LET'S LEVEL WITH LEE!

By Lee Hester, owner of Lee's Comics of California.

Monday, May 26, 2008

RAGA MAN

I've always liked Anagrams. It's a way to obfuscate something so that only those dedicated to the hunt can find it.

I can think of a couple of Anagrams in songs. There are probably a lot more.

Here's a song you might know: "LA Woman" By the Doors. At the end of the song, Jim Morrison starts singing "Mr. Mojo Risin" over and over again. It wasn't until years later that I discovered that this is an anagram for Jim Morrison.

Then there's Brian Eno. In case you don't know who Brian Eno is, he started out as a member of Roxy Music. You can see him doing the electronics for that group in the video I linked to last. He went on to do some very interesting solo albums. After that he was a producer and sometimes song writer for bands such as Devo, the Talking Heads, and U2. Eno does a lot of interesting things. He is also the favorite artist of Alan More, who is the Eno of the comic book world. Alan More has made a whole bunch of Eno references in his comics. Perhaps I'll list some of them in the future.

In the late 1970s I saw a lecture in Berkley by Brian Eno, where he revealed that his song "King's Lead Hat" was an anagram for Talking Heads. Eno was, at the time producing the Talking Heads, and co-writing some of their best songs.

"Enid Coleslaw" the protagonist of the graphic novel Ghost World is an anagram of author Daniel Clowes.

The band Sad Café released an album called Facades.

In earlier days, you had to figure out an anagram for yourself, longhand. It was hard work and there was much trial and error. In the examples above, you can see a certain alchemy whereby the anagram somehow reveals something of the hidden character of the subject.

Thanks to our friend the internet you can come up with your own anagram very simply by just using an anagram server such as this one. My favorite ones for Lee Hester are:

Here Steel
Three Lees
Thee Leers

If you go to the anagram server I linked to, run "Comic Books" and take note of the very first one that comes up.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

RORY ROOT DIES


This is probably the only picture that exists of Rory Root and me together. We both knew each other very well, but spent very little time in proximity to one another. This picture, taken two years ago at Wonder Con in San Francisco was the beginning of a closer friendship. Ironically, this closer friendship began at an event where Rory secretly upset me!

If you haven't heard the news, I hate to be the one to break it to you. Comic book retailer Rory Root died on Monday after complications from a massive hernia. He was 50 years old.

Rory was the proprietor of Comic Relief in Berkley, which is one of the very best comic book stores in the world. The stock is massive, comprehensive and all encompassing. Rory was an early advocate of Alternative Comics and Graphic Novels, and was one of the first retailers to foresee a future where the graphic novel would be the cornerstone of the comic book store. Rory called Comic Relief the Comic Bookstore, and that's what it was.

As impressive as Comic Relief was, Rory was even more impressive. His knowledge intelligence, and common sense was unsurpassed by anyone in the industry. Many times when I was asked for some info that I wasn't privy to, I would declare "I bet Rory Root knows the answer to that." If Rory didn't know, then nobody knew. And he would generously share the information with you as long as it did not betray any confidences.

Rory was a straight shooter, and was generous to a fault. He lived and breathed comics. He helped every creator who came his way. No comic book was too obscure for him to carry, no creator so bereft of talent that he would not help and them and guide them. Rory Root was the patron saint of comics.

As generous as Rory was, he could also be infuriating. He seemed to have an opinion on everything, and was quick to give it. He was so adamant about his opinion being correct, that he had little tolerance for dissenting views. This was the Rory that I knew in person, and I have known him for over 25 years. Early on, we were on opposite sides on a couple of issues that later turned out to be trivial, but alas, a cold war started between us that was to last for decades.

When the Internet started to grow, I was shocked to see a new Rory. This was a Rory with very civil and well reasoned posts on message boards. He had come up with an incredibly diplomatic voice, that presented his views without being insulting or demeaning to either side. I didn't believe that it was really him, at first. This was not the argumentative Rory that I knew! He spent a great deal of time on the internet. It was perfectly suited to his intellectual and rhetorical skills. On many forums he was the most frequent poster. On the Comic Book Industry Alliance, for example he joined in 1999, and had 10,000 posts. I joined the same year, and have 500 posts. Rory's posts were helpful, constructive and informative. He never "Flamed". These posts helped add to his worldwide acclaim.

His internet persona, like the writing of Ben Franklin, was the voice of reason. It helped to coalesce many a consensus. This was the more perfect Rory Root. This was his better part, carefully edited and fit to print. The sharp edges that some may see live were polished off after careful re-drafting.

