Friday, October 13, 2023

The Passing Of Keith Giffen

How do you talk about the passing of a legend?

I learned late Wednesday night that Keith Giffen had passed.

I had a visceral response, a sense of sadness and loss. I have mourned the passing of other creators in the past but this one hit hard. Because Giffen was a huge part of my comic reading, part of my comic joy, and simply one of the reasons I love comics. 

The Legion. The 5YL Legion. His obvious love of the Supergirl character. His love of Dr. Fate. His reimagining of the stodgy JL as a family/office sitcom. His  Doom Patrol volume! The Heckler! All huge for me.

His art style changing from a slick, organic form to the chunkier later stuff to the wild Trencher stuff. He was always growing. But his storytelling was always stellar. How strong were his layouts? He did thumbnails for all of '52', a weekly book! Insanity. 

He also was a character himself. Irascible. A curmudgeon. An anarchist. A stick in the mud. A raconteur. 

I had the luck of meeting him at Terrificon a few years ago and I am grateful that I was able to tell him all of this in person. Sometimes it is okay to meet your heroes. 

The outpouring of love on social media by other creators and fans has been unbelievable. I hope he knew how loved he was.

Rest in peace Mr. Giffen.

A few more thoughts.

If you made me pick my favorite Giffen book it would have to be the 5YL Legion. I was lucky enough to be picked as the reviewer of the first 50 issues of that run over on the Legion of Super-Bloggers. I consider those reviews the high water mark of my blogging career, mostly because I had to be on the top of my game for such complex material.

In that book, dripping with 90s dystopia, Giffen and the Bierbaums kept the Legion a source of hope and optimism. Here is a scene from 5YL LSH #12, my favorite moment from that run, indeed a favorite overall comic moment, where Element Lad reminds his colleagues that the Legion doesn't kill ... even if it is a murderer like Roxxas. If anyone has reason to want revenge on Roxxas, it would be Jan. And here he is the voice of reason and good.

I get chills every time I read this. This is the Legion!

Check out that style from the smooth, slick stuff from the Great Darkness Saga.

Yes, in the 5YL book, Giffen teamed with the Bierbaums. In JLI, he teamed with J.M. Dematteis. In Legion, he teamed with Paul Levitz. 

But you know a Giffen story when you read it. And I just know he loved Supergirl. He and Levitz brought her back to the 30th century and had her kick all the butt. She got in the best smacks against Darkseid. 

I freely admit that I didn't read all of the JLI books when they came out. 

But you get that same sense of fun and depth and intrigue in JL3001. And yes, Supergirl is on the team. Leave it to Giffen to bring the pre-Crisis Supergirl somehow into a current book.

I just can't say it enough. When I read the news, I felt like I had lost a friend and mentor. He was a true artist and writer, burrowing his way into my psyche. He will be missed.


Steve said...

I had the same reaction. The loss of a celebrity (and he was) that I have never met usually leaves me with deep sadness. The news of Mister Giffen's passing was instead a gut punch. There were so many stories he was involved in that meant so much to me. One I haven't seen mentioned at all was Hero Squared with DeMateis and it's very much worth a look if you haven't read it.

squidd82 said...

RIP Keith Giffen. I also loved his Legion stories and art, I thought I was one of the few who loved 5YL. It was cool that his art changed over the years and his humor was evident with Matter eater lad. I also enjoyed his tremendous poster with nearly 200 characters from Legion's history, I had artist friends who looked at scoured that poster everyday when we loved in an apartment in 1985. I have Keith Giffen up there with my youthful heroes, Curt Swan, Dave Cockrum, Mike Grell, Bob Oskner, George Perez, Neal Adams, Paul Levitz, Jim Shooter, Art Saaf and many more, too many gone and very few I had the chance to meet. I have been Superman, Supergirl, Legion, JLA and JSA Reader. More Supergirl and Powergirl with Laurel Gand/ Andromeda fan lately. Although I'm holding my breath on reworking of PowerGirl, still Karen to me not Paige. I am an old curmudgeon, turning 60 in 12 days. I enjoy your blog very much!!!

H said...

What?! This is devastating. I’m a huge fan of Ambush Bug and all his various collaborations with J.M. DeMatteis. His Lobo stories were almost always amazing (he did co-create him, after all). I wasn’t always into his action stories but his comedy was spot-on. This leaves a huge void in the comics world. RIP, indeed Mr. Giffen.

Kinofreak said...

RIP Keith... 😢

Anonymous said...

Busting Darkseid in the head is still "Peak Karatharsis", Keith will be missed.


Martin Gray said...

Lovely tribute, Anj. It’s so sad that Keith has gone, but what a legacy. Thank you so much for the mention of JL3000, a hugely underrated series. It’s a shame Keith never got to at least plot a Supergirl series.