Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Return of Bay Side Blues

I'm proud to show all of you the first character designs for issue #1 of the rebooted "Bay Side Blues!" Filipino manga artist Mike Banting has really hit these out of the park, and I couldn't be happier. Here they are below, with my commentary.

Here is my favorite old codger, Griff, who has been given a more youthful appearance by Mike. I really liked what Mike did with Griff's jacket and the designs on the shoulders & the sleeves, along with the cargo pants and the boots. I think Mike nailed Griff closer than any other artist has before.


To our right is Michiko Sakegawa (the re-named Miaka Kitagawa--thanks to Mike for the new name!), in her jumpsuit-wearing, raven-haired glory. Mike got the fact that her hair was long and fell close to her knees, and her straps and belts look awesome. The knife sheath behind her back looks sick, and her expression reminds me of every bad girl that's crossed the pages of anime & manga. Hats off to Mike for nailing this one too.

And for the crowning touch, here's Moses Malone, the baddest mo-frigga this side of Bay Side City. This is my favorite character design of Mike's, as he's the first artist to get Moses exactly the way I envisioned him. The other artists wouldn't put the bulls-eye on his shirt for some reason (or they didn't know how to do it), but Mike pulled it off, and with the mushroom afro, gloves, and sneakers, Moses is one bad mother--I know, I know, shut my mouth, right?

"Bay Side Blues" is set for a release in late March or early April (sorry, but no date yet), but I will keep you updated on its status throughout the production phase. Stay tuned for more, and remember to hit the "Subscribe Via E-Mail" button on the right-hand to get the latest updates!

Until next time, ladies and gents, this is Justin Swartz, signing off.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Back in Black (And White)

Well, that took forever, didn't it?

I'm sure a lot of you thought Riot Comics was dead and gone after that last post I made. What actually happened was, well, a whole butt-load of things, but I'll describe them one at a time.

The first thing that happened was that Miguel Barriga, the artist on "Bay Side Blues," got busy with his day job (he cleans pools in California) during the summer season and couldn't continue working on the project. Steve Oaks, the colorist on the project, also dropped out due to his obligations. So there I was, with three pages of art, a cover, and nowhere to take them.

After a long, LONG process that took over a year and involved two different artists (neither of which produced any artwork), I am happy to announce that "Bay Side Blues" is back on track and in the steady hands of manga artist Mike Banting (, who is known for drawing the indie manga "Drop Dead Dangerous," which you can find on Drive-Thru Comics for around $1.99/issue. Mike is currently hard at work on character designs for Issue #1, so stay tuned to this station for the latest updates!

I'm also working with artist Dani Phoenix Thomas, a good friend and compatriot in the indie comics scene, to produce a 13-page one-shot story titled "Casket Case." To the left is one of Dani's character designs for the lead character, Garrett Lloyd, who loses his job, his home, and gets separated from his wife and son all in one day. Down on his luck, he decides to visit a fortune teller named Gypsiana, who reads his palm and tells Garrett that a bright future awaits him...but when she tries to warn Garrett of another, darker path, our hero makes a hasty exit and heads into the street, where he is hit by a speeding car and killed...

...but that's not the end of the story. For some inexplicable reason, Garrett can still see and hear everything that's going on around him, even though his body is very much dead. As Garrett starts to go crazy inside his casket at his own funeral, he wonders what his fate will be, and what horrors await him if his soul is ever put to rest.

 Dani and I are hoping to have "Casket Case" out in March or April of next year, and it will feature a full-color cover (not sure by whom yet) and a black-and-white interior. It will be released digitally on Drive-Thru Comics and other digital comic book sites for free (that's right, FREE), which will hopefully entice more people to give it a chance and become interested in the work we're doing here at Riot Comics.

Below you'll see Dani's designs for Virginia Lloyd, Garrett's widow, and Kevin Lloyd, his son. I think Dani is doing a fantastic job on these, and I can't wait to see what he does with the fortune teller, Gypsiana!

