CONCRETEMedium: Comic books
Published by: Dark Horse Comics
First appeared: 1986
Creator: Paul Chadwick
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Aside from the two great behemoth publishers of comic books, Marvel and DC, one of the industry's major players is Dark Horse Comics, which is probably best known for pitting its licensed movie monsters, Aliens and Predator, against each other years before 2
0th Century Fox thought to do so. Dark Horse's first big hit, in fact the one that put the company on the comics map, is cartoonist Paul Chadwick's Concrete.
Concrete first appeared in Dark Horse's very first release, Dark Horse Presents #1, dated July, 1986. The title would later introduce Sin City, by Frank Miller (Daredevil); Duckman, by Everett Peck (Real Ghostbusters); The Mask, by Mark Badger (Batman) and other lucrative properties, and run the occasional story about characters that had come to prominence elsewhere, such as Bob Burden's Flaming Carrot and Michael T. Gilbert's Mr. Monster. Concrete was in the first six issues, all even-numbered issues for the next couple of years, and sporadically afterward.
Concrete started out as Ron Lithgow, a speech writer for Senator Mark Douglas. While camping in the mountains, he was abducted by aliens, who, for reasons that no-doubt made sense to them but not to humans, transplanted his brain into a large, super-strong, rock-like body, then took off and were never seen again. Returning to civilization, Ron was studied at length by the National Science Agency, which from his point of view seemed a lot like imprisonment without the benefit of habeas corpus. He escaped, but was hunted down. Eventually, he managed to establish his status as a relatively free man (or free whatever), but with biologist Maureen Vonnegut and security agent Joe Stamberg as handlers. For reasons that no-doubt made sense to his former government captors but again, not to humans, they lied about his origin and claimed he'd resulted from a failed experiment in creating cyborgs. His entourage also included Larry Munro, whom he hired as an assistant. The name "Concrete" came from news coverage.
The parallels with The Thing of The Fantastic Four, also a good-hearted, formerly-human monster, are obvious. And like The Thing, Concrete did become a superhero of sorts, but not one that went around seeking confrontations with world-conquering villains and the like. At least some of the conflict in his stories came from the contrast between Ron Lithgow's gentle, non-violent mind, and the monstrosity that housed it.
Concrete was popular enough to begin appearing in his own title even while still a regular in Dark Horse Presents. Concrete #1 was dated March, 1987. It lasted only ten issues (the last dated November, 1988), not for lack of a fan following but because Chadwick was unable to devote his full attention to it and, since he owned it, the publisher couldn't simply assign a new creative team. Within a few months, the character was back in specials and mini-series. Concrete: Land & Sea, Concrete Color Special (previous appearances had been in black and white) and Concrete: A New Life all came out in 1989. During the '90s, he was in Concrete: Killer Smile, Concrete: Think Like a Mountain, Concrete: Strange Armor and more. Most are kept in print, in trade paperback form.
His appearances have grown less frequent, but haven't stopped. He was most recently seen in Concrete: Human Dilemma (2004).