The direct market lost one of its most innovative and passionate retailers when Rory Root succumbed to complications following hernia surgery and died yesterday at the age of 50.  Root was a visionary who championed the graphic novel early in his retailing career and created at Comic Relief in Berkeley a true comic bookstore.  His massive graphic novel and comic emporium on the floor of San Diego Comic-Con was also an annual stop for many. 


Root was a singularly generous person who was always willing to share his insights and enthusiasms.  He was also generous in the breadth of his tastes.  He loved all forms of comics, from the smallest mini-comic to the phone book-sized omnibus, from the most outré underground to mainstream superhero books to classic comic strips and manga.


It would be impossible to measure his influence on the medium that he loved so dearly.  With his generous spirit he earned the affection of his retailing peers, while with his knowledge and enthusiasm he gained the respect of comic professionals such as Warren Ellis, who noted that “Comic Relief always had the ambience of a bookstore. As a writer you felt good being there.” 


Neil Gaiman called Root “one of the best comic retailers. Someone with a philosophy on selling comics and graphic novels, on respecting customers, on pushing The Good Stuff, that set him apart back in 1989, when we first met, and that put him far ahead of his time.”


ICv2 Publisher Milton Griepp, whose friendship with Root goes back to the era when Rory managed the Best of Two Worlds’ Berkeley store before striking out on his own with Comic Relief in the1980s, echoes the sentiments of many in the industry:


“Rory was a pioneer of the direct market comic business in so many ways, but he was at his most visionary in his early adoption and embrace of the graphic novel.  His store was a center of the growth of the graphic novel market, and his support of a broad range of material was without equal.  I will fondly remember his vision, his humor, his keen intellect, and his generous spirit. Shows won't be as much fun without seeing Rory there, and we are all the less for his passing.”