PAUL KUPPERBERG: My 13 Favorite Pieces of KEITH GIFFEN Original Art

A salute to the late Keith Giffen…

UPDATED 10/11/23: Comics mainstay Keith Giffen has died at the age of 70. His frequent collaborator, Paul Levitz, said tonight on Facebook: “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.” We re-present this piece from 2021, in slightly altered form. — Dan

Paul Kupperberg — comics writer, novelist, historian and 13th Dimension columnist — has a spectacular new publication out: Direct Comments, collecting about two dozen never-completely-published interviews from the ’70s to the ’90s, mostly with some of DC’s greatest creators. We’re talking folks like John Byrne, Denny O’Neil, Jerry Ordway, Jim Aparo, Dick Giordano and many, many more.

You can order the $16 paperback through Amazon — and to spotlight this treasure trove of comics-history gold, we’re running a weekly series in which Paul pays tribute to his favorite works by 13 of these creators. (The series mostly runs weekends, with a few exceptions.)

Last installment it was Klaus Janson. (Click here.) This time: Keith Giffen. — Dan


“That was followed by a series of fiascos until about a year later, when I left the business. I just wasn’t in tune with what was going on, I guess. I had done Claw the Unconquered and All-Star Comics with Wally Wood for DC. But it wasn’t a good time for me. I was in too many fights, going against the current. That was right as the infamous DC Implosion hit. When the smoke cleared, Keith was gone. So, I took myself to South Jersey, to be near the ocean, and ended up selling vacuum cleaners, door to door. I made good money at it. Did phone collections. I essentially vanished for a good three or four years from the business.”

— Keith Giffen, Direct Comments: Comics Creators In Their Own Words

I wanted to work with Keith Giffen (Nov. 30, 1952) the first time I saw his art in an issue of DC’s Claw the Unconquered in the late 1970s. But in those days, as he indicated in the interview published in Direct Comments: Comics Creators In Their Own Words, the New Jersey-born artist did not give off a particularly approachable vibe. I doubt I ever exchanged more than a curt nod in passing with the intense, scowling figure trailing cigarette smoke down the halls of DC during those early years, and then one day, he was gone. “What happened to Keith Giffen?” I asked. I was told he had quit comics.

Who quits comics?

“I finally got up the necessary courage to try it again,” Keith remembered. “I had just barely been keeping up with the comics during that time. I’d pick up little bits here and there that interested me, but my only source for comics was one raggedy 7-Eleven and I think Germany got the comics before this place did, so there wasn’t a heck of a lot to keep up on.”

DC Comics Presents #52

From Day One, Keith had a quirky, primitive style that crackled with a power and energy. When he came back a few years later, the primitive was gone from the work, but the quirk and energy were still very much there. And I finally did get to do a story with Keith, 1982’s DC Comics Presents #52, co-starring Superman and the New Doom Patrol in the story that introduced Keith’s Ambush Bug to the DCU. Keith sat in on the story conference with editor Julie Schwartz and myself and offered up the character as our antagonist; I was sold on the idea the moment Keith described AB as “Bugs Bunny with a teleportation device.”

Keith has shown himself to be a creative triple threat: writer, penciller, inker. And, while still a self-confessed grouch, he’s one of the funny and approachable ones. Here then, MY 13 FAVORITE PIECES OF KEITH GIFFEN ORIGINAL ART, in chronological order:

The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu #17 (Marvel, Oct. 1975). “Sons of the Tigers” inside front cover illustration, inked by Bob McLeod.

The Defenders #50 (Marvel, Aug. 1977). From “Scorpio Must Die! Who Remembers Scorpio? Part 3,” written by David Anthony Kraft, inked by Mike Royer, lettered by Gaspar Saladino.

Claw the Unconquered #12 (DC, Aug./Sept. 1978). From “The Slayer,” written by David Michelinie, inked by Bob Layton, lettered by Ben Oda.

DC Comics Presents #52 (DC, Dec. 1982). From “Negative Woman Goes Berserk,” written by me, inked by Sal Trapani, lettered by Oda.

DC Comics Presents #59 (DC, July 1983). From “Ambush Bug II,” written by Giffen and Paul Levitz, inked by Kurt Schaffenberger, lettered by Oda.

The Legion of Super-Heroes #303 (DC, Sept. 1983). From “Those Emerald Eyes are Shining,” written by Levitz, inked by Mahlstedt, lettered by John Costanza.

Legion of Super-Heroes Promotional Poster (DC, 1985). Inked by Larry Mahlstedt.

The Legion of Super-Heroes Annual #2 (DC, 1986). From “Child of Darkness, Child of Light,” written by Levitz, inked by Mahlstedt, lettered by Costanza.

Ambush Bug Stocking Stuffer #1 (DC, Feb. 1986). From “Crisis on the Only Earth We’re Allowed to Use,” written by Robert Loren Fleming, inked by Bob Oksner, lettered by John Costanza.

Nightmask #8 (Marvel, June 1987). From “Transfer Point” written by Archie Goodwin, inked by Rick Bryant, lettered by Augustin Mas.

Who’s Who In the DC Universe #16 (DC, Feb. 1992). Inked by Al Gordon.

Lobo: Infanticide #1 (DC, Oct. 1992). From “The Theory of Relativity,” lettered by Todd Klein.

The Heckler #1 (DC, Dec. 1992). From “Our First Issue,” inked by Malcolm Jones III, lettered by Bob Pinaha.

NEXT: Here’s to you, Mr. Robinson… (Click here.)

“I guess I was always an artist, but I wasn’t interested in art, as contradictory as that seems. I never thought of being an artist. I’d always drawn as a kid. They tell me when I was in kindergarten I used to lie on the floor and draw, portraits of my grandfather and so forth. But I never took art in school because in those in those days, you had to be a dullard to take art courses because they didn’t give you any credit towards college. But I was the cartoonist for the high school paper and one of the editors as well. So, in that sense I was drawing all the time but never with any thought of becoming an artist.”

— Jerry Robinson


— PAUL KUPPERBERG: My 13 Favorite Stories Drawn by KLAUS JANSON. Click here.

— The Complete INDEX of DIRECT COMMENTS Features. Click here.

Direct Comments is available now at Amazon. Click here.

Paul Kupperberg has been writing comic books from Archie to Zatanna for 45 years at DC, Archie, Charlton, Marvel, Bongo and others. He is also the author of Paul Kupperberg’s Illustrated Guide to Writing Comics (Charlton Neo Press); I Never Write for the Money… But I Always Turn in the Manuscript for a Check (Comics Career); the comic book industry-based murder mystery The Same Old Story, the short-story collection In My Shorts: Hitler’s Bellhop and Other StoriesJSA: Ragnarok, and his latest, the YA fantasy/time travel adventure Emma’s Landing, all from Crazy 8 Press and all available on Amazon, or signed and personalized direct from Paul (email him at for details).

Author: Dan Greenfield

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  1. Would love to hear more about why Giffen changed his style so significantly around LSH 306 or so. I know artists hate when fans claim, “Your old stuff was better!” Artists have to evolve, but it was such a dramatic change.

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    • Didn’t his style change in the middle of an issue? For the first few pages it was the more realistic style, and then it changed.

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