Stan Lee has long been the public face of Marvel Comics, but avid readers know that Lee is only one half of the Marvel story. Jack “King” Kirby deserves just as much, if not more, credit for the creation of iconic characters like the Fantastic Four, Avengers, and X-Men. Kirby himself was one of the people who held this belief, and he expressed his feelings of betrayal via the creation of Funky Flashman, a supporting character in Mister Miracle and an unofficial DC Comics Stan Lee parody.
Although he doesn't appear much anymore, Funky Flashman is still puttering around the DC Universe — meaning that Kirby’s walking, talking criticism of Lee has outlived Kirby himself, who passed away in 1994.
Funky Flashman made his debut in 1972’s Mister Miracle #6, and was the creation of Jack “King” Kirby, who previously co-created such legendary characters as Captain America, Iron Man, and the Fantastic Four. From the very beginning, it was clear Kirby never intended Flashman to be as heroic as his previous creations.
Flashman was portrayed as a sleazy, womanizing, untrustworthy huckster who did nothing but pull cons and execute get-rich-quick schemes. Flashman was terrible for one reason - he was meant to be a thinly-veiled pastiche of Stan Lee, Kirby’s former collaborative partner turned worst enemy.
Jack Kirby and Stan Lee's working relationship deteriorated over time and, eventually, Kirby left Marvel for their rival publisher, DC Comics, in 1970. Although public statements from Kirby about the Marvel situation were rare at the time, it wasn't long before “The King of Comics” made his feelings apparent with the creation of Funky Flashman.
Kirby’s first major DC project was his Fourth World saga, which included the creation of the New Gods and Scott Free, the hero known as Mister Miracle. It was in the pages of Mister Miracle that Flashman first appeared, and he remained closely linked to the interdimensional escape artist thereafter.
There were multiple factors that influenced the deterioration of the relationship between Kirby and Lee, but the largest issue was Kirby’s feeling he wasn't getting his due as a writer and creator. Although Lee was often listed as the author of issues they co-created, his actual input into the projects decreased over time, to the point where Lee was simply doing rough outlines and dialogue while Kirby wrote the majority of the content.
Additionally, Kirby was offended at how often Lee promoted himself as the sole creator of various characters they made together, and he used Funky Flashman’s sleazy nature to share his feelings about Lee’s intellectual thievery.
When Flashman was first introduced to the pages of Mister Miracle, he was portrayed as a talentless, albeit smooth-talking, hack riding on the coattails of a former business partner and employer, Colonel Mockingbird. Mockingbird built a financial empire and then died, leaving everything to Flashman.
It didn't take a genius to figure out Mockingbird was meant as a stand-in for Martin Goodman, Marvel Comics’ original publisher and Stan Lee’s mentor. Goodman stepped aside as publisher in 1972, leaving Lee in charge. Kirby used the pages of Mister Miracle to opine that - just like Flashman - Lee was merely benefiting from the work Goodman did without putting anything of value into the company himself.