A Conversation with Tony Puryear and Erika Alexander

Q. Tony, you’re a screenwriter and Erika, you’re an actress, can you discuss the challenges of taking on new skill sets to create Concrete Park?

A. Tony: After 25 years, I feel very comfortable breaking story, making suspense, planting seeds for payoffs, etc. I never realized how hard comics artists worked, though. Breaking that story into panels, with cliffhangers, and dialogue that reads from left to right, oh my god. My hat is off to everyone who ever picked up a pencil in this business!

A. Erika: I’ve been in show business for three decades and I’ve learned that if you’re not growing and learning new skills, you’re  toast. I always loved story and character, so becoming a writer was a natural progression for me, but it wasn’t an easy one. Writers have a self-discipline that is enviable, so I work hard to break old habits and make new habits. If I don’t, no good idea I have will ever blossom into a complete story.

Q. Can you name some of the authors or comics creators whose work inspired you in creating Concrete Park?

A. Tony: Everybody knows I worship at the shrine of Jack Kirby, The King Of Comics. I love Los Bros. Hernandez, of course. And there’s one you may not see in my work but who is always there: John Buscema. I’ll never touch him as a draftsman, (no one will), but his classic Marvel work is an object lesson in intelligent page breakdown and storytelling.

A. Erika: There are so many. I love Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez. Tony introduced me to the Love and Rockets series and I fell head over heels. I also admire Craig Thompson, Shawn Martinbrough, Denys Cowan, Afua Richardson and David Walker. I dig series like Saga, Aya Of Yop City, Alex and Ada, and A Voice In The Dark. They’re wonderful. I also love the solid, terse storytelling of Cormac McCarthy and Ernest Hemingway. And, of course, the King… Stephen.

Q. Your world on paper is multi-cultural in the extreme. Where do you get the inspiration for Scare City? Have you seen places like it?

A. Tony: I’m from New York City, the Big Mango. Its million beautiful skin-tones, its crazy languages and slang, its music and sway are in my DNA.

A. Erika: I don’t think the world of Concrete Park is extreme, multi-culturally. I think the world we live in, according to Hollywood, is extreme in its exclusion of other cultures. It’s distorted and superficial, so much so, that people of color, women and differently-abled people are reduced to sound bites. I mean, you have to work really hard to maintain the narrow perspective currently shoved down our throats. Our inspiration comes from having our eyes open and seeing the world as it really is. Beautiful, crazy, vast and in living color. Why in the world would an artist deny themselves all the colors on their palette? As for Scare City, look around, we are living in Scare-city. LA, NY, Bombay, Hong Kong, Athens, Syria, Abuja. Resources have dried up and our artificial methods to sustain our lavish lifestyles are antiquated. The Earth itself has rebelled and is fighting back to heal herself. We are in denial and we may now be on the brink of the largest extermination our planet has ever endured. We did not create Scare City. Scare City exists all over Earth right now. Look around.

Q. Can you talk a little about the science in your science-fiction world? Are there really Earth-like planets out there with twinned suns? How far in the future would human exploration of such worlds be?

A. Tony: Yes, there are such suns and planets. Twinned or binary stars, such as the well-known Alpha Centauri AB, are a more common phenomenon than you might think. As to whether planets orbiting them could sustain human life, scientists estimate that 50–60% of binary stars are capable of supporting habitable terrestrial planets within stable orbital ranges. Naturally, a scenario like Concrete Park would require advances in propulsion, cryogenics, robotics and a host of other fields, so… we’re not talking about tomorrow, but maybe the day after tomorrow.

A. Erika: We have a newly acquired Concrete Park Science Officer, I refer these questions to him. and he is more qualified to answer that.

Q. With which of the characters do you identify most? Why?

A. Tony: Luca. She is me in all my self-doubt and fierceness!

A. Erika: I love the character Silas, our resident bad-boy ‘alien’. Like Silas, I feel like my world would be easier without all the riffraff. Who is the riffraff? Anyone not like Silas. Yeah, I know, not very pc, but true.

Q. Critics often say that the universe of sci-fi futures falls into two camps, optimism and pessimism. The world of Concrete Park can seem pretty grim. Do you consider your vision of the future to be optimistic or pessimistic?

A. Tony: Optimistic, no question.

A. Erika: I am an optimist. Concrete Park was conceived and written by optimists who wanted our philosophy and personal ideology embedded in a story of the future. Concrete Park is not grim because where there’s life there’s hope. Our world is full of life and though day to day living is tough, it makes all the people, colors and situations more vibrant. I am the child of two orphans, raised in the mountains of Arizona, now living in Los Angeles making comic books. I am living a miracle. I hope that attitude is reflected in my work.

Q. How would you fare in the dog-eat-dog world of Scare City? Would being its creators give you any special advantages?

A. Tony: I believe I’d do ok. I’m overweight, but I’m scrappy.

A: Erika: I wouldn’t last a day, unfortunately. I believe my delicate constitution would not fare well in the harsh climate. I’ve gotten too used to air conditioning, cotton sheets and probiotics. Ten years ago I might have answered differently.

Q. There’s a lot in Concrete Park that would seem to lend itself to a film or television adaptation. Would you like to see your world on the big screen?

A. Tony: Concrete Park would make a helluva game, a killer TV series and a film series for the ages. Do you know anyone with a studio or network?

A. Erika: We work very hard to make a good comic book. That takes all our energy and it’s satisfying to see it in print in graphic novel form. But we are filmmakers; of course we’d love to see our world come to life in living color and explode across the screen as only movies can do. We’ll see.

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