I was incredibly saddened to learn of Fantagraphis co-publisher Kim Thompson’s death last week. At age 56 it is early to go and my deepest condolences go out to his family, friends and colleagues. He shall be sorely missed, not the least within the field of comics where he made his mark.
Although I’ve written a proper obituary in Danish over at Nummer9, so much has been written about him online in English over the weekend that I won’t bore you with a translated version and instead merely refer you to the obituary up at the website of the magazine he helped shape, The Comics Journal, as well as to Tom Spurgeon’s helpful collection of links and selected works. Here are a few short personal reminiscences instead:
I didn’t know Kim well, but met him three or four times over the last ten to twelve years. I guess our common Danish heritage had some say, if nothing else in the projects we ended up collaborating on. In any case, it was a joy to hear him speak the language in his melodious, nineteen-fifties accent, preserved since his childhood as if in amber. Anyway, we collaborated on a few bits and pieces. He accepted (and even translated!) my first interview — with David B. — for The Comics Journal #275 back in 2005 and two years ago he accepted for publication at Fantagraphics the Nordic anthology I was editing, Kolor Klimax.
The book was financed by the Finnish Comics Society, but Kim’s swift acceptance of the project was a deciding factor in its success. I of course sent him samples of the content in advance, but he clearly trusted that I would put together a book that met his standards and not only took it on, but didn’t interfere with its production. The descriptions I’m now reading all over about his hands-off editorial style therefore ring true. It seems to me that his quality control lay in the initial selection of projects to take on — something he was clearly skilled at — after which he let people do their own thing, getting involved only in the copy editing, for which he had a unfailing eye. One thing he reminded me of with Kolor Klimax was the difference between English and continental European separation of numbers: the former employs full stops whereas the latter uses commas. Confusing the two is a common error with Nordic people otherwise proficient in English, he wrote to me.
We discussed a number of other projects, including ones on two of his favorite artists: Storm P. and Franquin. Whether these will ever see the light of day is now doubtful, of course. I would assume better chances for the former, however. Franquin, as Kim would often point out, simply does not seem to click with American readers, much to his bafflement. As things happened, our last ‘collaboration’, was on the Tardi feature in the latest Comics Journal (#302), for which I was given space to write about the masterwork 120 Rue de la Gare as a kind of coda to his career-spanning, revelatory and very human interview with Tardi. It was an honor, just as it has been a honor to know, however superficially, this kind, intelligent and hard-working man whose spark was a vital one in comics.