Kim Thompson died on June 19th.
He was the Co-Publisher of Fantagraphics Books for so long that it seemed as if he had been the co-founder, too. The comics he published, and the way he published them, have been a huge influence on me. Also, he was a great guy.
It's not that I can say that we were close friends. I was an intern at Fantagraphics for 6 months in 1991, so technically, Kim was my boss. But working there never felt that way. Kim always gave you the feeling that you were friends.
I remember meeting him for the first time, when i arrived at SEA-TAC airport. He'd actually driven down there himself to drive me to Fantagraphics. I'm pretty sure he wore a Stinz Löwhard T-Shirt, sweatpants and sneakers. Which turned out to be his uniform around the office. And around life, in general. T-Shirt, sweatpants, sneakers. Relaxed. But you knew he was in the office as soon as you heard the RAT-TAT-TAT staccato of his hammering away on that old electric typewriter nestled between stacks, mesas, mountains of paper, galley proofs and comic books in that little room he shared with Eros Comix’ editor, Ryder Windham.
Kim trusted me to work on jobs I had never done before. Yes, I started out in the stat room and went on to do paste-up for books ranging fom HATE to THE BLONDE. But he also let me work on layouts for FBI's magazines AMAZING HEROES and THE COMICS JOURNAL, let me design a Los Bros.-T-Shirt for the San Diego Comic Convention, and, at Robert Boyd's recommendation, let me art direct on an issue of THE COMPLETE CRUMB COMICS. A lot of what I'm doing right in publishing these days is founded on that trust and that work. I owe him lots. But, enough about me.
I remember Kim throwing a party for the VHS release of IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD. I remember Kim sticking his head through the doorway of the art department, shouting »Thirty minutes!« – which meant that the FedEx pickup for artwork due printing was in half an hour and you'd better have it ready. I remember playing four-language Scrabble with him, his brother, Mark, and his mother (I lost badly, this family is fluent in English, French, German and Danish). I remember Kim blasting his newly bought CDs through the office stereo. I remember Kim talking about Comics, Movies and Music.
I remember meeting him for the last time, a few years back at the Frankfurt Book Fair. Fantagraphics had a relatively small booth that he was manning himself. We talked a little, and he said he had come over because he liked the fair and because he liked being in Europe for some time. Visiting family. Being in the world. We shook hands, said »Auf Wiedersehen!«, and that was that. There would always be time for more talk. When I looked back, Kim was sitting there, surrounded by Comics, smiling to himself, looking out into the world.
And that's how I'll remember him most.
Smiling, surrounded by Comic Books, in the world.