Friday, August 25, 2017

Terrificon and Keith Giffen

This last weekend I drove about an hour and forty-five minutes south to Uncasville Connecticut to partake in Terrificon, the Terrific Comic Con.

This was the first time I had been to this con and I was very happy with the whole thing. First off, this definitely seemed to be comic-centric in its approach. There were celebrities present but all had some connection to comic book entertainment. And the comic creator list was deep and filled with legends.

Of course one of the biggest draws for me was Keith Giffen being there. I had so much I wanted to talk to him about. I had so many questions. But really, what I wanted to do most was just tell him what a big fan I was and (in particular) how much I loved the 5YL run.

Giffen was everything I imagined he would be. He was extremely energetic. He wasn't always at his table, often sitting with other creators and talking. He sometimes stood on the 'fan side' of his table, mingling directly with the patrons. And he was utterly approachable.

Overall, I think I got just under 20 books signed by him, albeit in three different visits. (I don't like being the guy with a huge stack at a creator's table.)

Giffen signed for free, something relatively rare these days. He, like many at this con, had a Hero Initiative charity tip jar on his table for sigs. And when I asked he would personalize some, he declined. He said that someday someone will want to try to sell the books and not having it personalized would make it easier.

Incredible. At this con, Neal Adams was charging $50 a signature. Some older creators were charging $2-3 per book. Some creators at cons will sign for free if they can personalize, otherwise it is $10. The world is changing.

Okay. Onto the questions.

First off, I told him how much I loved the 5YL run. (I also got #1 and #12 signed.) Time and again, I heard him tell fans who had 5YL books that he really wished that he was able to 'finish' the book. That makes me think that he had more stories to tell.

Then I asked him about the decision to reset the universe twice between issues #4 and #5 (the famous Mon-El/Time Trapper fight and the resulting Mordruverse). He said that DC wouldn't allow him to retroactively bring Superboy and Supergirl back into the book and he wanted them in the book. So the only way to bring some characters like them into the book was by completely resetting the playing field. Incredible.

Then he said that he was always struggling with DC about the direction of the book. They kept telling him he needed to change things.Ultimately, in what he described as a 'temper tantrum' he blew up the Earth in his last issue. The famous Legion of Super-Heroes #38 'The End' issue was born from Giffen's frustration!

When my buddy brought him Justice League Generation Lost #1 to be signed, Giffen said he left that book after one issue because of problems he was having with the story direction. Rather than get into a fight or foster ill will with other creators or staff, he simply walked off the book. In fact, he said that is often the reason he leaves a book. Incredible.

I have pointed out this moment in 5YL Legion #12 as my favorite scene in that title and one of my favorite comic scenes of all time. Hearing Jan talk about the morality of killing, even a savage like Roxxas, and inspiring the Legion to be better is just brilliant. I love this scene so I thanked Giffen for it.

In one of the best Con moments ever, he looked at me and said I needed to thank the Bierbaums. He wanted them to kill Roxxas.


Finally, on the last day of the con, I was waiting at Marty Pasko's table when Giffen walked behind and sat down. Then Paul Kupperberg showed up and sat down as well. (That's Giffen, Kupperberg, and Pasko going left to right.)

Giffen and Pasko were in a pretty lively talk about story-telling, the comic book medium, their dislike of 'writing for the trade', the current fad of decompressed style, and finally how much story they jammed into their books. I just sort of stood there and soaked it all in.

The con was a great time overall. But meeting Giffen and talking that much to him alone was worth the price of admission.


  1. Awesome stories - love that tidbit about the Bierbaums & Roxxas! If the line-up is this good next year, I'm gonna have to make an effort to attend

  2. Martin Pasko was, long before he was in the business, a regular in the letters to the editor columns.

  3. 5YL have got to be my favourite comics, Giffen my favourite writer and artist. I read LSH during the 70's and came back to comics when that run was kicking off. Ended up opening a comic shop (UK) and watching for as much Giffen as I could.
    Great that he is getting the love he deserves ;)

  4. What a great experience. I also love the 5YL era. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Giffen has given us so many great comics, full of arresting ideas along with beautiful and - at the very least - memorable images. DC should have him in some Hall of Fame. I'm glad you had a chance to chat to him.