Monday, May 19, 2008

Rest in Peace, Rory Root

My friend Rory Root, owner of Comic Relief in Berkeley CA, has passed away. He was 50.

He was admitted to Kaiser Hospital in Oakland CA last Saturday where he underwent emergency surgery for what is believed to have been a ruptured hernia.

Rory was a friend of mine for more than 20 years...and years before that, he was the guy I dealt with when I was buying old comics from the pre-Comic Relief comic shop Best of Two Worlds in Berkeley.

Rory was also one of the industry's most influential retailers, embracing the book-store model in the comic specialty market long before most of his retailing contemporaries. With his huge presence, his ever-present coffee mug and stylish hats, Rory was an easily-recognized retailing luminary at every event he attended.

I miss him already.

Rest in peace, my friend.

(Photos---top: Rory with Libby Field at--- where else?--- Comic Relief, 2006. Bottom: photo taken in 1987 at the first WonderCon, where Rory was one of the original founders and stake-holders. This shot was taken to promote the benefit art auction for Literacy Volunteers of America.)


Blogger Tom Beland said...

I've spent the past half-hour in tears upon hearing the news. Rory was one of the first retailers in the business to purchase my work and whenever I'd see him at a convention, he'd say great things about TRUE STORY.

I remember one year, he stopped me at San Diego Con and told me that he read the issue where I took Lily to his store. The thing is... he wasn't just happy to see his store in my book, but he was very moved when he saw the little black cat that used to sleep on top of the comics in the back-issue bin.

I didn't know it, but the cat had passed away a short time before the book shipped. He said it made him feel good to see it in the pages of a book that he liked.

I went back to my table and realized that I had that very page in my portfolio bag. I took it out, signed it and brought it over to him. Rory thought I was going to ask if he needed any books, but when he saw me take the page out, he was moved to tears.

He hugged me and told me that he would cherish the piece. It felt great to give him something that meant that much to him.

I also remember telling him that Marvel had asked me to write a Spider-Man story and he was thrilled, knowing my affection to that character.

But then he shook my hand, held it tight, looked at me and said to me in that direct way of his, "It'll never outshine TRUE STORY. Remember that."

God, I miss him already.

8:34 PM  
Blogger Lee Hester said...

I can't believe that Rory is gone. He was so good at what he did, and so vocal about what he believed in, that I think all of our stores are better because of him. He had that big an impact.

This is a very sad day for comics. I'm in shock.

11:17 PM  
Anonymous Liz Schiller said...

Wow, that second picture almost made me cry. Markalan Joplin died just a year or two later. And now Rory's gone too.

3:57 PM  
Blogger James Friel said...

I don't know anyone who had contributed so much, and who still had so much to contribute when he went. Maybe Phil Seuling, who also died at 50, but Phil's contribution was, I think, pretty much complete, unless he would have gone in a completely new direction--which is certainly possible. Rory, on the other hand, would have gone on for decades if he'd had that long, improving and re-defining the retail comic business.

1:09 AM  

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