Remembering Keith Giffen, 1952-2023
On October 9, 2023, celebrated writer and artist Keith Giffen passed away. Known for his many cosmic contributions to Marvel Comics canon, Giffen was a versatile creator who introduced readers to Rocket Raccoon, plus brought characters like the Guardians of the Galaxy, Silver Surfer, Nova, and Thanos to new heights. Giffen’s longstanding career placed him in an elite class of writer-artists, and the Marvel Comics community, and the industry at large, mourns his loss.
Born in Queens, New York on November 30, 1952, Giffen got his start at Marvel Comics at just 22 years old. As his body of work expanded, Giffen became a notable creator for both Marvel and DC Comics, offering his expertise and creative vision to every project he worked on. His first work for Marvel took place in January 1976: A black-and-white story titled “The Sword and the Star” in MARVEL PREVIEW #4, co-written by frequent collaborator Bill Mantlo.
A few issues later, in MARVEL PREVIEW #7, Giffen and Mantlo carried on “The Sword and the Star” story, marking the very first appearance of Rocket Raccoon. Giffen continued to contribute to several other black-and-white comics magazines, working with creators Gerry Conway, David Anthony Kraft, and more
Though he continued to work with Marvel Comics, Giffen’s career at DC Comics became a prominent focus during this period. Giffen left his indelible mark with characters like Lobo, Ambush Bug, and Blue Beetle: Jaime Reyes, just a few of his beloved co-creations. He also lent his immeasurable talents to the Legion of Super-Heroes, and kickstarted an era of the Justice League—then known as Justice League International—that saw him team with creators J.M. DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire. Giffen revolutionized this team book by infusing the series with his signature sense of humor; readers were invited to laugh along as they took in the high-stakes drama of the JLI and their super villain nemeses. Important collaborators in his life, Giffen would reunite with DeMatteis and Maguire on Marvel Comics’ DEFENDERS (2005).
Giffen returned to the House of Ideas in the mid-2000s, bringing newfound popularity to several of Marvel’s cosmic characters. In 2004, Giffen took over THANOS (2003) from Jim Starlin, and in just six issues he introduced the space prison known as the Kyln, revived Star-Lord for modern readers, and revealed the existence of an earlier Herald of Galactus, a being known as the Fallen One.
THANOS (2003) led directly into DRAX THE DESTROYER (2005), a series that took the bumbling brute version of Drax and turned him into a lean, mean survival machine. THANOS and DRAX were both compelling one-off series, but both built towards something much bigger and grander in scope: the ANNIHILATION event.
Giffen brought together Thanos, Drax, Nova: Richard Rider, Silver Surfer, Star-Lord, Super-Skrull, Ronan the Accuser and more to face off against the massive threat of Annihilus and his Annihilation Wave. This team-up paved the way for a new chapter in Marvel Comics storytelling, also cementing Giffen’s status as a leading creator in Marvel’s cosmic corner and the aftershocks of ANNIHILATION are still rippling through the Marvel cosmos today.
A sequel event was kicked off the following year: ANNIHILATION: CONQUEST where Giffen crafted one more now-ubiquitous chapter in Marvel Comics with the starring turn of Star-Lord: Peter Quill in ANNIHILATION: CONQUEST - STAR-LORD (2007).
In this title, Quill was tasked to lead a group of criminals on a mission against the Phalanx, a techno-organic alien race that assimilate all they touch. Quill’s squad included Deathcry, Captain Universe, Bug, Mantis, Rocket Raccoon, and Groot. Giffen’s work on ANNIHILATION: CONQUEST - STAR-LORD established many of the characters who would later become members of the modern-day Guardians of the Galaxy.
By crafting comics that readers have loved and cherished for nearly five decades, Keith Giffen’s memory will long be remembered. In addition to his legendary career, Giffen was known for the immense heart—and humor—he brought to his work: something that will continue to inspire future creators and storytellers for years to come.
Marvel extends its deepest condolences to Giffen’s family, friends, and fans worldwide.
Join us in celebrating Keith Giffen's legacy at Marvel in the below gallery of a sampling his work.