Superhero comics are my bread and butter. Give me aliens with otherworldly powers, people in spandex flying through the sky and plots to take over the universe any day of the week. I can’t get enough. That doesn’t mean I don’t read and enjoy non-superhero comics, books like , and are top on my list when they’re released, but superheroes have my heart.
Some people may think superhero comics are the only comics out there but for every superhero title there’s at least ten stories out there where spandex will never be seen. Take for example, Concrete by Paul Chadwick.
I’d never even heard of the rocky character until a good friend of mine gushed about him one day. She recommends the Concrete books to just about everyone we meet and I knew one day a book would be placed in my hands. Sure enough, she handed me the first volume from Dark Horse called “Depths.” She told me the books weren’t necessarily in the order they were published but by . Interesting.
When you look at Concrete, your immediate comic book association takes your mind to The Thing from Fantastic Four. Concrete, while sharing certain physical characteristics with Ben Grimm, is a man all his own (if indeed he is a man, which I was determined to find out). Although, the two geologically-bodied characters do share some personality traits. Perhaps this is what one could expect if suddenly changed into a rock-shaped human?
The answer to whether or not Concrete is human, and I don’t think I’m spoiling too much here, is yes. Concrete was formerly Ron Lithgow, a speechwriter for a U.S. Senator, until he unintentionally fell into the hands of aliens who transplanted his brain into a body of rock. Sounds like flashy sci-fi when you put it that way but it isn’t. In fact, the aliens are not seen at all through the first volume after their first appearance. No, this is the story about a man dealing with extraordinary circumstances as best he can. And what an interesting man he is.
For someone who is used to mostly superhero comics, Concrete is definitely a reading adjustment. There’s action and plenty of plot but what Concrete thrives on is the main characters internal monologue. In fact, it’s the majority of the dialogue in the book. He’s got a lot on his mind, but then again, wouldn’t you if you were in his position? Concrete’s inner voice is somewhat unsure, sometimes deep but always thought provoking. At times it left me feeling a bit impatient but that’s probably a result of the comics I’m used to reading where major happenings take place within the span of three panels. Concrete has a slower pace.
The thing I really enjoyed about Concrete: Depths was learning not just about the character but about how his mind works. Think about what we know about the story of Superman. Now what if several volumes were spent just on his beginnings in Smallville. And I mean his beginnings, say, ages 4-5. Think back to Clark’s internal monologue from but twice the amount condensed into shorter periods of time. That’s Concrete.
Although Concrete isn’t a superhero, he is a caring, gentle human being who wants to help the world and now that he’s in a position to do so he’s open to suggestions. It’s interesting, he’s not rushing off to emergencies (although he has) like most superheroes or even attending to the causes that need the most help in the world but he does so without complaint. Part of it is for the experience. Something else Concrete wants is to see what’s out there, to explore places he never possibly could have gone in his human form – like the bottom of the ocean. After all, Concrete was a writer in his former life and although many occupations are no longer available to him, he can still do that with a little help.
That may sound all well and good, but Concrete leads an extremely difficult life, not just physically but mentally as well. In the introduction of the book, author Paul Chadwick writes, “I see Concrete’s existence as one of sustained low-level embarrassment, punctuated by episodes of acute humiliation.” He has some very real issues to deal with, his eating habits for one, his sexuality for another and neither is shied away from. Concrete cannot feel the way we do, nor can he function physically the way we can but his mind remains unaffected. That means he loves, and deeply, but feels that it must remain unrequited. An unenviable position to be sure.
I’m not sure I’m ready to dig into more Concrete just yet but I look forward to Concrete himself telling me about it when I do.