With Stan Lee’s cameo in Avengers: Age Of Ultron such a treat, what with him [SPOILER REDACTED] and, of course, [SPOILER REDACTED] with everyone’s favourite [SPOILER REDACTED], it was high time for Empire’s list of Stan Lee cameos to be updated. While supercuts of the 92-year-old legend's debris-dodging exist out there, they lack context and bad puns, which is where we come in. ‘Nuff said.
Stan The Man is: Hot Dog Vendor
What Happens? Newly mutated Senator Kelly (Bruce Davison) walks out of the ocean onto a beach full of stunned onlookers, who can’t quite believe the gloopy, morphing, watery sight that greets them. And who’s that old geezer running the hot dog stand, with his mouth agape? Why, it’s Stan The Man! And his mouth’s probably agape because he didn’t actually create Kelly - that honour went to Chris Claremont and John Byrne.
Wink-Wink Rating: There’s no leering close-up of Lee, no jolly japes, not even a subtle nod that the Creator Supreme is standing among us. If Michael Bay had directed this, you can almost guarantee that Lee would have squirted mustard on someone while distracted, and then had his leg humped by Senator Kelly. Thank goodness for Singer’s restraint.
PS Stan Lee returns as Hot Dog Vendor in the Phineas and Ferb Marvel mash-up episode. Here's a picture of him, if you're not a true believer.
Stan The Man is: Man At Fair
What Happens? The Green Goblin, pulsating with anger after realising just how crap his costume is, has decided to give Times Square a good old kicking. One well-aimed pumpkin bomb sends tons of debris crashing down on top of the heads of innocent bystanders, including an old guy with grey hair and a moustache, trying his best to look scared, God bless him.
Wink-Wink Rating: Well, Sam Raimi gives him a big old close-up and a chance to be heroic too, as he futilely shields a young girl from rubble that weighs several tonnes and would crush them both like bugs. Frankly, we’d have preferred it if Lee had grabbed the girl and tried to use her as a human shield. Either way, Spidey saves them both. Hurrah!
Daredevil (2003)* *
Stan The Man is: Old Man At Crossing
What Happens? Young Matt Murdock (Scott Terra) has been blinded. But every cloud etc. etc., and the young chap has developed a kick-ass sonar which allows him to “see”. So, when an old man is so engrossed by his newspaper that he’s at the point of stepping into heavy traffic and get totally Froggered, our hero stops him with a swift tap of his cane. Confused, the old man lowers the newspaper and, well, it’s Stan The Man! Didn’t see that coming. Neither did Matt, to be fair.
Wink-Wink Rating: Mark Steven Johnson gives Lee his first bit of comedy business in a Marvel movie, complete with arguably the worst double-take since that pigeon in Moonraker.
Stan The Man is: Security Guard
What Happens? As Eric Bana’s mopey, soon-to-go-gamma scientist Bruce Banner (or Krendler, as he’s known at the time) enters his lab building, he passes two security officers on their way out. The big guy looks kinda familiar, but who’s that old, grey-haired guard with the moustache who’s hogging all the dialogue? Why, it’s Stan The Man!
Wink-Wink Rating: Incredibly for the po-faced Ang Lee movie, the in-joke levels are off the chart here. After all, the big guy who looks familiar is Lou Ferrigno, who played The Hulk, of course, on the TV show. Intriguingly, this is Lee’s first stab at dialogue and he ain’t half bad. All those years of narrating those Saturday morning cartoons sure paid off.
Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Stan The Man is: Man Dodging Debris
What Happens? Spider-Man 2 is better than the original movie in almost every conceivable way - including Lee's cameos. In the first movie, he was Man About To Be Crushed By Debris. In the second, there’s a clear upgrade to Man Dodging Debris. Not only that, but this time it's clear that he’s saving someone’s life. “Look out!” says Stan, which goes to show that he may be old and grey-haired, but you can’t pull the wool over his eyes. When debris is falling, folks, it’s best not to let it crush you.
