Friday, March 22, 2024

RIP: Keith Giffen

I never posted about Keith Giffen's passing - I had written this up but kept adding to it and forgot to post it (I last updated it in November), so I've added some tributes that came out some time after he passed away due to complications from a stroke on Monday Oct 9th. I'll have more on his Legion work separately. 

His last words to the comics community, as seen on his Facebook page and apparently put there by his family at his request, were:

He even got a New York Times obituary article on October 30, plus tributes from both DC and Marvel.

Here are some of the remembrances posted on Facebook:

  • JM DeMatteis: My old friend and collaborator Keith Giffen has passed away. Keith has had his share of health issues in recent years, but he was such a feisty, tenacious guy I was sure he’d outlive us all. “Some day,” I once told him, “the Earth will be an apocalyptic hellhole, all of humanity will be gone, but you’ll still be here, sitting in the rubble, smoking a cigarette.” Keith, as anyone who worked with him can attest, was one of the most brilliantly creative humans ever to work in comics, the Jack Kirby of my generation of creators. He was a curmudgeon with a heart of gold. An extraordinarily generous collaborator. And, as my wife observed, “He was like a character out of a Keith Giffen story.”
  • Barbara Randall Kesel: Keith Giffen is so tied into my early years in comics that it's hard to imagine the field without him. I saw so many of his pages up close while filling in blacks for Karl. I can't think of Keith's art without smelling india ink and hearing 80s music... That last post of his is just so very perfect. It just came too soon. RIP, you crazy creative!
  • Mike Flynn: It's been a while since we chatted, but Keith Giffen has always been the source of a disproportionate percentage of my happy memories. I love that he nailed his good-bye, but I'm sad he won't be creating anything else for us. If I'm not wrong, I met him for the first time for a fan interview. Then he became a favorite creator to go to comic conventions with. His stream-of-consciousness might as well have been Robin Williams.
  • Jesse Berdinka (editor): Keith Giffen was the biggest pain in my ass of anyone I ever worked with. Ever. He made my job as an editor on his work absolutely miserable with checking constantly to make sure he didn't slip in some off color joke or send something in wildly different than what he told me he was going to. However, he was easily one the most talented, funniest people I ever met. He pretended he was a curmudgeon but he was the most optimistic pessimist I ever met. He constantly fought the system and found the beauty in non conformity.
  • Paul Levitz: The sad news is now official: Keith Giffen has gone off to create new worlds that are beyond our living reach. Keith was probably the most fertile creative mind of our generation in comics. He had an infinite number of ideas, pouring constantly out. Many, thankfully, never saw print as wholly insane or inappropriate. But the ones that did! 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 drama. A few we had rough times on, but I think no more than could be expected in a long relationship. Keith was a curmudgeon by choice, an act he perfected and enjoyed. Like many artists, he didn’t lead a healthy lifestyle, and that led to tough times that he always laughed off. He was a family man when out of public view, and his soft moments came out there. I’ll tell a couple of stories in upcoming posts, but tonight I just want to say good night to a friend who made me look better than I was. And hugs to his kids, grandkids and great grandkids. Oh, and Anna, now that you have him back, take care of him as you always did—he was never the same after you went.
  • (In another post): A quirk of Keith: world building is often most powerful in its use of detail and conformance to principles. Keith wasn't alone in thinking of graphic ways to illustrate the future, but his long run on Legion gave him added time to demonstrate it. His holographic imagery (a pain to create before the layers of Photoshop), lack of windows and wheels, or drafting the letter forms for Interlac were all his touches that I gratefully worked with.
  • (In another post): One of the factors that made collaborating with Keith a joy is he had no pride of authorship. An idea was simply an idea, not his or mine, only something to serve the story. And most of the time, neither of us remembered or cared where it came from.
  • (In another post): A quirk of Keith: he liked to say he''d read my plots (usually 3-4 pages long) on the bus back to Jersey,, then throw them out and start drawing. I suspect exaggeration, because his pencils generally followed my flow....except when there would suddenly be a page or two scene having nothing to do with the written plot or any conversation we had. In the good years, our sense of the characters was alined enough that I often ignored his liner notes on this pages, and wrote a scene that was neither the original idea nor his, but felt better to us both.
  • (In another post): A quirk of Keith: It’s intrinsic to the writer/artist collaborations in comics that either party can make unreasonable demands of the other. Not financially, but creatively. The writer who asks for contradictory visual actions in a single panel. The artist who does a tiny panel for the scene where the big expository monologue is to happen. Keith and I rarely had that problem. But he did remind me, time after time, of my cruelest art direction: “The entire population of the planet Daxam rises as one, flying into space.” Always followed by his “and you only gave me 1/5 of a page for it!” Of course he pulled it off beautifully.
  • Colleen Doran: My very dear friend, one of the best friends I have ever had. Keith Giffen. I am heartbroken. I will love you forever. You were endlessly kind and crazy, funny and awful, beyond smart, truly original.