I didn't want it that way, but for many years Rory and I were rivals. Some mutual friends noticed that his posture would change, and he would grow tense if I would enter the room. Over the years I went over to him on several occasions and tried to break the ice between us.

I remember going up to him at the end of a convention about 15 years ago. He was sitting on a table. I went up, and sat next to him. I said, "Rory, you and I have been around for a long time. I know that you are one of the best retailers in the business. You know that I am not going anywhere. I know that you are an honest and honorable guy, and I hope you feel the same way about me. I can't see any reason in the world that we should not work together and be more friendly." Rory agreed with me, and thanked me for coming over. He told me that it must have been hard for me to approach him like that. I told him that it was not at all hard for me.

Despite my efforts at détente, the freeze lasted for many years more. I came to accept that one of the most respected people in the industry did not respect me. Only recently did we begin to get a bit more friendly. In the last few years Rory visited my store twice, and called and emailed several times. We had the beginning of a friendship going after all the years of a cold war.

It's funny, but one of the key things that brought us together in the last couple of years secretly pissed me off. I have kept it quiet until now.

In 2006, Rory and I along with James Sime and Steve Mortinson appeared on a panel together at Wonder Con. The panel was on Comic Book Retailing. I have been asked to talk on about 3 panels in all my years, so it's always a rare and special occasion for me. Rory has probably been on hundreds of them. There has rarely been any sort of comic book retail programming that didn't feature Rory Root as a speaker.

My wife and kids came to lend me moral support that day, and sat right in front. I was in a good mood, and I was nice to Rory. I showed him great deference, and he was obviously moved by the gesture. I was quite pleased that we were finally getting along and bantering and joking together. What he didn't know, and nobody but my inner circle knew is that he annoyed me quite a bit that day. Once he got the mike, he spent more time talking than the other 3 panelists, and the moderator combined. He answered everybody else's questions, and was a total mike hog. He went on and on about how his store was the best, his selection was the best, he was the first winner of the Eisner Award, etc. etc. I kept quiet about being a bit miffed by his demeanor on the panel, and we actually became more friendly after that.

After the panel, my wife complemented me on my demeanor, and the few brief words that I got in before Rory stole the show. Then she said "Who was that Rory Root? He wouldn't shut up!" That was the live, in person, unedited Rory Root. The internet Rory Root was humble, diplomatic and succinct,

With all his faults, he was still the greatest retailer in the world. Although it stung me to admit it, his boast was no brag. I can't imagine a comic convention where he is not present at the best and most diverse set-up at the show. I can imagine an industry function that he does not dominate. I can't imagine a comic book web forum where he does not act as the guiding light. Rory Root was like a force of nature. The thought that he will not be around is like saying that the sun will no longer come out, and the rivers will stop flowing. Not possible.

Comic books have lost their #1 champion. He did so much for comics, and loved comics so much, that he made others seem to hate them by comparison. I want to have the best selection that I can while still making a profit. He wanted to have the best selection period. Profits be dammed. If they made it, he had it. He lived for comics 24-7, and cared about them more than anyone else ever has or will. Comics were his life. There will be no replacing Rory Root. The loss is incalculable.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

UN-AIRED MAD MAGAZINE TV SPECIAL FROM 1974

Okay, here's a real treat for you. It's the un-aired Mad Magazine TV Special from 1974. This is a must for all Mad Magazine fans! Unfortunately, I could only find the opening segment. Hopefully the rest of it will surface.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

SELECTED SHORTS

Here's the original Homer Simpson.


Here's the world's first motion picture. It was made in 1878 in Palo Alto by Eadweard Muybridge. I always heard that it was make to settle a bet about whether all four legs of a horse left the ground when he was running. That may be apocryphal, though.


Here's an entertaining one. It's Little Tish from 1900.


Here's some Old School break dancing. REAL old school. 1898

ERNIE KOVACS

If you have been exposed to the video madness of Ernie Kovacs, you probably have a hankering to see some of them now and then.

If not, check these out, and I bet that you will become a fan.



Tuesday, May 13, 2008

HOCKEY

Here's a little video that demonstrates the skill and good sportsmanship that you will see at a typical hockey game.

CAR CRASH

Here's an amazing multi-car pile up on a slick, snow covered road. Braking is no use. Getting out of the car and trying to drag your car to a halt is no use. You are going to hit the line of cars in front of you, no matter what you do. Then you are going to wait in your car until you, in turn, get rear ended. Welcome to motoring in HELL!

