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The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) based movies are one of the largest science fiction franchises of all time. Marvel refers to Marvel Comics, a hugely influential comic book company and originator of some of the most iconic superhero characters of all time. Marvel Studios is the production company which grew from the original comic book business. Their movies have made billions and it is in large measure due to one man, Stan Lee. Back in the 1960s Stan ‘The Man’ Lee essentially created the Marvel universe as we know it today. Ever since The Trial of The Incredible Hulk, a 1989 television movie, Stan Lee has been making cameos in the Marvel movies. For my final project, I will be discussing Stan Lee's cameos throughout Marvel Movies and television. Finishing it off by writing my idea for the perfect cameo.
I feel it is of tremendous importance to recognize the creators of these amazing stories. In the early days, freelance comic book writers such as Lee were only paid per page. The comic book companies owned the characters and the stories. One of the few legendary writer-creators still alive today, Stan either created or co-created heros such as Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, The Fantastic Four, DareDevil and many others. In spite of this, Lee only gets paid for his cameos in the movies and not for creating the characters. I find that extremely unfair. Before Stan Lee, Marvel was called Atlas Comics and the only characters they had were Captain America, Namor The Sub-Mariner and The Human Torch. Heck, without Stan, Captain America would have his original triangle shield and not his iconic round one. I feel that Stan, now in his 94th year, deserves so much more. In the very least his cameos need to pay him homage to the highest degree.
At first, Stan Lee’s cameos were very short and easy to miss if you didn't know what to look-for. In today's Marvel movies, Stan's cameos are front and center. In 2007’s much-maligned Spider-Man 3 movie, Stan has a great moment where he talks to his most famous character, Peter Parker, AKA Spider-Man. In the scene, Peter Parker is reading a billboard about news of Spider-Man saving people from a burning building. As Peter is enjoying the secret glory of being Spider-Man, Stan Lee walks up next to him and said: "you know I guess one person can make a difference, ‘nuff said.” This is the first cameo where Stan talks to his character in a movie. To the die-hard comic book fan, the ‘nuff said’ reference is a tribute to them, as it’s one of Stan's many famous catchphrases. Later, in 2015’s Avengers: Age Of Ultron, Stan Lee gets to say his most famous motto of all time: "Excelsior!". When I first saw it in the theater, everyone laughed at that scene, although that might be due to it being the first showing filled with die-hard comic fans. It's just to say that the non-die-hard comic fans, accompanying a die-hard fan, have come to recognize Stan Lee on their own. Fans have even shown interest in wanting Stan Lee to have a full role in the movies and television, but that’s another topic for another day.
Spider-Man is making his MCU debut in the soon-to-be released Captain America: Civil War, followed by a solo Spider-Man movie in the MCU. As someone who looks forward every time to Stan’s cameos, I see this as the perfect opportunity for the best cameo of all time. Spider-Man is one of the top three most recognizable superheroes of all time. Stan Lee is widely recognized known as the co-creator of Spider-Man. While Stan did come up with the idea of Spider-Man, many are not aware of the first Spider-Man artist, Steve Ditko. Ditko, unlike Stan, avoids the fame and spotlight. Stan Lee has been traveling all around the world going to ComicCons to meet fans and he makes a living just by selling autographs at conventions. Steve Ditko is the only comic book legend alive today who comes close to comparing to Stan Lee. The reclusive Ditko could easily have the same quality of life and recognition as Stan, cameoing in movies and selling signatures. Stan Lee has been signing comics for decades and despite that, an authenticated signed comic sells for a starting price of $200, no matter the comic. Steve Ditko has rarely signed anything and none of the signatures are authenticated. In my opinion, if one Steve Ditko authenticated signed comic came on the market it would sell for at least $1K regardless of the comic. I contend that, should Steve Ditko come out of hiding, comic book fans would lose their minds. I find it mind boggling that the only reference to Steve Ditko in the movies is in the credits. At the end of the day if Steve Ditko wanted to be in the movies all he has to do is call up Stan Lee and tag along with him on his next cameo. To the dismay of all comic book fans, there was a falling-out between Lee and Ditko that endures to this day.
Now let’s get to the cameo. As I’ve previously written, Spider-Man is coming to the MCU. So why not use this for the best Stan Lee cameo of all time? The perfect cameo would fit in any Marvel movie with Spider-Man in it.
Picture this: The movie is almost over and just before credits roll, the screen starts to fade to black. Then, just as people get up from their seats we’re back in the movie. In a convenience store a newspaper is placed on the counter showing a headline about Spider-Man saving people. The customer buying the newspaper is revealed to be Stan Lee. Stan looks at the clerk behind the counter, who, it turns out is John Romita—the artist who drew Spider-Man after Ditko’s departure. Stan says to Romita “you know there’s something about great power, it brings great responsibility” (another famous catch phrase). Romita replies “Nuff said.” Stan pays for the newspaper and walks out of the store. He reads the paper as he crosses the street. Stan doesn’t see the big truck about to hit him. At the last second, Spider-Man swings down and picks him up. Stan looks at Spider-Man, and his phone starts to ring playing the classic Spider-Man theme song from the 60s show. Stan looks at his phone and it says ‘Ditko’ on the screen. Stan answers his phone saying “Steve! I gotta call you back.” Stan puts his phone away as Spider-Man asks him “Are you ok sir?” Stan replies “This is amazing!”. The camera zooms out as the pictures freezes on an Amazing Fantasy #15 (first appearance of Spider-Man) cover pose. Then the fans sit through all of the credits stunned by the awesomeness of that scene.
R.I.P Steve Ditko