RIP Kim Thompson (1956-2013)

Kim Thompson with some well-deserved Eisner Awards

Kim Thompson with some well-deserved Eisner Awards. This photo came from Kim’s obituary at the Fantagraphics blog, and was taken by Kim’s wife, Lynn Emmert.


Tom Spurgeon has written a lengthy, and extraordinarily detailed and rich, obituary for Kim Thompson that is not simply an obituary; it is a sweeping career story that manages to give the entire history of Fantagraphics Books while yet bringing into sharp focus Kim’s personal qualities, down to the finest nuances and quirks. This is a heroic piece of writing, placing Kim and his work within the context—the very complex and historically vital context—of the much-changed and still-changing US comics industry. Reading what Tom has written, wow, is like diving deep into Scrooge McDuck’s legendary money bin and swimming around in a great accumulation of history, lore, and anecdote. Tom communicates a vivid sense of Kim’s personality and work ethic, while never losing sight of the larger comics-historical narrative of which Kim’s career story is a such a crucial and inspiring part. Bravo, Tom, and thanks.

I have to believe that this particular “news” story affects Tom very personally—he should take pride in giving his friend Kim a fitting tribute.

Also very affecting is The Comics Journal‘s collection of tributes to Kim by fellow comics professionals, for many of whom Kim was publisher, editor, and/or translator—and friend. Eric Reynolds’s remembrance, in particular, is deeply moving. And Robert Fiore nails it: “[Kim] wasted less of the limited time he had on things he didn’t want to do than just about anybody I can think of, and he spent more of that limited time disseminating things we all can enjoy than just about anybody you can think of.” Truth!

The Journal has also run its own fine tribute to Kim as well, and a fine piece by Jeet Heer on Kim’s work as a critic.

Elsewhere, my friend Robert Boyd—like Tom Spurgeon a  former employee of and co-worker with Kim—offers his own wonderful remembrance, which well explains the importance of Kim’s work. Robert’s piece gives a terrific, lived-in sense of what it was like to work in the Fantagraphics office with Kim.

Finally, Tom has put up (and continues to update) a “Collective Memory” page for Kim that will probably link to every piece I’ve mentioned and definitely includes quite a few more. Look too for Tom’s terrific interviews with Kim, some of which he has recently re-run.

What follows is simply my original post on Kim, as published on June 20th. I know far too little to pay him effective tribute, but I’m glad to be one little piping voice in the great big chorus of voices singing his praise. Kim Thompson was a vital, historic figure in the history of US comics—of comics period—and someone whose too-early death makes me very sad.

With sadness—but also thanks for his work—I want to pay tribute to Kim Thompson, co-publisher of Fantagraphics Books, who died this morning at age 56, his life stolen from him by lung cancer. My deepest condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues.

I did not know Kim well; we were only lightly acquainted. And I’m sure I didn’t know the full breadth of his career. What I do know is that he was a brilliant, spirited, and decent publisher, a lover of comics, and a one-of-a-kind bundle of talents and passions who made a huge difference in the comics world and therefore in my reading life. In fact Kim made my reading world larger, and much richer. Like many, many comics readers, I grieve for his passing. I’ve got to admit, I grieve in selfish terms: to me Kim Thompson meant Fantagraphics, and Fantagraphics has meant the world.

Kim Thompson made comics smarter, brighter, more inclusive, and more interesting. He obviously loved the history of comics and the global present of comics. His horizons were wide. He was worldly in the best sense, cultured in the true sense, fluent in multiple languages, and, as much as if not more than any other single person, responsible for making alternative comics in North America a bigger, more cosmopolitan, and happier tent. He nurtured talent, guiding and encouraging the development of some of our greatest comics artists.

Below is a gallery of images that gives a slight taste of Kim’s long and generative career. Pictured are projects that Kim translated and/or spearheaded. Not included here are many, many other comics—Love and Rockets, Hate, and on and on—that Kim, as co-publisher, played a vital role in shaping, supporting, and producing. That’s a deep, deep well. The official obituary at Fantagraphics, authored by Kim’s long-time colleague and friend Gary Groth, gives some idea; it’s enlightening and moving. I’m sure that within hours Tom Spurgeon will have a substantial tribute up at The Comics Reporter too (Tom interviewed Kim more than once; two of those conversations can be found here and here). Michael Cavna’s Comics Riffs column also has a good, strong post on Kim.

With Kim, we’ve lost a seminal and wonderful talent and genuine leader in the field. RIP.

Wow, Kim. Thanks. Thanks.

Chris Ware draws Kim Thompson

Chris Ware draws Kim Thompson. I got this image from Noah Van Sciver’s tumblr.

One response to “RIP Kim Thompson (1956-2013)

  1. charleshatfield

    Update: My friend Robert Boyd has a wonderful remembrance (and well explains the importance) of Kim Thompson, over at his arts blog “The Great God Pan Is Dead”:

    Robert worked with Kim at Fantagraphics, and gives a terrific, lived-in sense of what that experience was like.

    Also, Tom Spurgeon has put up a “Collective Memory” page for Kim:

    In addition, Tom is re-running two interviews with Kim, which are great.

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