Robert Beerbohm, Pioneering Comic Book Retailer and Historian, Dies at 71

Robert Beerbohm, who in the 1970s helped to start the first comic book chain stores and then, after a flood wiped out inventory in his warehouse, became a professed archaeologist of comics history, died on March 27 at his home in Fremont, Neb. He was 71.

His daughter, Katy Beerbohm-Young, said the cause was colorectal cancer.

A pugnacious character on the comic book scene for nearly 30 years, Mr. Beerbohm once summed up his career as “a hobby that got way out of hand.”

It started in his early teens when he boarded a Greyhound bus in Nebraska for a 28-hour trip to sell comics at a convention in Houston. It ended as he was trying to finish writing “Comic Book Wars,” his eagerly awaited magnum opus about the industry.

In between, Mr. Beerbohm waited on Jerry Garcia, Robin Williams and Bruce Lee at his stores in California; discovered what was believed to be the first comic book printed in the United States; and discussed comic book history with the gentleness of a heavyweight boxer.

(On Facebook, one of his last posts lamented “bold faced liars” at comic book rating agencies who would “make stuff up out of thin air” and prey on buyers as if they were “rubes unsuspectingly entering a carnival.”)

“I liked the presence he had in comic book land as one of those feverishly enthusiastic fans and scholars and networkers,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Art Spiegelman, a friend, said in an interview. “He was kind of manic. He came with a lot of enthusiasm, but that was one of his most endearing qualities.”

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