Marvel mastermind’s continued presence in films helps to connect modern Marvel to the comics of old.
For the Marvel company, the incredible rise of superhero film franchises has been a gold mine. Perhaps inevitably, Hollywood has by now created an entire new generation of superhero portrayals and stories, with Marvel’s Avengers and X-Men series largely leading the way. Yet many “old school” comic enthusiasts tend to pick apart the modern films, pointing out inaccuracies and lamenting the loss of the simple charms of comics in the face of the explosive action of modern action films.
But then there are those who simply want the modern film industries to respect and stay true to the original comics that inspired them. Unfortunately, there’s no way to hold Marvel (and now, Disney) accountable, and the films will likely take whatever direction they must to continue dominating box offices. But one nice way in which Marvel has continually tied its films back to comic origins is by the continued cameos of Stan Lee. A comic legend, the former president of Marvel, and the creator of most of our favorite heroes, Lee represents the entire history of the Marvel universe. Although his cameos are brief and cheeky, there’s some comfort in seeing him attached to the films. It’s as if he’s always there, endorsing the new direction of his comics. And who are we to argue with Stan Lee? If you haven’t noticed just how prevalent his cameos are, here’s a list of his roles in popular Marvel films in the 21st century (Lee also appeared in the 1989 film “The Trial Of The Incredible Hulk.”)
In the first “modern” Marvel film, Lee appears as a hot dog vendor on a beach.
Lee can be spotted in the crowd marveling as Spider-Man swings by. He also saves a little girl from becoming collateral damage of Spider-Man’s fight with Green Goblin.
Lee is a pedestrian who’s nearly hit by a bus before a child Daredevil (or at that point, Matt Murdock) saves him.
In this “Hulk” (the Eric Bana one), Lee plays a security guard at Bruce Banner’s lab. Another interesting fact on this cameo: Lou Ferrigno, who famously played the Hulk on television, appears alongside Lee.
Spider-Man 2 (2004)
This is a repeat of the “Spider-Man” cameo, in that Lee sees Spider-Man fighting a villain (this time, Doc Oc) and saves a young child.
Fantastic Four (2005)
Lee plays the good-natured postman Willie Lumpkin. Ranking this as Lee’s 10th best cameo, What Culture notes that this is the only time Lee portrayed a character he actually created.
X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
Lee plays a bystander working in his yard who happens to catch sight of some X-Men powers.
Spider-Man 3 (2007)
In this film, Lee actually speaks to Peter Parker early in the film, in a scene at Times Square. But even this interesting interaction couldn’t save the film from crashing Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man franchise.
Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer (2007)
In one of his cheekier cameos, Lee plays himself and tries to get past the doorman for Richard Reed and Susan Storm’s wedding. Alas, he isn’t allowed in.
Iron Man (2008)
Lee basically dresses up like Hugh Hefner for this one, and Tony Stark takes the bait, mistaking Lee for Hefner at a red carpet event.
The Incredible Hulk (2008)
In the 2008 Hulk film (the Ed Norton one), Lee ominously gulps down a soda with Bruce Banner’s blood in it. Yes, the drink is bright green.
Iron Man 2 (2010)
Repeating the gag from “Iron Man,” Lee appears as an imitation of Larry King, and is once again mistaken for King himself by Tony Stark.
Lee is at the wheel of a pickup truck that’s attempting to yank Thor’s hammer out of the ground.
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
In the first Captain America film, Lee portrays a decorated U.S. general in World War II, though he blends into the crowd pretty well.
The Avengers (2012)
When the Avengers first become known to the public, Lee appears as a random man playing chess in a park, asked by a TV interviewer about his opinion on the superheroes. Amusingly, Lee doesn’t believe they’re real.
The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
In one of his more blatantly random cameos, Lee appears to be a teacher of some sort who has his back turned as Spider-Man and the Lizard tear his classroom to shreds. He doesn’t notice due to his noise-canceling headphones.
Iron Man 3 (2013)
Lee appears in a beauty pageant scene that’s almost entirely pointless in “Iron Man 3,” enthusiastically holding up a “10” to rank one of the contestants.
Thor: The Dark World (2013)
With Dr. Selvig spending time in a mental ward, Lee appears as one of several patients Selvig is eccentrically attempting to lecture.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
In need of a uniform, Captain America breaks into the Smithsonian to steal his old clothes (which are on display). Lee plays a security guard who notices the missing uniform and declares he’s “so fired.”
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
In the latest Marvel film, Lee plays a spectator at Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy’s high school graduation ceremony (specifically during Stacy’s speech).
So there you have it: all of the modern Stan Lee Marvel cameos! For the avid comic book enthusiasts, no number of throwback moments or cameos will ever make the films as good as the comics. But for those yearning for the old days, it’s nice to see Lee’s enthusiasm for where the superhero franchises have gone.
This is why it’s always fun for comic book enthusiasts to find true hints of classic comics in modern culture and entertainment. The best way to do that is still to buy ordinary comic books, which despite popular misconception are not only still being printed but also written and designed. The rise of the superhero-film industry may have eclipsed the popularity of printed comics, but it has not stopped their creation whatsoever. There are countless online sources for purchasing new and old comics alike, though Marvel’s database of classic series can help you to find stores in your area, which may be the most convenient option.
There are also convenient options for those who simply desire the classic content of Marvel comics but don’t need an actual printed copy. According to this Verizon Wireless article, there now exist various digital comic services—such as the one from ComiXology—designed to help you download and access classic Marvel content on mobile devices, much in the same way that someone might access ordinary e-book materials. There is, of course, no collector or aesthetic value in doing it this way, However, again, for those who are only looking for the story content and visual artistry of printed comics, digital copies can serve as fine options!