The Fantagraphics website has the sad news that Kim Thompson has died. An excerpt from his obituary shows how important he has been for the development of comics as a medium suitable for actual adults:
Among Thompson’s signature achievements in comics were Critters, a funny-animal anthology that ran from 50 issues between 1985 to 1990 and is perhaps best known for introducing the world to Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo; and Zero Zero, an alternative comics anthology that also ran for 50 issues over five years — between 1995 and 2000 — and featured work by, among others, Kim Deitch, Dave Cooper, Al Columbia, Spain Rodriguez, Joe Sacco, David Mazzuchelli, and Joyce Farmer. His most recent enthusiasm was spearheading a line of European graphic novel translations, including two major series of volumes by two of the most significant living European artists — Jacques Tardi (It Was the War of the Trenches, Like a Sniper Lining up His Shot, The Astonishing Exploits of Lucien Brindavoine) and Jason (Hey, Wait…, I Killed Adolf Hitler, Low Moon, The Left Bank Gang) — and such respected work as Ulli Lust’s Today Is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life, Lorenzo Mattotti’s The Crackle of the Frost, Gabriella Giandelli’s Interiorae, and what may be his crowning achievement as an editor/translator, Guy Peelaert’s The Adventures of Jodelle.
Fantagraphics as a publisher has been important both for publishing The Comics Journal, the foremost critical magazine about comics as an artform, medium and industry and for the comics they themselves published. Love and Rockets alone ensures it has a place in comics history, but even more importantly, it’s Fantagraphics that pioneered the model of how to be a successfull, literary comics publisher. Kim Thompson, with Gary Groth, was instrumental in doing so. Like Groth he was a comics fan who wasn’t content with just celebrating what comics had already achieved, but set out to lift up comics, to make it into what he knew it could be, as publisher, as critic, as translator. It’s a hell of a resume and his death is an incredible loss to comics.
No, I refused to take part in the whole abdication/crowning spectacle. I didn’t go out to witness it, avoided the telly and only went out to the local freemarket to do some traditional Queensday shopping. You never know what you might find after all. In this case there wasn’t that much, but I couldn’t be bothered to get into town proper. Still managed to score 11 DVDs and some classic Dutch comic strip Kapitein Rob compilations.
Apart from this annual ritual of cleaning out our attics and selling them to our neighbours for them to store it in their attics, I’d rather have a republic.
Whether you loved or hated the idea of more Watchmen comics, you have to admit that the audacity of it is interesting as all hell, else nobody would be talking about it.
I decided to give it a fair enough shake. I didn’t read every single comic. I didn’t even read every single series.
I don’t understand why anybody would do this, even if they had no problems with the moral aspects of this project. (The short version: Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons had been screwed out of the rights to the original Watchmen, which were supposed to revert to them, with Moore being vehemently opposed to any sort of sequel or prequel.) Because I don’t understand why anybody would think that it could ever deliver anything better than a series of perhaps well crafted, but pointless comics which would always come up short when measured against the original series. Then again, I also don’t understand why any respectable cartoonist, other than egomaniacs like JMS, would want to be involved with this either.
Or indeed, why DC has bothered doing this in the first place, other than as yet another fuck you to Alan Moore. I can sort of understand why back in 1986, once it became clear that Watchmen was a huge critical and sales success, DC wanted to do spinoff series, but to do this three decades later?
Izneo, the France digital comics publisher/distributor that represents comic book work from the ten largest comic book publisher in France has found itself forced to pull 1500 of the 4000 titles it currently distributes, after demands from Apple.
So the publisher removed all comics “revealing a breast, causing cleavage, curve, or evoking a suggestive gesture”; as Wim Lockefeer commented, “it’s one more example of an American company imposing its own mores on the rest of the world”. These are not decisions Apple should make in the first place, but the shoddy way in which they are made and enforced is what really grates.
So, to recap, the latest issue of Brian Vaughan’s and Fiona Staples’ Saga comic felt foul of Apple censorship over the panel to left amongst others, and it couldn’t be sold through the Comixology Apple App. On hearing this, Vaughan and Staples went on a PR campaign to protest this decision, only for Comixology, their distributor, to come back a day later and say it was all a misunderstanding and Apple never had even seen the issue and it had been their own decision not to publish it through the Apple app.
A happy ending? Not really, as apart from that whole being lied to by Comixology about who took the decision to censor what, there’s still the reality of the threat of Apple censorship and the influence it already has on how companies like Comixology behave. It was their ideas about what Apple would and would not allow to be published on iOS that led them to pull Saga 12 and this might not have been the first time they did it. It’s not just a problem with comics either of course; everybody who has to deal with Apple as gatekeeper to publish on the iOS platform will have to self censor to a greater or lesser intent to deal with their guidelines, which can also be a bit vague.
It’s not just Apple either. We’re entering an era in which, as everything migrates online while the devices that we go online with become increasingly less open, there are now several powerful gatekeepers emerging that can strangle freedom of speech. Apple, Google, Amazon, all have the potential to do this, or are already acting as a censor to some extent. This is not necessarily done maliciously, but in any situation where there’s only one party that can give you access to a certain platform, there will be censorship emerging naturally from ordinary business considerations. When we were all using desktop pcs this wasn’t that big a problem, as there never was this central gatekeeper and you as a user could decide for yourself what to and what not to install. With publication on an iOS platform only possible through the Apple store, this is no longer possible and anything Apple deems unsavoury or against their own interests will therefore be rejected.
The only real solution to this problem therefore consists of the opening up of all such walled gardens, to allow rival shops on iOS, Android, Kindle, etc, rather than allow a monosophy of gatekeepers to persist.