KEITH GIFFEN On Picking Up the Pencil Again

KEITH GIFFEN Picks Up the Pencil Again

Novelist Brian Keene Goes on DOOM PATROL
Novelist Brian Keene Goes on DOOM PATROL
The cover to DOOM PATROL #16, which Giffen didn't actually draw (Matthew Clark did), but nevertheless...

Keith Giffen drawing again?

In November, the answer is not just "yes," but double yes.

Although Giffen once illustrated monthly titles like Legion of Super-Heroes and The Defenders, he's been away from penciling lately. For the last decade or so, he's been more recognized for his writing, including his current run on Doom Patrol and Booster Gold.

But that's starting to change, and Giffen couldn't be happier.

On Monday, when DC released its solicitations for comics shipping in November, fans were surprised to see that Giffen is back to drawing — not only on one comic that month, but two.

Doom Patrol #16 will feature Giffen's pencils for a story he co-wrote with horror novelist Brian Keene. And he'll also be drawing Outsiders #34, the series written by DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio.

These surprises come in the wake of another revelation earlier this month — that Keith Giffen isn't writing the bi-weekly Justice League: Generation Lost, despite originally being announced as the co-writer with Judd Winick. In fact, he only provided breakdowns for the comic, and only through Issue #7.

In the wake of all these sneaky surprises, Newsarama talked with Giffen to find out what's up.

Newsarama: Keith, what brought on this sudden itch to draw? Or was this something DC asked you to do?

Keith Giffen: I've been sort of pissing and moaning a little bit about it over the last couple years, wanting to pick up the pencil. I asked just to do an annual or a one-off or something like that, just to see if I can still exercise the penciling muscle. 'Cause I've been doing breakdowns all along. Really, penciling is just putting in the detail.

And at one point, I guess it was Mike Siglain, when he was still an editor at DC, called me when they had a crunch on that Joker's Asylum: Mad Hatter job. Time was tight and they needed someone to step in and do either full pencils or breakdowns. I figured, OK, fine. The deadline was OK. They called it a crunch. I called it a deadline.

Look, when I first broke into the business, I got 35 bucks a page. I had to work fast!

So I managed to turn it around in a very timely period. It kind of stung them, how fast it was turned around. It came out looking good. And I thought, OK, fine, I got the penciling bug out of my system.

But I remember saying to my wife, when I was about halfway through, "You know, I have a funny feeling that I'm not going to be able to put the pencil down now."

Sure enough, next thing I know... "You want to draw this? You want to draw that?"

Nrama: Was that the case with Doom Patrol? I figured that, since you're the writer on that, you were part of the decision.

Giffen: Yeah, the Doom Patrol thing was something I volunteered to do. It gives me an opportunity to work with one of my favorite contemporary horror authors, Brian Keene. So he's going to come in and do a little change-of-pace issue. And I thought, well, let's give it a complete change of pace, and give it a bump so our artists can relax a little bit and not be constantly pressed against a deadline.

So I said, "How about I pencil it?"

Then Dan called and asked me, "You know how you've been bugging me to do something with the Outsiders? Want to draw them?" So I said, "Sure!"

It's kind of flattering that my drawing still has a certain appeal, although I think a lot of it has to do with it being done on time.

Nrama: So was Doom Patrol #16 something you asked Brian Keene to write with you?

Giffen: You know, I've been talking to Brian for a while. Mike Siglain and I wanted to get him up at DC in the worst way. He likes comics. He's done some work for Marvel. And it was just sort of hitting that wall wherein they've got their writers already, and it's really hard to punch somebody through.

But the Doom Patrol, when I realized there was a one-issue space there, and the editor was open to it, and then Ian Sattler and DC were open to it, I just jumped at the chance.

The guy is just an incredible storyteller. He does kind of understand comics already. We don't have to hold his hand or walk him through it. He understands comic book work. I believe he's even got a zombie series coming out from an independent publisher, and he worked at Marvel, so it's not like we're breaking in a complete novice.

I look at Brian Keene the same way I looked at John Rogers. This guy has got the chops. This guy can do it. He's going to be an asset. So I got the opportunity to get him in there and I took it.

And now that I'm drawing the issue, it's kind of fun. And it is a change-of-pace kind of issue, simply because of Keene being in there. But it is in continuity.

Nrama: So this counts.

Giffen: Yeah. I don't want Doom Patrol readers to think, oh, it's going to be one of those issues that sits there like a cod. It's in continuity. We're just going to have a little fun.

Nrama: What's the story focus upon?

Giffen: It's basically, "Whatever happened to Fast Forward from Arcudi's Doom Patrol?" You know, the guy they jokingly called Negative Man because of his attitude?

It's sort of involves him and alternate realities and things that can come through doors that are open in alternate realities.

So we're having some fun with Doom Patrol doppelgangers. Feral Rita, and Nazi Larry, and Steampunk Cliff.

Nrama: Is there a certain style you're using on Doom Patrol?

Giffen: You know, if there's any awkwardness in the project, it's that I'm coming in to do one issue. This is the book that Matt Clark established the look of. Matt Clark has established the characters a certain way. And I try to cling as close to that as humanly possible, considering Matt Clark and I are on completely different sides of the spectrum in our styles.

Nrama: Obviously, you're really familiar with the way the Doom Patrol characters look, but has drawing the Outsiders characters been more of a challenge for you?

Giffen: No. I'm familiar with them too, because I read the comic.

The cover to OUTSIDERS #34, which Giffen didn't draw either (Philip Tan did), but hey, it's just August...

I follow Dan's Outsiders the same way I follow the rest of the DC Universe — I pick out the ones I know I should read for homework. And it's not that I consider it homework, but when I create a comic within a shared universe, I have to peel off those comics that I've got to read or at least leaf through.

Outsiders started out as a leaf-through, and it's now become a read because there are some really interesting things going on in there.

I had actually been bugging Dan about doing something. I thought it would be fun to get together with him and do something fun with that team. And he called me on it.

Nrama: But you're still writing Doom Patrol and co-writing Booster Gold, right?

Giffen: Yes, I'm still writing those comics, and I'm sure I'll be picking up other gigs here and there. But the rest of my year is locked up with penciling jobs.

Nrama: The rest of the year? Is there something else you're penciling?

Giffen: Yeah, there might be something else down the line that you'll hear about. And remember, football season is starting, which means my Sundays are off-limits for working, so that limits my time by one day a week.

Nrama: Well that brings us to the next question, which is the "scheduling" explanation we got from Judd Winick for why you're not doing Justice League: Generation Lost. Can you tell us what happened with that?

Giffen: It's basically what Judd said. Look, it came down to what do I want to do more? And the stuff I'm doing now is what I want to do. I couldn't pencil the projects I have coming up, and I couldn't do what I'm doing on the Doom Patrol and Outsiders, while doing breakdowns for a book that were going to keep hitting me in this white heat. So it came down to, "OK, if you have to give up something, what do you want to give up?"

I'm not going to give up Doom Patrol. They'll have to pry that out of my cold, stiff fingers. And I'm having too much fun with Booster Gold. And I've been wanting to get back to penciling. I had stuff I wanted to do more, and I really had to make a choice. And seeing as how the JLI was heading in a new direction, I don't think I was really needed on the JLI book. So it really came down to, OK, it's a re-envisioned JLI, and characters are going to move in this direction whether I'm here or not. So maybe it's time to say goodbye.

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