BLOG

A Great Loss

Today we bring you Michael Dean’s affectionate, funny, moving obituary for Kim Thompson.

[Gary] Groth and Michael Catron had formed Fantagraphics in late 1974 and had begun editing and publishing The Comics Journal out of Groth’s apartment in College Park, Md., in 1976.

“Within a few weeks of [Thompson’s] arrival,” Groth said, “he came over to our ‘office’ — which was the spare bedroom of my apartment. It was a fan-to-fan visit. Kim loved the energy around the Journal and the whole idea of a magazine devoted to writing about comics and asked if he could help. We needed all the help we could get, of course, so we gladly accepted his offer. He started to come over every day and was soon camping out on the floor. The three of us were living and breathing The Comics Journal 24 hours a day, as scary as that might sound.”

Thompson not only stepped into the breach of the ongoing workflow, he bailed the company out of the first of its occasional financial crises by turning over a $1,000 educational nest egg from his grandparents. According to Catron, “I’m sure we were up to our eyebrows in bills as usual, and he offered to tap this fund to get us out of it. I’ve never thought of it as Kim’s buy-in of the company.” He was already working for free and when he perceived that the magazine needed the money to survive, he handed it over, no strings attached.

It was soon clear that Thompson had become an integral part of the Journal and Fantagraphics. Groth said, “At some point, maybe a year after he arrived, we simply gave him a third of the company. I remember the three of us discussing it in the living room of my apartment. He was putting in as many hours as we were and was as fully involved in the magazine as we were. He was, as [Joseph] Conrad, said, one of us.”

I met Kim Thompson a few times, but mostly only knew him through e-mail, and through the many, many amazing books he edited, translated, and/or championed. For the most part, it has been a wonderfully convenient thing that Dan and I have been able to edit this site from our homes on the East Coast, but at the same time, I have always regretted not being able to work with the team at Seattle more directly, especially Kim, one of my earliest publishing heroes and someone whose wise and cant-free advice and opinion has always been extremely influential on me; even when I disagreed with him I learned a great deal from how he expressed himself. I always assumed I’d have the chance to get to know him better. Over the past couple of days, as Dan and I have been exchanging e-mails with Gary, Kristy, and others back in Seattle about how to cover Kim’s passing, I kept irrationally wanting to wait and see what Kim would have to say…

Kim changed the life of everyone involved in comics for the better, in ways large and small, direct and indirect, and many tributes and remembrances to him have been published online. I am sure I have missed many, but a few that have stuck out to me include those of Blake Bell, Robert Boyd, Rob Clough, Simon Hanselmann, Charles Hatfield, Domingos Isabelinho, Jason, Chris Mautner, Heidi MacDonald, Dean Mullaney, Chris Oliveros, Ken Parille, and James Vance. This does not include the many words on Twitter and Facebook and other social media platforms, too many to sift through. It looks like Tom Spurgeon, who wrote some particularly touching words about Kim on Twitter himself, is collecting some of the most notable Twitter and Facebook entries here.

We are gathering tributes of our own to post on the site soon, as well as some of the highlights from Kim’s writing for the Journal over the years. In the meantime, a few examples were published on the old incarnation of this site: Kim’s excoriation of Don McGregor’s Detectives, Inc., and a roundtable on translation that he participated in. I also love this e-mail debate between Kim and Gary Groth over the merits (or lack thereof) of Dilbert, which is actually very revealing about the differing, complementary attitudes that made the Kim/Gary team such a formidable and well-rounded editorial collaboration. And it makes me laugh.

By coincidence, our other offering for you today is an excerpt from Incidents in the Night, the new book by David B., one of many cartoonists who Kim helped introduce into English. His legacy lives all around us.

 

Editor’s Notes

Jaime Hernandez said it best yesterday on Twitter:

“While Gary’s the in-your-face ballbuster, Kim was the quiet ballbuster. Both were needed to save comics. Good job, Kim.”

Kim Thompson passed away yesterday. He’ll be sorely missed. Kim’s contributions to comics, not to mention to TCJ, are too numerous to list here. We’ll have much more writing about him in the days to come. For now, I urge you to check out a great series of blog posts he ran over at the Fantagraphics site. These “Editor’s Notes” are invaluable mini-essays on European comics. Here he is on Gil Jordan. And on Trondheim’s Approximate Continuum Comics.  And on Marti’s The Cabbie. Finally, check out the two best English-language essays on Jacques Tardi (and read his TCJ interview, too)

Would any other publisher write like this about his own books? No, not really. Kim’s devotion and articulate passion set him apart.  There’s more on the FB site. Just click his name and read on.  There is also a nice interview with him about European comics over at Inkstuds.

