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.
Thompson was also a regular contributor to the (now defunct) Fantagraphics-published magazine Amazing Heroes, writing for that journal from 1981–1987.
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:
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:
Comics critic R. Fiore: