|Written by Brian Saner Lamken|
Kim Thompson has passed away at the age of 56.
I never met him. From all accounts, however, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better friend to comics literally worldwide; North American readers were grateful to him for helping expose them to work from Europe, and European creators were grateful for that exposure.
Thompson met Gary Groth in 1977 shortly after Groth and Michael Catron began publishing The Comics Journal. He soon joined Groth as co-owner of Fantagraphics Books, which in addition to publishing the critically focused, critically acclaimed magazine about comics that was TCJ then began publishing comics of its own in 1981. Strike that; "comics of its own" is a poor choice of words because Fantagraphics was/is about translating work from overseas into English and giving voice — or, really, just an AV system — to independent, "alternative" cartoonists in the US. Fantagraphics may be best known as the vessel for such work as the Hernandez Bros.' Love and Rockets, Daniel Clowes' Eightball, Peter Bagge's Hate, and Chris Ware's Acme Novelty Library (home to Quimby the Mouse and Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth), but it's published everything from Stan Sakai's Usagi Yojimbo to Jessica Abel's Artbabe to, in a series of deluxe reprints, Charles Schulz's Peanuts. Those seven titles right there would be an excellent foundation to any comics library, with hardly a mask or cape in sight.
In my younger days the work of Thompson's with which I was most familiar was Amazing Heroes, a magazine about comics that, as the title suggests, took a more focused look at American publishers and traditional fandom than did the increasingly expansive Journal. My own interest in the medium expanded greatly as I got older, however, and while not all of the work was to my taste I would keep an eye on anthologies such as Fantagraphics' Zero Zero, edited by Thompson, not only to be able to make conversation or recommendations at the comics shop where I worked or to write knowledgeably for industry publications but to experience the art form being pushed in so many wild directions.
The news of Thompson's passing from lung cancer at such a young age has hit the comics community hard, and my condolences go out to everyone who knew him. Gary Groth, his friend and business partner for 36 years, quite forgivably quotes himself in an obituary that froze the Fantagraphics website for much of last night. You'll surely find many more deep and worthy remembrances of Kim Thompson and what he meant to comics in days to come.
Brian Saner Lamken, friend of FOG, is celebrating the 75th anniversary of Superman all year long at www.adventuresincomicology.com