is a page from one of the short stories in Dark Horse Presents. Concrete and his friend visit a man with an impressive art collection and library — including an entire room full of bagged and boarded comic books, perfectly filed. Wouldn’t you love to spend a few weeks in there? Also, the man has a secret room with cool paintings that capture Concrete’s imagination. And what guy doesn’t like the idea of having his own secret cave?
Collector’s Guide: Concrete #10; Dark Horse, 1988. And Dark Horse Presents #66. Rprinted in Concrete TPB #2 and Complete Concrete. Short story reprinted in Concrete Complete Short Stories 1986-1989, TPB.
For the first nine issues of Concrete, Paul Chadwick used the back covers for artwork giving readers a sneak peek at the next issue’s theme. For the tenth and final issue, Chadwick depicted Concrete taking a meditative moment in a lush forest. Part of the joy of reading Concrete is moments like these, where Chadwick illustrates nature.
The final issue of Concrete’s ongoing title was by no means the end. Chadwick switched to a limited series format for subsequent Concrete stories. The longer form allowed him to expand Concrete’s world and life. You can find them individually or as Volumes #3-7 of the Concrete TPB.