I’ve been shopping at Comic Relief, an amazing comic bookstore in Berkeley, since I was ten. I used to make my dad bring me there when we were in town, to pick up back issues of G.I. Joe and other Marvel comics. I came back to UC Berkeley as an undergrad, where I rediscovered Comic Relief, and realized that there was more to comics than superheroes. Comic Relief’s booksellers turned me on to a variety of great comics, including both better-known (e.g. Hernandez brothers, Will Eisner) and local (e.g. Adrian Tomine, Ariel Schrag) artists.
I was walking past Comic Relief, now located across the street from BookFinder.com’s office, when I saw a sign up on the window. Rory Root, the bookseller who used to hang out in the back of the store and always gave me surprisingly good recommendations, died a couple of days back. I hadn’t known much about him before; as I learned, Rory was sort of a big deal among comic booksellers:
“Rory Root, the beloved owner of Berkeley’s revolutionary comic bookstore, Comic Relief and an ardent supporter of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund passed away yesterday at the age of 50. Rory was a dear friend of the Fund and of the comics industry at large. He was an instrumental champion for comics diversity, and advancing the graphic novel format. He was a pioneer for bringing graphic novels to libraries, and an outspoken advocate for the field’s best work.” (CBLDF)
There are over a hundred tributes to my friendly local comic bookseller across the web. Almost all are from hard core comic book fans. I’m not…but Rory, his bookstore, and the library comic collections he helped create managed to activate and sustain my interest in the medium over two decades. That’s what a good bookseller can do.
More on Rory: