Fantagraphics Co-Publisher And Industry Legend Kim Thompson Passes Away
Kim Thompson, Co-Publisher of Fantagraphics and one of the most important editors in the comics industry over the last 30 years, passed away this morning due to complications from lung cancer. He was 56 years old. Over a career that spanned more than three decades, Thompson edited talent such as Chris Ware, Peter Bagge, Stan Sakai and Joe Sacco, and introduced the work of many legendary European cartoonists to the North American audience.
Thompson was born in Denmark in 1956. The son of a government contractor father, he was raised in several locations in Europe, including West Germany and The Netherlands. Throughout his childhood he was a voracious reader of both American and European comics, and as he entered his teenage years he began to frequently send letters to comic publishers and contribute to various fanzines. His letters appeared in several Marvel publications, including Amazing Spider-Man, Captain America, Conan the Barbarian, Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Marvel Spotlight, and Marvel-Two-in-One. At the age of 21, Thompson moved to America. In short time he was at the door of Gary Groth, founder and co-publisher of Fantagraphics and The Comics Journal, looking to contribute in any way he could. Said Groth of his friend of 36 years:
“Within a few weeks of his arrival he came over to our ‘office,’ which was the spare bedroom of my apartment, and was introduced by a mutual friend – it was a fan visit. We were operating out of College Park, Maryland and Kim’s parents had moved to Fairfax, Virginia, both Washington DC suburbs. Kim loved the energy around the Journal and the whole idea of a magazine devoted to writing about comics, and asked if he could help. We needed all the help we could get, of course, so we gladly accepted his offer. He started to come over every day and was soon camping out on the floor. The three of us were living and breathing The Comics Journal 24 hours a day.”
When Michael Catron, who co-founded The Comics Journal with Groth, left to take a job at DC Comics one year later, Thompson became an owner. In 1981, Fantagraphics began publishing comics. Bringing his familiarity with, and passion for, European cartoonists to this new endeavor, Thompson selected and translated many European graphic novels for Fantagraphics to publish, including Herman Huppen’s The Survivors: Talons of Blood. Having lived in various cities in Europe, and being the son of a Danish mother, Thompson spoke and/or understood several languages, including Danish, French and German. In a 2009 interview, Thompson said of his translation work: “I translate pretty much every European foreign-language cartoonist we publish except for Matti Hagelberg who is Finnish (Finnish is well outside of my area of expertise).”
In addition to his work for The Comics Journal, Thompson helmed the seminal Amazing Heroes, a bi-weekly magazine dedicated primarily to mainstream comics, from 1981 to 1992. He also developed and edited Critters, a funny-animal anthology that ran from 1985-1990 and introduced the world to the work of Stan Sakai; and Zero Zero, an alternative comics anthology running from 1995-2000, featuring work from David Mazzuchelli, Kim Deitch, Joe Sacco, Richard Sala, Dave Cooper, Joyce Farmer and Spain Rodriguez, among others.
More recently, Thompson spearheaded more translations of European comics, perhaps most notably the work of Jacques Tardi (It Was the War of the Trenches, Like a Sniper Lining up His Shot, The Astonishing Exploits of Lucien Brindavoine) and Jason (Hey, Wait…, I Killed Adolf Hitler, Low Moon, The Left Bank Gang). Within the last year, Thompson edited Lorenzo Mattotti’s The Crackle of the Frost and Guy Peelaert’s The Adventures of Jodelle, with both being critically acclaimed works. Of the legacy Thompson leaves behind, Groth shared the following:
“Kim leaves an enormous legacy behind him, 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.”
Thompson is survived by his wife, Lynn Emmert, his mother and father, Aase and John, and his brother Mark. On behalf of the entire staff of ComicsAlliance, our hearts and best wishes go out to Thompson’s family and friends. His tremendous contributions, and life long devotion, to this industry are immeasurable.