I found it very sad when I learned that Fantagraphics’ Kim Thompson was taking a leave of absence due to lung cancer back in March. The truth is, I didn’t know very much about Thompson, but I know about Fantagraphics, its history, and even its current output, which is impressive, if somewhat unknown to many mainstream comic readers.
Today, Thompson passed from his illness, but leaves behind countless warm feelings in the comics industry that he was very much a part of for a long while. He’s worked at Fantagraphics since 1977, saving the company in 1978 by investing most of his money into the operation, and becoming a co-owner with Gary Groth. In that time, Thompson wrote for both The Comics Journal and Amazing Heroes, as well as editing many well known comics, such as Chris Ware’s Acme Novelty Library, Joe Sacco’s Palestine and Peter Bagge’s Hate. Growing up largely in Europe, he’s done much to bring and translate European comics to the English speaking market. He’s clearly made a mark that won’t disappear soon, and seeing some of the comments around the comics internet today, he’ll be sorely missed.
We make a big deal about the creators and the “names” involved with comics, especially those from Marvel and DC, but on the other side of the curtain are people like Kim Thompson who, for years, made comics happen. He opened up readers eyes to what else there was out there, and those kinds of impacts eventually ripple out to infect comics as a whole. He could spot talent, obviously, and had an incredible love for the medium, dating back to his days as a letter writer to superhero comics. You can’t stay in comics for decades unless you love every single thing about them. That alone makes me like the guy, and feel the loss.