Tivo Rodriguez talks about drawing inspiration from his city, his lifelong hobby and his hero
BUFFALO, NY (WIVB) – Saturday was Free Comic Book Day at more than 2,000 stores worldwide, but it also marked an important day for a local comic book publisher, who signed a signing at the launch of his lineup of Buffalo-based heroes at Queen City Bookstore on Main Street.
Tivo Rodriguez launched Erie County Comics at the store this weekend, with the debut of the hero Rustbelt, the iron protector of Erie County. Rodriguez is the author, illustrator, and publisher of Erie County Comics.
He expressed his gratitude for the community’s support during the event.
“The outpouring of support has been incredible,” he said. “I’ll tell you, one thing the people of Buffalo love is when they appreciate the city. Everything based in Buffalo, I think the people of Buffalo like to be behind, because I think we all have the same mutual love for our city and like to see it supported and celebrated as much as possible.
The comic was created in honor of Rodriguez’s grandfather, Amalio Ayala, who also stars in the story, as the man who remotely controls the Rustbelt mechanical power plant. Rodriguez told News 4 that when he was younger, Ayala was the one who introduced him to comics in the first place, taking him to flea markets and the comic book store to look around.
“He was sitting here in the car while I was going through the bins of back issues for a few hours,” Rodriguez said. “He practically introduced me to reading and comics as a lifelong hobby.”
Although Ayala passed away a few weeks ago at the age of 88, Rodriguez was able to get large prints of the comic for him to read before his death. Ayala loved it. Rodriguez said what meant most to him was using his job to show his grandfather what he meant to him.
“Basically what I wanted to impress on him is that he’s my hero,” Rodriguez said. “And I wanted to immortalize him in that regard. Probably the greatest honor I can give someone, for me, is to put them in a comic book.
In addition to honoring his grandfather, Rodriguez wanted to pay tribute to his city.
“I have a passion for comics and a passion for the city of Buffalo,” he said. “So I wanted to put them together, and put something out there for the world, and see what people think about it.”
In addition to Rustbelt, the series will feature Buffalo-themed heroes Roller Queen, Kensington Bailey, The Courier, The 90, and The Brave & Talkin’ Proud crew. One of these heroes may even make an appearance in the first issue of “RUSTBELT,” but no spoilers here.
Rodriguez said readers unfamiliar with Buffalo may not pick up on some Buffalo deep cuts and Easter eggs, like Freddies Donuts and the Courier Express, so Buffalonians definitely have an advantage in catching some of the nods to the city he hid in the stories.
Erie County Comics started as a quarantine hobby and is now producing a fabulous first issue, with more issues to come soon. Rodriguez said there is no confirmed timeline for further issues, but he said they are on the way.
“It was a one-man project, so it took me about a year to do it,” Rodriguez said. “So there are more to come, but – it’s on the way, I’ll put it that way.”
“RUSTBELT” will be on sale at Queen City Bookstore through June 6, and Rodriguez will have more copies on sale at Buffalo Comicon on May 21.
For more information, visit the Erie County Comics website at this link.
Adam Duke is a digital producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2021. See more of his work here.