On its final night at my local cinema, a few friends and I finally got round to seeing “Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse” the other day; whilst I’d love to write a gigantic review, I’m the last person who actually saw it, so my opinion at this point isn’t important. Shame, but that’s what I get for not seeing it on opening night.
…But two moments of the movie had me welling up: firstly was Stan’s actual cameo, which combined both a moment of humour with the kind of reassuring words I remember stan by. “Can I return the costume if it doesn’t fit?” Miles asks him while buying a replica Spider-Man mask. With a laugh, Stan responds “The costume always fits, eventually”, before pointing at a sign that says “NO REFUNDS”.
The second came at the end, as a pair of red-tinted aviator sunglasses sits peacefully below the message “That person who helps others simply because it should or must be done, and because it is the right thing to do, is indeed without a doubt, a real superhero”. An equally poignant message.
…And there I sat, a man of 21 years, quietly sobbing at the memory of a man I never met. Feels bad, man.
The world is poorer for Stan’s passing. That’s an obvious statement – But I think we can all agree that Stan Lee’s cameos in Marvel Movies were a high point that gave them all a lovely connective tissue and paid homage to one of the men that built the pop culture we live in. So, what’s to do when the man himself isn’t around anymore?
There have been those that have recommended that Stan Lee’s cameos should be scrapped in favour of Deadpool Cameos, or Kevin Feige cameos. I say these are both great ideas at first, but don’t really hold the same meaning: ‘Deadpool’ would be a fine addition at first, but I can’t help but feel that while having him in for 4 seconds of a ‘Spider-Man’ or ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ movie would be a nice gag (At least at first: people would, eventually, tire of him); he’d be exceedingly jarring in a future movie in the vein of ‘Winter Soldier’ or ‘Black Widow’.
Feige cameos are a better idea, for sure – He’s the godfather of the MCU, quietly pulling strings since the early days and caring for everyone’s favorite cinematic universe with a gentle hand; without a doubt, Feige is the unsung hero of Marvel’s place in 2019 pop culture. He wouldn’t be as recognizable to the general public (At least, not at first), but then he doesn’t have to be – His theoretical cameos would be less about a quick gag and more about a nice nod to the man behind it all, much like some of Stan’s more mellow appearances.
But neither of these outright replace Stan. Stan deserves to be remembered in these movies. But, so do Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby, and the others who helped to build Marvel early on… And macabre as it may seem, they now have an equally zero ability to appear in them.
So it’s clear that now is the time for Marvel to remember a wider range of numbers – One of my favourite small details in ‘Spiderverse’ was the fact that Miles has ‘B Bendis’ saved as a contact in his phone, an obvious nod to Brian Michael Bendis, the writer of Miles’ first comic appearance in ‘Ultimate Spider-man’ in 2011 – It’s through these little nods that the titans of Marvel’s past can pay homage to Stan Lee. And Jack Kirby. And Steve Ditko. A name on a plaque, a contact in a phone, a bust on a desk. While they themselves may be unable to leap through the window and break into a musical number, their names still hold meaning and resonance and deserve to stay. While the next few movies will pay direct homage to Stan Lee in their cameos and their credits, much like ‘Spiderverse’, it is clear that there are names that deserve to stay put in the consciousness of this medium.
…And if one kid in 15 year’s time wonders “Who’s Stan Lee” and looks it up, and finds out about the life of this glorious man… Then it’ll be worth it.
Stan Lee earned the right to never be forgotten.