Most of us in this part of the world don't know who Kim Thompson was. For the records he was the co-publisher of Fantagraphics Inc. But this designation hardly encompasses the insurmountable contribution he made in the world of comics. He never wrote a comic, neither drew one. So, the kind of excitement a Jim Lee or an Alan Moore can generate, can hardly be expected for a certain Kim Thompson. But here's the truth. While we marvel away at the creative spectacle of the comic book writers and artists, there is a great bunch of people who are toiling away to make those cherished comic books a reality. They are the ones who educate new comic book fans, fight for the ideas they believe in (for us to fawn over later) and relentlessly strive to take this medium a few steps ahead. Kim Thompson was one of them. He was a fan. An honest, sincere comic book fan who wanted a part in the world of comics to do his bit. He took upon himself the responsibility of making sure that the medium of alternate comics had a better and brighter future. He passed away on 19th June, 2013, after being diagnosd with lung cancer in the beginning of this year.
His association with Fantagraphics started when he first came to the U.S in 1977 at the age of 21. Soon he met Gary Groth (Editor of TCJ and co-owner Fantagraphics) and joined the Seattle-based publishing house. He soon assumed a major role and even saved Fantagraphics from one of its many bankruptcies by investing his family inheritance in the company funds.
He was a regular contributor to the The Comics Journal and the now defunct magazine Amazing Heroes. Prior to that he was a regular contributor to American superhero comic book letter columns Amazing Spider-Man, Captain America, Conan the Barbarian, Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Marvel Spotlight, and Marvel-Two-in-One.
Born and brought up in Europe, Thompson was fluent in many languages and this was the source of his undying love for European comics. This hastened his later career of translating several gems of European comics, including the works of Jason, Jacques Tardi, Ulli Lust and Guy Peelaert. He was fondly remembered by Jason in this touching tribute
. Kim Thompson abridged the long way to European comics for us. He walked those miles for us. He was the passionate tour guide who made sure we touched down upon the best of comics junctions.
His editing credits include Peter Bagge's Hate, Chris Ware's Acme Novelty Library, Joe Sacco's Palestine,Stan Sakai's Usagi Yojimbo, Linda Medley's Castle Waiting, and anthologies like Critters and Zero Zero.
No he didn't win any Eisner for his efforts, but he did win the respect, admiration and deepest regards of comics fans spread out in this world for his undying love for this medium.
“He was the guy [at Fantagraphics] I dealt with on the nuts-and-bolts level for everything production-wise. And he was an amazingly great spellchecker and editor. He caught every one of my textual missteps for over 20 years — even when they were in French. Especially if they were in French. He never tried to change what Zippy said — he just made Zippy a better communicator.
“I always thanked Kim for his meticulousness. I told him Zippy's audience needed all the help they could get. I'll really miss him.”
— Bill Griffith
“Kim sent me a Krazy Kat hardcover a year or two ago, unexpectedly. When I wrote to him and asked about it, he said it was in part because I’d provided some materials for another Fantagraphics book, but the main reason he sent it was because he knew I’d appreciate it. That’s his legacy right there, making great books and doing whatever he could to get them into the hands of people who would appreciate them.”
— Andrew Farago
“Kim was a guiding force in the alternative comics movement, one of the most important developments in comics history. Fantagraphics has had and continues to have a huge impact on so many cartoonists, whether they are published by the company or not. Personally, I’ll also remember Kim fondly as perhaps the only mature, reasonable voice in the early, wild days of bitterly argumentative cartoonists on the internet.
— Ruben Bolling
So, from all of us here, a big thank you to Kim Thompson for those years of comics driven madness, teaching us about comics beyond tights-capes and mostly for proving the significance of making things happen. RIP Kim Thompson.
Here's an interview with Kim.
Cover Image Courtesy ©Daniel Clowes.