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Webcomic / Riverside Extras

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Riverside Extras is a neo-noir webcomic by Miranda "Miri" Chamberlain, and a member of Countershot Press. Right before Prohibition, the city of Riverside, Washington is controlled by two opposing gangs: the male-run Ink, led by Simon Emmett and Jefferson Smith, and the female-run Roses, led by Madeline "Ma" Oceana and the Sisters. At the center of every conflict is the mysterious Ophelia Banksly. Who is she? Where did she come from? What does she want?

Notable for having a sophisticated, Deliberately Monochrome art style with splashes of red (the page image notwithstanding), its female-heavy cast, the Femme Fatale being the main character rather than being defined by her relationship with a Private Detective, and said main character being a black woman working for a majority-white gang in 1919, facing all the racism you'd expect.

You can read the comic so far here. Cast page here (contains minor spoilers). The author also recently created a page in Jason Hetfield's voice explaining the gangster politics needed to understand the story, here (though it's certainly possible to pick up on it as you go along).

Riverside Extras contains examples of:

  • Abandoned Warehouse: Where the showdown between Ophelia, Steiner and Walther over Simon's life takes place.
  • Accomplice by Inaction: Arguably, Ophelia when Meredith Baxter gets her fingers cut off. She feels bad about it.
    Ophelia: I am... extraordinarily sorry about what happened tonight. It wasn't my intention that anyone get hurt.
    Meredith: You did nothing.
    Ophelia: Please try to understand my position. If I had shown the smallest sliver of empathy - if I had begged - they wouldn't have stopped.
    Meredith: So you're blameless. How convenient.
    • Ironically, Simon, who is more culpable for what happened to Meredith than Ophelia is, makes the same excuses when Ophelia calls him out on his part in the incident.
    • Cynthia and Derry in "Queenside" when Ma forces Ophelia, theoretically equal in rank to the other Sisters, to dress and act as a maid at an official Rose-Ink parley to humiliate her and goad Simon. Derry has shown anger and remorse at her actions; Cynthia's feelings remain ambiguous.
  • Acquired Poison Immunity: Subverted. Ophelia does drug both drinks, foiling Simon's attempted Poisoned Chalice Switcheroo, making a dramatic exit as Simon lies on the floor twitching...only to stumble and see double once she's left the room. She just had the advantage of anticipating the effects of the ether.
  • The Alcoholic: Siobhan, at least before she gets hired by the Roses.
  • Anti-Hero: Ophelia, Simon, and others.
  • Arc Words: "Who is Ophelia Banksly?"
  • Asshole Victim: Roderick Grant, implied to have been killed by Derry and Ophelia, is said to have been a "black hole of a human being". Henry Baxter as well, though with the complication that Ophelia didn't actually kill him.
  • Badass Adorable: Cynthia "Not A Terrorist" Brandt.
  • Badass Longcoat: Jason Hetfield.
  • Bad Guy Bar: The Ink runs Lucky Joe's and The Jack's High.
  • Bad Guys Play Pool: Simon and Ophelia play a tense game at the Ink-run Casino Bolero.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Bianca Masters tries to listen in on a Simon-and-Smith meeting. She's caught by Simon's bodyguard Steiner, who is seemingly about to punish her for eavesdropping...but instead criticizes her technique, handing her a glass to put against the door so she can hear better.
  • Band of Brothels: What the Roses started out as. They've expanded to selling opium, but much of their money and power still comes through sex work.
  • Batman Gambit: Simon has Meredith Baxter's fingers cut off in order to manipulate Ophelia, who hates seeing children suffer, into giving him some money back.
    • However, it later turns out he was also attempting to manipulate Meredith into defecting to the Roses. That part doesn't work, though, because Meredith hates the Roses, especially Ophelia, whom she believes killed her father on Simon's orders.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Simon and Ophelia.
  • The Big Guy: Siobhan, as an "enforcer" for the Roses, and Steiner, as Simon's bodyguard.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: Even the nicest characters, like Siobhan, Derry, or Cynthia Brandt sell drugs, beat people up, or commit murder. Ophelia and and Simon Emmett's moralities are a darker shade of gray, while Ma Oceana, Vernon Walther, and others' moralities are black.
  • Black Gal on White Guy Drama: Ophelia and Simon. his relationship is not looked kindly upon by most, with Vernon Walther labeling Simon a "race traitor". It turns out Simon is a good...ish partner where racism is concerned; he tries to stick up for her when members of the Ink *or* the Roses treat her badly. Unfortunately, he antagonizes Ophelia's best friend Derry instead of working with her to protect Ophelia, and shows little understanding that Ophelia "lets" the Sisters treat her badly not because she's weak but because she has no other options.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Downplayed example. Derry, Ophelia, and Cynthia, the trio known as the Sisters, technically fit the trope, but the black and white art makes it less noticeable a lot of the time.
