This is Stan Lee, doing my subtle cameo!
-Stan Lee, Teen Titans Go! To the Movies
“The following is a contributor post by the Purple Prose Mage.”
On Monday, the news broke that Stan Lee had died at the age of 95. He was an incomparable artist, to whom a character was like a concept album. In that way, he remains unmatched. Every comic book writer is building upon characters he created but given Lee’s age and career longevity, it will be a long time before anyone can match his singular, unique legacy – or maintain it, as he did, to the end of their life. He was the last of the golden age of comic book writers. Let us hope that the response to his passing is the creation of a new one.
These are my top 10 picks for the best Stan Lee cameos, out of the many he performed. Be sure to share your favorites in the comments below.
10. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
The Rage Mage may hate it, but Avengers: Age of Ultron gives us one of Stan Lee’s best cameos. Not only do we get to hear The Man say his famous “Excelsior!” catchphrase, but his character is (supposedly) a military veteran, as Lee was himself – with the classification of “Playwright”. It’s a nice reference not just to the Avengers’ creator but to his life as well. Its LEGO video game adaptation also features Lee as the voice of a S.H.I.E.L.D. pilot.
9. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Back when Lee’s cameos were actually cameos. Spider-Man 2 includes a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance from Lee as a man dodging debris. Spider-Man 2‘s narrative is taken from the comic Amazing Spider-Man #50, which Lee wrote. This isn’t just Spider-Man’s creator making a cameo, it’s also the writer of the particular comic book issue that inspired the plot. He was originally going to deliver the “He stole that guy’s pizzas!” line that’s heard near the beginning.
8. 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)
In which Stan Lee wants to attend the wedding of characters he created. It’s clearly intended as a joke, and might be the one gag in this film that’s actually funny. On the other hand, it’s not pretending that this isn’t a creator cameo in the kind of super-serious way that his cameos eventually became. Here, he’s an uninvited wedding guest. It’s even funnier in hindsight, given that he was denied entry to the 2015 Fantastic Four reboot.
7. Fantastic Four (2005)
In the previous Fantastic Four film, Lee appeared as Willie Lumpkin. This is a character he created, so it has a more special significance. He initially created the character for a syndicated daily newspaper strip, before bringing it into the Marvel universe afterwards.
6. Big Hero 6 (2014)
Fred’s father appears in photographs, designed to resemble Lee. In a post-credits scene, when he finally shows up in person, Lee also voices him. Finally, Lee got to portray a superhero. Lee reprised the role in Big Hero 6: The Series, in which we learn that Fred’s father is named Frederick Frederickson III, whose superhero alter ego is Boss Awesome. For once, we weren’t expecting him to be there, so it was a refreshing surprise instead of feeling forced or obligatory.
5. Hulk (2003)
Hulk was Lee’s first speaking role in a Marvel film. In this scene, we get to see two Marvel greats together. This time, Lee appears alongside Lou Ferrigno – the original television Hulk actor. Ferrigno had previously portrayed the Hulk in the television film The Trial of the Incredible Hulk, which featured a cameo from Lee as a juror.
4. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
There was a fan theory that Lee’s characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe are actually all the same character. In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Lee appears in a post-credit scene as an informant for the cosmic Watchers, which references the theory as well as implying that it’s correct. Lee tells that he was once a FedEx man; a disguise that he’d use again in Captain America: Civil War. This is his most meta-textual appearance, especially when he says to the Watchers that he still has more stories to tell.
3. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Captain America: Civil War takes place after Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, making this the second time he disguises himself as a FedEx courier. This cameo happens almost near the end of the film, so there was some initial audience doubt as to whether he’d be in it at all. The character mispronounces Tony Stark’s name as “Stank”. If his cameos really are the same character in this universe, perhaps he’s getting revenge for when Stark misidentified him as Hugh Hefner (in Iron Man) and Larry King (in Iron Man 2). It’s a nice moment of levity and humour in one of Marvel’s darker films.
2. The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
In the most well-framed, most well-shot, most GIFtastic Stan Lee cameo scene, The Amazing Spider-Man features Lee as a librarian who’s oblivious to the battle taking place around him because he’s listening to classical music. It’s how I imagine the Well-Red Mage when there’s another gaming controversy. He reprises this role in the film’s How it Should Have Ended episode, blaming the Avengers for trashing the library. In the tie-in video game, the Stan Lee Adventure Pack DLC includes the feature of playing as Stan Lee with Spider-Man’s powers.
Honourable Mention: Marvel’s Spider-Man (2018)
“There’s better rendition for Stan Lee’s 2-second cameo than there is for Mile’s father.”
-the Well-Red Mage
1. Deadpool (2016)
Stan Lee as a strip club DJ. I want to know how this happened. How was it conceived? Whose idea was it? How was he convinced to do it? How was it approved? It’s Lee in his most unexpected, unconventional cameo role yet. It’s one extra gag in that film simply because of who’s portraying the role. This is the first time Stan Lee cameo’d in a Marvel film about a Marvel character he didn’t create, the first time one of his cameo roles was featured in the film’s poster, and the first time he was listed in the opening credits (even if it is as “A Gratuitous Cameo”).
I’ll leave you with this advice from The Man himself:
-the Purple Prose Mage
The Purple Prose Mage rewrites his author’s blurb every time he publishes a post because he keeps changing his approach to things. He’s currently working on a documentary about the Driver series for its 20th anniversary next year (follow).
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