Editor’s Note: DC Comics President Paul Levitz returns to Blog@ to post memories of comics retailer Rory Root, who passed away today.
by Paul Levitz
This one’s for Rory.
We lost one of comics’ gentle evangelists today, a man named Rory Root who preached from an overcrowded store crammed with graphic novels and comics of all description, or in the middle of a bustling convention floor, or really, almost anywhere that someone would listen. Oversize coffee mug brim full and ever-present in his hand, he’d move through his wares with the sure hand of a man who knew each of his customers — even ones he’d never met. He knew what you’d like, well enough to bet that you’d keep a book he guaranteed to take back. And he’d remember, even from year to year.
Long before the “era of the graphic novel,” Rory was a believer. He loved the diversity of comics, from the obscure but artfully done littlest independent title, to a beautiful archival project. He pushed publishers to do more, customers to try more, and smiled broadly when he talked about the artists who had visited his store and become part of the circle directly.
We talked, each time we were together, about comics I should read, about titles my daughter would like, about things DC could do, and, sadly, too often, about his health, which was long challenged. But as difficult as much of his life was, he found great joy in sharing the comics he loved.
Most of you know someone a little like Rory, because it’s the reason the comic shops are some place we love to visit: run by folks who share a passion for their brightly colored contents and their friends who are, coincidentally, their customers. One loves the art books best, another Barks, another the indies, another super heroes, yet another the ones with the pretty girl art. Their championing titles is often the only thing that enables them to survive.
It’s a long tradition. Back when I was publishing The Comic Reader, there was no direct market and barely any comic shops–but my ability to keep publishing was supported by pioneering mail order dealers Phil Seuling and Bud Plant, and early store owners like Ed Summer. And even before that, my love of comics was nurtured in a dusty old store called My Friend’s Book Store, where Ruby Auerbach and Dotty Chalfin held court and brought up a generation or two of Brooklyn’s comic fans and future pros.
Here’s hoping it’s a tradition that goes on a long, long time. And that someone remembers to lift a beer stein full of coffee in Rory’s memory, as long as it does.