I was just saying last week that I hoped to not have to bid farewell to anybody in comics anytime soon, and today I'd like to let you all know that two talented people need to be remembered tonight. I've been on a message board for several years and read many of Rory Root's wonderful, witty contributions. I wouldn't be forward enough to call him a friend, but I enjoyed participating in discussions with him online and am very sad to see him go. He leaves behind a lot of well-wishers, professionals and fans who had the pleasure of his company at the store, at SDCC, and online. Universally loved, that man.
He was the owner of a very popular, and very renowned, store in Berkely, CA called Comic Relief. Y'all who don't know comics probably don't realize that there are certain stores which are so highly praised in our community for what they do right that they take on a very solid reputation, and Comic Relief was one of these, a store I knew I wanted to visit if ever I'm in California. I can't believe I won't see Rory's signature again at the V Hive. I can't believe he was 50 years old; I always figured he was around my age. Now I'm heartbroken that he's gone at only 50. That's far too young to go. Farewell, Rory. May your coffee mug always be filled.
Also, Bear Alley
is reporting that the world of comics had another loss last week. The artist Mike Western passed away of complications following a heart attack and a stroke last year at the age of 83. Unfortunately, none of Western's work is in print and available to purchase, save in back issues, but I did wish to mention three very good World War Two strips he drew in the 1970s for Battle Picture Weekly
Captain Hurricane's Best of Battle describes Darkie's Mob
(1976-77) thusly: "In 1946, a blood soaked diary is discovered at the scene of a brutal battle. The diary tells the story of a band of men, fighting a doomed campaign in the Burmese jungle, under the command of Captain Joe Darkie. Darkie's Mob fight outside the boundaries of the regular army. Darkie himself is a ruthless leader, but hides a secret from his men, and avoids contact with other soldiers. The British Army become interested as the reputation of this supreme fighting force grows. There is not, nor has there ever been, a Captain Joe Darkie in the British Army. Only Private Shortland, the author of the diary, knows this about his leader, but without Darkie, the Mob will not survive the jungle." This 44-episode serial, written by John Wagner, was reprinted across nine issues of Judge Dredd Megazine
, 202-210. It is available for you to read at the Best of Battle site. Check it out by clicking the link in the image below.
Following the conclusion of Darkie's Mob, Western was assigned The Sarge
. Gerry Finley-Day scripted this series about Jim Masters, a pipe-smoking sergeant leading a company of men in Europe. Reading this series, with its downbeat tone, high body count, and realistic characters who often don't make it back from missions, has made it impossible for me to enjoy DC's Sgt. Rock
like I did when I was a kid. Western illustrated The Sarge for eighteen months (and about 76 episodes) from 1977-78 before the strip carried on with a new artist.
In January 1979, Western reteamed with John Wagner for the strip HMS Nightshade
, which ran for about 50 episodes. I don't know much about this strip yet - my one-per-weekend reread had literally only brought me to the first episode on Sunday - but it's very good work, inspiring, detailed and with so much emotion in his characters.
Bear Alley reports that Western had previously worked for the titles TV Express, Buster
before his BPW days, and later worked for Speed, Tiger, Eagle
- I may have some of those episodes in my collection - and the Roy of the Rovers
comic, also illustrating the RotR daily strip for two years before retiring.
of it's in print, and so I can't link you to any places to purchase his work for your own shelves, and I think that is criminal.
Goodbye, Rory. Goodbye, Mike.