Rob passed away a year ago this past Saturday.
He was my comics guy for the better part of a decade. He was the reason I travelled an hour in to his store every week for a year. It’s because of him that I became a comics guy. In a lot of ways, the guy who called himself “The Man Who Did Nothing” changed my life.
For comics fans, there are few relationships more intimate than your comics guy. As a former comics guy myself, you learn a lot about a person by what they read. You learn to anticipate what they will buy, and you find commonalities to talk about.
Rob opened Legends near the Greenwood subway station in 1987, and over the next 27 years, he would move the store five times and change the name from Legends to Shining Knight before eventually settling on Comics and More.
I started going there in 1997, and it was probably six months before Rob even said a word to me. I had heard Peter, his business partner, refer to him as “Bob”, so that’s what I called him. It would be five years later before he would tell me he preferred to be called Rob.
That’s the way Rob was, he was slow to warm up to you, but when you got him talking, he wouldn’t stop. We shared a love of Grant Morrison. Morrison’s multiversity was one of the things he was most looking forward, and Jeff Lemire, a Comics and More regular, arranged a call from Morrison at Rob’s hospital room. The two talked for an hour. He was passionate about comics right to the end.
Rob understood how important it is to be part of the community that your business is in. He supported the local schools in his neighbourhood. He provided prizes, sponsored yearbooks and school teams. He led a board game group at the local library before it was cool to love board games.
He understood that kids are the future patrons of your store, and he kept his store kid friendly. He had a great selection of kids comics at the front of the shop, he was firm, but fair with kids, and led by example being polite and expecting the same from them.
He understood Magic and Pokeman in ways that boggle my mind. If a kid asked to see a binder, he would wait until they said “please”, and immediately responded with “thank you”.
He could answer the question of “What would a 10 year old boy like for his birthday”, which I always cringed at, but he would probe and figure out something that would work.
Part of choosing your comic shop and your comic shop guy involves the ritual. I went to Rob’s place every Wednesday. He was always in the same place, perched behind the counter, the same glasses year after year, the same blue dress shirt, his hair never changed length. He always greeted me, not always warmly, he always suggested stuff I would like, but never pushed it on me, and he was always friendly to kids.
I loved the shop so much that I kept going every week until mid 2005, even after I moved half an hour outside of Toronto, about an hour round trip from my store to my home.
Rob said he was “The Man Who Did Nothing”, but I couldn’t disagree more.
He helped to shape his community. He supported the local schools extra curricular activities, which gave kids something to do, he donated to charities, he treated his customers like old friends, and he was truly selfless. It’s because of Rob that I met Peter, and I got to run my own shop. Rob’s passing spurred me to make a huge career change, and I’m a small business owner now.
Rob made a huge difference in my life, and in the lives of many of the people in the Danforth area. For many of us, he was the man who did everything, and I’m proud to accept this award for him.