Remembering Kim Thompson: A True Champion of Indie Comics

21 Jun, 2013

By now you have probably heard the sad news about the passing of comic book journalist, Fantagraphics Books co-publisher, and champion of indie comics, Kim Thompson. On the morning of June 19th, Mr. Thompson lost his battle with lung cancer. The unfortunate announcement was made by Gary Groth in a message on the Fantagraphics website. Messages of mourning and remembrance have reverberated throughout the entire comic book community. Everyone in the industry has nothing but the utmost respect for Mr. Thompson—and for good reason. We here at Crisp Comics wanted to take a few minutes to pay tribute to the man who helped change the entire landscape of comics.

Mr. Thompson’s contributions, not just to indie comics but to the medium as a whole, are nothing short of impressive. Born in Denmark in 1956, Mr. Thompson cultivated a love of both European and American comics. In addition to Denmark, Mr. Thompson also lived in France and Germany before coming to the U.S. in 1977. His fluency in multiple languages would later become invaluable, as he would eventually go on to translate many European comics and introduce them to American readers. Mr. Thompson contributed to various comic fanzines in Europe, and some of his letters even appeared in the pages of 1970’s Marvel comics.

Kim Thompson art by Daniel ClowesUpon arrival in the U.S. Mr. Thompson met Gary Groth and Michael Catron and quickly joined their efforts on The Comics Journal. Needless to say, The Comics Journal pretty much wrote the book on comic journalism, all the while advocating for the medium to be taken as a legitimate and respected art form. Eventually Catron left to take a job with DC Comics and Thompson became a co-owner. In 1978, Thompson helped save TCJ’s fledgling publishing company, Fantagraphics, from bankruptcy by investing his inheritance in the company.

Thompson’s skills and contacts continued to grow, and in 1981 Fantagraphics started publishing comics and graphic novels. Fantagraphics would quickly become the most vital American publisher of indie and alternative comics and graphic novels. In addition to publishing work from the brightest creators of underground comics, Fantagraphics is also responsible for publishing some of the finest European comics which Americans might have completely missed out on otherwise. You can be sure that this is in a large part due to Kim Thompson’s influence.

Kim Thompson’s legacy is perhaps best summed up by his friend and Fantagraphics co-founder, Gary Groth:

Kim leaves an enormous legacy behind him. Not just all the European graphic novels that would never have been published here if not for 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 writings 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.

Indeed. Though I didn’t know Mr. Thompson personally, I was fortunate enough to get to meet him several times throughout the years. I always found him to be a very knowledgeable, passionate, polite, and kind person. You could just tell that he sincerely loved comics with all his heart. I can’t even begin to imagine a world of comics without his influence and vision. Thank you for everything, Mr. Thompson. You will be missed dearly.

About the author

Robb

Robb Orr is a writer and lover of all things art and comic book related. He lives in the "Emerald City" of Seattle, WA.

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