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Marvel Comics and MCU fans were shocked last month when we all learned that Stan Lee, the face of Marvel, had passed away at 95. The tributes have been coming in from all corners since then, but the real question many of us had was how the actual Marvel movies would handle the fact that Lee was no longer with us. While Once Upon a Deadpool is something of an anomaly movie-wise, it is the first Marvel movie to hit the screen since Lee left us. This makes it extra special that the movie takes a moment to honor Lee after the credits of the new movie.
Stan Lee doesn't cameo in person in Deadpool 2, one of the few Marvel movies where that's the case. There were apparently some scenes shot for the new PG-13 rated version of the film, but rather than seeing them inserted in the film, Complex reports that they're included as part of a post-credits sequence of Once Upon a Deadpool. Beyond simply showing the scenes, however, the post-credits bit also includes interview footage of Stan Lee reflecting on his own legacy. That legacy is now being considered by a lot of people, making it a perfect addition to the conversation to know what Stan Lee thought himself.
For the record, he didn't really care. Stan took a pretty pragmatic view of the topic, realizing that once he was gone, it didn't really matter what other people thought.
It is somewhat humorous that Once Upon a Deadpool, the Marvel property that takes itself the least seriously, becomes the first movie to pay a serious tribute to Stan Lee. However, the filmmakers clearly felt that doing so was necessary under the circumstances. Stan Lee probably would have loved the irony.
Stan Lee has a brief cameo of sorts in Ralph Breaks the Internet where Sarah Silverman's Vannellpe Von Schweetz runs past him during the Disney infused sequence of the film. The audience in my theater let out an audible sigh seeing his digital avatar. We can expect similar things to happen over the next few months as the final Stan Lee cameos appear in movies like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Avengers: Endgame.
Of course, while Stan Lee might not have cared about his legacy, there's no argument that he left an indelible one. Lee was instrumental in creating numerous comic book superheroes who have gone on to become pop culture icons. Lee crafted an image of himself which became larger than life and almost a character in its own right. Stan Lee the comic pioneer and Stanley Martin Leiber the man were barely the same person. It was fitting that the former ended up in the movies about the characters he created.
The characters that Stan Lee helped create will live beyond him. At this point, it's difficult to imagine that names like Spider-Man, Iron Man, or The Incredible Hulk will ever not be part of the popular imagination. Fans owe him a lot and Once Upon a Deadpool shows that those making the films won't forget it.