I'm also in search of an artist for a 14-page western story titled "Blood Stone," which is the name of a fictional wild west town in Colorado in the year 1902. I won't say much about the story for fear of giving it away, but I will say this: it's a great western yarn in the tradition of Hang 'Em High, A Fistful of Dollars, and the original Django with Franco Nero. I'm hoping to use a manga style on this comic as well, and hopefully it will lead into the four-issue "Blood Stone" mini-series I have planned!

I also have a one-shot Sherlock Holmes comic planned in the future that's based on a short story I wrote for Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine that was eventually rejected...because it pitted Sherlock (and his brother Mycroft) against the vampire of all vampires, Count Dracula! "Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula" is written like Sherlock is scribing a letter to Watson (who was ill and couldn't make the trip) as he describes his encounter with the invalid Count at his castle in Transylvania. It's Sherlock's job to find out who is poisoning Dracula and his blood, which is keeping him alive via a crude transfusion machine. If everything works out the way it should, "Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula" will be released sometime in late 2015, with a 6-page "ashcan" preview coming out just in time for Free Comic Book Day.

And that's all the news that's fit to print on this blog, ladies and gents! Feel free to post any comments and/or questions, and don't forget to click "subscribe via e-mail" to always get the latest news and updates from Riot Comics!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Long Overdue Update!

Due to issues with my immediate family, I had to put "Bay Side Blues" on hold starting sometime in early June.  It was a hard decision to make, because we were gaining a lot of momentum, but my family always comes first.

Now that those issues have finally been resolved, I'm thinking of restarting work on "Bay Side Blues" #1, but we'll have to see what Miguel Barriga (the artist) and Steve Oaks (the cover colorist) say about that.  

In the meantime, here are pages 1 & 2 of "Bay Side Blues" in their fully-drawn, fully-lettered form.  

Again, all the credit goes to Miguel for the amazing job on the art.  I did the lettering in Manga Studio 4.0 EX, which has something of a learning curve to it.  Six hours into it, I was a lettering fool, getting my freak on with the keyboard and lettering any kind of comic page I could find.  I'm still learning, but lettering is something I really enjoy and look forward to doing on future comics.

 And here's page 2, the introduction of Miaka Sakamoto and the infamous "look" that Moses gives Griff that I never described in the script.  The description for that panel said, "Moses gives Griff a look," and the rest was up to Miguel.  That panel will always make me laugh.

Miguel's redesign of Miaka came out extremely well, as she seems more free to move and strike, instead of her old cat-suited version.  I had her weighed down with straps for weapons and knives, but Miguel saw that less is more, and gave us this current incarnation.  I like it quite a bit now, but at first I was like "WTH is he doing to Miaka?" ;-)

Miguel finished Page 3 of "Bay Side Blues" before I put the project on hold, so I should have that lettered soon.  Since we're going to miss the original September 25th release date, I'm hoping to have "Bay Side Blues" #1 completed in time for Halloween Comicfest, which is coming up in October.

"Take It To The Grave" #1 is still in a holding pattern at the moment.  I haven't been in touch with Jadool since I put "Bay Side Blues" on hold, so he probably thinks I'm no longer interested in working with him.  *sigh*  Time to mend some fences and get this comic back on track for a December 2013 release.

Thank you all for your support of Riot Comics, Bay Side Blues, and our work.  It's been rough going these past two months, but the worst is behind us, and now it's time to focus on the future.

So long for now, but don't forget to click on the "Subscribe via E-Mail" button if you want the latest news about our projects.  And remember, it ain't over till the fat lady sings.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

New Character Design & Project Updates!

Miguel Barriga (, the artist working on Bay Side Blues, sent me this sketch yesterday.  It's an updated character design for Miaka Sakamoto, the Japanese assassin and thief who's featured in the pages of Bay Side Blues#1, which comes out September 25th, 2013.  

