Never trust Keith Giffen. He’ll only break your heart by walking away from his own brilliance.
Keith Giffen is an artist, writer, and translator of comic books, and he is responsible for more short-lived and cult hits than any creator of his time. He created Lobo, he created the humor take on the Justice League, he translated the manga for Battle Royale, he co-created I Luv Halloween (which was made into one of the earliest web-animated comics), his art on Legion of Super-Heroes caused the title to be one of the first two comics to be directly sold to comic shops (the other was The New Teen Titans)…
…and he created Ambush Bug.
Ambush Bug is the obvious progenitor to Deadpool, in that it was a somewhat insane character whose tenuous grasp on reality was reflected in the fact that he knew he was in a comic book. He started out as a Superman villain in DC Comics Presents, murdering a district attorney in the middle of a televised speech just so he could be on television.
After that first appearance, Giffen tumbled to what he’d created. The media-obsessed joke-spewing lunatic quickly returned, using his teleportation power to cause chaos. He jumped on Superman’s cape as the Man of Steel was heading to the future, and made mischief throughout the Superman Museum without ever tumbling to Superman’s secret identity, which was prominently displayed throughout the museum. (Personal favorite moment is when he’s holding off a half-dozen heroes by hefting something above his head, which is revealed as a time-frozen slice of youthful Clark Kent’s birthday cake. “Stay where you are,” he warns them. “One wrong move and I kill the cake.”)
Fans loved it. And Giffen was having fun. As a villain, though, Ambush Bug couldn’t be in the spotlight. The obvious answer was to have him reform. People conveniently forgot about his murder and AB was allowed to star in his own mini-series. And another one. Superhero comics of all stripes were parodied, as were giant monsters, buddy-cop films, and just about everything else Giffen could think of.
And then Keith Giffen moved on to the next thing that interested him. Meanwhile, fans had developed, and they wanted the character to continue. Ambush Bug went from being a short-lived entertainment to a cult figure within the DC comics fandom. He was included in the background of panels of other comics, doing things like shopping for groceries. Often the cameos were only the tip of one of his antennae… if you didn’t know what you were looking at, you weren’t intended to get the joke. He was given a tiny cameo in the Justice League Unlimited cartoon. Little things, fan service from the creators to remind the long-time readers that they understood.
And finally Giffen returned to the character, both in another mini-series and in the mainstream DC comics universe. He’s a playable character in Lego Batman 3. He appeared in the new Batman cartoon. And he’s still insane, if less absurdist than he is when he’s in his own comic. If he were more of a regenerative, sexually-driven assassin he might even have his own movie by now.
Question of the night: What is some of your favorite absurd comedy?