On Monday, we lost one of the most prolific artists in American history. Stan Lee, a legend to comic book fans, and later in his century-spanning career, blockbuster moviegoers, produced more in his time as a writer, editor, and publisher than perhaps any creative of his generation.
Born in 1922, Lee co-created Marvel Comics and served as editor-in-chief for a truly unprecedented run, spearheading the small company’s journey from a small publishing house to one of the most dominant forces in American pop-culture. Throughout his many years with the multimedia corporation, he created countless iconic characters with his collaborators such as Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, the X-Men, and many others.
As Lee’s characters began to find box office acclaim at the multiplexes, directors started employing the creator, with his iconic thick frame glasses and white mustache, for winky cameos in their films about Lee’s creations. Though these early 2000s superhero films like Spider-Man and X-Men were not the first times Stan Lee could be seen on film, what started as fun easter eggs soon became a trusted tradition across major Hollywood studios, as audiences clamored to find Lee’s next cameo in every big new comic book film.
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These cameos—from an innocent bystander in Spider-Man to Thor’s alien barber—preserve a lasting memory of Lee, and serve as an homage to the cinematic universe he, himself, created.