Kim Thompson, co-publisher of Fantagraphics Books as well as a superlative editor and translator of comics, died June 19 of lung cancer at his home in Seattle. He was 57.
Thompson was born in Denmark in 1956 and grew up in the rich and varied publishing world of European comics. He arrived in the U.S. in the 1970s and immediately joined with Gary Groth, founder of Fantagraphics and the man who would become his close friend and copublisher for the next three decades. At the time Groth had launched The Comics Journal, an early version of what would become the industry’s preeminent publication for comics criticism, and Thompson began working with TCJ helping produce the news reports, interviews, criticism and commentary that would guide and outline the growth of both mainstream comics and the independent comics publishing movement going into the 1980s.
By the early 1980s Fantagraphics began publishing a list that included many of the most acclaimed comics and graphic novels of the era—among them the Hernandez Brothers’ Love and Rockets and many others—and Thompson was instrumental in their acquisition and publication. Thompson was also a key figure in bringing the best of European graphic novels to the U.S., acquiring and translating such works as Herman Huppen’s The Survivors: Talons of Blood and more recently launching a line of Euro-graphic novels that includes the works of Jacques Tardi (It Was the War of the Trenches) and Ulli Lust (Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life) and many others.
A passionate comics fan, shrewd publisher, thoughtful comics critic and considered one of the industry’s finest translators of French-language comics, Thompson was particularly gracious to this reporter in the early 1990s when PW first began covering the comics marketplace and reviewing book-length comics on a regular basis, a time when book-length graphic novels and graphic nonfiction were still considered unusual in the traditional book market. A full obituary of Thompson has been published on the Fantagraphics Blog.