Monday, June 24, 2013

Kim Thompson (1956-2013)

Kim Thompson, co-publisher of Fantagraphics, has been much on my mind since he passed away last week, but I haven't been able to write about him until now—thoughts come much easier than words. These are words I wish I hadn't had to write.

I first met Kim in 2001, and I worked with him in the publishing industry through 2008. It was a grand education. Mention "Fantagraphics" and generally the first person who comes to mind is Gary Groth, often described as the comic industry's bête noire: his take-no-prisoners attitude, his gleeful refusal to suffer fools gladly, and his bombastic energy are legendary—so I was surprised as i got to know Gary better and found him to be, if not a pussycat, then one of the nicest, smartest men in comics I've ever had a chance to know, a man who has had a respect for the knowledge of publishing I brought to the Fantagraphics table and a patience to teach me the Fanta way. I say this all about Gary with a great admiration and thanks to Gary because, as Kim's passing reminds me, I'd much rather say these things while the person is around than afterwards.

Kim was the quieter partner of the two, but you would never mistake any placidness for a lack of passion or energy. (And, I'm reminded, Kim could be pretty delightfully bombastic as well.) From him I learned a love and respect of the large line of acclaimed Fantagraphics books and comic. Many—in fact, by sheer nature of the concept of sales, most—of these were never strong sellers, but it captivated me to hear him speak and express his admiration and appreciation of many comics I'd never heard of, but Kim's endorsement was enough to get me to give them a try. Especially in the field of European comics, there are few others who have his knowledge, and this will be sorely missed. He taught me the intricacies of translation, the love of European "fine line" style, and he got me, a lifelong Asterix snob, to finally read and treasure every volume of Tintin. I learned a lot from him, and I'm proud to have done so and to have been his friend if only for a short time.

And...because even now I can't resist tweaking him a bit...never, never forget that even though he knew more about Hergé, Jacques Tardi and Lewis Trondheim than all of us put together...never forget that he was also once a Marvel fan.

Letter printed in The Amazing Spider-Man #144 (May 1975)

Letter printed in Kull the Conqueror #11 (November 1973)

Letter printed in The Incredible Hulk v.2 #185 (March 1975)

I intended to post these to tease Kim about his humble teenage fandom, and I missed my chance. I'll miss Kim very much, too.

Oh! And so, while I have the chance:

Letter printed in Thor #162 (May 1968)



Unknown said...

I love the remembrance and the letters pages. Thanks for posting this, even though I'm a Tintin fan who's never really warmed up to Asterix. :-)

Blam said...

I'm sorry for your loss, John. The more testimonials to Kim I read, the more I realize just how much it was my loss that I never met him.