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Who knew that a nonagenarian could be cool?
Apparently, Marvel did when Stan Lee first started an incredible string of cameo appearances in a range of Marvel television shows and movies, beginning with 2008's Iron Man. Now, kids and adults alike can't imagine a Marvel movie without him, though it's widely believed that Lee's final cameo will be in the as-yet publicly untitled Avengers 4.
Certainly, Lee is held up to legendary status, and with good reason, given how enduringly popular anything Marvel seems to be. Getting his start with Timely Comics—the company that would ultimately evolve into Marvel—as an assistant at around 17-years-old, Lee eventually became as synonymous with Marvel as the Big Mac is to McDonalds. It was the Fantastic Four and not the Avengers that became the first big team of superheroes at Marvel as Marvel's response to DC's creation of the Justice League.
Lee's cameo appearances, though, seem to date back to 1989, with The Trial of the Incredible Hulk. In it, he plays a juror who seems to be just shaking his head at the proceedings. Of course this predates when a lot of Lee's young fans would have even been around, and so his earlier cameos may be more familiar to 40-somethings.
It was Lee's 2008 turn as a dapper, Hugh Hefner-styled playboy that solidified his enduring presence in the Marvel universe well into the 21st century. To say that Lee's chipper sincerity was a hit with fans is an understatement; people began to look forward to Lee's cameos with every new Marvel flick, and with good reason.
His appearances weren't just limited to the cinematic or television universes, either. He made appearances as playable versions of himself in several Lego video games, and these were frequently as appealing as when he would appear in the movies. Here he was, in his 80s, cruising from television, to movies, and to video games, and for all intents and purposes, seeming to have the time of his life.
After all, he was living the dream held by almost every kid who grew up dreaming of their comic book superheroes. Sure, he either created or co-created many of these superheroes, but that does not make his experiences in these films, television series, and video games any less cool. These appearances cemented Lee's popularity for the grandchildren who are old enough now to appreciate the comic book characters he first created back in the 1960s that were now on screens everywhere.
Zoe Saldana, perhaps better known to today's audiences as Gamora and Uhura in the rebooted Star Trek universe, tweeted:
"We lost one of the greats. @TheRealStanLee, you were a inspiration and superhero to us all. Thank you for contributing so much- and giving us all something to aspire to! 💚"
Captain America himself, Chris Evans, also tweeted:
"There will never be another Stan Lee. For decades he provided both young and old with adventure, escape, comfort, confidence, inspiration, strength, friendship and joy. He exuded love and kindness and will leave an indelible mark on so, so, so many lives. Excelsior!!"
Robert Downey Jr. recognized the indelible mark that Lee left in his life, and so many others, with a simple Instagram post that said, "I owe it all to you..."
It's clear that Stan Lee will never be forgotten, by this generation or any other that follows. Whether it's through his comics or through his appearances in the MCU—or the movies themselves—Stan Lee has left an unquestionable void in the comic book universe. He cannot and will not be forgotten, regardless of any snap that Thanos might make.