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Comic Store Pioneer, Manga Supporter Rory Root 1958-2008

posted on by Egan Loo

Rory Root, the owner of the Comic Relief store and a key early supporter of manga in the United States, passed away on May 19 due to complications from hernia surgery. He was 50 years old. Root provided manga — and alternative comics in general — with a critical boost throughout his store's 21-year history.

The original Comic Relief store in Berkeley was within blocks of Cal-Animage Alpha (the anime club at the University of California, Berkeley that eventually begat AnimeCon and Anime Expo) and the offices of Animag (one of the first English-language anime magazines whose staffers later launched Animerica). From his unique vantage point in the San Francisco Bay Area, Root supported manga and alternative comic companies during the 1990s when few comic stores gave manga even a full shelf.

Root was one of Viz's first customers, and he gave editor/writer Jason Thompson unlimited access to the store's manga collection to research the Eisner-Award-nominated Manga: The Complete Guide. His store was the first exposure to manga for many patrons who would later work in the manga industry. The following is a small sample of the tributes by people in manga and related fields:

Andrew Farago, Cartoon Art Museum curator
Shaenon Garrity, Viz Media freelance editor
Carl Horn, Dark Horse Comics editor
Alvin Lu, Viz Media Vice-President, Publishing
Dominic Nguyen, Megatokyo editor
Gilles Poitras, The Anime Companion author
Ryan Sands, manga translator

Comic Relief and the Root family request that donations in Root's name be made to The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

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