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Illo by Daniel Clowes
Very sad news: Fantagraphics co-publisher Kim Thompson died at 6:30 this morning, June 19. "He was my partner and close friend for 36 years," said Gary Groth.
Thompson was born in Denmark in 1956. He grew up in Europe, a lifelong comics fan, reading both European and American comics in Denmark, France, and Germany. He was an active fan in his teen years, writing to comics — his letters appeared in Marvel's letter columns circa early 1970s — and contributing to fanzines from his various European perches. At the age of 21, he set foot, for the first time, on American soil, in late 1977. One "fanzine" he had not contributed to was The Comics Journal, which Groth and Michael Catron began publishing in July of 1976. That was soon to change.
"Within a few weeks of his arrival," said Groth, "he came over to our 'office,' which was the spare bedroom of my apartment, and was introduced by a mutual friend — it was a fan visit. We were operating out of College Park, Maryland and Kim's parents had moved to Fairfax, Virginia, both Washington DC suburbs. 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."
Thompson became an owner when Catron took a job at DC Comics in 1978. As he became more familiar with the editorial process, Thompson became more and more integral to the magazine, assembling and writing news and conducting interviews with professionals. Thompson's career in comics began here.
In 1981, Fantagraphics began publishing comics (such as Jack Jackson's Los Tejanos, Don Rosa's Comics and Stories, and, in 1982, Love and Rockets). Thompson was always evangelical about bandes dessinées and wanted to bring the best of European comics to America; in 1981, Thompson selected and translated the first of many European graphic novels for American publication — Herman Huppen's The Survivors: Talons of Blood (followed by a 2nd volume in 1983). Thompson's involvement in The Comics Journal diminished in 1982 when he took over the editorship of Amazing Heroes, a bi-weekly magazine devoted to more mainstream comics (with occasional forays into alternative and even foreign comics). Thompson helmed Amazing Heroes through 204 issues until 1992.
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 su! ch 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.
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This is Uraba lugens, a caterpillar that wears a bunch of its old heads on top of its current head like the world's most ridiculously macabre hat. The part of this photo where the otherwise horizontal caterpillar goes vertical? That's a pyramid of exoskeleton head capsules, stacked in descending order from smallest to largest.
The venerable Bug Girl has some better shots of this phenomenon at her blog, along with lots of great information explaining how the heck Uraba lugens ends up making this questionable fashion statement. She also offers this helpful advice:
If you do happen to see one of these, you should not touch it! Apparently these caterpillars are covered with highly itchy and irritating spines–which seems to make their chapeau of old heads a bit redundant.
Hillary Rosner is a fantastic environmental reporter — the sort that digs facts and stories more than outrage-bait and blind activism. She's currently pregnant and, like all pregnant ladies, is finding herself subject to a deluge of warnings and "helpful" advice. When you're pregnant, there is always somebody who wants to let you know what you're doing wrong, why you're being irresponsible, and how you've totally ruined your kid's life already.
But in the midst of this, Rosner noticed something really fascinating: When it feels like the world is conspiring to make you terrified and guilty, it's sometimes easier to just tune out the world rather than investigate which claims are true and which aren't.
Pregnancy has allowed me for the first time to understand how hard it is to tell good information from bad. As a science journalist, I make my living by being able to decipher the two, but all these warnings bewilder me. As a result, I feel like I can see a bit more clearly how misinformation can become epidemic, leading to collective panic and seriously bad policy making. So I have tended to take this unsolicited advice with several grains of noniodized salt. Many of these warnings strike me as absurd — whether they come from friends, strangers, books penned by supposed experts or the truly maddening discussions I occasionally can’t help reading on parenting websites. I have resolved to not give in to other people’s hysteria. Humans have been reproducing for millennia, I reason, without any books to admonish them to avoid sleeping on their backs or drinking unpasteurized orange juice.
At least that was my position until a friend who writes about health and the environment suggested that I was choosing to ignore (as opposed to, say, fact check) the pregnancy warnings largely for emotional reasons. While I normally take a rational, science-based view of things — climate change, say, or vaccines — my desire to avoid the paralysis of fear, she said, prompted me to overlook some of the science surrounding pregnancy. I was indignant, until I realized she was probably right.
