Keith Giffen, Comic Book Writer-Artist Behind Lobo, Blue Beetle and Rocket Raccoon, Dies at 70

Keith Giffen, the longtime comics author and artist who co-created popular characters such as DC’s Lobo and the Jamie Reyes version of the Blue Beetle as well as Marvel’s Rocket Raccoon, has died. He was 70.

His family announced his death Wednesday on Facebook via a sardonic post pre-written by Giffen: “I told them I was sick…Anything not to go to New York Comic Con, Thanx,” adding “Bwah ha ha ha ha.”

The cause of death is being attributed to a stroke.

Giffen is best known for writing and drawing galaxy-spanning adventure book Legion of Super-Heroes in the 1980s and 1990s, at one point making the title one of DC’s top sellers. He was also the artist on early 1980s title Omega Men in which he and writer Roger Slifer introduced Lobo. At first a brutal villain, he was later turned into a parody of overly muscle-bound characters before becoming a popular anti-hero.

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The 1987 launch of Justice League International introduced fans to Giffen’s subversive and sarcastic sense of humor. Written with J.M. DeMatteis and drawn by Kevin Maguire, the book was not afraid of dressing down or playing up the absurdity of characters such as Batman, Green Lantern/Guy Gardner, Martian Manhunter and Shazam while also raising the profiles of Fire and Ice (then called Green Flame and Ice Maiden, respectively) and Blue Beetle, a new hero to the DC stable through an acquisition of Charlton Comics.

The comic was an immediate breakout hit, garnering award nominations and birthing a spinoff book. It also set up character dynamics, such as the friendship between Blue Beetle and Booster Gold, as well as the infamous one-punch thrown by Batman at Guy Gardner, that still resonate in comics in the 2020s.

Before making his name at DC, Giffen did a stint at Marvel in the 1970s, when he and writer Bill Mantlo introduced Rocket Raccoon in the pages of Marvel Preview, a black and white magazine. (Mantlo would later bring the character to the pages of Marvel’s monthly books, where many years later Rocket Raccoon became part of the Guardians of the Galaxy. James Gunn brought the character into the mainstream with his hit sci-fi trilogy, where Rocket was at first a scene-stealer before becoming the emotional centerpiece of this summer’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.

In 2006, DC redefined Blue Beetle, introducing him as Jaime Reyes, a Latino high school student who bonds with a super-powered suit of alien origin. Giffen co-created the character with TV writer John Rogers and artist Cully Hamner and wrote his early adventures. The character headlined his own Warner Bros. movie this summer, becoming the first Latino-centric character to be featured in such a prominent way.

On X, formerly known as Twitter, colleagues and admirers paid their respects.

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