The Grand Unified Theory of Stan Lee's Marvel Cameos
Whether made by Disney, Fox or Sony, a Stan Lee cameo in a Marvel movie is pretty much a given (although yes, super-nerds, there are some exceptions, including the Blade trilogy and a handful of X-Men movies).
The now-94-year-old has popped up as a librarian, a postman, a security guard, a war veteran, and many other more generic witnesses to superheroics in films based on his classic comics. We always assumed that it was just a simple joke to slip the man who helped create 95% of Marvel's most famous creations into these films, and the cameos had no more connectivity than that.
But Lee's latest appearance in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 offers a hint at a deeper explanation to his multiple appearances. He appears in Guardians 2 as a spaceman in a lunar landscape speaking to a group of large, bald-headed aliens in blue robes. Those are the Watchers, a race of powerful beings sworn to observe and never interfere (except when they decide to interfere).
Lee can be heard talking about "that time" when he was a delivery man—referring to his cameo in Captain America: Civil War. That implies that he is, at least on some level, aware of all his different appearances in the MCU and beyond.
Just as Lee used to occasionally write himself into his own comics, he has also been written into the films based on those comics, taking on thin disguises as he observes his creations from inside the movies, but essentially playing Stan Lee rather than a different character in each film.
That would also explain how he can interact with the Watchers, who also exist on a higher reality and are invisible to the characters around them unless they will it. It's a bit trite to suggest that this means that Stan Lee is "god" of the MCU in some sort of Biblical, all-powerful sense—writers will often tell you that they only have limited control over their creations. But his cameos, rather than just being a recurring joke, do acknowledge him as a sort of meta-god, popping his head down to observe his creations from up close. So next time you watch Lee's next surprise cameo, keep an eye on him—he might just be winking back at you. Excelsior!
This story originally appeared on Digital Spy.
* Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.