Erie County Comics celebrates third anniversary with three new issues

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Local comic book publisher Erie County Comics will be tabling at Queen City Bookstore on Free Comic Book Day for the third straight year, with three new issues for sale.

Tivo Rodriguez, the man behind the publication company, will be debuting “RUSTBELT #3” on May 4, as well as two new titles in his line: “Roller Queen #1” and “Erie County Comics Presents #1.” Rodriguez is scheduled for a meet-and-greet and comic book signing at the store from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on May 4 and noon to 4 p.m. on May 5.

Rodriguez’s character Roller Queen was first introduced in “RUSTBELT#1” in 2022 and made a more prominent appearance in “RUSTBELT #2,” which was published last May. Both issues sold out and were even given a second printing.

The first issue of “RUSTBELT” was Rodriguez’s first experience in writing professionally. He has since continued to develop on the character, in addition to building other characters and creating spinoff comics.

Rodriguez published the first edition of “RUSTBELT” on his own, but has since received assistance in the form of artists Christian Culicelli, Kingsley E., Ariestrasza, Paolo Neri and Nikki Powers.

“I was doing so much production before, I couldn’t keep up,” Rodriguez said. “So as long as I can keep affording these guys, it’ll keep going.”

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What’s new


“Erie County Comics Presents #1” introduces The Village, a team of heroes named after Buffalo’s Elmwood Village. The Village consists of four new heroes: Bubble-Man, based on Allentown’s real-life icon of the same name, Bed Head, a man bonded with a hair-like symbiote, which gives him empathic powers, Screaming Jean, a friend of Bed Head with vocal powers and the Woman in White, who possesses electric powers.

Rodriguez said the legend of Bubble Man, dating back to when he was a kid, is what inspired the inclusion of the character.

“These comics are partially an homage to those Buffalo icons,” he said. “I’d walk past Allen (St.) all the time and I’d never see him — he was kind of like his own urban legend — nobody knew who he was or what he looked like.”

Other heroes in the comics are based on various just Buffalo places, phenomena or people.

“I tried to keep it not too obvious,” Rodriguez said.

“Erie County Comics Presents #1” also introduces a chicken with flaming superpowers named Hotwing in a separate story,

Rodriguez said Hotwing was inspired by comedic comic book animals like Howard the Duck, and based the design of the character on the cartoon “thumbs-up” chicken found on the tops of chicken wing boxes. Also included in the issue is an all-seeing reporter character named The Eyewitness, who features in a short story.


“Roller Queen #1” introduces ice-based villain Blizzard Baby, with her team of goons, appropriately named Flake, Frost and Flurry, who attack the Buffalo Art Gallery in hopes of reuniting a gemstone with a magic mirror to transform Blizzard Baby into her true form — an ice monster with unruly power.

The comic also chronicles the tale of Roller Queen, who comes to the realization of her true self after struggling with identity issues in past Erie County Comics publications.

“I wanted to take the idea of having a secret identity and take it up a notch,” Rodriguez said. “If you could have any identity you wanted — you could literally be anything — and I wanted to go further from expectations. Now, we have a character questioning their identity and finding who they are and what they want to do.”


RUSTBELT debuted two years ago, and has been Erie County Comics’ protagonist since that time. The character’s secret identity is Amalio Ayala — Rodriguez’s grandfather who inspired him to write comics in the first place. The comics are set in 1983, during Rodriguez’s youth.

The third installment of the series involves the titular hero teaming up with Kensington Bailey, an “enigmatic occult DJ” with powers

Rodriguez has included a line in each comic, which reads, “The stories, characters and incidents mentioned in this magazine are entirely fictional. No actual persons, living or dead are intended or should be inferred. Except that is my grandfather! Amalio Ayala!”

He also wrote in additional homages to classic comic books, such as a parody advertisement for a Mighty Taco-like establishment done in the style of an old Hostess ad and featuring police-themed character The 90, a “Deadliest Man Alive” fighting league ad with his grandfather’s face photoshopped over it and a seal on the cover, which reads, “Unapproved by the Comics Code Authority,” among others.

Free Comic Book Day

Comic book stores around the area, including Queen City Bookstore, will be celebrating the annual Free Comic Book Day, which has taken place every first Saturday in May since 2002 at over 2,000 stores worldwide.

Here is a list of the stores where you can pick up free comics:

  • Empire Comics: 1069 Abbott Road (Buffalo)

  • Gutter Pop Comics: 1421 Hertel Ave. (Buffalo)

  • Halley’s Comics and Games: 1144 Oliver St. (North Tonawanda)

  • Kingpin Comics & Gaming: 3660 Delaware Ave.

  • Queen City Bookstore: 3184 Main St. (Buffalo)

Queen City Bookstore will be celebrating Free Comic Book Day all weekend long, with the return of their popular “Artists Alley,” which will feature a series of local comic creators.

In addition to introducing a horde of fictional characters, Rodriguez is also bringing on Emil Novak as a guest artist on “RUSTBELT #3.” Novak, the owner of Queen City Bookstore, designed a variant cover art for the issue — his first-ever comic cover. Novak will also be at the meet-and-greet.

The first printing of “RUSTBELT #3” involved 50% of the Erie County Comics design and 50% of the Queen City Bookstore variant.

Besides Rodriguez and Novak, “Shovel Guy” publisher Paulie will be at the event, as will artists Kevin Chapman and Darius Johnson.

This year’s Free Comic Book Day releases include a Hellboy crossover with Stranger Things, Ultimate Universe Spider-Man, Snoopy Beagle Scout Adventures, and more. For a complete list of this year’s free offerings, click here.

This year’s Erie County Comics releases will be available at Queen City Bookstore and Cosmic Comics on Union Road until they are sold out.

Adam Duke is a digital contributor who joined the News 4 team in 2021. See more of his work here.

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