Upon reading a couple pages of Concrete Park, I realized I was holding something special in my hands. Something I, as a lesbian, geek, sci-fi fan of color, needed and wanted and didn’t even dare to hope for. The art of Tony Puryear is transcendent in it’s ultra-graphic, pop-art style. The representation of culture in his characters is absolutely amazing. The story weaved by Erika Alexander, Puryear’s wife and co-author, is even more enthralling.
I’m a big fan of world-building. It’s one of the things that made me immediately addicted to the game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. San Andreas presented a fictional world that was closer to my reality than a lot of other games. The main protagonist, Carl “CJ” Johnson, lived in a cul-de-hood of Grove St. and was a part of the Grove St. gang. I live off of Cottage Grove on the South Side of Chicago. The streets and storefronts in the game were highly reminiscent to me of the streets I’ve traveled in different slums and ghettos from Oklahoma City to Toronto. I don’t know what it is, but representation is a BIG deal; I guess it just makes you feel seen and like your reality and experience is valid.
So, while world building is the cornerstone of any good sci-fi story, when it’s done in a way that provides minority representation and experience even whilst set on a different planet—well it’s almost like a miracle in prose. A miracle.
Married teams in comics is not a new thing. There’s something about the synergy of a creative couple that produces some amazing work, i.e. (Terry and Rachel Dodson , Meredith and David Finch, Allison Sohn and Adam Hughes). The synergy between Tony and Erika has produced an absolute gem in Concrete Park.
Immediately, you’re genuinely introduced to the characters by being let into their thoughts and inner-dialogue. I like this approach because I feel it really kicks off the whole world building element; lets you know you are merely at the cusp of something grand. You can sense that Concrete Park was originally a film…and that’s a good thing for the reader. Apparently team Puryear-Alexander was met with racism and bigotry when they pitched the idea of Concrete Park as a film or television series. One Hollywood exec went even so far as to say,
“black people don’t like science fiction — they don’t see themselves in the future”
Guess they’d never heard of Octavia Butler or Afro-futurism. But I digress…once you’re introduced to your major players, the home they call “Scare City” do to it’s danger and scarcity of life sustaining elements, and The Struggle…well you’ll be hooked and only wanting more. But apparently to get more Concrete Park and stories like it, you have to support and promote them to show that the “brown people in science fiction genre” has fans. So show ’em what time it is…