In the next panel the rich guy is in what looks like his opulent home filled with luxuries. He’s got his hip sunglasses on (indoors). Not sure what’s going on with that tiny little fellow in the chair. Is Jack suggesting the mustached character is some kind of megalomaniac, and the rest of the people in his world are just tiny little underlings? The Mr. Big-Shot guy looks like quite the performer, almost as if he’s putting on a show, or playing a P.T. Barnum role in his own home.
In this panel, it looks almost like the big guy is wearing a toupee. He’s sporting sideburns. You don’t think that looks even a little like a profile of Smilin’ Stan greeting one of his adoring True Believers?
The rest of the art is hard to figure out. In panel 5 it looks like he’s looking at a baseball bat and ball. I’m sure Jack had a gag for that panel and he’d verbally explain it to Lee during this phase of the writing process. Lee would make notes for himself in the margins if he needed to.
Now I know many of you will disagree with what I’m suggesting. You will say that looks nothing like Jack in panel one, and nothing like Lee in the other panels, but I’m still going to suggest Jack is goofing on his boss here. That’s something artists have been doing from the beginning of time. And clearly when Lee saw this page…
….he had a problem with it.
Lee rejected relatively few of Jack’s pages. maybe 200 out of 10,000? Which is nothing. That would be like making 2 outs out of every 100 at bats. The number may be less than that. I’ve only seen about 50 surface.
I’ve never seen that many Lee margin notes on a page before either — even after the inking process when Lee adds notes in the margins asking Sol Brodsky to make changes — so something strange is happening here. Two main possibilities:
(1) This was a really complex Kirby gag, and Lee needed to make extensive notes for himself so when he went back and added text, he could remember Jack’s story.
(2) Lee was not happy with that Mr. Big-Shot/Funky Flashman character, and the notes are Lee writing down specific things he wants Kirby to change — Jack would have had to take the art home and carry out those changes. That’s something Jack rarely if ever did, Lee tended to accept whatever Jack turned in, and if he wanted minor changes he had Brodsky or later Romita or someone in the office handle it. Jack was way too busy and important to be sitting around and erasing stuff on his work and changing it — Lee needed Jack to design new characters, provide guidance and layouts for his other artists, and Jack had to do upwards of 3 whole books plus covers each month by himself. Making stupid changes to his comics masterpieces was beneath Jack and genuinely a waste of time — so if Lee did want him to make revisions, he must have had a serious problem with this art.
Again, if anyone can send us better scans of these pages in HQ so we can read Lee’s notes that would be great. I guess Larry Lieber still has them? Maybe he would be kind enough to make scans for the Kirby Museum?
I don’t even know if Lee actually “rejected” these pages. He may have simply told Jack to erase the Stan Lee caricature and insert something else, and as Jack stormed out of the office maybe Jack simply tore up the pages in disgust because he felt it would be easier to start from scratch. In essence, Jack had to create a brand new character to replace Mr Big-Shot, or (whatever Kirby/Lee would have called him).
You have to wonder if Jack was trying to sneak this character past Stan. It probably would have been fun for Jack to create a character that would allow him to poke fun at his boss right under his nose. Maybe Lee saw the similarities and put a stop to it? Lee could have outtirght rejected the pages and told Jack to start over — that would have obviously made Jack pretty angry, especially if he wasn’t getting paid. Maybe Lee was disrespectful to Jack when he rejected the pages and that explains Jack’s anger? In all honesty, if I’m right, I hate to say it, but Jack only had himself to blame if he was picking on Stan with that art. He should have known his boss might not be pleased. And there are other scenarios. I’m sure Lee’s supporters will claim Lee rejected the pages because they were no good.
It would be really interesting to know what took place in that office that day as Kirby/Lee stood shoulder to shoulder and went through that art. Did Lee start going through the story, then a light went on over his head and he saw a bit of himself in that art? Or did Lee pretend he didn’t notice the resemblance and he just give Jack a bunch of notes for revisions? Or did Lee tell Jack, “Don’t you ever @#$%ing make fun of me in one of my comic books again, you little punk.” We’ll never know. All of my speculations could be completely wrong. What I do know is this — to me this page (especially panel one) visually sums up the Kirby/Lee working relationship. Lee was Jack’s boss; Lee was above Jack. Jack was Lee’s employee; Jack was beneath Lee.
We also know Lee’s sister married into wealth. Lee was fond of dressing up in fancy hip outfits, wearing shades (indoors), and strutting around like he was some celebrity. We also know from his autobiography Lee would pretend he was a smoker in photographs because it made him look “cool,” so that was a motif Jack would use when he would do Lee satire, such as the famous “This is a Plot?” story. We also know Jack used the concept of wearing many hats in that story to symbolize Lee’s hairpiece and Lee’s phoniness. This looks a lot like good ol’ Funky Flashman to me, making his first glorious appearance. If this character had appeared in the printed book, I’m sure Lee would have claimed he created the character. He would have said, “I created Mr. Big-Shot because I thought it would be great to give Marveldom Assembled a wacky character based on ME, their Fearless Leader!”
You also have to think about this: what if this was a regular character Jack wanted to introduce into the Marvel mythos. His version of J. Jonah Jameson? What if Jack thought a character like this might be fun to explore and might bring some humor into the Marvel Universe? I bet Jack could have had a lot of fun with Mr. Big-Shot in the 60s. We could be ranking him right up there with Dr. Doom and Galactus today. But clearly you have to think Lee wouldn’t particularly like being fun of, especially in a story he was taking credit for writing and paying himself for writing. And I suspect that is something he made clear to Jack and that is why Jack tore this art in half.
And it should go without saying that this page clearly shows once again that Jack was undoubtedly writing the stories even in the very early 1960s.
So not sure if that is Stan Lee satire or not, but that page torn in half sure does visually and physically symbolize the divide that existed in the Kirby Lee relationship. You can see the tear goes right trough panels 3 – 5.