Today on the site we have Tom Scioli’s look at the very first published comic book work by Jim Steranko. Tom investigates the story panel by panel like a comics archeologist.

According to the Grand Comics Database there is one story in issue #1 of Double-Dare Adventures, ”The Legend of the Glowing Gladiator,” that at one point was credited to Steranko. The database has since been corrected by “Manny Lunch”. Now the story is credited to Red Skull co-creator Eddie Herron and penciller Bob Powell .

I’m not interested in making the case that these two men did not work on the story. In the multiple-hands assembly line of comics production, I don’t doubt that these seasoned professionals did their part. The case I’m making is that this work bears the indelible mark of one Jim Steranko, and is the first published comic book story he wrote and drew.

And elsewhere:

This has been circulating around the web: Milton Glaser and Lee Savage from 1968. Check it out while you can.

 

Kim Thompson, RIP

Kim Thompson passed away this morning. He was an immensely important figure in comics history. On a personal note, he was very supportive of me and Tim, and we were thrilled to know him just a little bit over the last couple of years. We’ll miss him. Gary Groth wrote his friend and partner’s obituary at the Fantagraphics site.

 

 

The Noble Hotel

Today, we bring you part two of Zak Sally’s enormously entertaining interview with Peter Bagge. This time around, they talk Bagge’s recent work, politics, piracy, and how selling convention sketches resembles prostitution. Here’s Bagge on editing Weirdo:

While I was the managing editor of Weirdo for that brief period, the harshest criticism I got was from the other contributors, who would be offended by the work of other artists I ran. For example, I reprinted a three-page comic strip by S. Clay Wilson that originally ran in Screw magazine. Screw magazine probably told him, “Be your S. Clay Wilson-est, go crazy and break every taboo.” So he just went nuts, drawing the most sexist and racist and scatological comic he could possibly think of. He really went overboard, and I loved it. [Laughs] So I reprinted it.

You see, one of the things that was great about early underground comics is the way they gleefully and compulsively broke every societal rule imaginable. It was very cathartic to see that, and it was one of many things that helped loosen up our culture. But by the ’80s, those rules started to tighten up again, largely from the left, surprisingly, and under the guise of political correctness. The false notion of direct causation—that, say, a depiction of rape causes someone to commit rape—was gaining a lot of traction again, which made it easy again for people to demonize and ban material that they didn’t like.

The S. Clay Wilson strip was obviously meant to fly in the face of this new political correctness, yet artists who were offended by it kept saying, “It’s been done before, time to move on.” To which I said, “No, it’s obviously time to do it again.” [Laughs]. I felt that critics of the strip were being disingenuous when they said “Wilson isn’t funny anymore,” since I don’t think they ever thought he was funny. They simply felt that now was the time to say it out loud, and over and over again. A number of artists said they’d no longer contribute if I ran a strip like that again. So I ran another strip by Wilson that was even more offensive. [Laughs] That may sound childish and spiteful on my part, which it was to some degree, but I also thought those strips were very, very funny, so it wasn’t solely about making a point.

Elsewhere:

—Missed it: Mark Millar got an MBE.

—Gilbert Hernandez’s Marble Season was reviewed in The Guardian, and Jaime Hernandez was interviewed at the BD and Comics Passion festival.

—Tom De Haven has reposted a 1986 essay on Dick Tracy he wrote for Nemo.

—Anne Ishii profiles Taiyo Matsumoto for the Japan Times.

—Darryl Ayo starts a rambling but interesting and probably necessary discussion on the state of independent comics and who exactly is reading them, anyway.

This is still a hoax, people.

New Al Columbia!

 

Splash

It’s the second day of the business week and Jog is clocking in.

Joe also reviewed the new Superman movie, and writes about violence and director Zack Snyder in general, over here.

Brian Hibbs on Kickstarter and the retail biz. And Alan Moore on Kickstarter looking for funding.

Looks like The Smurfs will get the archival larger format treatment.

And Dean Haspiel debuts a new local hero web comic.

