For four years (1989 to 1993), Kim Thompson was one of my two bosses. Along with his business partner Gary Groth, he co-owned and co-ran Fantagraphics Books. Kim Thompson died in June. He was 56 years old.
With a small publisher like Fantagraphics, there is really no distinction between publisher and editor. There were many times I unloaded trucks full of books with Kim. He was in the trenches every day. When I started there, I was 25 years old, and Kim definitely seemed like my "elder." He was the right age to be a mentor. Now six years difference seems like nothing. It makes his passing all the more shocking.
I realize that readers might not understand why Kim Thompson was an important person—not just to me, but to art. The world of comics and the art world are distinct, intersecting only occasionally. The thing to remember is that for most of their existence, comics have been an art that existed primarily to make money. Some of the comics nonetheless were excellent pieces of art, but economic imperatives constantly drove the business side of comics toward assembly-line production, corporate ownership of creative work, and marketing to the lowest common denominator—all of which lessened artistic quality. In the 1960s, for the first time, underground cartoonists published comics whose main reason for existing was not economic. But this was a short-lived flowering—by the late 1970s, underground comics were nearly extinct.