10 Inside Jokes You Missed In Superhero Comics

2. Jack Kirby Makes Stan Lee A New Gods Villain

DC ComicsDC ComicsJim Starlin isn't the only high-profile creator that Stan Lee's gotten on the wrong side of over the years (sorry, but The Man does seem like kind of a bad person). What might be shocking is just who he managed to inspire the ire of in this case, as Jack Kirby is Lee's number one partner in crime. With Lee writing and Kirby's dynamic pencilling, the pair created every major character within the Marvel Universe, including the Hulk, the Fantastic Four and the X-Men. Kirby's impact on Marvel Comics, and his role in their great success and market dominance, can't be ignored. Well you'd think not anyway, but Marvel certainly tried their best, denying the artist any royalties from the characters he helped invent and blocking him from having any creative control over his work. Frustrated, he finally departed the House of Ideas in the seventies to sign an exclusive contract with their Distinguished Competition. A major coup for DC, the company agreed to giving Kirby everything that Marvel denied him: he was given free reign to create a whole new part of the publisher's shared universe, and was assured that the rights to the characters would remain with him for time immemorial. With this new-found freedom Kirby's first move was to take out his still seething anger at the way his former employers had treated him. Well, his first move was to construct the insanely over-the-top Fourth World, a space bound part of the DC Universe populated by colourful space gods, including cosmic escape artist hero Mister Miracle. It was in the sixth issue of this character's title that he launched a full-blown offensive at Marvel and, specifically, his former creative partner and friend Stan Lee. Mister Miracle #6 introduced new villain Funky Flashman, a greedy former slave owner who hopes to bring his dilapidated plantation back to life by putting on a disguise and strong-arming Mister Miracle into letting him be his agent, taking all of the money he makes for his escape artist performances. That disguise, of long hair and a beard, is identical to Stan Lee's seventies look, and if you still can't get it from that when Flashman's house comes burning down he can't help but admire the "MARVEL of contrast" between the black smoke and the red fire. The MARVEL of contrast. MARVEL. IS BURNING DOWN. BECAUSE OF STAN LEE'S GREED.
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Tom Baker is the Comics Editor at WhatCulture! He's heard all the Doctor Who jokes, but not many about Randall and Hopkirk. He also blogs at http://communibearsilostate.wordpress.com/