By Beau Smith
Dedicated to Rory Root
“The things I want to know are in books; my best friend is the man who’ll get me a book I ain’t read.”
In over twenty some years as a comic book writer and business person, I’ve always said that comic books are the common bond that tie so many of us from different beliefs, backgrounds and personalities together. In the passing of Rory Root, ramrod of the fine store Comic Relief we have lost one of those very strong ties.
Unlike a rope that has lost a strand of the hemp that keeps it strong, Rory made sure in his all too short life that he helped construct more strands that would keep the rope of reading comic books strong long after he was gone.
Rory was unselfish with his knowledge of not only comics, but more importantly his knowledge of people. Rory never forgot what it was like to be that person looking for something entertaining to read. He could relate to the child, the teenager, the college student, the collector and the adult seeking to regain a small piece of their childhood. Rory may have forgotten that he had worn the same shirt a couple of days in a row, but he never forgot the mug in his hand and a friend. With Rory Root, you always had a friend, not only in comics, but in life as well.
Unlike a lot of people that are called on for their opinion and expert knowledge, Rory was not a “know ?it-all” and never claimed to be. If he didn’t have the answer you were looking for, he was the first to steer you to another that might. If he didn’t have the comic book you wanted he found a way to get it or directed you to another brother/sister retailer that did. As long as you got what you were looking for, Rory was a happy boy.
About ten years ago at San Diego Comic Con I was walking back to the Spawn booth to grab Todd McFarlane for another meeting we had that afternoon. On my way through the crowds and the costumed versions of my four-color friends, I passed through Rory’s island of retail for his store Comic Relief. A I walked through the isle I heard somebody yell out “Yee-Haww, where’s the horse you rode in on, Cowboy, still in jail where you oughta be?” That voice belonged to Rory Root.
I walked over and shook the hand that wasn’t holding the mug that took two normal men to heft. I replied as I often did with “Why don’t you get that haircut and get a real job, ya damn, dirty hippie.” The laughter of real friendship was exchanged along with our odd greeting that always turned the heads of those in earshot.
Even though he had a mess of customers roaming around his display and I had Todd waiting for me so I could guide him through another meeting where he could argue points in that Canadian accent that sounds like a mix of Billy Murray from Caddyshack and Homer Simpson, Rory and I had to catch up. Toddy could wait.
We’d known each other long enough to where like family, we had our own version of shorthand dialogue that only few could understand or want to be a part of. Even though we came from different biological parents, comic books would always be the mother of us both.
Knowing my love for westerns and all things manly, Rory pulled a book out from under one of his cabinets and I could tell by the gleam behind those glasses, that he had found something only a man of my unique taste would appreciate. It was a large hardcover from the publisher Dargaud. The book was Tatiana K. by Francois Corteggiani & Felix Meynet.
Rory knew what he was doing before he did it. As he told me, he knew I’d love this book the moment he laid eyes on it. He knew the art styles that I enjoyed and he knew the genres that I favored. He nailed it with Tatiana K. I looked through the book and saw that it was in French. “Rory, this is all in French. How am I supposed to read this? I moaned (In a manly way, of course.) Rory yanked the book from my paws and shoved it in a sack and said “Beau, you can barely read English, what do you care about the French anyway. Just look at the pretty pictures and be happy.”
I nodded my head in agreement and shoved money into his hand, he shoved it right back into mine. “Hey, I’ve gotta pay you for this.” I said. Rory just smiled and said, “No. You just gotta owe me.“
Rory was right. I owed him then and I owe him now…for a great friendship.
Some debts can never be paid off, but they can be treasured.
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