And suddenly, I began to understand something else: exactly how — and why — so many people opt to ignore the looming threat of climate change. Or to cherry-pick the facts that convince us that environmental problems are vastly overstated. Or to think that those preaching the most alarming outcomes are being melodramatic.
In the past couple of weeks, the NSA has, unsurprisingly, responded with a series of secret briefings to Congress that have left the public in the dark and vulnerable to misstatements and word games. Congress has many options at its disposal, but for true accountability any response must start with a special investigative committee. A coalition of over 100 civil liberties groups agrees. Such a committee is the right way the American people can make informed decisions about the level of transparency and the reform needed.A Special Investigatory Committee is the Right Way to Shine the Light and Create True Accountability
A special investigatory committee should be bipartisan, consist of selected Intelligence and Judiciary committee members on both sides of the issue, and have full subpoena powers. After Watergate, Congress created the Church Committee to investigate domestic spying and other illegal actions committed by the intelligence community. What it found was staggering: in one example of abuse, the NSA was reading and copying all telegrams entering and exiting the country. In another, NSA had intercepted, opened and photographed more than 215,000 pieces of mail—mass surveillance circa 1970. The Church Committee brought these revelations to light, informed the American people, and took steps to limit the broad nature of the surveillance.
The contemporary Congress must create a similar, independent, and empowered committee. The President and some members of Congress prefer an investigation by the President’s appointed Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB), but the Board is not even empowered to issue subpoenas. And the two key committees that rubber-stamped the expansion of the NSA spying from foreigners-only to ordinary Americans have proven themselves unable to rein in the spying.
President Obama says he welcomes a public debate on the programs. If he’s serious, he and Congress need to take the path of a modern day Church Committee.The PCLOB
Last week, Senators called for an investigation by the PCLOB. The PCLOB was one of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission and was set up to try to ensure that privacy and civil liberties played a role in the enormous expansion of surveillance laws like the PATRIOT Act and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act. Yet it has not. Instead, the PCLOB has lingered without a chairman—making it inoperable—for almost five years. It was only until this spring that the Senate finally confirmed David Medine as the chair, however the PCLOB has done little, if anything, since then. That’s because it has no real power. If the PCLOB asked the NSA for certain documents related to the spying, for instance, the NSA would not have to hand the documents over or present testimony under oath. In a hearing this week, General Alexander, the Director of the National Security Agency, committed to cooperating with any investigation by the PCLOB. But given the NSA’s history of gross misdirection, word games and limited answers to direct questions—including General Alexander’s own falsehoods in Congressional testimony—this investigation should not rely on the good will of the NSA. Yet, that’s exactly what the PCLOB would have to rely upon.Hearings in Front of the Judiciary or Intelligence Committees
Nor do the Judiciary or Intelligence committees hold great promise. These committees should serve as the American people’s robust window into—and constitutional check on—intelligence operations. For instance, in 2005, when the New York Times first reported on the warrantless wiretapping, many hearings took place in front of both the Senate and House Judiciary and Intelligence committees. The Committees certainly did not reveal the full extent of the spying, even though they had the opportunity. Instead, politicians were stonewalled, swallowed grossly misleading answers, and revealed few details.
Currently, the Senate Intelligence committee has met publicly only 2 times this year; from 2011 to 2012 it only met 8 times. The House of Representatives is no different. The House Intelligence committee's Subcommittee on Oversight has not met once this year. Yes, not once. And the full House Intelligence committee has only met four times. History tells us a similar story about the Judiciary Committees.
The public demands for a robust debate require more transparency and tenacity than these committees seem able to provide.The Secret Veil Must Be Lifted
In short, the lessons of 2005 is that the standing Congressional committees are unable to get at the bottom of the NSA spying and the PCLOB does not have sufficient power to do so either. A special investigative committee with full subpoena powers, the ability to force testimony under oath, and the ability to issue sanctions for failure to cooperate is the best hope that the American people have to ensure the NSA's domestic spying isn't swept under the NSA’s giant secrecy cloak once again. Tell Congress now to act.
Related Issues: NSA Spying
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