Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

June 19, 2014

Thoughts On Kim Thompson Passing Away A Year Ago Today

My friend and one-time employer Kim Thompson died of complications related to cancer one year ago today. It is a testament to the force of his personality and the unique nature of presence that he doesn't seem very far gone. It is a tribute to the dynamism of the modern industry he helped shape that so much time seems to have passed from the moment we learned of his passing until now. It seems a long while since I've seen him; part of me still expects we'll catch up.

imageThere are many people that were much, much closer to Kim than I was, and my heart goes out to them for their continued sense of loss. I don't intend to make a habit of noting his death, year after year. It's just that he's been on my mind lately, and I noticed the date earlier this week.

Kim Thompson lived and breathed comics as the central anchor in a life of various interests and enthusiasms. I think of him in that context. It's what we shared. In particular I think of Kim in the last ten years of his life, the years I'm heading into now. We were enough alike that I look to him as a potential model for how to orient myself towards the comics industry in which we both made something of a professional life, his far more distinguished than my own.

This morning a couple of things come to mind.

One trait of Kim's I liked very much is how proud he was of the unlikely accomplishment that is Fantagraphics. I loved the matter-of-fact confidence with which he would occasionally claim the company to which he devoted so much of his life the greatest publisher in English-language comics history. "And it's not even close." That part always made me laugh. I could use more of that, a sense of confidence in my own accomplishments freed from self-laceration and the resulting rage and self-pity that can boil to the surface. A lot of us could.

Another thing I've thought about with Kim this last year was how much of himself he gave to comics, and how much of what he gave was of extremely high quality. He lacked that gene that so many of us have of trying to find the minimum amount of work that gets us the necessary return in self-satisfaction, praise and respect. He loved to argue, but rarely made a case for himself. He never serviced a personal brand. Kim worked in a company as the equal partner of a charismatic, just-as-talented figure, and for years a lot of people failed to register if he were even male or female. He didn't seem to care; if he did, he never pouted. The work was everything.

Despite the comics culture's need to constantly reassure itself of its fundamental awesomeness at all times and its compulsion to assign this value to every single person in the room, I'm not sure we have a talent infrastructure within comics' various industries that comes close to matching the explosion of creative energy and skill comics has seen in the last 25 years. I include myself in that. I don't include Kim. Never Kim. Kim was an exception. He was one of those few people that operated at a high level nearly all of the time, doing work almost no one else could do, and certainly more than his fair share. He was committed.

I aspire to the professional example Kim Thompson set, and wish he were here for me to tell him so. If that person for you is still out there, I hope you'll let them know.

Kim would call this essay self-indulgent. I miss that about him, too.
posted 8:05 am PST | Permalink

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