Thursday, June 20, 2013

Kim Thompson - An Appreciation

Gary Groth (left) and Kim Thompson
On Wednesday we noted the death at age 56 of Kim Thompson, co-publisher (with Gary Groth) of Fantagraphics Books, under whose imprint we've graced the world with three Flora anthologies. (A fourth, The High Fidelity Art of Jim Flora, arrives in September.)

Kim served as the company's editor and point person for my (and Barb Economon's) Flora books. He conferred with us and designer Laura Lindgren during development and production, ensured we met deadlines, proofread and edited the final manuscripts, and shepherded the books through the crucial printing process. These tasks sound clerical, but without the involvement of Kim (and Gary), these books would not exist. Book publishers—especially in the arts—don’t last 30+ years by luck; they endure because of leadership. Kim co-helmed the company, and the success of Fantagraphics depends on artists and authors delivering quality material. Quality has to be nurtured, and sometimes imposed, from above. Kim and Gary held us to a high standard, and since we had immense respect for them—and for the reputation of the company they founded—we labored to meet their benchmark. That our relationship with Fantagraphics has lasted ten years and a quartet of books indicates we succeeded.

Kim would have supervised the development of The High Fidelity Art, but as research and writing ramped up earlier this year, he was diagnosed with lung cancer. (Gary stepped in and oversaw the project.) We received periodic reports from Kim's wife, Lynn Emmert, while he was in treatment at Seattle's Virginia Mason Hospital; some reports were upbeat, but the prognosis looked grim. On June 6, after five weeks of treatment, Kim returned home for hospice care.

In our communication (virtual, phone, face-to-face) over the years, Kim was a gentleman and a professional. He saw the big picture but could focus intently on detail. Once we were two weeks late on a deadline. We apologized, and his (paraphrased) response was, "Considering the deadlines chronically and widely missed by so many of our artists and writers, 'two weeks late' is early."

We never got the sense Kim was doing his "job"—he was doing what he loved, in a community of colleagues who shared his passions. He was unusually talented and singularly compelled—as such, perhaps something of an outsider. At Fantagraphics, he co-created a universe where he was an insider. Many people segue into make-work careers to bag a salary and justify themselves with 35 or 40 hours of weekly employment. That wasn't Kim. He had a vision and a mission. He wasn't at a desk; he co-piloted command central of an idiosyncratic publishing empire. Fantagraphics has outlived Kim; so intense was his dedication, we suspect he would not have contemplated the reverse.

We wish Gary the best, as he perseveres with the next generation of Fantagraphics staff, who are maintaining a legacy Kim co-founded. Gary has an energetic, committed team, but Kim will be irreplaceable.

Kim and Gary were always supportive and cooperative. They let us make the books we wanted to make, with no editorial interference and only helpful suggestions. Because our new book will soon be off the presses, it's too late to add a line of copy. So we'll publish it here:

The High Fidelity Art of Jim Flora 
is Dedicated to the Memory of Kim Thompson

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Kim Thompson, 56

Fantagraphics Books co-publisher Kim Thompson passed away this morning at age 56 after a four-month bout with lung cancer. Kim served as editor and point-person on our three Flora anthologies, and we missed working with him on our soon-to-be-published book #4. I'll post a detailed personal perspective on Kim tomorrow—which means I'll devote 50 times as many words explaining what a great guy he was to work with and how much we'll miss him.

Our deepest condolences to the Thompson family and to the Fantagraphics staff.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

the hand as pillow

Untitled pen & ink drawing, 1942 (reproduced in our 
second book, The Curiously Sinister Art of  Jim Flora)

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Too Much Information - Part 2

More current activity in the Florasphere (see Part 1 here):

We're preparing several new fine art prints for release, including a Mambo For Cats giclée (the oversized screen print sold out last year, but the Mambo mini remains available). Above is a mockup of a proposed print that might make it into 2013's release queue.

Our Tokyo-based Floraphile friend Takashi Okada has compiled and designed The Raymond Scott Songbook, a magnificent two-CD set of vintage and rare Scott recordings from the 1930s to the 1960s. The package includes a 100-page booklet featuring a number of Flora spot illos from the 1940s and '50s, which we provided for Takashi's use.

Three full Flora works from the 1940s (Fletcher Henderson, 1942, pictured above) are being used as set dressing on the forthcoming Showtime TV series Masters of Sex. The series takes place in the 1950s, and portrays the lives and work of sex researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson. The series debuts in September.

An untitled early 1950s Flora black & white tableau has been edited and vibrantly colorized for a forthcoming album, Raymond Scott Rewired, to be released in September on the Basta label. The album features the entire Raymond Scott music catalog—from 1930s jazz novelties to 1960s electronic experiments with Scott's homemade instruments—remixed, mashed, and flipped by three expert audio hooligans: The Bran Flakes, The Evolution Control Committee, and Go Home Productions. You can hear three samples from the album here.