We were all saddened by the passing of Stan Lee last week. While we can’t say it was untimely, or that he was taken from us too soon, it doesn’t make it any easier to lose a household name that many of us grew up with. Responsible for some of comic books’ most famous and influential characters, Stan’s legacy will surely live on in print, film, and gaming for decades more to come.
But, in true Stan Lee style, let’s not sit around and mope on our collective loss. Let’s have a bit of fun with one of Stan’s favourite pastimes. So, This Guy is gonna count down Stan the Man’s Top 5 best cameos! Excelsior!
5. “Hugh,” Iron Man
Our first entry is a very small cameo. It’s a simple joke, that could be easily lost in a frantic early scene of Iron Man, the first film of what became the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe). This is, however, not Stan Lee’s first Marvel cameo appearance. Those actually predate the MCU, with the first being from X-Men eight years earlier, where Lee portrayed a hot dog vendor at the beach in two brief shots. In Iron Man, while attending a gala, Tony Stark is wading through a crowd of people, and mistakes a suave old man, with a pipe and two blondes in tow, for Hugh Hefner. It fit well with the humour of the film, and was surely a fun and easy way for Stan to get himself on camera for what would be the beginning of one of the biggest and most expansive franchises of all time.
4. Skeptical New Yorker, The Avengers
When Earth’s mightiest heroes came together for the first time to repel Loki’s invasion, it was a cinematic event. The Avengers was the first culmination of the MCU’s huge gamble that began with Iron Man. Once our heroes vanquishes their enemies, and saves the world for the first time, we see Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) watching a number of news reports on the Avengers’ exploits. On one such screen, is Stan Lee playing chess in Central Park. “Superheroes in New York?” he says. “Give me a break.” Anyone familiar with Lee’s work of course knows that a huge number of his heroes (Spider-Man, Daredevil, etc.) were New York based, which led to crossovers and team ups in Marvel comics before they were a huge thing.
3. Security Guy, Hulk
Now here is another cameo that predates the MCU. The first time Hollywood tried to bring the Incredible Hulk to the big screen they had everything going for them. Acclaimed director Ang Lee, check. Stellar cast including Eric Bana, Sam Elliott, and Jennifer Connelly, check. A fresh take on the themes and psychology of the character, check. But somehow, it just didn’t mesh together. Ad the character had to be receive a soft reboot a few years later before being integrated into the MCU properly. That said, Stan Lee’s cameo here is a pretty nice one. While Dr. Banner (Bana) is entering his lab, two security guards are seen exiting and chatting. Stan Lee is there, gold badge and all, just going about his business. This cameo gets extra points for his scene partner, TV’s original Incredible Hulk, Lou Ferrigno.
2. The Watchers’ spy, Guardians of the Galaxy 2
And here’s the one that ties it all together. There have been a ton of fun fan theories floating around the internet since the MCU began, trying to explain Stan Lee’s constant appearances from a canon point of view. Well, in Guardians of the Galaxy 2, we finally got an answer, and it turns out some fans were actually pretty close. During a very hectic scene where Rocket and Yondue are warping through space to save Star Lord, we take a moment to focus on a small moon where the Watchers are listening to an old man regale them with stories. Now, the Watchers are an ancient alien race that spend all their time observing the happenings of the universe, and compiling knowledge of all things. No easy task. So it makes sense they need an old man like Stan Lee to keep tabs on the superhero events on Earth. That’s right, every Stan Lee cameo in the MCU is the same character, reporting back to the Watchers in space. Trippy, huh?
1. Himself, Mallrats
Now, this is stretching the definition of “cameo,” so I guess it’s a bit of a cheat. But honestly, this is my favourite version of Stan lee on camera, playing himself, in Kevin Smith’s cult classic Mallrats. After being dumped by his girlfriend, and refusing to fight for her, Brodie (Jason Lee) has a serendipitous run in with his personal hero, Stan Lee, at his favourite mall. Stan tells him all about the love of his life, and how he let her slip through his fingers. He talks about how he wrote new conflicted superheroes to express the pain of his loss. He tells Brodie how much he missed her, and would give anything for one more day with her. Of course we soon find out this meeting was not by chance, and Stan was just spouting bullshit to motivate Brodie to get off his ass. And he didn’t even take the time to answer any of the real questions we and Brodie have. Like The Thing; is his dork made out of yellow rock like the rest of his body? Apparently, we’re told, it’s a superhero secret. ‘Nuff said.