As you can see, Miaka looks a little different than she does on the cover that Steve Oaks ( colored.  Miguel swapped the skintight jumpsuit and belts for a simpler design, and also added some goggles and a backpack.  He also changed her hair color and some basic facial features in order to make her appear more Asian.

Miguel also told me that he's sketched out the first 18 pages of Bay Side Blues #1 and should be able to start cranking out pages soon.  Writers often talk about the feeling you get when new pages come in, and let me tell you, it is real, it is exciting, and it is indescribable.  

I'm also looking forward to my next project, Take It To The Grave, a horror-noir.  I'm in talks with an artist from India who I was introduced to on Deviant Art, and as you can see, his pencil-and-ink work is exemplary.  I only know him by his username Jadool (, and he's rarely online, but he's expressed interest in doing the cover for the first issue, which will appear as an ad on the back inside cover of Bay Side Blues #1.  After that, it's all up in the air.  I'm hoping to release the first issue of Take It To The Grave sometime in December of 2013.

That's all that's worth telling on my end right now!  Remember to click on the subscribe via e-mail button if you want the latest blog updates, and don't forget that Bay Side Blues #1 comes out September 25th, 2013!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Colored Cover & Sketch Pages!

Good afternoon, everybody!  Just thought I'd share these awesome pics with you that just came in on the ol' e-mail account.

Steve Oaks ( had a chance to work on the cover to "Bay Side Blues" #1 last night and I had the beauty on your right waiting for me in my inbox this afternoon.  The good news is that Steve only needs to make one more tweak to it and it's done!  

The bad news?  

Miguel mentioned something about doing an entirely different cover once he completes the first issue and gets a better feel for the characters, so if that happens, this cover will either become a back cover to Issue #1 or a print if we ever do a Kickstarter campaign!  See, it wasn't all that bad...


...but now it's time for sketches.  Here's a sketch of Page 2 by Miguel Barriga ( that introduces Miaka Sakamoto, the deadly Japanese assassin (as if an assassin would be anything but deadly), as she tries to break into the First Bay Side Bank via the rooftop.

I should tell you guys that Bay Side Blues was originally written as a screenplay and then translated into comic book form.  The first issue contains the first ten pages of the screenplay, or you can think of it as the first ten minutes of the movie. 
And here's a sketch of Page 3 by Miguel.  His little blurb in Panel 4 about how Miaka should look was mostly directed at me, since I hadn't specified whether she was Japanese, American, or of some other nationality.  You gotta love that look on her face, though.

So far "Bay Side Blues" is progressing fairly well.  I really feel blessed to have Steve on colors and Miguel doing the covers & interior art.  Both of them are extremely talented, and all three of us hope that you like this book as much as we like working on it!

Don't forget--September 25th, 2013 is the day Bay Side Blues #1 is released to the world!  And don't forget to spread the word any way you can!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Bay Side Blues -- Issue #1 Preview

Here are the fully inked cover and the first page to Bay Side Blues #1, Riot Comics's first project.  It's written by yours truly, Justin Swartz, with art by Miguel Barriga (

Bay Side Blues #1 will be 24 pages in length with a full-color cover by Steve Oaks ( and a black-and-white interior.  I'll be pulling lettering duty on it as well.  It will also feature an ad on the back inside cover for our next project, Take It To The Grave.

Bay Side Blues is the story of Bay Side City, a tenement slum populated with criminals, thieves, low-lives, and scumbags, who are all after the same thing--The Bay Side Treasure, a fist-sized treasure chest said to be worth millions.  What they don't know is that The Bay Side Treasure is really Pandora's Box, and whoever opens it will unleash hell on Earth.

The comic's release date is tentatively set for September 25th, 2013.  Click on the "follow by e-mail" link so you can stay up-to-date on the latest developments, and be sure to spread the word about Riot Comics and Bay Side Blues!