Justice League (1987) #1 Featured News 

Keith Giffen, Co-Creator of “Justice League International” and Many More, Dead at 70

By | October 12th, 2023
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Giffen's Twitter portrait

Legendary artist and writer Keith Giffen has died, his family disclosed last night. In a characteristically humorous post shared to Facebook, Giffen wrote, “I told them I was sick… Anything not to go to New York Comic Con. Thanx. Keith Giffen 1952-2023. Bwah ha ha ha ha.” According to Bleeding Cool, Giffen suffered a stroke on Sunday, October 8, and died the following day. He was 70 years old.

Born in Queens, New York on November 30, 1952, Keith Ian Giffen was best known for creating “Justice League International” with J.M. DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire in 1987 (a take that was frequently described as “Bwah ha ha ha ha” funny), as well as his long run on “Legion of Super-Heroes” with Paul Levitz in the 1980s and 1990s. He created Rocket Raccoon with Bill Mantlo in one of his earliest stories in 1976, and also created Ambush Bug, Lobo (with Roger Slifer), Ice, G’nort and Maxwell Lord (with DeMatteis and Maguire), and the Jaime Reyes version of Blue Beetle (with John Rogers and Cully Hamner.)

'The Great Darkness Saga'

Giffen broke into comics drawing black-and-white stories for “Marvel Preview” (where Rocket debuted) in 1976, and frequently bounced between Marvel and DC. His standout work during the late ’70s was Marvel’s “Defenders,” which he drew 12 issues of. He found his job unfulfiling, and began working other odd jobs until he realized he was enjoying art again, and rejoined DC to work on the horror anthology “Ghosts.” In 1982, he began working with Levitz on “Legion of Super-Heroes,” where they brought in Darkseid as a villain during the classic known as ‘The Great Darkness Saga.’

From there, Giffen went on to create his most beloved books at DC, including the 1988 crossover “Invasion!” (the basis of the CW crossover of the same name), while transitioning from artist to writer. Ambush Bug went on to star in several series and specials, scripted by Robert Loren Fleming, after his first appearance in 1982’s “DC Comics Presents” #52, while Lobo, who debuted in 1983’s “Omega Men” #3, became a true breakout, appearing in “Justice League International,” “L.E.G.I.O.N.,” and his own series in 1990, “Lobo: The Last Czarnian,” written with Alan Grant and penciled by Simon Bisley.

He branched outside DC during the 1990s, creating the satirical action series “Trencher” at Image, and writing “X-O Manowar,” “Magnus, Robot Fighter,” “PunX” and “Solar, Man of the Atom” for Valiant; he also returned to Marvel, writing the X-Man Beast’s first solo series in 1997. He had his first TV credit with an episode of The Real Ghostbusters in 1987, but fully crossed over into the medium in the late ’90s, storyboarding Spider-Man Unlimited, Batman Beyond, and Static Shock. Further TV writing credits included Cartoon Network’s Ed, Edd n Eddy, and Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi in the mid-2000s.

'Annihilation' #1

In 2003, Giffen, DeMatteis and Maguire reunited for the miniseries “Formerly Known as the Justice League,” and then in 2005 for ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not the Justice League,’ published in “JLA Classified.” (They also reteamed at Marvel for the comedic “Defenders” miniseries, “Defenders: Indefensible.”) In 2006, the same year Jaime Reyes made his debut, Giffen worked as layout artist on DC’s weekly event series “52,” and penned the Cosmic Marvel crossover “Annihilation,” paving the way for the formation of the modern Guardians of the Galaxy in the following year’s “Annihilation: Conquest.”

He remained prolific at DC throughout the 2010s, writing 2011’s ‘New 52’ take on “OMAC,” several “Masters of the Universe” titles, “Infinity Man and the Forever People,” “Justice League 3000,” “The New 52: Futures End,” “Scooby Apocalypse,” the ‘Rebirth’ era “Blue Beetle,” and “Inferior Five” (which he frequently teamed up with DeMatteis, Jeff Lemire, and Dan DiDio on.) Other books he penned over the years included “Suicide Squad,” “Doom Patrol,” “Reign of the Zodiac,” “Nick Fury’s Howling Commandos,” “Thanos,” “Drax the Destroyer,” “Annihilation: Conquest – Star-Lord,” the BOOM! Studios titles “Hero Squared,” “10” and “Tag,” and Image’s “Auntie Agatha’s Home For Wayward Rabbits.”

Giffen was recognized during his lifetime with an Inkpot Award in 1991, and by the Young Adult Library Services Association’s 2008 list of the Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens (for “Blue Beetle: Shellshocked,” the first collection of Jaime’s series.) Among those who have paid tribute to him online include Paul Levitz, Jim Lee, John Rogers & Cully Hamner, Colleen Doran, Rob Liefeld, Jamal Igle, Joseph Illidge, and Gail Simone. Levitz said, “Keith was probably the most fertile creative mind of our generation in comics. He had an infinite number of ideas, pouring constantly out. We did over 60 stories together. Many of them he made far better than they might have been with any other collaborator, because of his ideas and contributions to character moments and dramas.”

In his tribute, J.M. DeMatteis said, “Keith was one of the most brilliantly creative humans I’ve ever known. A curmudgeon with a heart of gold. A generous collaborator. An old, dear friend. And, as my wife observed, ‘He was like a character out of a Keith Giffen story.’ Safe travels, Keith. You will be missed.”


//TAGS | obit

Christopher Chiu-Tabet

Chris is the news manager of Multiversity Comics. A writer from London on the autistic spectrum, he enjoys tweeting and blogging on Medium about his favourite films, TV shows, books, music, and games, plus history and religion. He is Lebanese/Chinese, although he can't speak Cantonese or Arabic.

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