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Keith Giffen, Colleague & Friend

Here's a tribute to Keith Giffen I ran through Interlac and Apa-LSH...



I was hit hard by the news of Keith Giffen’s death, and after a day or two to absorb the news, I decided it would be worthwhile to put down in some detail my history with him and what he meant to Mary and I.

There probably isn’t a whole lot to say that I haven’t touched on over time in the apas and during online discussions over the many years we’ve known Keith, but now’s as good a time as any to try and get it all down in one place.

To us initially, Keith was just the latest artist to work on our favorite comic, “Legion of Super-Heroes.” His work was quickly winning over our Legion fan community, and we were impressed when he actually showed an interest in feedback from us fans. “Legion” writer Paul Levitz was already active in Interlac, the "amateur press association” we belonged to, and through Paul, Keith started perusing the Interlac mailings and actually reached out to encourage us fans to send him any research or background info about the Legion universe that any of us could provide.

I wasn’t enough of a student of Legion lore to help out on any actual research, but I (rather presumptuously) took the hint and decided to suggest to Keith that some of the team’s super-hero costumes could be pulled back in a more traditional direction. I sent him in the mail four costume ideas that combined an LSHer’s current visuals with their looks from back in the 1960s. I put a big yellow five-pointed star back on Star Boy’s chest and restored his white cape; I added some material to Saturn Girl’s “pink bikini” costume and brought back the red-and-white lines and yellow Saturn emblem of her Silver Age costume; I put Shrinking Violet back in a light green mini-dress (I had a crush on Dorothy Hamill and basically envisioned Vi as Hamill in a green skating dress); and finally an Element Lad design that brought back his signature magenta color and the big “E” emblem from the ’60s.

Lo and behold, a week or two after mailing off my suggestions, the phone rang and it was Keith on the other end of the line! Keith Giffen!

Humina-humina-humina…

I was stunned. He wanted to use the Element Lad design I’d come up with and was wondering if I’d sign a release giving DC rights to the costume in exchange for a page of original art. I was, of course, over the moon and happily agreed. Keith and I had a very pleasant chat and before long I received an original full-page drawing from Keith of E-Lad wearing my design (with the beloved “E” emblem replaced by an Interlac “E,” since this was precisely when Keith was introducing a new Interlac alphabet to the Legion mythos).

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"2995" Sourcebook: Chameleon Boy thru Kid Quantum

Continuing to catch up on the missing comments from the early "Heroes" section of our “2995” Mayfair Sourcebook…

REEP DAGGLE / CHAMELON BOY (CONT’D): Last time I chopped off my recollections in the middle of Reep’s section, so we pick it up with a press release from during the five-year gap announcing Reep’s appointment to the chairmanship of Brande Industries. There are some interesting “between-the-lines” aspects to the press release, including what for me was the surprising avoidance of mentioning that Reep is Brande’s son – these days it had slipped my mind that Brande’s Durlan heritage was never revealed to the general public. There’s also an interesting reference among Cham’s relevant experience his expertise in “information procurement,” a euphemistic reference to his skills at espionage.

It was interesting to evaluate this fictitious press release now that I’ve actually worked in P.R. for many years, and I find it less skillful than the in-universe journalism I wrote, which makes sense, since at the time, I was experienced as a reporter but not as a publicist. That said, I was probably not too far off of how press releases were being written in the early 1990s, pretty effectively mimicking what I was seeing in the materials I was receiving in my work as a reporter.



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Keith Giffen, 1952-2023



Keith Giffen has gone out in style as only he can (see the above Facebook post from his family). But for those who knew him well, this is a tough one.

Here's what I posted on Facebook when the news came out...

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.


Keith at GalaxyCon in Richmond, 2019, by John Manard
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"2995" Sourcebook: Phantom Girl to Chameleon Boy

Continuing to catch up on the missing comments from the early "Heroes" section of our “2995” Mayfair Sourcebook, at this point profiling each Legionniare in the order they joined the team, with "primary source" documents from the 30th century that touch on the key points in each character's history…



PHANTOM GIRL: The first entry in Tinya's section is a long list of reasons young-teen Tinya was constantly being disciplined during her education in a repressive private school, with a note that she only avoided expulsion because her wealthy, influential mother was a big donor to the school. Here we’re building on the background we depicted in Tinya’s “Secret Origins” story – that she grew up chafing within the repressive world of her prominent, influential mother. The implication is that in a world of phasing phantom-people, there was heavy social pressure to behave properly and avoid abusing the ever-present ability to invade others’ privacy. And Tinya was this assertive, adventurous personality who was never going to be content in that kind of stifled world.



