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The Great God Pan (Monsterbus p.131)

I love learning stuff from Kirby: this story is just an excuse to talk about mythology, a favourite Kirby topic. The stuff about the battle with the Titans, and Pan defeating the Persians at Marathon? It's basically true. And I am an elitist snob: I think everyone should know about the battle of Marathon!

Even the idea of shaving someone to humiliate them, that's authentic. That's how the nymphs embarrassed Pan once, according to Philostratus the Elder.

A poke at Stan Lee?

Here's some wild speculation: take this with a pinch of salt. But in the absence of any other evidence I'm calling it.

The story "The Great God Pan" (Tales to Astonish 6) is an odd beast. In brief, a man mocks old paintings in order to impress a girl. He focuses in particular on a painting of Pan. The art gallery guide tells the story of Pan, the man leaves, and the next thing we know is some time later: the man has lost his hair. It's a punishment from Pan, and the guide must have been Pan in disguise.

All three parts of the story are strange:

  1. Why have a story about someone mocking art, in a sci fi comic?
  2. Why give a history of Pan?
  3. Why is the man punished by losing his hair, a subject not mentioned until that point?

The central part is a recounting of Pan's role in the battle between Olympus and the Titans and later in the battle of Marathon. This confirms that the plot must be by Kirby: who else had such a detailed interest in real history and real myth?

The story begins with a man trying to impress his girlfriend by making fun of art. Why is this in a sci-fi comic? If you want a story about an art gallery there are plenty of opportunities to use gods and monsters and mystery. So, why start with a man mocking art? It only makes sense (to me) if this is something Kirby has actually witnessed.

As for the ending, why is losing his hair a big deal? Where did THAT come from? By the way, this is an authentic touch: Pan loved his hair, and was humiliated when the satyrs once shaved him (according to Philostratus the Elder). But that wasn't mentioned in the comic. Kirby knew the punishment was appropriate for Pan, but the readers don't know that. Why not have something more obvious: have the man turn into a goat or something? The hair loss comes out of left field.

So I think this was based on experience. Who did Kirby know who criticised art? Who didn't care for history or learning? Who liked to look cool and impress girls? Who was worried about losing his hair? You can probably guess where I'm going with this.

Lee's job (as he saw it) was to criticise art and to "improve" stories he saw as dull. He liked to joke and make fun of art - Lee later published several magazines where he took photos from pop culture and added stupid captions. Lee had no understanding of or interest in the classics, and only cared about impressing people (mainly girls) with his quips. Lee was losing his hair. At first he just wore a hat in publicity photos, but would later grow a moustache and add a toupee. Lee is basically the man at the start of the story.

 I wonder what that man would have looked like with another inker?