Wink-Wink Rating: It’s more blink-blink and you’ll miss it, but Raimi at least gives Lee something to do apart from look terrified, so bonus points for that.
Fantastic Four (2005)
Stan The Man is: Postman Willie Lumpkin
What Happens? A million comic-book superfans squealed with glee when it was announced that Lee was going to cameo as Willie Lumpkin in the first Fantastic Four movie. Lumpkin, the FF’s kindly old postman, was not only a Lee creation, but would also mark the first time that Lee would play an actual Marvel character. The scene itself is short and sweet, as Lee staggers up to Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd) and Sue Storm (Jessica Alba), blabs some guff and then off he goes, presumably to go postal on his colleagues.
Wink-Wink Rating: It’s another Lee cameo that’s played relatively straight, with director Tim Story insisting on little fanfare. Whether we’ll ever see Lee as Lumpkin again is in doubt, with Josh Trank’s take on the FFranchise probably eschewing . That may be a good thing: Lumpkin briefly dated Spider-Man’s Aunt May in the comics.
X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
Stan The Man is: Water-hose Man
What Happens? Having missed out X2 (he had been scheduled to play Nightcrawler at one point. Okay, that’s not true), Lee was back back back for the creepy prologue, when a computer-regressed Professor X and Magneto visit the home of young Jean Grey, only to witness a terrifying display of her awesome potential as she lifts all the cars in her neighbourhood in the air. As we cut outside, we see that’s not all, as an old grey-haired man with a moustache looks on, baffled, when the water from his hosepipe starts spraying skyward. Which, at his age, must have come as something of a relief.
Wink-Wink Rating: Actually, not huge. It’s a quick shot, and nowhere near as inside baseball as some of Lee’s other cameos. Kudos to Ratner for holding himself back. Mind you, there’s always the possibility that he didn’t know who Lee was.
Spider-Man 3 (2007)
Stan The Man is: Man In Times Square
What Happens? Walking through Times Square, Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) stops to admire a billboard declaring that his alter-ego, Spider-Man, has been granted the key to the city. At that, an old, grey-haired man sporting a moustache steps into the frame. “You know, I guess one person can make a difference,” he says to Parker, before adding a trademark, “’Nuff said!” for no other reason than to make fanboys yip with delight.
Wink-Wink Rating: Apart from the gratuitous use of that catchphrase, this is a lovely little moment, and perhaps one of the best Lee cameos to date, with that one line acknowledging the contribution he made to pop culture over the last five decades. Long may he continue.
Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer (2007)
Stan The Man is: Himself
What Happens? It’s the wedding of the century, the day when Reed Richards will finally marry Sue Storm. Everyone who’s anyone has been invited to New York’s Baxter Building for the ceremony. Everyone, that is, but for one old guy with grey hair and a moustache, who can’t get past security. “I’m Stan Lee,” says, erm, Stan Lee. “Nice try, buddy,” says Burly Man, kicking him out on his hearing aid.
Wink-Wink Rating: This is terribly in-jokey because when the Richards got married in the comics, two figures clearly representing Stan Lee and fellow writer Jack Kirby were shown trying to crash the wedding - and now here’s Lee doing it onscreen (Kirby died in 1994). What’s really going to bake your noodle is the question of why the Burly Man has heard of Lee, in a world where the Fantastic Four etc. are real.
Iron Man (2008)
Stan The Man is: Himself
What Happens? Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is sweeping into a lavish gala at the Disney Concert Hall - red carpet, thronging journos (including, sadly just out of shot, Empire’s own Damon Wise; really), bright lights, the works - when he passes an old man with his back to us. Stark can’t see the face, but the grey hair, signature dressing gown, pipe, and bevy of beautiful babes tips him off. “You look great, Hef,” he says, moving on without missing a beat. The old man, confused, turns around, revealing that it’s not Hugh Hefner after all, but… well, you can probably guess who.