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Daxam, Valor, Laurel Gand

Hey folks, my first entry in a long time, sorry about that, but here's another "topic-of-the-mailing discussion from the pages of Legion apas, this time covering Daxam and its heroes Mon-El / Valor and Laurel Gand...



I guess my overall feeling about Daxam was that it became almost more of an inconvenience than a positive for the Legion’s universe, with its entire planetful of potential Supermen. At least Krypton had been destroyed and its potential to overwhelm the galaxy had disappeared in the past.

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Triplicate Girl / Duo Damsel / Luornu Durgo

Here's another discussion motivated by a "topic of the mailing" prompt in Apa-LSH, this time looking at the character of Triplicate Girl / Duo Damsel / Luornu...



When I discovered the Legion back in probably 1962 at about the age of 6, for some reason I had a bit of a crush on Triplicate Girl. It was probably partly that I was fascinated by numbers, so the involvement of “3” and the term “triplicate,” which someone had to explain to me, was interesting. Maybe partly because I was drawn to characters with brown hair (Ultra Boy, Green Lantern), which looked so much more natural to me than the yellow and blue hair of most other comic-book characters. And this was a stage where I was identifying with anything that had my name Tom or even started with the letter T, as “Triplicate” obviously does.

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"2995" Mayfair Legion Sourcebook: Cosmic Boy to Triplicate Girl

Continuing with recollections about the process of writing the "2995" Mayfair Legion Sourcebook...

I was surprised to discover recently that I’d somehow never posted my notes on the "2995" Sourcebook’s entries covering the first set of Legionnaires. I’m pretty sure somewhere I wrote up comments on those first LSHers but they’re nowhere to be found in my archives, so I figured at this point the best thing to do is just go back and write new comments since it’s unlikely I’ll ever find those earlier comments. So…



COSMIC BOY / ROKK: It’s interesting to see how our entry kind of combines two of the basic versions of Rokk – his “hopeless square” personality as early '70s Legion artist Dave Cockrum saw him, versus Cosmic Boy's “rock upon which the Legion was built” that Keith Giffen saw him as. So in Cosmic Boy's “Meet the Legionnaires” entry from “The Legion Groupie,” one of his hobbies is “whistling,” which Cockrum showed him as doing in the “Superboy / LSH #201” “Return of ERG-1” story. But for the most part Rokk is presented in our entry as a dedicated, disciplined team member.

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The Heroes of Lallor

From comments I batted out a little while ago when the Heroes of Lallor were a topic of the mailing in Apa-LSH:



I didn’t have a real strong reaction to the Heroes of Lallor as my brothers and I were learning the early Adventure Comics history through our various back-issue purchases in the early 1970s. I guess for me, the Lallorians’ uniforms were a little too non-descript to get me too excited, and I’m nothing if not uniform-oriented.

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"2995" Mayfair Legion Sourcebook: Evillo to Molock Hanscom

Continuing with my recollections of our work back in 1991-92 on the "2995" Mayfair Legion Sourcebook, currently going through the "Villains" section...



PRINCE EVILLO: OK, once again, I got to have a little fun with my offbeat take on Evillo and his run-ins with Tenzil. One of my favorite touches of this segment is the official government logo for the planet Tartarus Evillo puts atop every official message – “ski Tartarus!” At about this time, Utah license plates turned the state name into a pro-tourism slogan “ski Utah!” and the idea of the government of this dark world of criminals and zombies similarly trying to lure tourists through their official logo struck me as a pretty funny idea. I’m not sure anyone got the joke, but at least I managed to amuse myself.
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Stone Boy, Chlorophyll Kid, Mardru, Zwen

Here's another entry re-purposed from a recent Apa-LSH "Topic of the Mailing" discussion:



Stone Boy emerged as somewhat of a favorite for me, probably mostly because he was offered Legion membership (in Adventure Comics #315) and I’ve always kicked around the idea that one day he might take the Legion up on that offer and join Matter-Eater Lad and Bouncing Boy as one of the oddly powered Legionnaires who’d have to show some real resourcefulness to be as useful as the rest. Except he's kind of Bouncing Boy squared since the point of #315 was that Stone Boy considered himself easily the most useless among the Subs -- a band of Legion rejects. So he's least useful among the least useful. A hero who's hard for me to resist.

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