Graphic Novel News
& Views
Home LinkFeatures LinkReviewsReleaseListAboutUs
Concrete Vol. 1: Depths
Review by Steve Welch

Concrete Vol. 1: Depths

Story and Art
Paul Chadwick
Bill Spicer

Dark Horse Books
Softcover Collection
Publish Date
August 2005
Cover Price
In 1986 a writer/artist launched a new comic character, called “Concrete.” Concrete was a new concept in what was quickly becoming the changing face of comics at the time. The 1980s heralded so many significant characters, concepts, and changes in the genre that occasionally some of the most impressive gems get lost in the King Solomon’s mine of comicdom. It also saw the explosion of the independent publishers and their comic offerings which often eclipsed the big two, Marvel and DC. Ask someone about their favorite and significant comics and or most memorable stories and you’ll likely get answers like Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen, Teen-Age Mutant Ninja Turtles, Cerebus, Lone Wolf and Cub, etc. DKR and Watchmen are often cited as ushering in the “grim and gritty” atmosphere that changed the genre and reinfused it with more mature storylines.

A number of non-grim-and-gritty comics were also on the market and enjoying great success. One of those was Concrete, an odd character first seen in the 1986 anthology series with Dark Horse Presents #1. Concrete made a handful of appearances in DHP and then got his own series in 1987, garnering great critical acclaim, including numerous awards. Harlon Ellison, in an article called “It Ain’t Toontown” in the December 1988 issue of Playboy, called Concrete “probably the best comic being published today by anyone, anywhere. Trying to describe the down-to-earth humanity and sheer dearness of Paul Chadwick’s creation requires more than words and pictures.” Can you get a better endorsement than that??

Ronald Lithgow is (or was, to be more accurate) a senatorial speech writer whose brain is transplanted by aliens into a monstrous body made of rock. Paul Chadwick portrays his vision of what an event like this would mean and how an individual, in this case Mr. Lithgow, would deal with such a change mentally, emotionally, and physically. And that is what sets this comic apart so radically from other comics. Instead of having Concrete battle super-powered bad guys or seek revenge on the aliens, Chadwick instead explores the question “what would I do if I was suddenly imbued with a nearly indestructible body?” Especially when that body doesn’t fit in normal society, is unable to feel the softness or warmth of a human touch, has no sexual organs, and is a drastic departure from the former body the brain inhabited: soft, pudgy, and average.

This concept is what makes Concrete so unique – and riveting. In this trade paperback collection, which reprints classic and little-seen stories from the legendary Concrete series, we see Concrete engaging in all sorts of activities, including swimming the ocean, trying to save trapped miners, attending a birthday party, and other things that might seem adventurous for us regular humans yet mundane for a person with super-human strength and nigh-indestructibility. That’s because Concrete is human... well, his brain is human. And as such, he strives to adapt to and understand his alien body. Plus, he makes mistakes, is often clumsy (physically and emotionally), and struggles through many of his adventures. Throw in his infatuation for one of the scientists that is studying him and helping him understand his full abilities and limitations (he may be nearly indestructible, but he can still be damaged, suffocate, drown, etc), and you have touchingly human stories that are poignant, exciting, uplifting, and sullen.

This is a trade paperback best enjoyed by reading a story at a time, to allow digestion of the powerful insights on humanity that Chadwick explores.

Paul Chadwick handles the writing and art duties, resulting in the reader getting it exactly as Chadwick intends. For this series it means a lot because of the personal nature of Chadwick’s narratives. The art is all black and white, exactly as it appeared in the original DHP series, although some of the later mini-series appeared in color. The B/W format works perfectly for these stories, allowing us to focus on the mood. Chadwick is an excellent artist who is very adept at communicating through the expressions of his characters.
Bonus Features
Not much. There is a 4-page Concrete gallery, but this book is all about the stories...eet don’t need no steenking extras.
Final Words

Concrete is one of the landmark comic book series that should be read by anyone who appreciates the medium. Amazing stories, great art, and an unabashedly human look at the ramifications of having a human mind and a super-human body.

Highest Possible Recommendation

Steve Welch is an avid collector of pre-hero and Silver Age Marvel comics as well as original art by Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby, and other notable creators. He works in the medical publishing and communications field, but his heart belongs to comic books, his wonderful wife of 12 years, and their three great danes. He sells comics and original art through his company Albino Rhino Comics, is an avid scuba diver, and believes that life is too short to drink bad wine.
Home | Features | Reviews | Release List | About Us