RIP, KIM THOMPSON: Out of D.C.’s comics scene, Fantagraphics co-publisher grew into widely influential figure
KIM THOMPSON was born in Denmark, but everything changed when he arrived in America for the first time, at age 21. On the fertile soil of Virginia, a massively influential comics career took root.
“Kim's parents settled in Fairfax [Va.] when they moved back from Europe,” friend and co-publisher Gary Groth tells Comic Riffs on Wednesday. “I was living in College Park — having attended the University of Maryland — when I met Kim, and we worked out of my apartment, editing The Comics Journal.”
In 1976, Thompson and Groth — working for the first two years with Michael Catron — launched a fanzine that would help transform journalistic coverage of comics. Their friendship would lead to the birth of the influential Seattle-based indie publisher Fantagraphics Books, which has featured the work of a galaxy of comics stars, including Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez, R. Crumb, Dan Clowes, Chris Ware, Joe Sacco, Carol Tyler, Stan Sakai and 2013 Eisner Hall of Fame inductee Spain Rodriguez.
But in those early years, editing the Journal “was a full-time job, on top of the other jobs we had in order to keep our heads above water — since the magazine didn't make a profit or pay us a salary,” Groth tells Comic Riffs. “We would frequently go to see movies at ... the Kennedy Center, or the old Telegraph in Georgetown, when we could pull ourselves away from editing and pasting-up the latest issue of the magazine.”
Thompson was an enthusiastic comics reader as a teenager in Europe, Groth recalls, even writing fan letters that Marvel published. But once in the Washington area, he found a home where his young fandom could thrive.
“There was a comics-fan community in the D.C. area full of serious collectors and a number of professional artists, such as John Fantucchio, Sal Buscema and Steve Hickman, so we felt very comfortable there,” Groth tells us. “We only moved to Connecticut when the magazine started running more serious journalism, because New York City was the comics hub at the time.”
Even after leaving the area, though, Thompson’s impassioned work would bring him back for frequent pilgrimages.
“He was one of the our annual regulars who would come to every show to man his tables for Fantagraphics,” Warren Bernard, executive director of Small Press Expo in suburban Washington, tells Comic Riffs.
“Kim helped bring some of the greats in comics to the forefront, such as Chris Ware, Jacques Tardi and the Hernandez Brothers,” Bernard says of the Fantagraphic-published creators. “The comics world is a much better place because of Kim’s efforts over the last 35 years of the comics continuum.”
CAVNA’S CANVAS: Neil Gaiman’s transporting gift for the magical power of ‘place’ [+ANIMATED VIDEO]
ED. NOTE: Today, Comic Riffs kicks off a new feature in which we take a close look at various aspects of storytelling. And to launch this offering — as well as The Post’s new animated-interview video — we couldn’t think of a better candidate than best-selling and beloved novelist/comics writer Neil Gaiman (whose first adult novel in eight years, “The Ocean at the End of the Lane,” hits bookshelves physical and virtual Tuesday). So today, we pause to appreciate one of Gaiman’s particular gifts: His ability to tap the stirring power of “place.”
During an interview with Michael Cavna while in D.C., acclaimed author Neil Gaiman offered his take on the visuals of “Official Washington” — his sense of a global city’s distinctive monuments and memorials and towering history:
PLACE, in a prose story, is more than scene or setting — it is vantage point. The words guide our eye and establish our sight-lines with a sleight of hand that, the writer hopes, becomes imperceptible. The author's eye becomes our eye until the seeing becomes synched and the illusion is complete.
In almost every other art form, the viewer is allowed real choices within the window of vision. Examining forms in a painting or comic panel, studying figures along a stage or performance space, the onlooker has options as to where to turn the eye. In prose, though, the storyteller is visual director absolute; whether it's an extreme close-up or panoramic landscape, the reader’s scope and range and focus are typically pre-set and fixed (unless, of course, readers indulge in flights of out-of-frame imagination — but they still must return to the writer's path to proceed).
Neil Gaiman knows the profound power of location. He understands that the setting must evoke a sense of place — that rendered environment should contribute to resonant emotion. And nowhere does the bestselling British author practice that craft more purely than in his first adult novel in eight years, the deeply personal “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” (being released today). As an unnamed middle-aged narrator travels to a childhood home that holds supernatural secrets, Gaiman paints settings so vivid and true — imbued with the seemingly ineffable — that the verbal becomes seamlessly visual.Continue reading this post »
‘MONSTERS UNIVERSITY’: How a mockumentary gave Dan Scanlon a boost up to the director’s chair
DAN SCANLON has more than a bit of Christopher Guest coursing through his comedy veins.
Scanlon is a master of animated story at Pixar, but it was his vision for a live-action mockumentary that has given his career an extra boost.
