Kim Thompson by Michael Netzer
September 25, 1956|
|Died||June 19, 2013
Seattle, Washington, U.S.
|The Comics Journal
Kim Thompson (September 25, 1956 – June 19, 2013) was an American comic book editor, translator, and publisher, best known as vice president and co-publisher of Seattle-based Fantagraphics Books. Along with co-publisher Gary Groth, Thompson used his position to further the cause of alternative comics in the American market. In addition, Thompson made it his business to bring the work of European cartoonists to American readers.
Kim Thompson was born in Denmark in 1956. Child of a government contractor father, Thompson spent much of his youth in Europe, living in West Germany and the Netherlands. His mother is Danish, and Thompson grew up speaking the language, a skill which aided his later career as a translator of European comic books. (He was also fluent in French.)
Thompson developed an interest in comics early in life, some of his favorites being the works of André Franquin, Maurice Tillieux, and Jacques Tardi. As a young man, Thompson was a frequent contributor to American superhero comic book letter columns, with letters published in (among others) Amazing Spider-Man, Captain America, Conan the Barbarian, Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Marvel Spotlight, and Marvel-Two-in-One. Early writing work by Thompson was published in the comics fanzine Omniverse in 1979.
Thompson moved to the United States in 1977, and soon met Groth through a mutual friend. He joined Fantagraphics' staff in that year, and soon became a co-owner with Groth. In 1978, Thompson saved Fantagraphics from bankruptcy by pouring his inheritance into the company's financial coffers.
Thompson was a regular contributor to the industry magazine The Comics Journal (which is published by Fantagraphics) since 1977. Although soft-spoken in person, as a writer Thompson did not shy from controversy. Even though he personally reviewed Dave Sim's long-running self-published comic Cerebus in early issues of The Comics Journal, Thompson (along with Groth) later took Sim to task in its pages for Sim's controversial statements about feminism and self-publishing.
Since Fantagraphics began publishing comics in 1982, Thompson edited many of the company's most popular titles, including Peter Bagge's Hate, Chris Ware's Acme Novelty Library, Joe Sacco's Palestine, Stan Sakai's Usagi Yojimbo, Linda Medley's Castle Waiting, and anthologies like Critters and Zero Zero.
Thompson's last major Fantagraphics release was a remastered and expanded new edition of Guy Peellaert's landmark graphic novel The Adventures of Jodelle (1966) for which Thompson also provided a new translation from the French.
A long-time champion of European comics, Thompson translated the work of a number of international cartoonists published by Fantagraphics, as well as material used in The Comics Journal. He was also the regular translator of the Ignatz Series co-published by Fantagraphics. Thompson described his translation work for Fantagraphics this way:
|“||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). . . . A more or less complete list of cartoonists whose comics I've worked on in the last couple years would be Nikoline Werdelin (Danish); Joost Swarte (Dutch); David B., Emile Bravo, Killoffer, Jacques Tardi, and Lewis Trondheim (French); Nicolas Mahler (German); Gabriella Giandelli, Igort, Leila Marzocchi, and Sergio Ponchione (Italian); Jason (Norwegian or French); Max (Spanish); and Martin Kellerman (Swedish). . . . In case you're wondering, I don't actually speak all of those languages, but I can read them, more or less in some cases. . . . Danish is my native language. Swedish and Norwegian are so close to Danish . . . that with a little work any Dane can read them pretty well, as I do. I learned Spanish in high school and kept up with it. I lived for six years in Germany and also studied German in high school, so that stuck with me too. I lived for three years in Holland. Italian is my weakest language, I sort of plow my way through that thanks to French and Spanish and use of a dictionary — but all my Italian translations I always check with the authors anyway.||”|
Illness and death
On March 6, 2013, Thompson announced he had lung cancer and was taking a leave of absence from Fantagraphics to pursue treatment. He died on June 19, 2013 at his home, at the age of 56, survived by his wife, Lynn Emmert, as well as his mother, father, and brother.
Thompson was given an Inkpot Award in 2001.
