When it comes to comic book history, the Silver Age of comics brought a resurgence to the superhero genre as it revived old DC characters from World War II and launched a new era of heroes for a struggling comic book company called Marvel Comics. No name has had a greater impact on the history of comics than Stan Lee.
Stan Lee is so intertwined with Marvel that he has had a cameo in almost every movie made under the Marvel logo whether it was made by Marvel Studios themselves or Sony, who retains the rights to Spiderman, and Fox, who holds onto both the Fantastic Four and X-Men licenses. So, it is no surprise that when the credits roll for Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2, the audience gets another glimpse of Stan Lee popping up in another Marvel movie.
Is this just another random cameo or have these appearances been building up to something important in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
A Look Back at Stan Lee’s Cameos
When a person thinks about Marvel, they are also thinking about Stan Lee. Stan The Man has been responsible for helping to create an impressive list of characters. From Spiderman to the Incredible Hulk, from Thor to the Fantastic Four, even the Avengers and the X-Men, his name is synonymous with Marvel the same way Ray Croc is with Mc Donalds. So, when it comes to Marvel productions, both past, and present, Stan Lee can always be seen in the background.
His first appearance dates back to 1989 where he sat on the jury for The Trial of The Incredible Hulk, a made-for-television movie starring the late Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno as the Hulk. His first appearance in a screen adaption of a Marvel property began with 2000’s X-Men. Since then, Stan Lee has made an appearance in almost every screen production right up to the end of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2.
So what’s the significance?
The Story of The Watchers
At the end of GOTG2, there are several end credit scenes to stick around for. From the reveal of Adam Warlock to the introduction of the original Guardians, it is easy to overlook Stan’s cameo as just another shawarma moment from The Avengers. But at closer examination, Stan is clearly standing among the Watchers and telling them about past cameos he has had.
In Marvel lore, the Watchers are a group of celestial beings who have a responsibility to watch. Yeah, that doesn’t sound like an awesome power, but the Watchers have played a significant role in the Marvel universe since inception, especially the one who watches Earth, the being known as Uatu.
Uatu made his first appearances in the pages of Fantastic Four and interfered by telling the Fantastic Four of the coming threat known as Galactus. Interfering is against the code of the Watchers because they are just supposed to watch, and Uatu has a problem with just watching.
So what does this have to do with Stan Lee?
Uatu the Watcher Is Stan Lee
Ever since the beginning of the shared Marvel Cinematic Universe where everything is connected, many fans have come up with the Unifying Stan Lee Theory. The belief behind this theory is that the cameos are not just singular appearances but one continuing role that is interconnected. Some have believed that he is an alien who has an extradimensional ship that can travel all over the multiverse while others lean towards Stan the Man actually being a Watcher. (http://screenrant.com/guardians-galaxy-2-stan-lee-cameo-mcu-role-revealed/)
While for years this has been speculation, it wasn’t until recently that the theory was confirmed by the head boss of Marvel Studios, Kevin Feige. In a recent interview with Screen Rant, Feige confirms that the idea came together with the director of GOTG2, James Gunn, while working on the project.
“Yes, we always thought it would be fun,” the head of Marvel Studios said. “Stan Lee clearly exists, you know, above and apart from the reality of all the films. So the notion that he could be sitting there on a cosmic pit stop during the jump gate sequence in Guardians was something very fun …”
Feige goes on to reference Lee’s appearance in Captain America: Civil War. “James had that idea and we shot that cameo and loved it so much, you know, you see it a couple of times in the movie. It wasn’t in for a long time and we put it back in towards the end of the process where he references that time he was a Federal Express agent — we thought it would be fun to put that in there because that really says, ‘So wait a minute, he’s this same character who’s popped up in all these films.’”
Now that Uatu is out of the bag and the Watchers are now part of the larger MCU, it will be interesting to see what the future holds for Stan Lee’s cameos and how big a role the Watchers will play in the rest of Phase 3. Let’s hope for more Watchers and more Howard the Duck!
Zoey Baker is a Netflix addict with a BFA in video production. One of her dreams is to have the chance to direct and produce her own movie. In the meantime, she writes TV news and features for StreamingMovieList.