  • Rob Liefeld: Just heard the news of the passing of Keith Giffen. He was a Master of the craft. My favorite Defenders. My favorite Legion Of Super Heroes. LOBO! For years he worked his magic for me at Extreme on Bloodstrike, Supreme and Youngblood. We had so much fun. He is first ballot Comic Book Hall Of Fame. Rest In Peace Keith, you were one in a million.
  • Jim Lee: Gutted to hear the passing of the legendary comic book creator Keith Giffen. He personified creativity to me in everything he did. Whether it was writing, plotting, drawing, kibitzing or creating-Keith did it like no other in the modern age. He possessed an insane abundance of talent, a fearless take on every project asked of him and created some of the most absurd, over the top, and hilarious characters ever. His body of work influenced and entertained generations of creators and fans alike and even though he had seen and done it all-he was always such a charming, sweetheart of a guy in his own Keith Giffen way. His retro nostalgic vision of the future filled with windowless buildings and omnipresent floating holographic screens made me a Legion of Superheroes fan for life. It was one of my highlights of my career to collaborate with Keith on a Scooby Doo project and watch him elevate the concept in such a fun, smart way. Truly a master of every facet of the craft of making comics and a creative dynamo like no other...he will be missed.
  • Mike Carlin: Very sad to hear of the death of Keith Giffen... a prolific writer and artist for Marvel and DC who I had the pleasure of working with several times over the years! Hanging out with him and Andy Helfer and J.M. DeMatteis while they "invented" a funny Justice League was side fun for me as well! When I was working at Marvel Keith pitched me a run for THE DAZZLER that I was interested in... and then he kinda ghosted me. But you can see what that MIGHT have been since he just used his GREY MAN story in JUSTICE LEAGUE a few years later! (He had so many ideas... but he always knew the good ones no matter where they ended up!) The way Keith plotted most stories involved doing thumbnail layouts like this page from COUNTDOWN... so fun, and completely the life of the party, right there at the start of the art! I think my favorite thing about Keith was that he liked to play the "Crabby Old Guy" even when he was young... and I would just laugh-- and that would make him smile. But I couldn't tell if he liked when I called him Mon Chi-Chi when he got a new haircut... but we kept working together so I think it was okay. But, now that I think of it... he stopped getting haircuts!
  • Fabian Nicieza: Keith was uniquely Keith and the world was a much more interesting place because of it. He was one of the most fascinating people I knew in this industry and he goes out the way he always went: as a delightfully confounding genius.
  • Mark Waid: Losing Keith Giffen today was a gutpunch. We worked together off and on for decades, from Legion in the '80s to 52 in the '00s and many times in between. His imagination and creativity could hardly be matched, and collaborating with him in any fashion was a joy. He gave me one of the best pieces of advice I ever got. When I asked him 20 years ago what the secret was to maintaining a steady career in comics, he said, "Figure out what you do better than anyone else and own that lane. It may not always be in fashion, but when it is, they have no choice but to come to you." Rest in curmudgeonly peace, my friend.
    • Me: You were his editor on the 5 Years Later version of the Legion at the beginning. What was that like, compared to working with him as a co-writer?
    • Waid: Like riding a bull at the rodeo.
    • Tom Galloway: Do you feel you lasted for the equivalent of eight seconds? : -)
    • Waid: Nope. At best, six.
  • (Later) Like a football team retiring the jersey number of a legendary player, today the comics world has little choice but to retire the word "curmudgeon." Love you, Keith.
  • Al Gordon: I just heard my old Compatriot, Keith Giffen passed away a couple days ago. A few months back, Keith was in the hospital with Covid. I can only assume his death had something to do with that. The effects of Long Covid include strokes etc. I never know what to say. I feel like a hypocrite with any response I can think of... so, I'll leave it with "God Speed..." which is technically “𝑎𝑛 𝑒𝑥𝑝𝑟𝑒𝑠𝑠𝑖𝑜𝑛 𝑜𝑓 𝑔𝑜𝑜𝑑 𝑤𝑖𝑠ℎ𝑒𝑠 𝑡𝑜 𝑎 𝑝𝑒𝑟𝑠𝑜𝑛 𝑠𝑡𝑎𝑟𝑡𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑎 𝑗𝑜𝑢𝑟𝑛𝑒𝑦.” God Speed old friend.
  • Tom Bierbaum: Keith has gone out in style as only he can. But for those who knew him well, this is a tough one. In my case, Keith was a mentor, a teacher, a staunch advocate, a sounding board, the most creative person I’ve ever known and, above all, a friend. For the many fans who’ve been blown away by the “Five Years Later” Legion, that was Keith’s vision and genius. For all the fans who regard the ’80s era, highlighted by “The Great Darkness,” as the Legion's zenith, I think Paul Levitz would agree that Keith was instrumental in that huge success, both as an artist and co-plotter. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of Keith's body of work. It’s no coincidence that the best writing Mary and I ever produced came while working with Keith. He was always a champion of imaginative, courageous risk-taking, both because that’s where his creative impulses took him and because he understood how important innovation is to keeping the comic-buying audience hooked and the business healthy. He chafed at any sort of platitudes and would no doubt roll his eyes at this maudlin tribute, but he will be sorely missed.
  • Brad Meltzer: The flag at the Legion of Super-Heroes clubhouse is flying at half mast tonight. Same at JLA HQ. RIP to the great Keith Giffen, who was always first class.

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