To note the recent first anniversary of Stan Lee’s passing, it’s worth taking a little time to reanalyze all of the cameo appearances he made in the MCU movies over the years. His practice of doing this, of course, was a nod to Alfred Hitchcock who always made subtle and hilarious cameos in every one of his films.
In the case of Lee, his cameos didn’t always mean just a silent walk-on for a few seconds. His appearances usually had dialogue, if always being the subject of rumors about being the same character showing up in every Marvel movie.
Many fans think there was a lot more design to those appearances beyond mere ironic fun. On Reddit (as usual), some think Lee’s final cameo in Avengers: Endgame should have been a reveal of portraying a pivotal Avenger as an old man.
Was Stan Lee playing the same character all along?
A couple of theories have been around for a while that Lee was playing one character all along who pops in to observe the chaotic events of the MCU. While Lee made cameos in Marvel movies going back to a 1989 TV movie sequel of The Incredible Hulk, most fans count the MCU cameos as the most intriguing.
The first theory is he was playing one unknown man who happened to be a mail carrier and a FedEx delivery man in two Avengers films. A reference to this comes from a surreal cameo of Lee in a spacesuit during Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. During this scene, Lee is seen conversing casually with alien beings, otherwise known as The Watchers.
Any Marvel comic book fan will know The Watchers were one of the earliest characters Lee helped create (with Jack Kirby) while essentially made to be all-powerful beings. These aliens are even said to create our universe and world as we know it, despite not being talked about often.
During the above dialogue, Lee notes he worked as a mail deliverer, giving everyone past connective strings to an unnamed man who keeps popping up into the action. Or, perhaps Lee is one of The Watchers himself who seems to have enough power to interact through every story. So much for the creator inserting himself into his own works.
The theory of Stan Lee being old Steve Rogers observing events
There was even a theory going around for a while Lee’s cameos were an old Steve Rogers who apparently co-exists in the timeline of the Avengers thanks to the time travel element in Avengers: Endgame. Some think this has some legs, yet it was changed at the last-minute in Endgame because of Lee’s death.
Let’s all agree Lee doesn’t resemble old Steve Rogers, or at least how we saw him at the end of Avengers: Endgame with Chris Evans in old man makeup. Nevertheless, it’s a fun theory to throw around since there’s every reason to believe there is an old Steve Rogers co-existing within the action of every Avengers film starting in 2008.
If this theory kind of faded out in the fan consciousness, Reddit users thought Marvel should have revealed Lee as old Scott Lang, aka Ant-Man.
Was Stan Lee really elderly Scott Lang all along?
A recent Reddit user started a thread asking what fans would have changed about Avengers: Endgame had they been in control at Marvel. One user piped in and said they would have changed Stan Lee’s cameo to reveal himself as old Scott Lang who also came back through time-travel.
Since Scott was the one who came up with the idea to do time-travel using quantum physics, some think it makes sense he created a double version of himself interacting in the Avengers universe.
All of these theories continue to have their own holes. What still makes the MCU movies so fun to watch is how much of an open book Lee’s cameos were in who he might be. They’ll likely be analyzed for years to come, something he no doubt planned long in advance.
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