How many of you already know that the co-story/spec/screenwriter for the Arnold Schwazenegger thriller Eraser (co-starring Vanessa Williams) was African American? Or that he has since penned scripts for Mel Gibson (the remake of Fahrenheit 451), and worked on projects with Oliver Stone, Jerry Bruckheimer and Will Smith? Or that he's also a graphic artist, married to Living Single actress Erika Alexander? Or that he and Alexander (and her brother Robert Alexander) have created a new graphic novel titled Concrete Park, which made a bit of a splash at Comic-Con last week?
His name is Tony Puryear by the way.
Curious? Sure you are.
Read on from the press release summary:
Actress and writer Erika Alexander has been a showbiz traiblazer, changing perceptions of what it means to be black and a woman today […] Now she brings that trailblazing spirit to the world of graphic novels. It started with a remark from a Hollywood studio head. Erika and her husband, African American screenwriter Tony Puryear (Eraser), both major sci-fi fans, were in the mogul’s office pitching a science fiction film with a black lead. He stopped them after two sentences. “Black people don’t like science fiction” he said. “It’s because they don’t see themselves in the future.” Stunned by the casual racism of the remark, the pair left the office fuming, but Alexander didn’t just get mad, she got motivated. That night she sat down with Puryear and her brother, writer Robert Alexander and together they sketched out an ambitious story world set in the future. Today Concrete Park, Erika Alexander’s first comics project, appears in Dark Horse Presents #9 from Dark Horse Comics, the premier independent comics publisher. “Concrete Park is about hope in a hopeless place” Alexander says, “it’s about race, it’s about violence and tribalism and hunger. It’s also about beauty, that proverbial ‘rose in Spanish Harlem.’ Though it’s set on another planet, it’s about our world right now. It’s the kind of story science fiction was made for.” She adds “it’s a perfect fit with Dark Horse Presents, the legendary anthology comic that served as a launch-pad for challenging work by the biggest names in comics, including Frank Miller (Sin City, 300) and Mike Mignola (Hellboy).”
And like Sin City and Hellboy, can we expect to see a big screen adaptation of Concrete Park? Well, if that studio exec represents the thinking of most studio execs, then the answer is probably no – at least not anytime soon. Or if it does happen, it'll likely have to be an independently financed venture.
In an interview, when asked about the novel's movie prospects, Alexander said this:
"We are filmmakers. So we think in moving pictures, but right now we are focused on making Concrete Park the best graphic novel we can for our publisher and our fans."
But it appears to be in very good company at Dark Horse, and with Puryear's pedigree, I'm certainly very interested in reading it myself.
Concrete Park is further descried as a dark and provocative near-future story that takes place in a turbulent mega-city on a distant desert planet ("think Cairo or Rio in space"). Young human exiles from Earth must fight to make a new world there. They are “young, violent and ten billion miles from home.”
It's said to be ambitious in scope, with comparisons being made to George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones series, but with favelas and aliens, cops and cyborgs, ghettos and gangs instead of castles and armies.
As if I wasn't already curious enough, now I'm even more-so.
“The comment from that studio head really got me revved up on several levels” Alexander says. “First, I love sci-fi. My writing heroes are giants of sci-fi who happen to be African American like Octavia Butler and Samuel R. Delany. The biggest geeks I know are Sam Jackson, Will Smith and Rosario Dawson. Secondly, and more importantly, you wanna tell me about the future? Blacks and other minorities in this country and poor people all over the world live in the future. Our past may be pain, our present, precarious, but the future? The future is free.”
If interested in checking out Concrete Park, which saw its first installment published right around last Christmas, head on over to its website HERE where you can purchase either a digital or printed copy to read.
And if you're already a fan, let the rest of us know what you think of it thus far.