His 2009 self-written and -directed low-budget comedy, “Tracy,” stars Scanlon himself — who has a winningly wry presence — as a man trying to crack the mystery behind the death of a former children’s-TV host. Some of his Pixar brethren make appearances in the film.
“Making ‘Tracy’ on my own may have made a difference — for me and them,” Scanlon tells Comic Riffs while speaking by phone from Oakland, not far from Pixar’s headquarters in Emeryville, Calif. “It’s not the same as an animated story, but it is an attempt to tell a feature-length story with heart and humor.”
“Them” would be the brain trust at Pixar, who tabbed Scanlon to direct the college-set sequel ”Monsters University” (opening Friday, which coincidentally is his 37th birthday). It is the storyteller’s first time at the helm of a big-budget feature film.
“I spent so much time with the brain trust in other films, I didn’t see a barrier to break through” as a director, Scanlon (“Cars,” “Brave,” “Mater and the Ghostlight”) tells us. “I saw it as a moment of trust.
“And when it came time to get help, I saw how their gut [instinct] is always right. It’s not always the right solution, but they’re right when pointing out the problem.”
His favorite part of the process from the director’s chair? “I had a front-row seat to see how these movies are actually put together,” he says.
To read Comic Riffs’s full article on Scanlon, which ran in Sunday’s Post, just click HERE.
‘MAN OF STEEL’: As film tops box office, here’s A Fanboy Review
ED. NOTE: “Man of Steel” ($125-million opening) dominated the box office over the weekend, setting a June record in its domestic debut. Amid the wide disparity between many film critics and fanboy audiences, Comic Riffs asked contributor David Betancourt to provide “A Fanboy’s Review.”
AFTER SEEING “Man of Steel” twice last week — at a press screening and then a midnight screening — I began to detect how strong the dividing line was, for the most part, between two groups: the media and the fanboys.
I’m no film critic, and people don’t follow how I point my thumb. What I am is a comic-book fanboy of more than 25 years. And for me, the new “Man of Steel” is the Superman movie I’ve always wanted to see, but never thought I would.
I stayed away from any reviews until I saw the movie. Once I did see it, I headed to major media publications and my favorite fan sites to check the temperature, review-wise. The verdict: It was as though the groups saw two completely different movies.
[‘MAN OF STEEL’: Superman sets June record with $125-million opening]
The outlook of many fanboys like myself is: Much of the media doesn’t seem to get “Man of Steel.”
Apparently I missed the memo that says Marvel Studios has the only successful template for making a superhero movie: Create popcorn entertainment that isn’t too serious. The formula has worked marvelously — and very profitably — for Marvel. But as fanboys know, Superman is DC Comics and Warner Bros., and they do things differently. And when DC Entertainment tried to be Marvel on film, we were given “Green Lantern” — which was a huge letdown for most comic-book fans (excepting Mark Strong’s fine performance as Sinestro).
‘MAN OF STEEL’: Superman soars above expectations with June-record $125M debut
SUPERMAN HAS JUST made DC Entertainment’s world safe for sequels.
Desperately needing a new tentpole film to plant in the ground since the Dark Knight circus left town, DC/Warner Bros. can now celebrate: “Man of Steel” managed to scale middling reviews and tempered studio expectations to dominate the weekend’s box office.
“Man of Steel” grossed $125-million in its domestic debut — including $12-million from Thursday “midnight” screenings — according to studio estimates Sunday. Final numbers are expected Monday.
That’s the biggest opening ever in June, according to Variety (not adjusting for inflation) — besting the $110-million that Disney/Pixar’s “Toy Story 3” opened with in 2010.
And if that $113-million weekend total holds, ”MoS” will have the 18th-biggest opening ever, says Warner Bros., slotting in right behind “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” ($114.7-million).
Industry expectations predicted the film — starring Henry Cavill as the inheritor of the cape — would probably open close to $100-million.
The film, however, was showing a marked discrepancy between critical reviews and audience reaction. Metacritic, for instance, reported that the film had a lukewarm critical Metascore of “55” — but an average audience user-score of 8.6. (By comparison, the film’s predecessor, “Superman Returns” — starring Brandon Routh — had a strong Metascore of 72, but an average user-score of just 5.8.)
A “Man of Steel” sequel has already been greenlit, and DC — similar to Marvel’s strategic buildup to the biggest superher hit ever, 2012’s “The Avengers” — can now set its sights on a Justice League feature film with Cavill anchoring the cast.
(Elsewhere, Sony’s smartly counterprogrammed comedy “This Is the End” was second with $20.5 million for its opening weekend; the James Franco/Seth Rogen/the-whole-gang apocalyptic meta-comedy has now grossed $32.8 million — or roughly its reported production cost. Third was “Now You See Me” [$10-million].)
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