  • Broken Bird: Ophelia. She's strong, clever, sexy, and poised - probably the most skilled gangster in the Roses apart from Ma Oceana. She also has the Dark and Troubled Past that left her with physical scars and a tendency to dissociate, and a few panels show she's a lot younger than the mature, sophisticated demeanor she likes to project.
  • Butt-Monkey: Peter Landwehr. A new hire to the Ink, whose enthusiasm for going after "skirts" pisses off Ophelia and Simon.
  • The Chanteuse: Kitty Pryor. Ophelia and Derry on occasion.
  • Character Overlap: Ophelia, Derry, and Ma Oceana make appearances in Never Satisfied. Lucy Marlowe was created by Corny, NS's author, but their appearance in Riverside Extras predates their appearance in Never Satisfied because Miri and Corny are friends and coordinated it that way.
  • The Chess Master: Ophelia, Simon, Ma Oceana.
  • Chess Motifs: In the chapter titles (eg "Deflection Gambit").
  • City Noir: Riverside.
  • Cliffhanger: An unresolved one as of this edit. "Jack of Spades" ends with Ophelia realizing that Cynthia knows that she foiled Ma Oceana's plan to kill Simon but not knowing whether Cynthia will betray her to Oceana and ensure her death.
  • The Consigliere: Nicholas Steiner to Simon. Simon has him do a lot of his dirty work (such as maiming or killing people who cross him), and trusts him implicitly to act as bodyguard and be brutally honest.
    Steiner: Permission to speak freely, sir?
    Simon: Yes.
    Steiner: You're an asshole.
    Simon: ...Yes.
    • The chapter "Consigliera" seems to refer to Ophelia acting in an advisory capacity to Simon, but their relationship doesn't fit the trope that closely.
  • Cooperation Gambit: Ophelia and Nicholas Steiner in order to save Simon.
  • The Coup: Prior to the first chapter, Simon Emmett and Jefferson Smith seized the Ink from Gregory Callahan. Quite a few characters, including Vernon Walther and Ma Oceana, aren't happy with the new balance of power.
  • Dating Catwoman: Simon and Ophelia.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: A lot.
    • Racism:
      • Ophelia faces a lot of it from the general populace of Riverside, Ink associates and officers, other dancers/sex workers, and even her fellow girls in the Roses. When Ma Oceana and the Sisters hold meetings, she's forced to stand while the others sit. Despite being high up in the Rose hierarchy, she's stuck living in a crappy apartment on the Wrong Side of the Tracks. Whether because she isn't paid enough, or because she wouldn't be allowed to live in white neighborhoods no matter how much money she has, isn't clear. The most blatant racist abuse she's faced so far has been in "Queenside", when Oceana forces her to dress and act as a maid at an official Rose-Ink meeting, and stand mute while Cynthia and Derry take credit for Ophelia's own ideas.
      • Ma Oceana calls Rose enforcer Sam Truman, a black man, "boy", while treating her mortal enemies in the Ink with greater courtesy.
      • Multiple people think Simon and Ophelia's relationship is laughable or disgusting, with Vernon Walther calling Simon a "race traitor".
    • Sexism:
      • Rampant in the Ink. The female employees can only be sex workers, waitresses, maids, or secretaries. They can't become Ink associates, let alone officers. Nancy Goldfinch is stuck as Simon's secretary even though she's obviously qualified for a more powerful position. Bianca Masters applies to be Jefferson's PA just so she can get away from the sexual harassment she gets from customers at the Bolero. Jefferson Smith is genuinely regretful that he can't hire Danya Teterya as a bodyguard without wounding the egos of other Ink associates, but he also subscribes to "keeping skirts in line" by beating them.
      • Timothy Kreider initially subscribes to the philosophy that "if she doesn't say no, she means yes," oblivious to the fact that being a known Ink officer makes women afraid to say no.
    • Ma Oceana calling the bisexual Simon a "limp-wristed ponce".
  • Disposing of a Body: Nancy Goldfinch has to do this on her first day as Simon's secretary.
  • Does Not Like Men: Ma Oceana and Cynthia Brandt (who by Word of God are both lesbians), and probably other Roses as well.
  • Ethnic Menial Labor: Invoked for Deliberate Values Dissonance in "Queenside", when Ma Oceana forces Ophelia to wear a maid's outfit at an official meeting to punish her.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Simon Emmett and Nicholas Steiner, both hardened gangster and drug dealers who think nothing of killing and maiming people, are both horrified by Ma Oceana's racially motivated humiliation of Ophelia in the chapter "Queenside". It's especially notable with Steiner, who unlike Simon isn't in love with Ophelia and has up till this point shown little emotion of any sort.
