Jim Lee is not only a superstar artist, but one of the two men in charge of DC Comics, making editorial and aesthetic decisions to help steer some of the oldest, most beloved superheroes in the world into the future. But 30 years ago, the House of Superman told him that his linework wasn’t up to snuff.

On Twitter this morning, Lee re-shared an Instagram post of a photo of a rejection letter he got from DC Comics almost 30 years ago. The letter was signed by the late Dick Giordano, himself a high-ranking editor who, like Lee today, was also a hugely talented artist in his own right.

Lee eventually went on to get his big professional break at Marvel, drawing Punisher and X-Men comics before splintering off with Rob Liefeld, Todd McFarlane, and other hot young artists to form Image Comics. When Lee sold his Wildstorm imprint to DC, he became a vital part of the same organization that once waved him off. In 2010 he was named co-publisher of the entire company, alongside Dan Didio.

From an aesthetic standpoint, the biggest irony is that Lee’s artistic approach is pretty much the basis for the house style for DC Comics’ mainstream superhero projects. The moral of the story? Save your rejection letters.