Keith Giffen

Keith Giffen

Infobox Comics creator

imagesize = 150
caption =
birthname = Keith Ian Giffen
birthdate = birth date and age|1952|11|30
location = Queens, New York City
deathdate =
deathplace =
nationality = American
area = Penciller, Writer
alias =
notable works = Legion of Super-Heroes
Justice League
Ambush Bug
Blue Beetle
awards =

Keith Ian Giffen (born November 30, 1952 ["Comics Buyers Guide" #1636 (December 2007); Page 135] ) is an American comic book illustrator and writer.


Giffen was born in Queens, New York City.

He is possibly best-known for his long runs illustrating, and later writing the "Legion of Super-Heroes" title in the 1980s and 1990s. He also created the alien mercenary character Lobo (with Roger Slifer), and the irreverent "want-to-be" hero, Ambush Bug. He also plotted & was breakdown artist for an "Aquaman" limited series and one-shot special in 1989 with writer Robert Loren Fleming and artist Curt Swan for DC Comics.

Giffen's first published work was "The Sword and The Star", a black-and-white series featured in "Marvel Preview", with writer Bill Mantlo. He has worked on titles (owned by several different companies) including Woodgod, "All Star Comics", "Doctor Fate", "Drax the Destroyer", "Heckler", "Nick Fury's Howling Commandos", "Reign of the Zodiac", "Suicide Squad", "Trencher" (to be re-released in a collected edition by Boom! Studios.), "T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents", and "Vext". He was also responsible for the English adaptation of the "Battle Royale" and "Ikki Tousen" manga, as well as creating "I Luv Halloween" for Tokyopop. He also worked for Dark Horse from 1994-95 on their Comics Greatest World/Dark Horse Heroes line, as the writer of two short lived series, Division 13 and co-author, with Lovern Kindzierski, of Agents of Law.

He took a break from the comic industry for several years, working on storyboards for television and film, including shows such as "The Real Ghostbusters" and "Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy".

He and his "Justice League" cohorts (J.M. DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire) have recently put their particular brand of storytelling to a title that he had drawn in the 1970s, Marvel Comics' "The Defenders". The same trio produced more superhero humor in the 3-issue mini-series "Hero Squared" for Boom! Studios, and the 2-issue mini-series Planetary Brigade.

Keith Giffen was the breakdown artist on the DC Comic book "52", a weekly series following in the wake of the Infinite Crisis crossover (written by Geoff Johns, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid and Grant Morrison). He continued in that role with the follow-up weekly series "Countdown to Final Crisis." He is also the lead writer for Marvel Comics's Annihilation event, having written the one-shot prologue, the lead-in stories in ' and ', the "" as well as the main six issues mini-series.

Giffen remains a prolific creator of independent comics. Between 2005 and 2007 he's co-created and often authored or co-authored such books as "10", "Tag" and "Hero Squared" for Boom! Studios for "Zapt!" and "I Luv Halloween" for Tokyopop, "Common Foe" and "Tabula Rasa" for Desperado Publishing/Image Comics and "Grunts" for Arcana. Many of these were co-authored with his frequent collaborator Shannon Denton.


Giffen's art has taken on many styles over the years. His early work tended towards a heavy influence from Jack Kirby. After an early stint at Marvel, he began doing layouts for artist Wally Wood during the late 1970s revival of the Justice Society of America.

When he returned to comics after a hiatus, his style was more precise and reminiscent of George Pérez and Jim Starlin and helped make Legion of Super-Heroes DC's second most popular comic after George Pérez's New Teen Titans. It was his work on the Legion that rocketed him to comic book artist fame and gave him a creative control with the national companies that few artists achieved. He peppered his artwork with in-jokes such as upside down Superman logos, hidden Marvel characters, eyeball creatures, and scrawled humorous messages on signs in the background of his panels in the alternate futuristic alphabet Interlac.

As his style loosened up, he found himself drawn to the work of José Muñoz (see Controversy).

Soon thereafter he developed a scratchier, more impressionistic style, using a highly stlylized method of drawing directly with ink on titles such as "Trencher" and "Lobo".

After his lengthy sabbatical from comics work, Giffen returned with a style that some said was influenced by his "Justice League" artist Kevin Maguire that was mid-way between the tight, controlled pencils of his early Legion days and the freer but less anatomically correct style he had later adopted.


For many years, Giffen would co-write comics, but only as a plotter. He relied on others such as Robert Loren Fleming, and Tom and Mary Bierbaum, to supply dialogue, even when he was basically the author of the work. He co-wrote the "Freak Force" series with Erik Larsen, and also co-wrote two "SuperPatriot" mini-series. Beginning with "Trencher", Giffen started writing comics fully by himself, although he still collaborates when the project calls for it.