Wink-Wink Rating: Arguably the funniest Lee cameo to date, it’s a neat gag that gets chuckles out of audiences who don’t have a clue who Stanley Lieber is.
The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Stan The Man is: Milwaukee Man Drinking From Bottle
What Happens? It must be getting harder to come up with ideas for Lee cameos: a man can only dodge debris so many times. Some filmmakers haven’t even tried, or couldn’t work out schedules, or couldn’t fit it in with the tone of their film - Lee didn’t show up in Blade, Elektra, Ghost Rider, Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance, X2, X-Men: Days Of Future Past, Wolverine: Origins, The Wolverine, Man-Thing or the Punisher movies. But he does appear, briefly and inventively, in Louis Leterrier’s Hulk reboot, playing an old man who takes a drink out of a juice bottle containing some of Bruce Banner’s gamma-irradiated blood.
Wink-Wink Rating: Leterrier downplays Lee’s appearance nicely: for the uninitiated, it’s just an old guy with grey hair and a moustache. Lee-gionaires, though, will be disappointed that Leterrier didn’t shoot a $10 million dollar sequence where Lee transforms into an angry, green OAP, yelling, “Bah! Puny humans think they can hurt Hulk. Hulk can remember when it was all fields round here.”
Iron Man 2 (2010)
Stan The Man is: “Larry King”
What Happens? Not a huge amount, considering it’s a POV Tony-walks-through-a-field-of-adoring-fans shot that happens to feature Stan Lee, but what’s of note here is that he’s called Larry – as in Larry King. Larry King is, of course, a legendary American TV and radio host best known for his show Larry King Live on CNN, and not Stan Lee.
Wink-Wink Rating: Pretty big, perhaps as big as Larry King’s trademark old-school microphone. The joke being, of course, that some people mistake the grey-haired, generously-foreheaded, bespectacled bad-ass Larry King for Stan Lee and vice versa, and here Lee’s actually dressed up as the renowned broadcaster because, you know, humour.
Stan The Man is: Pick-Up Truck Driver
What Happens? To the dulcet tones of Billy Swan’s ‘I Can Help’ – itself a golden oldie – a group of enterprising New Mexicans join forces, Avengers-style, to pull the heaviest Hammer in the nine realms out of the ground. They fail, alas, but Stan Lee and his pick-up truck give it a darn good try, busting the back of his bucket of bolts in the process. “Did it work?” he asks. Not so much.
Wink-Wink Rating: Mild. It would be wonderful if it turned out Stan Lee was worthy enough to lift Mjolnir, but as he didn’t actually try picking it up with his hands, we may never know. Good luck crowbarring that scene into Thor: Ragnarok, guys.
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Stan The Man is: Army General
What Happens? Doddering old Army medal model (Lee) is sitting watching The President award Cap’ a prize for being such a spiffy soldier, only Steve Roger doesn’t turn up on cue and instead an aide appears on stage to whisper something in The Leader Of The Free World’s ear. “I thought he’d be taller,” says Lee, the wag.
Wink-Wink Rating: Non-existent, but not all of them can be, and as this is such a cute little joke, it gets a pass. Plus, First Avenger director Joe Johnston also made abominably adorable The Rocketeer, so he’s got a few passes to go yet.
The Avengers (2012)
Stan The Man is: Random Citizen
What happens? After The Battle Of New York, the camera pans across some computer monitors showing regular folk and their reactions to the superheroes in their midst. Cue a kid with Hulk’s face on a bit of cardboard, a man dressed as Captain America skateboarding about and Stan Lee playing chess with someone, Magneto-style, giving his thoughts on the TV news story titled “The Avengers: Hoax?” Delivering an approproately perfect soundbite, he says, “Superheroes in New York? Give me a break...”
