From comics to cameos: How Stan Lee became a superhero in his own right

“I used to think what I did was not very important…but I suppose I have come to realize that entertainment is not easily dismissed.”

There’s no greater contributor to the world of comics and its impact on pop culture than Stan Lee. He was the mastermind behind Marvel’s arsenal of superheroes the likes of Black Panther, Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and Spiderman. He co-created the characters, edited and published the comics, and later directed and even cameoed in the films that brought his strokes of genius to life.

Yesterday, he passed away at 95.

“I used to think what I did was not very important,” he said to Chicago Tribune in 2014. “People are building bridges and engaging in medical research, and here I was doing stories about fictional people who do extraordinary, crazy things and wear costumes. But I suppose I have come to realize that entertainment is not easily dismissed.”

Indeed, any doubt of his oeuvre vanishes upon regard of the opportunities he created through the making of Marvel’s greatest blockbusters.

You may be interested in: Catching up on who’s who in Avenger’s Infinity War

Without him, the world would not have witnessed Ryan Reynold’s splitting image of Deadpool. Thousands of those who laboured in the production of both the comics and films would not have had the pride and joy of the fact. Stars like Chadwick Boseman and Tom Holland arguably might not have achieved the recognition they have today.

In the latter’s own words on Instagram, “How many millions of us are indebted to this guy, none more so than me. The father of Marvel has made so many people so incredibly happy. What a life and what a thing to have achieved. Rest in peace Stan.”

“Stan Lee was as extraordinary as the characters he created,” Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger echoed in a statement. “A superhero in his own right to Marvel fans around the world, Stan had the power to inspire, to entertain and to connect. The scale of his imagination was only exceeded by the size of his heart.”

Here’s a look at Stan’s Marvel film cameos in celebration of the exceeding fun and entertainment he has brought to us all.

X-Men (2000)
X-Men (2000)

X-Men (2000)

When Marvel’s first major film X-Men was released in 2000, Stan had made a brief appearance as a hot dog vendor on the beach. Blink and you might miss it, though (he’s right there behind the senator’s confused expression).

Spider-Man (2002)
Spider-Man (2002)

Spider-Man (2002)

In the first Spider Man film starring Tobey Macguire, we get a glimpse of Stan as the everyday superhero that he is: a bystander at a festival who swiftly saves a young girl from the falling debris during an attack by the Green Goblin.

Daredevil (2003)
Daredevil (2003)

Daredevil (2003)

Conversely, Stan plays the near-victim in Daredevil in a scene where a young Matt Murdock stops him from being ran over by an oncoming bus while crossing the road.

Hulk (2003)
Hulk (2003)

Hulk (2003)

In the first film casting Eric Bana as the lead scientist Bruce Banner turned raging green monster Hulk, Stan played a security guard alongside Lou Ferrigno, star of The Incredible Hulk TV series.

Spider Man 2 (2004)
Spider Man 2 (2004)

Spider Man 2 (2004)

He returns in the second Spider Man sequel just in time to save a New Yorker from the chaos caused by Doctor Octopus.

Fantastic Four (2005)
Fantastic Four (2005)

Fantastic Four (2005)

Stan’s cameo in the first Fantastic Four film is also the first time he played a character from the comics: mailman Willie Lumpkin. Here, he is seen delivering mail in the lobby of the Four’s headquarters.

X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

While he doesn’t feature in every X-Men film, Stan does come on board in The Last Stand where he plays a man watering his yard in Jean Grey’s neighbourhood…or at least he was trying to.

Spider Man 3 (2007)
Spider Man 3 (2007)

Spider Man 3 (2007)

One of our favourite quotes from the legendary comic book writer is taken from his cameo in the final Spiderman film with Tobey Macguire as the lead. As Peter Parker stops by a sign reading “Spiderman to receive key to the city”, Stan’s character walks up to him and says, “I guess one person can make a difference.”

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)

Stan’s cameos more often than not add an element of humour to the films; Reed and Sue’s wedding scene in the Rise of the Silver Surver was one of them. Apparently, the bouncer didn’t recognise the face of this celebrity – we would have gladly welcomed him in.

Iron Man (2008)
Iron Man (2008)

Iron Man (2008)

With the introduction of Robert Downey Jr’s character, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) was born. The first movie in the series saw Tony Stark aka Iron Man mistaking Stan Lee’s character as the late playboy icon Hugh Hefner. Who can blame Tony, considering the signature velvet robe and two blond women around Stan’s arms?

The Incredible Hulk (2008)
The Incredible Hulk (2008)

The Incredible Hulk (2008)

Another one of Stan’s small but significant cameos forms part of The Incredible Hulk’s storyline, in which Dr Banner’s blood accidentally drops into a bottle at a soda bottling factory and finds its way into a customer’s hands. That customer, played by Stan, drinks it and becomes sick – leaving the police with a clue to Banner’s whereabouts.

Iron Man 2 (2010)
Iron Man 2 (2010)

Iron Man 2 (2010)

The humour and irony are brought back in Iron Man’s sequel where Stan is mistaken for Larry King this time. Again, we totally understand the mistake on Tony’s part given the convincing getup right down to the black boxy-rimmed glasses and broad suspenders.

Thor (2011)
Thor (2011)

Thor (2011)

When Thor was banished from Asgard to planet Earth, his hammer Mjolnir landed miles away in New Mexico. Upon its discovery, it quickly becomes a contest among the local civilians to see who can successfully lift the hammer. Stan plays an enthusiastic participant who attempts to drag the hammer with a rope attached to his truck, only – alas! – to lose the back of his vehicle.