 

Dot Dot Dot

Today marks the return of R.C. Harvey, who in his latest column takes a long look at George McManus’s classic Bringing Up Father. A sample:

In the strip, McManus never explained how Jiggs gained his wealth. In most histories and newspaper accounts over the years, it was said that Jiggs, who had worked as a simple laborer, got rich by winning the Irish Sweepstakes. But not according to McManus, who, in 1920, related Jiggs’ “autobiography” to a newspaper reporter, to wit: Jiggs was born in Ireland. He came to this country expecting to find gold on the streets of New York, but found bricks and cobblestones instead. He became a hod-carrier. Romance came into his life when he met Maggie, a waitress at a small café, who put heaping dishes of corned beef and cabbage before him. They were married, and Jiggs became thrifty. Instead of carrying bricks, he bought and sold them on commission. Then he manufactured them. Street brawls in the old days in New York provided a great market for Jiggs’ bricks, which were harder than ordinary bricks. He grew rich. (In another telling, Jiggs grew rich selling bricks to Ignatz in George Herriman’s strip, Krazy Kat.) At this point in his career Maggie and their daughter Nora acquire social aspirations. And that’s when the trouble began.

Zeke Zekley, McManus’ assistant since the mid-1930s, regaled me with yet another origin of Jiggs’ wealth. McManus told him the story, tongue-in-cheek no doubt. It went like this: When Jiggs was working as a hod-carrier, his employer was another Irishman named Ryan. Ryan liked Jiggs. He liked him so much that he gave Jiggs a dime every time he, Ryan, made a thousand dollars. Ryan got very very rich. And so did Jiggs.

Elsewhere:

—Interviews. Tom Spurgeon talks to James Vance, and Brigid Alverson talks to Lucy Knisley.

—Profiles. Paul Gravett writes about Enki Bilal, and Adam McGovern writes about Wally Wood.

—Too late for this year, but Chris Mautner has six comics to read on Bloomsday. You should really be reading Joyce instead anyway.

—I don’t quite understand how this comic book for the blind is supposed to work.

—Hannah Means-Simpson reviews “Alan Moore’s” Fashion Beast.

—This looks like it will be a good exhibition.

—It’s never a pleasure to agree with Tom Spurgeon, but I have to admit he’s right on this one.

—It’s 2013 and people are still discovering the comics of Jack Kirby. His granddaughter Jillian Kirby remembers the cartoonist for Father’s Day.

 

Wand

Tucker returns this week. I’ll let him do the heavy lifting. Let’s dive in.

Elsewhere:

CAKE is this weekend and Chicago magazine has some tips.

Should you happen to be in Westminster, BC this weekend there’s a comics conference going on.

It’s a Tom Kaczynski process post.

Tom Scioli explains a Superman story and does a nice compare/contrast with an Alan Moore story. And The Awl looks at how Superman has changed.

Finally, here’s a trailer for a book I’m eager to check out, The Strange Tale of Panorama Island:

 

Bric-a-brac

Good morning, folks. Today we’ve got the latest installment of the indefatigable Rob Clough’s High-Low column, in which today he reviews six new cartoonists you’ve probably never heard of before. Here’s a bit:

[Matt] Rebholz is new to the world of comics after spending years as a print-maker and fine artist, as well as an art professor at the University of Texas. For fans of alt-comics who enjoy work with a fantasy or genre bent, these comics will be a revelation. Rebholz is an astounding draftsman who who is also a skilled and fluid storyteller. Fans of Brandon Graham, Kaz Strzepek, Brian Ralph, etc. will want to give these books a long look, because Rebholz not only is capable of delivering a tense and fast-paced action comic, he’s able to do it with a sense of humor and quirkiness. The Floating Head Bounty Killers is as descriptive a title as you’ll ever see, as one MODOK-like floating head is hunting a criminal in a bizarre landscape that mixes what seems to be Aztec or Mayan statues and images with weird trenches and creepy swarms of maggot-like creatures. After the heroic floating head completes his mission and is rewarded, Rebholz pulls the rug out from under the reader with a hilarious twist that leads into the second issue of this series of self-contained but connected stories.

Elsewhere:

—Jeff Trexler, who’s always worth reading on legal comics issues, talks about the recent Gary Friedrich/Ghost Rider reversal.

—The Paris Review has a short excerpt from Ivan Brunetti’s new Aesthetics: A Memoir.

—Sina Sparrow interviews Gilbert Hernandez.

This is going to make a lot of money. (Thanks, F.)

—Nicolas Labarre on Alex Raymond, Dashiell Hammett, and Daniel Clowes.

—And three, count’ em, three videos for you.

Zak Sally:

Maurice Sendak:

And Art Spiegelman: