Among the long-list of drawings to do for Portraits of the Creators that I’ve accumulated over the years is Fantagraphics vice president and co-owner Kim Thompson. His Wikipedia bio is lacking a copyright-free photo, a recurring reason to move such subjects up on the list. I haven’t stopped much to ask myself if that’s a good enough criteria for choosing which ones to do, but seeing how this project is mainly a web site decoration at this point, I like the idea that they serve a more practical purpose there and enjoy a wider visibility. Contributing images to Wikipedia necessitates placing the art in the Creative Commons license, which means that it’s almost as if in public domain. I’m alright with that on this project because I see it as a public property to begin with, and not something intended for my exclusive use or profit.
I was saddened, upon coming back from nearly a year by the Dead Sea, to read that Kim Thompson had stepped down from his duties at Fantagraphics in early March, having been diagnosed with lung cancer. News about his progress has been sparse but I do hope he’s fighting the illness as valiantly as he’s conducted his luminous career over the last 35 or so years.
Kim emerged onto the comics scene around the same time I did in the late 1970′s. I remember first reading about him joining Fantagraphics in The Comics Journal, and soon investing his inheritance into becoming co-owner in Gary Groth’s enterprise. To say that this was a sign of Thompson’s devotion to the medium would do a disservice to the contribution he went on to make to the art form over the next several decades. Though more associated with a mainstream comics orientation, I’ve cultivated an appreciation for the alternative genre, not only for its more humane projection and art sensitivities, but also for the indirect influence it’s had in helping the mainstream become more mature. I mostly think that the eruption and rise of alternative comics in America is in great measure an outcome of the determined efforts that Kim made at the helm of its leading publisher and publications, whether through his editing of American creations or the translation of European ones – and that his work has contributed, indirectly but in a very potent way, to the growing wide-audience embrace of the mainstream that we’re seeing today.
Tom Spurgeon opened one of his interviews with Kim on Comics Reporter with this analogy:
If Fantagraphics were a car, Kim would be the guy in the jumpsuit and dirty fingernails constantly poking around under its hood.
I thought that would make a good premise for the portrait.
Here’s wishing a speedy recovery, good health and longevity, that come with the hope, strength and determination such as Kim’s shown and is well known for. May his return to the bridge be swift in guiding the ship through the seas of tomorrow.If you’d like to reach out to Kim, feel free to send him mail: c/o Fantagraphics Books,