  • Femme Fatale: Ophelia.
  • Fingore: Poor, poor Meredith Baxter.
  • Five-Finger Discount: Derry does this to a potential john in a nightclub. She doesn't need to do it, since she's high up in the Roses and isn't working regularly as a sex worker at the time; she apparently just does it for fun (and to split the money with Ophelia).
  • Friend Versus Lover: An atypical Two Girls and a Guy example with Derry and Simon, with Ophelia in the middle. Less prominently, Jefferson Smith and Ophelia with Simon in the middle is a more typical Two Guys and a Girl example.
  • Gray Rain of Depression: Frequently, in keeping with the City Noir trope.
    • "So you've probably heard about the rain, yeah? That's the one thing that just about everyone knows about Riverside. It's not an exaggeration, either. It really does pour just about every damn day. On average, we get about a single day of sunlight per year to play with. You wonder why people around here are so screwed up."
  • Guest Strip: Two chapters, "Vice" and "Homicide", are by guest artists, and they're labeled "Intermissions" to indicate this. Both chapters focus on Private Detective Jason Hetfield and his pursuit of Ophelia. Unlike many guest strips, they so far seem to be canonical.
  • He-Man Woman Hater: Most of the Ink, with Simon being the notable exception.
  • Heroic BSoD: A framed photo Ophelia sees in Simon's office gives her a dissociative fugue so severe that she finds herself back in Ma Oceana's office with no memory of the passage of time or how she got there. The reader doesn't get to find out who was in the photo until many pages later. (It's Orville Everett, implied to have horrifically abused Ophelia.)
  • High-Class Gloves: Ophelia, frequently. Occasionally used when Ophelia needs to conceal her dark hands and forearms when she's infiltrating the Ink.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Derry, when it comes to Ophelia experiencing racism. She adores Ophelia, but she doesn't quite get it until she's called out on it. Since she's a Nice Girl at heart (as nice as a gangster can be, anyway), she cries when she realizes her mistake.
  • Insistent Terminology: The tattoos that girls in the Roses get aren't "ink", they're brands.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Simon.
  • Kicking Ass in All Her Finery: Ophelia, Derry, and many other members of the Roses. Averted with Siobhan, who is noticeably unfeminine in appearance and dress.
  • Kick the Dog: Simon, when he has Meredith Baxter's fingers cut off.
  • Lady in Red: Ophelia, frequently.
  • Light Feminine and Dark Feminine: Derry Lake and Ophelia Banksly, respectively. Exaggerated since Derry is a white blonde and Ophelia is black.
  • Long-Haired Pretty Boy: Word of God is that Simon Emmett would be one... if he'd wash his hair.
  • The Masochism Tango: Simon and Ophelia. Their sexual attraction to each other is undeniable, but they're on opposite sides of a gang war, and they regularly threaten each other with knives, put each other's fellow gang members in danger, try to poison each other, and can't stop arguing about longstanding issues, like "Ophelia doesn't want to work for Simon at the Ink."
  • Meaningful Rename: Women who join the Roses tend to choose new names, though their old names aren't exactly a secret. Cynthia Brandt was previously Cordelia Bellamy, Derry Lake was previously Beatrice Rhinehart, and Siobhan Teterya was previously Danya. Played with with Ophelia Banksly, whose name before joining the Roses, Oma Barker, probably wasn't her real name either.
  • The Mentor: Ma Oceana to Cynthia Brandt. Arguably an Evil Mentor, though Cynthia isn't exactly an innocent.
  • Nice Guy: Sam Truman, Rose enforcer, and the only black man in the cast. Female examples are Derry and Siobhan. Of course, it's all relative, since everyone is a gangster.
  • Number Two: Cynthia to Ma Oceana.
  • Older Than They Look: Nicholas Steiner, who also manages to look exactly the same in flashbacks that take place ten years before the main story.
  • Odd-Shaped Panel: Frequently. Here is just one of many, many examples.
  • The Oldest Profession: Many of the characters are sex workers, former sex workers, madams, or pimps.
    • The Roses started off as a Band of Brothels, with Ma Oceana as the head madam, before expanding into selling opium.
    • The Roses run most of the brothels, or "briars", in Riverside: the Cottontail, the Rêve Rouge, and Madame Butterfly. The Ink run the Bacchanalia, called the Bach.
    • Derry Lake and Ophelia Banksly were sex workers at the Bach before they got hired by the Roses.
  • Pet the Dog: Simon noticing that Ophelia has dissociated during sex, asking her if she wants to stop, and respecting her wishes helps tip him more to the gray side of Black-and-Gray Morality.
