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When you consider the high level of attention paid to continuity that exists in modern comic book movie franchises, the ubiquitous presence of Marvel co-founder Stan Lee produces an interesting puzzle. It’s weird enough that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has presented him as a World War II general, "Larry King," a poison-soda drinker, a Xandarian Ladies' Man, and more - but it’s even more bizarre when you factor in his appearances alongside the X-Men, different versions of Spider-Man, and other superheroes as well (imagining, naturally, that he is always the same guy). Of course, we all know that the cameos are really meant as tribute to the man who did his part to create some of the greatest fictional characters in history, but what if the legendary writer has been playing a secret role this entire time?
In case you couldn’t already tell, it’s fan speculation time, and here is the big question: what if the Marvel movie version of Stan Lee is actually Uatu, best known to fans as The Watcher?
This is a theory that has been floating around for a few years now, but it’s an interesting one worth exploring. For those unfamiliar with The Watcher, he was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in the early 1960s, and is one of the oldest beings in the Marvel Universe. He is part of a race that – as the name implies – observes the universe and records everything that happens, and he is specifically assigned to watch over the events of Earth (though he doesn’t meddle in its affairs).
So how does Stan Lee fit into this? Obviously he doesn’t have the stature or the big bald head of his comic book "counterpart," but perhaps "Stan Lee" is a human disguise he wears so that he can get closer to the action without standing out. This would explain why he tends to be around when all kinds of superhero stuff is going down on the Earth’s surface (and he may have been in space in Guardians of the Galaxy because he’s keeping an eye on Peter Quill, an Earthling, and already knew about his important future role in the universe).
The really fun aspect of this theory, however, is what it could mean in establishing a larger multiverse that really connects all of the Marvel franchises out there (or at least the ones that Stan Lee has appeared in. The X-Men movies and the Amazing Spider-Man movies and the Fantastic Four movies and all the rest may exist within their own specific dimensions, which explains why there hasn’t been any crossover (and reboots may just be set in other parallel worlds). Basically, this theory keeps alive the idea that someday we might see Marvel Studios, 20th Century Fox and Sony work together to create a 100% complete Marvel Cinematic Universe. We don’t necessarily think it will ever happen, but it’s nice to think that it could, right?