A Chat with Paul Chadwick - Dec 95

Paul Chadwick and Concrete have been mainstays of Dark Horse from the beginning, with the first Concrete story appearing in Dark Horse Presents #1 in 1986. This month, the latest Concrete mini-series, Concrete: Think Like a Mountain, debuts from the Legend imprint, published by Dark Horse. Content Editor Roger A. Ash recently spoke with Chadwick about the new mini-series and Concrete as a whole.

Westfield: For those unfamiliar with Concrete, how would you describe the series?

Paul Chadwick: It's a mix of adventure, comedy, and pathos, about a man encased in a 1200 pound body that is coated with rock, who wants to be a travel writer. A lot of the stories are about coping with that condition in a world of ordinary people.

Westfield: What can you tell us about the new mini-series, Concrete: Think Like a Mountain?

Chadwick: It's my biggest story ever, six issues, with an epic scope. It's about the old growth logging controversy in the Pacific Northwest. Concrete is recruited by a small group of Earth First!ers to write about their struggle to save an ancient forest there. They have an agenda to enlist his aid in their civil disobedience and monkeywrenching. Concrete is an environmentally minded fellow, but one who hates confrontation, and for whom the thought of breaking the law makes him shudder. They put him through a number of experiences in an attempt to radicalize him. There's the drama of saving this ancient forest, but also the drama going on in Concrete of how far he'll go for his beliefs.

Westfield: The title of this mini-series is rather different. What is its significance?

Chadwick: One of the great old men of the environmental movement, Aldo Leopold, came up with that phrase. It urges us to take the long view and not just exploit things for short-term profit, but try to preserve them as well. Or exploit them in a more responsible way, with an eye towards preserving them over the long run.

Westfield: The previous Concrete mini-series, Killer Smile, was a bit of a departure from the usual Concrete story. Is Think Like a Mountain a more traditional Concrete story?

Chadwick: I would say so, because it's got a wider focus. There's plenty of comedy and character interaction and digressions, whereas Killer Smile was an out-and-out suspense story with an arrow-straight narrative line. But I'm going to apply some of the lessons I learned doing Killer Smile and inject more suspense.

Westfield: Concrete has always had a strong environmental element. How much do his views mirror your own?

Chadwick: I'm in that camp. I'm sympathetic to Earth First!, at the same time being uncomfortable with what they do. Putting Concrete in this position is a way of sorting out my own feelings about it.

Westfield: Do you feel the character and concept of Concrete lends itself to exploring different issues or genres?

Chadwick: He was deliberately conceived that way. Placed in our world, not a created world where there's one overriding conflict to be addressed. After Luke Skywalker brings justice and democracy to the galaxy, anything else set in that Star Wars Universe would seem pale. But Concrete I conceived as someone who would be exploring, physically, this world and getting involved in all kinds of stories.

Westfield: Something different about this mini-series is that you're having someone else do the covers. Why did you decide to go that way and why Geof Darrow?

Chadwick: I'm a big Geof Darrow fan. I think he's a better artist than me and putting his covers on it will make it more of an event. He's a fellow Legend member, and it has the benefit for Geof, who produces comics very slowly because his work is so meticulous, to have a presence next year, which he otherwise wouldn't have. He'll have comics to sign at the conventions. [Laughter]

Westfield: Do you ever plan to bring back the aliens who started the Concrete story by putting him in the body?

Chadwick: Never say never. [laughter] My main intent in the strip is to have this one fantastic element, Concrete himself, interacting with our familiar, everyday world. To have aliens here really changes things, from international relations on down. I don't want to muck things up - at least for years and years. Maybe when I'm 70 I'll say it's time to bring them back and tie up that loose end.

Westfield: Being both a writer and an artist, which part of the creative process do you find most enjoyable?

Chadwick: Drawing, no question. Writing is an agony and I procrastinate and do most of it at three in the morning. Although I have a very complete outline for this whole series, my dialogue and panel-by-panel writing is only a couple pages ahead of my drawing. I know what has to happen on page 17, but I tend to put that off until the deadline energy kicks in.

Westfield: With crossovers becoming very common, have you considered doing a Concrete crossover?

Chadwick: That gets talked about every year. There's a plan going around to have a super-loose continuity series where a character goes through all sorts of Dark Horse books, including creator-owned books and licensed books, and we're allowed to do anything we want to him, except kill him. Whether that will ever materialize is a very open question. [laughter] So, no definite plans.

Westfield: Do you have any upcoming projects you'd like to mention?

Chadwick: For the last several years, since I don't sell Concrete story pages, to have something to sell at conventions, I've been doing ink drawings and watercolors of Concrete. I've been taking photographs of them as I go along, and we're going to put them together as a card set sometime in the next year. It'll be a fifty card set all of these watercolors very few people have seen.