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Our first look at Chris Evan’s role as Captain America saw Stan portraying a World War II general anticipating the Cap’s appearance onstage for a performance. When someone else shows up instead, he fails to hide his disappointment, “I thought he’d be taller.”

The Avengers (2012)
The Avengers (2012)

The Avengers (2012)

The Avengers presented us with another moment of irony, whereby Stan appears on a news station in an interview while playing chess, saying, “Superheroes in New York? Gimme a break.”

The Amazing Spiderman (2012)
The Amazing Spiderman (2012)

The Amazing Spiderman (2012)

Who can get over Stan’s comical cameo in the reprise of Spiderman starring Andrew Garfield? We certainly can’t. His obliviousness to the chaos surrounding him is just gold.

Iron Man 3 (2013)
Iron Man 3 (2013)

Iron Man 3 (2013)

While Tony Stark is busy trying to track The Mandarin’s next attacks in Iron Man 3, Stan’s role is excitedly awarding a beauty contest pageant with a ’10’. At least there’s no mistaking anyone this time.

Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Thor: The Dark World (2013)

After a dramatic turn of events in Thor, Dr Erik Selvig found himself on the road to recovery in a mental institution where has going on about his Convergence theory to deaf ears, except for one patient…only because he wants his show back after the demonstration.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

After S.H.I.E.L.D was infiltrated by Hydra, Captain America had no choice but to go underground. To keep his identity, he stole a suit from the Smithsonian museum, much to Stan the security guard’s dismay.

The Amazing Spiderman 2 (2014)
The Amazing Spiderman 2 (2014)

The Amazing Spiderman 2 (2014)

As Peter Parker walks up the stage at his graduation ceremony (which he barely made it to thanks to all his superhero duties), Stan voices out from among the crowd, “I think I know that guy.”

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Everyone’s favourite racoon cum superhero Rocket zeroes in on Stan’s character flirting with a woman in Xander as he was searching for an orb holding the Power Stone.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Stan reappears in the second Avengers film as a war veteran who ignored Thor’s advice that Asgaardian liquor is too strong for a mortal man, then lived to tell the tale albeit with hilarious consequences.

Ant Man (2015)
Ant Man (2015)

Ant Man (2015)

Scott Lang’s infamously long-winded friend Luis comments on how a girl in the bar is “crazy stupid fine” to a bartender played by Stan, who gleefully agrees.

Deadpool (2016)
Deadpool (2016)

Deadpool (2016)

Stan’s cheekiest cameo comes in – where else – Marvel’s R-rated fourth-wall-breaking blockbuster Deadpool. Here, he plays a DJ at a strip club where Wade’s ex works at. To his slight disappointment, the scene was filmed in a studio, not an actual club. Bummer.

Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Captain America: Civil War (2016)

For the two times Tony mistook Stan for someone else, the latter gets his revenge in Captain America where he plays a FedEx delivery man with a package for a certain “Mr. Stank”.

X-Men Apocalypse (2016)
X-Men Apocalypse (2016)

X-Men Apocalypse (2016)

As if in response to Rocket’s remark in Guardians of the Galaxy (“Where is your wife?”), the late Joan Lee makes an appearance alongside Stan in X-Men. The two are seen clinging to each other in fear as nuclear missiles are launched in the air.

Doctor Strange (2016)
Doctor Strange (2016)

Doctor Strange (2016)

In yet another oblivious scene, Stan plays a regular civilian reading Aldous Huxley's The Doors of Perception in a bus as Doctor Strange and Mordo slam into the window thanks to Kaecilius’ gravity-defying powers.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

Of the many diverse roles he has cameoed in, this one is definitely out of this world – literally. To be specific, he portrays an astronaut having a conversation with aliens.

Spiderman: Homecoming (2017)
Spiderman: Homecoming (2017)

Spiderman: Homecoming (2017)

Only Stan can turn a scene of an angry neighbour yelling at one reckless Peter Parker (now played by Tom Holland) into a witty joke.

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Remember who gave Thor his new short hairdo? In case you didn’t realise, it’s Stan the hairdresser.

Black Panther (2018)
Black Panther (2018)

Black Panther (2018)

T’Challa proved he’s got game at a South Korean casino, but walked away without his earnings –which Stan’s character sneakily took aside “for safekeeping”.

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

From bus passenger to driver, Stan is no longer oblivious but rather, indifferent, in Infinity War. As Thanos’ ships hover New York, he mutters, “What’s the matter, kids? You never seen a spaceship before?”

Ant Man and The Wasp (2018)
Ant Man and The Wasp (2018)

Ant Man and The Wasp (2018)

Stan’s character was just about to get into his car one fine day in San Francisco when he got caught in the middle of a car chase and Pym technology zapped it to a micro toy. On the bright side, at least he wasn’t in it.

Venom (2018)
Venom (2018)

Venom (2018)

At the end of the recent villain-protagonist film Venom, Stan plays a good-natured man who tells Eddie, “Don’t give up on Anne. Either of you” – a huge hint that Venom survived the rocket blast and lives on inside Eddie.

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He will reportedly star in his final cameo in the upcoming Avengers 4 film next year. Thank you, Stan, for never failing to leave a smile on our faces through your work.

Excelsior!

 

See also: Here’s to the wild life of Hugh Hefner, cross-generational icon

Images: Courtesy of respective film production houses

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