Wink-Wink Rating: Medium, but only if you really want it to be. The Avengers are traditionally based in the Avengers tower (in New York), but the other traditionally Big Apple-based “enhanced” folk were, at that time, in the hands of other studios: Daredevil (Fox), Fantastic Four (also Fox), Spider-Man (Sony). Okay, we’re reaching, but then there’s the other thing - this character Lee’s playing is off his rocker anyway, because Tony Stark’s been blasting about New York for years now, and there’s no way you can deny that loud mouth’s existence.
The Avengers (Deleted Scene) (2012)
Stan The Man is: Random Citizen (Eating Lunch And Offering Dating Advice)
What Happens? In this deleted scene from The Avengers we get buckets of Captain America colour, including some “archive footage” of WWII Cap’, proof that Peggy was dead – no really, look closely – and some very gentle flirting with a waitress (who actually shows up in the carnage later in the film). During said diner dalliance, Cap’ failed to seal the deal and score some digits, bro. Noticing his cluelessness, in comes Lee, helpfully telling Cap to “Ask for her number, moron.” Oh Stan, you ol’ charmer.
Wink-Wink Rating: Minimal. On a side note, notice how Stan Lee and his aged p chums aren’t actually talking to each other. This is an underappreciated joy of getting old: you don’t have to keep blathering on about nonsense if you’re busy getting the early bird special shawarma deal.
The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
Stan The Man is: Librarian
What Happens? A CGI lizard monster man called The Lizard is rampaging around Midtown Science High School and only Spider-Man can stop him. Stan Lee’s librarian, meanwhile, doesn’t give two hoots, blithely trotting about as he organised some books with his headphones on. It’s arguably the best bit of the film, and up there with the best Stan Lee cameos ever.
Wink-Wink Rating: If you tie it in with his even briefer appearance in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, not bad, but otherwise it’s just a cute bit of cameoing.
Iron Man 3 (2013)
Stan The Man is: Beauty Pageant Judge
What happens? As an on-the-run Tony Stark sneaks into a TV van wearing a big cowboy hat, the event the broadcasters are covering is carrying on entirely oblivious to Iron Man’s presence. The occasion in question? A beauty pageant, and one Stan Lee is a very eager judge for. Just look at him wave that 10 score sign – truly, this is a man making the most of his life.
Wink-Wink Rating: Not high, but it would not doubt have been much higher if the full scene made it into the final cut of Shane Black’s controversial Marvel movie. “You know something gang, this is the first time I have issued a public apology, and it has to do with the Iron Man movie, the new one,” said Lee in a special YouTube announcement, adding “I’m apologizing for a situation that came up regarding my cameo. My cameo had a couple scenes in it that were as funny as hell. The movie ran a little bit long, and they had to cut my cameo in half. It’s not my fault really. I had nothing to do with it.”
Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Stan The Man is: Mental Ward Patient
What Happens? Super Swedish scientist Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) is giving a presentation explaining a very-complicated-and-very-important plot point about “convergance” when the camera reveals that he’s talking to a group of unimpressed psychiatric patients busy playing chess or checkers or what have you. “Any questions?” asks Erik, once he’s finished his lecture, still holding the two shoes he’s been using as props.”Can I have my shoe back?” comes Stan’s response.
Wink-Wink Rating: Considering Stan Lee character’s in a facility for the mentally unwell and it says he plays “Himself” in the credits, high.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Stan The Man is: Smithsonian Guard
What Happens? Proving that squeaky-clean Steve Rogers is willing to steal government property should the need arise, Cap’ pops into the Smithsonian to reappropriate his old World War II uniform, something Stan The Man discovers doing his rounds. “I am so fired,” says Lee, staring at a now bare mannequin still holding a natty retro shield.
Wink-Wink Rating: As yet another security guard gig for Lee, this is an old-hat performance – or so you’d think. Speaking to Empire for the Captain America: The Winter Soldier spoiler special podcast, directors Joe and Anthony Russo explained that it required quite a few takes to get the one they needed…
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
Stan The Man is: Graduation Guest
What Happens? Spider-Man swings in to his high school graduation at the last possible minute. Graduation Guest spots him and says “I think I know that guy!” That’s it.
