Editor, translator, publisher and critic Kim Thompson passed away on the morning of 19. June, according to a statement released by Fantagraphics. He was 56, and had been diagnosed with lung cancer earlier in the year. In 1995, Thompson was the first to translate Spirou into English.
As co-head of Fantagraphics Books, along with Gary Groth, Thompson helped make the company one of the premier publishers of graphic novels, alternative comics, and prestige collected editions of classics. Born in Denmark, fluent in French and competent in German, Dutch and Spanish, Thompson’s particular mission was to bring European comics to the American market, almost always in his own translation.
Through his work, Fantagraphics was able to publish comics by Joost Swarte, Émile Bravo, Hermann Huppen, David B., Lewis Trondheim, Martin Kellerman, Maurice Tillieux, Raymond Macherot, Freddy Milton, and many others in English. The books by Jason and by Jacques Tardi that he edited and for the most part translated were particularly successful.
Thompson was a big fan of Franquin since childhood, and translated the first Spirou album in English, Z is for Zorglub (Spirou #15), published by Fantasy Flight Publishing in 1995. He also completed a translation of the follow-up, In the Shadow of Z (Spirou #16), but the company went out of business before it could be released. He later expressed the intention to publish more of Franquin’s Spirou through Fantagraphics. He also translated a few Gaston Lagaffe pages (as “Gomer Goof”) for the Fantagraphics anthology magazines Graphic Story Monthly and Prime Cuts, and was preparing an edition of Idées noires when he fell ill (under the title Franquin’s Last Laugh).
Personally, I first heard about Kim Thompson though his commentary and criticism. Always a lively debater, I found his contributions to discussions knowledgeable, thoughtful, and informed by great artistic taste (see for example his response to accusations of racism in Tome & Janry’s Spirou albums). He was someone whose work I respected immensely, and who in many ways served as an inspiration for this site. His death is a huge loss. My deepest condolences to his family and friends.