Tony Puryear and Erika Alexander are bringing Concrete Park back to Dark Horse Presents, and this time, their award-winning graphic novel series features an immortal hero with a very familiar-sounding name.
To be called “The Legend of Kurtzberg”, the story will feature an immortal Jewish hero named after Jack Kurtzburg, or Jack Kirby, and serialized in Dark Horse Presents where it began, published and edited by Mike Richardson.
The overtones and echoes of both comics history and Jewish mysticism are striking. In Concrete Park’s fictional “Scare City”, the mysterious “Kurtzberg” functions as something of a otherworldly savior, but is also a potentially evil, almost Dybbuk-like figure. Like a Dybbuk, he is a dislocated spirit of a dead person made flesh. Puryear and Alexander named him in honor of Kirby, comics’ greatest creator, but say that until they developed the immortality angle, the character was almost doomed to be a one-shot.
“Kurtzberg first appeared in Chapter 2 of Concrete Park, Volume 2: R-E-S-P-E-C-T” says Puryear. “We had a gate our hero had to pass. It was just an opening in a wall. The real gate was the opening’s guardian, a giant of a man. I was lucky enough to meet Jack Kirby when I was a kid, and his work inspired me. For us as new comics creators, Kirby’s massive work and enormous influence stood athwart our path as something to be dealt with. As the old gospel song says: ‘So high, you can’t get over it, so low, you can’t get under it, so wide, you can’t get around it, you must come in at the door’. That’s Kirby for us.”
“So we called this human gate of ours, this huge guy you have to deal with, ‘Kurtzberg’” Alexander continues, “and he’s famous all over Scare City as ‘The Kurtzberg Gate. Then we killed him off at the end of Chapter 2, or almost did, until we thought better of it! He was such a great character, we couldn’t kill him off. We left it just vague enough so that we could later claim ‘actually he’s not dead, he just looked that way, he’s um, immortal, yeah, that’s the ticket.”
Once the “immortality bit”, as Kirby would have called it, fell into place, the character snapped into focus, and demanded his own story arc.
Puryear says “He’s immortal, he’s damn near indestructible, why? What happened to him? It makes for a character with a great duality. He may be helping people, today, but there’s this dark, possessed side of him that’s always there. We’re going to have so much fun exploring that duality. I can only hope Jack Kirby would approve.”