  • The Plan: A lot of them. So far, there's Simon's plan to manipulate Meredith Baxter into defecting to the Roses (which doesn't work), Ma Oceana's plan to conspire with Vernon Walther to murder Simon, and Ophelia's plan to conspire with Nicholas Steiner to save Simon from Oceana and Walther.
  • Playing Card Motifs: A lot, in the chapter titles and in the art. Ophelia is frequently depicted as the Queen of Hearts.
  • Poisoned Chalice Switcheroo: Simon does this, paranoid that Ophelia is trying to poison him. It doesn't help, since she's done a Dread Pirate Roberts.
  • Police Are Useless: Cops rarely intervene in the violence between the Ink and the Roses. The Chief of Police James McCoy is a Rose plant.
  • Politically Correct Villain: Simon Emmett, who is willing to kill and main regardless of gender if it will further his plans, but is the least sexist male character and the least racist white character we've seen so far.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Ma Oceana and many of the Roses, notably Florence Whitaker and Helen Young, are horribly racist towards Ophelia. Most of the Ink, notably Jefferson Smith, Vernon Walther, Henry Baxter, Timothy Kreider, and Peter Landwehr, are racist and sexist, thinking nothing of sexually harassing the female employees of the Ink.
  • Private Detective: Jason Hetfield.
  • Questionable Consent: Timothy Kreider learns in "White Knight" that not being an overt rapist doesn't mean he hasn't coerced and harassed women in the past who were too afraid to say "no" to an Ink officer.
  • Race Fetish: Discussed by members of the Ink: "If you like your coffee black, you can't do better than Banksly." They assume that this is the only or primary reason Simon would date Ophelia. While Simon isn't immune to background racist conditioning, he's one of the least racist white characters in the comic, and is clearly shown to have deeper feelings for Ophelia. Though admittedly the relationship is still fucked up for other reasons.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Simon, the most heroic/sympathetic Ink member, physically injures his subordinates if he catches them sexually harassing or raping a woman, particularly Ophelia. However, also discussed by Bianca Masters and Nancy Goldfinch; when Bianca, who is sick of being sexually harassed, tells Nancy she admires Simon for not tolerating rape, Nancy reminds her that Simon is still a jerkass gangster and murderer.
  • The Roaring '20s: Just before - it's 1919.
  • Scary Shiny Glasses: Henry Baxter.
  • Sleazy Politician: John Rhinehart.
  • Smart People Play Chess: Simon has an in-progress chess game with an unknown opponent on the desk in his office.
  • Splash of Color: The otherwise Deliberately Monochrome comic frequently uses the color red for blood and Ophelia's dresses. Other colors appear briefly in the chapter "Consigliera" during Simon's dream.
  • The Stoic: Nicholas Steiner.
  • Suicide, Not Murder: Henry Baxter.
  • Themed Aliases: Ophelia Banksly/Oma Barker/Opal Blanche, which all have the initials OB. Cynthia Brandt has the same initials as her real name, Cordelia Bellamy.
  • Understatement: Simon, on his decision to cut Meredith Baxter's fingers off: "That was... admittedly not one of my finer calls."
  • Urban Segregation: The projects are the shitty part of Riverside, and Ophelia lives in Shaly, the shitty part of the projects. It seems to be majority-black; when Derry comes alone looking for Ophelia in "Leverage", she faces hostility from neighbors wondering what a rich white girl is doing there.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Henry Baxter, when Ma Oceana sends Ophelia to ask him to work with the Roses. He addresses his dead friend and Ink superior Greg Callahan as if Callahan were in the room, tells Ophelia he would "rather die than consort with a weed", puts a pistol to his head, curses Simon Emmett, and pulls the trigger.
  • Villainous BSoD: Timothy Kreider, when he realizes that he's committed sexual harassment and borderline rape because of his belief that a lack of "no" = "yes". Since everyone he knows is part of the Ink, where raping and harassing women is normalized, he's basically alone in his horror and disgust at himself.
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: Purposeful example with Ophelia, whose so-far unidentified accent is part of her Mysterious Past.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Simon, as 17-year-old Meredith Baxter unfortunately discovers.
  • Would Hit a Girl: All Ink associates. At least the Roses can hit back.
  • You Do Not Want To Know: Ophelia, verbatim, when Meredith asks her how her father died.
  • You Killed My Father: Meredith Baxter towards Ophelia. Turns out that Ophelia didn't kill him; she came to him to offer him a position in the Roses, and he killed himself rather than taint himself working with "whores". It was just easier at the time for Ophelia to let most people think she killed him.
  • Younger Than They Look: Ophelia likes to project the mature and sexy demeanor of an older woman. But doing the math based on information in "Consigliera" shows she's only 21.