SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains what many will consider a significant spoiler for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. If you have not yet seen the film, please save this page and return after your screening!
The Stan Lee cameo is a special part of every Marvel movie. Everyone always knows that it's coming, and yet it's always delightful to see the co-founder of the comic book company deliver a silly line or play in a funny scene. That being said, his appearance in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is special. Not only does it turn out that Lee is working with The Watchers -- beings who always keep an eye on the multiverse -- but also that every single one of his cameos have him playing the same character, as opposed to different ones each time out. It's a fantastic and funny moment in the blockbuster, but what makes it really fascinating is the implication that it may have worked for all Marvel films, not just those in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
If Stan Lee is playing the same ubiquitous character in every MCU movie, it stands to reason that he is playing that same role whenever he pops up in any of the X-Men films or in Spider-Man, Hulk etc., right? This thought was deeply embedded in my mind after seeing Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and fortunately, I had the opportunity to ask the perfect two people about it: writer/director James Gunn, and Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige. I first talked to Gunn about it during the Guardians 2 on-camera press day, and when I specifically asked about the implication, he was absolutely delighted -- and not only supported the thought, but also took it an extra step further. Said Gunn:
Perhaps! Perhaps! I think people will have to infer from it what they infer, but I'm definitely aware. He's doing some work for The Watchers. And that might apply to our own universe in fact! I saw Stan yesterday [laughs].
Can everyone get on board with the idea that Stan Lee is a unique multiverse being who can travel through all realities, our own included? I'm personally perfectly fine with accepting that notion.
Identifying the Stan Lee cameo as his favorite to date, Kevin Feige was also enthusiastic to talk about the appearance of The Watchers and what their appearance means for entire world of movies based on Marvel comics. The executive/producer dived a bit into the making of the sequence, noting that there was a lot of discussion about which cameo to reference, eventually settling on his part at the end of Captain America: Civil War -- as well as why he particularly loves the idea of Lee as a Watcher-esque being himself. Said Feige:
In terms of interconnectivity and saying the FedEx character, and I think we recorded him saying other things too, didn't we? He listed a bunch of his cameos -- he only listed the MCU cameos. But I think the notion is that Stan, which I think he is in real life, is an ethereal creative being that is everywhere and nowhere all at the same time. I remember his head used to pop up in comics and in the animation. So we loved, loved, loved -- this is my favorite Stan cameo -- to be able to say and to acknowledge he exists. He's one of those who sit above.
Kevin Feige also pointed out in our interview how Marvel managed to use The Watchers without incident where character rights are concerned. As it turns out, their contract situation isn't exactly black and white with 20th Century Fox. Uatu -- the original Watcher introduced in Marvel Comics -- belongs to Fox, as he specifically is seen as part of the Fantastic Four canon. However, Marvel Studios still has the capacity to use Watcher characters who specifically aren't Uatu. For comparison, the situation is very similar to the one with the alien species the Skrulls: Marvel can use the race in their movies, but the Super Skrull is off limits.
You can watch James Gunn laugh and talk about Stan Lee's wonderful cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 in the video below:
The idea of Stan Lee being a Watcher or Watcher-aligned character is one that has been floating around the internet for years now, and -- in our opinion - James Gunn and Marvel Studios did a really wonderful job of addressing it with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. What did you think of the Stan Lee cameo? What do you think it means for all of the cameos that Lee has been doing over the years? Hit the comments section below with your thoughts!