He was a 1996 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards nominee for Best Editor for The Acme Novelty Library, Palestine, and Zero Zero.
Comics journalist Tom Spurgeon:
|“||. . . Thompson has worked the last several years transforming the longtime alternative comics company he co-owns into a small but potent comics, art book, and graphic novel publishing house. . . . [H]e has been one of North America's most effective advocates for translated books from the rich French-language tradition. He is also a talented editor, a fine interviewer . . . and generally informed and involved when it comes to all aspects of how that company functions. If Fantagraphics were a car, Kim would be the guy in the jumpsuit and dirty fingernails constantly poking around under its hood.||”|
Comics critic R. Fiore:
|“||If he had told you 36 years ago that he would one day be the publisher of Robert Crumb, Charles Schulz, Walt Kelly, Carl Barks, Harvey Kurtzman, Will Elder, Hergé, Jacques Tardi, and EC Comics, together with much of the Mount Rushmore of a comics era yet undreamed of, you would have said, “Will this be before or after you’ve laid all the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders?” ... And yet it all came to pass.
Above all, creatively speaking, his loss will be a terrible blow to French comics in English. ... Where even the best translations of comics French, up to and including the renowned work of Anthea Bell and Derek Hockridge on Asterix, will come out somewhat stilted, Kim’s come off as idiomatic and natural English. If you were Fantagraphics this skill was just there, like water in the tap.
- "Devoured By His Own Fantasies", introduction to Optimism of Youth: The Underground Work of Jack Jackson, Fantagraphics, 1991. (with Gary Groth)
- "Introduction". in Mézières, Jean-Claude and Christin, Pierre. Valerian: The New Future Trilogy. New York: iBooks (2004). pp. 1–2. ISBN 0-7434-8674-9.
- Cook, John. "Kim Thompson, 1956-2013: Fantagraphics co-publisher helped shape the comic book industry," GeekWire (June 19, 2013).
- Who's Who of American Comics Books, 1929–1999.
- Matos, Michelangelo. "Saved by the Beagle," Seattle Arts (September 15, 2004).
- Spurgeon, Tom. "CR Holiday Interview #1: Kim Thompson," The Comics Reporter (December 22, 2008).
- Broadhead, Heidi. "Comics in Translation: A Conversation with Kim Thompson of Fantagraphics Books," Omnivoracious (July 03, 2009).
- Smith, Stephen Scott Beau. "The LOCsmiths," Amazing Heroes #23 (May 15, 1983).
- Spurgeon, Tom and Jacob Covey. Comics As Art: We Told You So. Seattle, WA : Fantagraphics. (forthcoming) ISBN 1-56097-738-8
- Dean, Michael. "Comics Community Comes to Fantagraphics' Rescue." The Comics Journal #254 (July/August 2003).
- The Comics Journal #174 (February 1995).
- Spurgeon, Tom (March 9, 2009). "CR Newsmaker: Kim Thompson On Fantagraphics Publishing Jacques Tardi". The Comics Reporter. Retrieved March 15, 2010.
- Ulin, David L. "Jacket Copy: Fantagraphics' co-publisher Kim Thompson has lung cancer," Los Angeles Times (Mar. 7, 2013).
- Groth, Gary. "Kim Thompson, RIP," Fantagraphics.com (June 19, 2013).
- "Tributes to Kim Thompson ," The Comics Journal official website (June 24, 2013).
- Kim Thompson at the Comic Book DB
- Interview, David Anthony Kraft's Comics Interview #14 (1984), (16 p.)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Kim Thompson.|
- Thompson's Fantagraphics blog
- "The Infinite Kim Thompson," A photo comic written by and starring Kim Thompson
- Inkstuds: One-hour podcast interview with Gary Groth and Thompson
- Spurgeon, Tom. "A Short Interview with Thompson and Gary Groth", Comics Reporter, (December 31, 1999)
- Netzer, Michael. "Thinking of Kim Thompson," If Life was a Comic Book blog (May 8, 2013)