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Remembering Fantagraphics’ Kim Thompson, 1956-2013

kimthompsonI don’t write much about comics here; I leave that to Dan and Matt and Whitney and Brian, who are a lot better at it than I would be. Truth is, my comics focus was shaped by a different set of influences, less the superhero world than the weird, left-field, often confessional “alternative” books that bore imprints like Raw, Drawn and Quarterly, and, most strongly, Fantagraphics. Sure, I grew up with DC and Marvel, but for me, over the years, the touchstones were people like Art Spiegelman and Joost Swarte, Los Bros. Hernandez and Peter Bagge, Rick Geary, Charles Burns and Kim Deitch and, later, Dan Clowes and Chris Ware and today with Guy Delisle and Michael Kupperman and Kate Beaton. That’s still my wheelhouse, and one of the reasons I’m a former cartoonist is that I would read that stuff and think, geez, I don’t have the time or the talent to live up to that.

So, yeah, I still have a lot of Fantagraphics books on my shelves. And that’s why it was sad news to learn that the company’s co-founder Kim Thompson died today of lung cancer. At the Fantagraphics blog, there’s an obituary that talks about his youth in Europe, where he grew up a comics fan and fanzine writer, and about how, eventually, after moving to the U.S. in 1977, he went to the offices of The Comics Journal and ended up a co-owner and then partner with Gary Groth. Fantagraphics launched in 1981, Love and Rockets showed up in ’82, and the rest is history. Thompson’s heritage led him to champion translations of European comics for the American market, and he moved on to edit Amazing Heroes and publish Critters and Zero Zero.

“Kim leaves an enormous legacy behind him,” Groth says in the obituary, “not just all the European graphic novels that would never have been published here if not or his devotion, knowledge, and skills, but for all the American cartoonists he edited, ranging from Stan Sakai to Joe Sacco to Chris Ware, and his too infrequent critical writing about the medium. His love and devotion to comics was unmatched. I can’t truly convey how crushing this is for all of us who’ve known and loved and worked with him over the years.”

There’s an interesting interview Tom Spurgeon did with Thompson over at The Comics Journal; click here to read it. I didn’t know Kim, but his legacy includes a lot of comics I read, admire, and love. Thanks, man.