Giffen is known for having an unorthodox writing style, often using characters in ways not seen before. His dialogue is usually characterized by a biting wit that is seen as much less zany than dialogue provided by longtime collaborators DeMatteis and Robert Loren Fleming. That approach has brought him both criticism and admiration,Fact|date=April 2007 as perhaps best illustrated by the mixed (although commercially successful) response to his work in DC Comics' "Justice League International". His work on the 2001 version of "Suicide Squad" was not nearly as successful,Fact|date=April 2007 however, and his loose, largely satirical style is arguably a detriment to both the English version of the "Battle Royale manga" and to the third version of the "Defenders", published in 2005-2006.Fact|date=June 2008

He is also known for his humorous takes on existing characters, often focusing on their personality clashes. He also has a tendency to poke fun at trends in comic books or character archetypes. His Ambush Bug miniseries is especially noted for its in-jokes such as Villian the Villain, Cheeks the Toy Wonder, and the use of DC editor Julius Schwartz as a character.

He is also known for sudden plot twists and abrupt often tragic turns of fate. During his late 1980s-early 1990s run on the "Legion of Super-Heroes", light comical issues were often followed by darker ones where popular characters were maimed or killed.

Recent work includes writing "The Programme" #3 and "Reign in Hell", an eight-issue limited series, with artist Tom Derenick, about various DC Comics magical characters in Hell. [ [ "Better to Reign in Hell - Keith Giffen Talks"] , Newsarama, June 20, 2008.] [ [ "Keith Giffen Reigns In Hell!"] , Comic Book Resources, July 17, 2008.]


In February 1986 Mark Burbey published "The Trouble With Keith Giffen" in "The Comics Journal" #105, an examination of recent dramatic changes in Keith Giffen's drawing style. Giffen, Burbey pointed out, had changed from a slick, clean Jim Starlin-style to an avant garde, heavily inked one. However, critics and fans largely agreed that this new style suited the strange and funny projects in which was involved.Fact|date=October 2007

In the article, Burbey displayed several panels side by side to illustrate his allegation that Giffen was copying, or "swiping" the work of Argentinian cartoonist Jose Muñoz. In response, Giffen parodied himself by alluding to the controversy by drawing Ambush Bug with the appearance of Snoopy in "Son of Ambush Bug" #5. Robert Loren Fleming wrote the panels for it.

Loyal Giffen fans defended him by arguing that Giffen had actually "ghosted" the Munoz work in question, with some of the most extreme loyalists maintaining that Munoz was in fact a Giffen pseudonym, prompting two different men, each claiming to be Munoz, to launch competing defamation lawsuits against both Giffen and his fans. [Branch, James. "Who Knows Munoz?", "The Comic Book Companion" (March 1987).]

However, Giffen himself acknowledges Munoz's influence, referring to the incident by saying: "I had a bad incident with studying somebody's work very closely at one point and I resolved never, ever to do it again. I can get so immersed in somebody's work that I start turning into a Xerox machine and it's not good.... There was no time I was sitting there tracing or copying, no. Duplicating, pulling out of memory and putting down on paper after intense study, absolutely." [Keith Giffen interviewed by Jon B. Cooke, "Jack Kirby Collector" #29 (Aug. 2000).] .

At that point in his career, Giffen was considered one of the most popular comic book artists in the industry, along with artists such as John Byrne, George Pérez, and Frank Miller. The ensuing controversy hurt Giffen's reputation.

Although comic book artists such as Byrne and Rich Buckler have engaged in swiping with the knowledge of the comic book publishers, their swiping usually involved copying panels from artwork previously published and owned by their publisher.Fact|date=February 2007 Giffen allegedly swiped work for which the publisher (DC) did not have the copyright.

However, DC Comics loyally protected him. They removed him as prime artist on his run of DC titles, such as "Ambush Bug", but gave him full-time writing duties on "Justice League" until the controversy was largely forgotten and a new generation of comic book fans came to discover his work.Fact|date=May 2008 He returned to drawing full-time two years later while continuing to plot the "Justice League" and its numerous spin-offs.

This period also marked Ambush Bug's end as a growing and popular major character at DC. According to Giffen, it had to do with editorial discomfort with the series' humorous approach to the DC Universe: "DC was just too uncomfortable with the (admittedly nicely selling) bully pulpit they'd provided the loose cannons on the creative team". [Beau Yarbrough, [ "A. Bug's Life: Keith Giffen's Ambush Bug is Back"] , Comic Book Resources, June 8, 2003]


External links

* [ Podcast interview] at
* [ Interview at TwoMorrows Press]
* [ Lambiek Profile]
* [ In their own words: "Keith Giffen and JM DeMatteis Unexpurgated!"]
* [ Review of "Defenders" 1-5 at]

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