Concrete is a creator-owned comic book character, the creation of writer/artist Paul Chadwick. Concrete has been regularly cited as one of the best non-mainstream super-hero/science fiction type comics out there, and one of its more vocal champions is Harlan Ellison, who has called it the best “being published today by anyone, anywhere.” Concrete has intermittently appeared since 1986, when it premiered in the black and white comics anthology Dark Horse Presents # 1. Many Concrete stories appeared in that anthology and he had his own 10 issue series from Dark Horse as well. These days, a color Concrete mini-series appears every year or so.

Paul Chadwick’s reputation in the comics industry rests solely on Concrete. He has done some work on minor mainstream comics and another creator-owned series, The World Below, which was unfortunately largely ignored. None of his other work approaches the level of quality of Concrete, and as Chadwick devotes much of his time to his work in the movie industry, it will probably be his legacy. "I will probably step away from it now and then to do a special project, but I fully plan on doing it into my seventies.”

Concrete is Ron Lithgow, a speechwriter for Senator Mark Douglas. Shortly after his divorce, Lithgow goes on a camping trip in the Sierra Nevadas with his friend Michael. There, they are kidnapped and placed into alien bodies. Lithgow escapes, but Michael does not, and the alien spacecraft departs with his body, never to return. The giant body of gray rock is incredibly strong with powerful vision, but he cannot taste, smell, or feel. He struggles with his clumsiness. Perhaps the most profound loss of all is that his body has no genitals.

The problem of how Concrete can live a public life is cleverly solved. The existence of aliens, of course, cannot be revealed to the general public. So the fiction that he was a terminally ill patient placed into an experimental cyborg body by the army is created. And the general public is bombarded by Concrete merchandise, Concrete commercials, and Concrete appearances on talk shows and sitcoms, so the public tires of him and ceases to ask troublesome questions. Chadwick’s companions are Dr. Maureen Vonnegut (no relation to the author), a government scientist assigned to monitor him, and Larry Munro, a graduate student in English who Lithgow hired to be his assistant.

But this is all background to the question that drives most of the stories: What do you do with your life when you are in a powerful body of gray rock? There are no super-villains or aliens to fight, just everyday obstacles to overcome, and the struggle to do good with his new gifts.

The collections, all from Dark Horse Comics:

1990: Concrete: Complete Short Stories 1986-1989. Collects the stories from Dark Horse Presents.

1994: The Complete Concrete Collects Concrete #1-10.

1994: Concrete: Fragile Creature Collects Fragile Creature #1-4. Chadwick puts his movie experience to good use in this story in which Concrete is hired to help cut stunt costs on a movie set.

1995: Concrete: Killer Smile Collects Killer Smile #1-4. Larry Munro is taken hostage by a crazed man.

1996: Concrete: Short Stories 1990-1995. More stories from Dark Horse Presents.

1997: Concrete: Think Like a Mountain. Collects contains Think Like a Mountain #1-7. Concrete falls in with a group of Earth First! environmentalists.

1998: Strange Armor: The Origin of Concrete. Collects Strange Armor #1-5. Retells and updates the origin of Concrete, originally told in the first Concrete series.