At my time blogging here at The Pure Mood, creative geniuses such as Carmine Infantino, George Gladir or even Roger Ebert have died, and I’ve kept typing away about the Legion of Superheroes while the world kept turning. It’s fair to say I’d be a much different person if not for those men, and the countless other comic greats whose death has shocked us over the past year. That being said, I never felt compelled to write about them – much smarter people than myself seemed capable of doing it so much more eloquently, including those who knew them on a more personal level. However, I had to make some sort of note on the passing of Kim Thompson, a man whose name enters my head less than Matter-Eater Lad’s, a man I didn’t realize played such a monumental part in my own personal growth until the last year. However, I’d be lying to myself if I didn’t take a second to say something about, arguably, the most important editor in American comics and a man who, almost unknowingly to me, completely changed my life.
Not only did Thompson play a huge part in the publication of The Comics Journal (whose passionately elitist bent irritates me as frequently as its highly intelligent and articulate writing moves me) but he helped to turn the world onto the works of Stan Sakai, Chris Ware and Daniel Clowes. I know I’m not saying anything original in saying those are three of the greatest talents in comics, but I’d be being dishonest if I didn’t hammer home the point of just how much their work has effected me. Excuse my nostalgia, but being on the top floor of the library, after a day filled with hatred and contempt for a world I (foolishly) felt would never understand me and having Clowes completely punish me for it in the pages of PUSSEY! or WILSON is a memory I’ll hold onto all my life. Clowes work showed me what a life of self-involved aggrandizing lead to, and those comics forced me to grow up and get over myself – or at least, start inching myself down that path. I’m still blogging about how much I hate bad Superman movies, after all.
I wouldn’t have seen that stuff without Thompson. I’ve never been that guy with his ear finely attuned to the next big thing, I’d never be the one picking up EIGHTBALL – I’m the guy at the comic store walking away with a stack of Marvels. Through his work at Fantagraphics, Kim Thompson made it possible for losers like me to have access to work that was cooler and smarter than I could hope to be.
And that’s just skimming the surface in regards to what he did for American comics – but it’s his translation work that makes him a real hero to me, a man who dedicated his life to making special comics more accessible to a mainstream audience. My mind boggles when I think that the same man was translating the work of Jason and Jacques Tardi, two of my all-time favourite cartoonists. Jason’s work has a level of sensitivity, depth and irony that prose novelists hardly ever attain, all while being passionately unpretentious and quite hilarious to boot.
Who would I be without Jason? Without Clowes or Ware or Bagge or Sakai or oh God, the endless list of artists Kim Thompson helped to bring into my life? I don’t normally do this, but I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t. Kim Thompson, I never knew you and you never knew me. I never even thought about the man behind the artist, the guy bringing the work of these incredible European cartoonists into my grubby Canadian hands.
I only found out you existed a year ago, and I’m hardly an expert on your life – I love the stories of you and Groth up all-night, talking and writing comics with uncontrollable fervor, an inspiration for a guy who never went to college and just wants to talk about Superman The Animated Series tie-in comics all day – but I didn’t know you, I’ve never seen you. Still, you shaped the person I am today (please don’t blame yourself), the work you did changed a kid who thought CIVIL WAR was the smartest thing comics ever made into a dude who expected a little more. I’ll never be a comics connoisseur – I can’t help it, I think POWER MAN AND IRON FIST is great – but I’d rather read one Jason comic than five million DC stories. You died way too young, but for the work you did, and the man you were?
Kim Thompson died on June 19th, 2013 due to complications from lung cancer. He was 56.