Stan Lee’s passing has affected every Marvel fan, and I think I speak for all of us when I say that the MCU will never be the same without his patented cameos. Yet the myriad of movies to come out of the MCU are far from the only Marvel properties he made an appearance in, and so, to honor the late comic book writer on his birthday, I’ve compiled a list of his lesser known Marvel cameos, for it’s important for us to remember that Marvel isn’t just a single chronology run by Kevin Feige, but an expansive multiverse spanning dozens of continuities.
8. spider-man ps4
In the 2018 video game Spider-Man on the PS4, Stan Lee makes an appearance as a short-order cook at Peter and Mary Jane’s favorite New York City restaurant. When I witnessed him show his face at the end of that cutscene, I vocalized a long and high-pitched “Awww!”. This wasn’t very long after I heard of his death, and so seeing him in such an unlikely place delightfully surprised me, yet also punctuated the scene with a slightly sorrowful note. Also, knowing that this was one of the last cameos of his that he saw feels appropriate, as not only was Spider-Man a creation of his, but the character is almost the face of the Marvel Universe.
7. the amazing spider-man
In The Amazing Spider-Man, the first of the Sony duology of Spider-Man films, Stan Lee cameos as a librarian at Midtown Science High School, who is oblivious to the fight between Spider-Man and the Lizard behind him due to the fact that he’s listening to classical music. While the comic bit of an elderly character not noticing they’re in the midst of obvious danger was definitely overplayed by 2012, there’s something about Lee nearly getting flattened by a table that makes me smile. While The Amazing Spider-Man 2 seems to have tarnished the reputation of the Andrew Garfield Spider-Man movies, I think scenes like these help us realize that, like every incarnation of Peter Parker, they contain some redeemable qualities.
In Deadpool, Stan Lee appears as an MC at a strip club. Certainly the image of a 90+ year old man at a strip club is interesting enough, but what’s truly noteworthy about this scene is when he announces, “Give it up for Chastity!” Is this a reference to S.H.I.E.L.D agent Chastity McBryde or just a typical stripper name? Probably the latter, in all honesty, but the other noteworthy element of this appearance of his is that he actually had no hand in the creation of Deadpool. This may not seem very interesting initially, but I think it illustrates how Stan Lee became the unofficial face of Marvel, even though he worked with plenty of others when constructing his most iconic characters. Regardless, an old man introducing strippers is an amusing image.
5. fantastic four: rise of the silver surfer
This cameo of Stan Lee’s, unlike the previous one, makes a very clear and deliberate reference to Marvel Comics, specifically to Fantastic Four Annual #3, where Stan Lee and Jack Kirby themselves are turned away from the marriage of Susan Storm and Reed Richards. While only Stan Lee is present in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, the same thing happens; he’s refused entry by a security guard because he’s not on the list. While this may seem like nothing more than a meta gag, a version of Stan Lee actually exists in the same universe as the Fantastic Four, and meets with them regularly to publish factual accounts of their adventures in their comics.
4. big hero six
Many seem to not know this, but Big Hero 6 was actually a superhero team, and were first published by Marvel in 1998. While they weren’t very prevalent, only inhabiting a self-titled three-issue miniseries, they were the team that the characters in the Disney film of the same name were based on. I didn’t know this when I first watched the film, so when I saw that in the post-credit scene Stan Lee’s voice and likeness were used for Fred’s father, I was rather puzzled, and then slightly saddened when he is credited immediately after.
3. spider-man 3
Stan Lee makes in appearance in all three films of Sam Rami’s Spider-Man trilogy, but my favorite of them would have to be the last one in Spider-Man 3. Credited as “Man in Time Square”, we see him and Peter Parker reading a news ticker about Spider-Man, and he says to him, “You know, I guess one person can make a difference.” To my recollection, this is the only Stan Lee cameo that is actually impactful to the plot, as it’s his advice that persuades Peter to retake the mantle of Spider-Man.
I’ll be honest, this one is far from one of his greatest appearances, but it holds a special place in my heart because it’s the first one that I saw. I don’t rightly recall how old I was exactly, but I was definitely less than ten, and it was at a birthday party at a friend’s house where I first watched X-Men. I don’t even remember particularly liking X-Men that much, but I do have to thank the film for introducing me to Stan Lee, who opened a door for me to a whole new world of superheroes.
1. spider-man: into the spiderverse
While this list hasn’t been in any order, this cameo of Stan Lee’s definitely deserves the number one spot. In Into the Spiderverse, Stan Lee sells a Spider-Man outfit to Miles Morales. When Miles asks what would happen if the suit does not fit, Stan responds, “It always fits, eventually”, before revealing that he has a no return and no refunds policy. Not only is perhaps his funnest Marvel cameo, but it was apparently important to Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who wrote and produced Into the Spiderverse, to give Lee a bigger moment in the film rather than just a passing cameo because they felt he was “so integral to the spirit of this movie.” They described the role as “extra meaningful”, given Lee’s death a month before the film’s release, and with this knowledge the scene becomes a whole lot more meaningful.
For Marvel fans, Stan Lee’s face is almost like Pavlov’s bell. No matter what context it appears in, we smile whenever it’s shown to us on screen, and frankly, I’m perfectly okay with that. Along with Jack Kirby, he created a whole roster of some of the most iconic characters not only in comic book history but in Western pop culture, and it’s their hard work that inspired millions. So happy birthday, Mr. Lee, and excelsior!