Monday, May 12, 2008

DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE

Here's my favorite scene from "Magical Mystery Tour". It features the "Bonzo Dog Band" doing a song called "Death Cab for Cutie." Lennon seems to like it quite a bit, too.

Friday, May 09, 2008

GO SPEED RACER!

Okay, I don't know whether I'm going to see the new Speed Racer movie or not, but let me tell you, when I was a kid, I loved the cartoon. Now if you have a decently fast internet connection, and you can watch You Tube videos, watch this little clip of the opening of the cartoon.



Okay, did you see it? Now think back to the last few seconds of opening sequence. What happens there? I think this is very interesting. Its a...Matrix Move! Speed racer freezes and the scene revolves so you see a 360 view of him and his car! Perhaps the Wachowski brothers grew up on Speed Racer like I did, and it influenced their famous Matrix trilogy. Now it's come full circle and they are the directors of the new Speed Racer movie.

The film is getting mostly negative reviews. I can't imagine the Wachowski's making anything that wasn't at least interesting and full of new ideas.

ERIC REYNOLDS ON "HOW I PISSED OF STEVE DITKO"

Click Here to Read.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY

This year's Free Comic Book Day was a great success.

We had good promotions going into the event. A number of Bay Area retailers got together to buy double page full color pull-out maps in the San Jose Mercury news and the Metro. I'm putting these photos up really big, so you can see more of the details.

Metro Ad


Mercury News Ad

The pictures from this report are taken from my Mountain View location, which is where I usually work. Mark Crane and Dave Chin headed up our San Mateo FCBD. As usual, I set up the comics outside in Mountain View. I like to put the comics outside for several reasons. For one thing, I am in a busy center, so lots of new people who are walking by see the set up each year and come over to see what's going on. That's my chance to get them started, or re-started on comics. I heard from a lot of people that collected a while ago, and decided to start it up again. Many people asked what I liked the best. (It was the EC sampler. That's what I would get if I only got to choose 1.)

The weather is always quite nice, so it's a good way to spend the day. I like to give the books away outside, so it's clear that there is no obligation to buy something. The amazing thing is, that almost everyone goes inside to shop anyway. Somehow, being outdoors just adds to the fun.


We knew that this year would be great because people started lining up a half an hour before opening time. You can see that a good line was forming.


My son, Lee the fourth, seen here, helped me out all day.


We had a drawing to give away 5 Drawer Boxes, and it proved to be very popular. We got several hundred entries. The Drawer Box company provided the prizes and helped pay for the ad in the Mercury!


To add to the fun, we created a table of quarter box bargains. This was mostly new collections of comics that had not been offered before. These proved to be quite popular as well.


Wave after wave of people came in. People brought their friends and family. Lots of people had coupons in hand. Many people told me that they found out about it that way. Our advertising had been a success!


If you don't think girls and kids like comics, you wouldn't know it from our Free Comic Book Day!


Even Crabs like free comics!


The store was busy all day. We wound up doing double a shipment day in sales.


The ever-popular back issue section. Another myth: Nobody likes back issues any more.




Emily and Ally, age 12, show off their new FCBD swag.


Here you can see my son, me, and Mark Arnold who also helped all day. My daughter Hannah is in front.


Here's my wife Connie, the life of any party, clowning around with the kids. You can see a bit of Sophie, my other daughter's head in the back. Hannah is mostly out of the picture. It was a fun and exhausting day. We had great sales, and made lots of new friends. I've got to tell you, I LOVE Free Comic Book Day.

Now for one last item: Here's a video I took at the end of the day when things were winding down a bit, and I was able to get away from the table for a moment. It's silent; It was taken with a cheap camera that doesn't have a mike. We haven't learned how to add sound yet, so for maximum enjoyment, please hum the tune "Patricia" by Perez Prado while you view.

Friday, May 02, 2008

THE ANSWERS TO ALL OF LIFES BURNING QUESTIONS

Do you sometimes ponder life's deep mysteries? Worry no longer! Just watch this short video, and all of life's burning questions will be answered for you.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

HAPPY WEDDING, YEN AND FRED

Lee's Comics wanted to take a moment to wish Yen and Fred every happiness for their upcoming May 24th wedding. You know this love will last, based on the divine selections on their gift registry.

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Imagine a World with no comic books. Not worth living.

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