Wink-Wink Rating: Middling if you choose to believe this is actually the librarian form the first Amazing Spider-Man movie, who might conceivably twig that Peter Parker is Spider-Man, considering the library fight and the coincidence factor and… nah, we’re not convinced either.
The Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014)
Stan The Man is: Xandarian Ladies' Man
What Happens? As Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) looks through his binoculars, he takes the mick out of the assorted Xandarians he sees, from tiny child to man with bad hair cut to Stan Lee, busy schmoozing the excelsior out of a glamourous lady. Rocket calls him “Mr. Smiles” and a “Class A prevert”, whatever that means. Something bad, probably.
Wink-Wink Rating: Look at those seemingly signature Stan Lee specs! They’re actually space specs, with what looks like a tiny egg whisk and miniature hoe on one corner of the frames. Curiously, Lee and his high-tech eye enhancers shouldn’t be in the film, as he didn’t actually create the Guardians Of The Galaxy (you can thank Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning for this modern line-up, and Arnold Drake and Gene Colan for the 1969 team).
Big Hero 6 (2014)
Stan The Man is: Fred’s Dad
What Happens? Seen earlier on a painting in Fred’s hallway, Stan Lee himself – in animated Disney form – turns up in a credit sting for the superhero-filled kids’ movie, itself based on a relatively unknown Marvel property. It turns out while Fred has been wearing his Fredzilla suit, saving people and breathing fire, Fred’s Dad has been doing likewise, in secret, and also shares his son’s weird obsession with wearing the same pants over and over and over in different ways.
Wink-Wink Rating: It’s a Stan Lee, who is another character’s super-rich dad, who is also a superhero, who is also obsessed with pants, who is animated. What more do you want?
Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2014)
Stan The Man is: Concerned Train Passenger
What Happens? It's episode 13 of the first season of Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. and spry young scientist Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) is indulging in some highly elaborate panto with Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) for some spy-type reasons. They're pretending to be two people having a big barney about prostitutes and time allocation - it's not clear - while Lee is the man who steps up to the plate and tells Coulson off for being a cad and a bounder and all sorts of bad stuff.
Wink-Wink Rating: Limited, but as Lee is flanked by two more glamourous ladies, perhaps this is the same Stan Lee character that Tony Stark mistook for Hugh Hefner in the first Iron Man, only on a train, and in a TV show where Tony Stark would never dare appear.
Agent Carter (2014)
Stan The Man is: Shoe Shine Stand Customer
What Happens? A black-eyed and generally beleaguered Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) sits down to get his shoes shined at a shoe shine stand - say that five times fast - before he's accosted by a fellow shoe shinee in the form of Mister Stan Lee. There's a line about borrowing a newspaper's sports section, but no-one really cares because Stan The Man looks so darn dapper in 1950s garb.
Wink-Wink Rating: Again, minimal. Did we take a good look at his tie? And this on-set photo?
Stan The Man is: Retired Policeman
What Happens? Nothing, essentially. In essense, it's a blink-and-you'll-miss-it easter egg - a framed photo of Stan Lee has been photoshopped to look like he's a policeman who once walked the beat in Hell's Kitchen - but for the purposes of this list, it's a cameo. Kind of.
Wink-Wink Rating: The wink-winkiness - our term - is in its unspottability. The photo is never in focus, and the only way you'd really notice the hidden hat-tip is if someone told you about it and/or you were watching the show for the fourth time. This week.
P.S. Kevin Smith recently directed an advert that explains how Stan Lee is so good at "cameo acting". Learning from his wise words are Tara Reid, Michael Rooker, Jason Mewes and Lou Ferrigno, because that's just how Kevin Smith rolls (in his new Audi, no doubt)