• Comics@CSUN logo by Jed McGowan

Team Concrete Park to deliver talk at CSUN comics conference!

February 25, 2016

Imagining a future of color through comic books

This year the Oscars have sparked renewed dialogue about race, ethnicity, and the lack of diversity in Hollywood, as the Academy Awards have come under fire for neglecting characters and artists of color. The resulting public debate has zeroed in on the way popular culture represents, or fails to represent, the world in which we live. At CSU Northridge conference this weekend, just in time for the 88th Oscars, the creative team of Erika Alexander and Tony Puryear—African-American writers, comics creators, and movie industry veterans—will address the question of diversity in comic books and graphic novels, and how the comics medium may offer creators of color alternatives to what they call “the fear-economic-biased-corporate culture of Hollywood.” Alexander and Puryear, the co-authors of the acclaimed comics series Concrete Park, will speak at the CSUN Comics and Visual Culture conference about science fiction, Hollywood, imagining a future of color, and the joys and challenges of diversifying the comic book medium.

Alexander and Puryear's talk will take place from 1:00 to 2:00pm in the University Student Union's Lake View Terrace Room. The talk and the conference are free and open to the public.

Concrete Park, a high-energy blend of adventure and dystopian SF, stars a culturally diverse cast of women and men battling for survival on a bleak prison world—a planet that serves as a gulag for Earth’s undesired outcasts, especially the young, the poor, the criminalized, and people of color. Against the backdrop of a complex planetary ecology, the heroes of Concrete Park struggle to eke out a future and make their prison planet into a habitable home. Begun as a serial in 2011, Concrete Park was chosen as one of the Best American Comics of 2013. The series has produced two graphic novel volumes to date, You Send Me (2014) and R-E-S-P-E-C-T (2015), with further volumes in the works, all published by Dark Horse Books. The world of Concrete Park is the joint creation of Hollywood veterans Erika Alexander and Tony Puryear, in collaboration with Robert Alexander. The series responds to the growing call for greater diversity in comics and popular media with a fierce, action-filled story about warring gangs learning to work together to save, and re-create, their world.

Concrete Park builds on Erika Alexander’s and Tony Puryear’s years of experience in entertainment media. Alexander, who co-writes the series, is an actress, producer, screenwriter, and activist. She starred for five years on the hit comedy series Living Single (for which she won two NAACP Image Awards), had a recurrent role on The Cosby Show, and how has a recurring role on the ABC Tim Allen comedy, Last Man Standing. Recently she co-starred in the film Elsa and Fred, with Shirley MacLaine and Christopher Plummer. She is writer and producer of the online comedy series, The BFF Chronicles, with Kim Coles. As an activist, Alexander advocates on behalf of women's and children's issues and has served as a delegate to Africa for the Clinton Global Initiative.

Tony Puryear, who draws Concrete Park, is a screenwriter, artist, and designer. He majored in Art at Brown University, worked in advertising (at J. Walter Thompson New York), and directed hip-hop videos for legendary performers like EMPD, K-Solo, and LL Cool J. In 1996, he became the first African-American screenwriter to write a $100 million-dollar summer blockbuster with his script for the hit film Eraser, starring Arnold Schwarznegger. He has written science fiction and action scripts for Mel Gibson, Oliver Stone, Jerry Bruckheimer and Will Smith. Puryear was honored as a designer when his 2008 presidential campaign poster for Hillary Clinton was added to the collection of the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC.

Together Alexander and Puryear will discuss how and why they created Concrete Park, and how they see the series responding to debates about comics, science fiction, and diversity. Their presentation is part of a day-long conference focusing on comics and their connections to other aspects of popular culture.