Comics has lost one of its best friends today. Rory Root, long-time proprietor of one of the best stores in the country, Berkeley's Comic Relief, has apparently died as a result of a variety of health issues. I know this is going to rock a lot of people in the industry. He was much loved.
I never spent a lot of time hanging out with Rory, but I always stopped by his store when I was in Berkeley and he always made me feel welcome. He was well-known amongst small publishers because he would take a lot of our left-over stock off our hands at the end of conventions. Sunday's at San Diego Con were full of the refrain, "Where's Rory?" Once, when Joe Nozemack wasn't at a show and I was left to deal with the business, I asked Rory what his usual discount from Joe was, and he got a glint in his eye and quoted some ridiculous number. "Really?" I asked. "Uh-huh," he said. "Okay," says I.
When Joe found out, he just laughed. "If you're going to be stupid enough to fall for it with anybody, I'm glad it was Rory." He did so much for all of us, giving him a little extra was the least we could do. I once told him this, though, so that he knew I knew he had gotten me, and he seemed genuinely shocked that I would say such a thing. I never figured out if I had it wrong or if that was also part of his impish game. I always hoped he never thought less of me either way.
If Rory was selling your book, it was hard not to feel like a success. In fact, I don't think he knows it, but he actually gave me a real confidence boost one of the last times I saw him. When Cut My Hair was barely a year old, he passed on taking any home from San Diego. "I'm sorry," he said, "we have some already and they aren't selling." I waved it off, I understood.
Five years later, he walks up to the Oni booth, and he points at Cut My Hair, and he says, "People come in all the time asking me for this thing. They keep hearing about it, and we keep restocking it."
I did a little "yes" in my http://www2.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifhead. Victory!
My thoughts go out to Rory's friends and his family--a group that is huge, because such was the man--but especially to those close around him.
UPDATE: Read a comprehensive obituary at Comics Reporter. Also, Rory's store site, Comic Relief, has been set up as a memorial for the time being.