Police in New Jersey found Robert Bruce dead inside a storage facility on Dec. 31. Bruce, a noted expert in collectibles and a cast member in the AMC reality TV series Comic Book Men, was 62 years old.

Someone with the Twitter name Cicada Mania tweeted that Bruce was the “king of the New Jersey flea market scene” and that Cicada Mania had “bought many a kaiju [a Japanese monster-movie genre] from him.” 

On Jan. 1 Robert Bruce’s brother, John Bruce, also via a Twitter account, said that Robert Bruce had died “in his office, in Red Bank, N.J.” Robert Bruce’ office was in a basement unit at the storage facility. He may also have been living there at the time of his demise. 

The filmmaker Kevin Smith owns a comic book store in Red Bank, “Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash.” The store was the setting for Comic Book Men, a reality television show that Smith produced from 2012 to 2018, consisting in the end of 96 episodes. Robert Bruce became renowned in broader circles through his frequent appearances there. He appeared in 34 of the series’ episodes and received producing and consulting credits for 82. 

Kevin Smith responded to the tweet by John Bruce, offering his condolences on the Bruce family’s loss and adding that “AMC_TV shot a sizzle reel for a spinoff with Rob & his family before they got rid of all the reality shows.” 

Ming Chen, who was also featured in Comic Book Men, said that Robert Bruce had an eye for finding the gems among collectibles, which made him a perfect fit for the show.  

What Happened to Robert Bruce?

Robert Bruce’s family said that they had not heard from him for several days. A friend of the family then searched and made the tragic discovery of his body at the Red Bank City Center Plaza Professional Records Storage Facility on Water Street around 6:30 p.m. and officers responded.

The police said they don’t suspect foul play in Robert Bruce’s death. His death is now under investigation by the Middlesex County Medical Examiner’s Office. Even when he died is as still unclear. His social media habits help narrow down the date, but not very far.

Robert Bruce had a Twitter account, but he hasn’t added to it since a retweet on Dec. 12. 

Robert Bruce posted on his Facebook wall more recently than that: on Dec. 20 he penned for FB a loving tribute to Jean Shepard, his “radio hero” and the mind behind the holiday-season classic: A Christmas Story.

His last Instagram post was on Dec. 22, from a NJ flea market.

Comic Book Men

The reality TV series on which Robert Bruce found fame, Comic Book Men, was described as “Pawn Stars for geeks.” It was part of a broader ambitious entry by AMC into the reality programming space.

Given the presumed fantasy/sci-fi friendly audience, when AMC did pick up Comic Book Men the network scheduled it to follow The Walking Dead.

Later, it became Part 3 of a nerd-culture lineup. Walking Dead would then be followed by The Talking Dead, an unscripted chat fest about Walking. Then Comic Book Men followed Talking.

The series did use elements familiar to fans of Pawn Stars. The proprietors of the store fielded offers to buy or sell nerd-culture artifacts, and sometimes brought in guests and experts in various aspects of that culture. The appeal of the show depended on the banter and chemistry among the participants in the subculture.

Kevin Smith suffered a near-fatal heart attack in February 2018. Some observers have suggested that the heart attack may have contributed to the network’s decision to drop Comic Book Men from the lineup later that year. More generally, though, the network brass seemed to have soured on reality TV.