Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Rory Root 1958-2008

Rory Root the founder of the Comic Relief bookshop in Berkeley has passed away.


Rory was a pioneer in promoting graphic novels to libraries and participant in the GNLIB-L list for librarians interested in graphic novels and anime. His store was the first to win an Eisner Award which it richly deserved.

I first met Rory in the late 1970s when I was an impoverished grad student who would drop by the comic shop on Telegraph Avenue to browse through their Japanese import texts. Rory was a lowly staff member who was always ready to make recommendations and learn from the knowledge of the customers.

For years after that shop closed Rory would talk about opening his own store, it even became a subject to tease him about. When Comic Relief opened up many of us visited the store on that day. I was entering just as the store cat, a small black kitten at the time, was making a dash to the door being followed by Rory who was yelling "Get back here!". I scooped up the kitten. turned it over and while my hand was being playfully mauled and chewed congratulated Rory on the store.

For years I would visit after work and one day while in the store with a friend I was bored as he and Rory were having a long conversation when I spotted issue 3 of Akira in the old colorized comic book release. I bought that issue and the two previous ones which actually was my first comic book purchase since 1970. It was also my first manga purchase and since that date Comic Relief has continued to extract funds in exchange for wonderful books.

I urge anyone who is visiting Berkeley to head downtown and see the store that Rory built.


Chiaki Hirai said...

No way, I can't believe it. Really? I am truly sad for the loss. Another Bay Area legend is gone.

I really hope Comic Relief stays open and continues to be an icon for us. I'll have to stop by when I'm back in the bay again.

Anonymous said...

Dom of MegaTokyo also eulogized Rory Root and Comic Relief in his latest rant.



Anonymous said...

Living in Berkeley and having Comic Relief a short walk away...it seemed more like a place of myth than a real-life experience, even more so now that it's been 10 years. I never remember being introduced to the man, but he sold me a lot of manga over the years.

Somewhere, a star burns silently...