Stan Lee is something of a mythic figure within comic book spheres. The 93-year-old writer and former Marvel president penned hundreds of comic books and strips for the most beloved characters on the Marvel slate, from The Amazing Spider-Man to Captain America and The X-Men. But since Marvel Studios has begun adapting those stories into a massively successful film franchise, Stan Lee has taken on a new, more obscure role — he's appeared incognito in the most unlikely places. Iron Man 2, Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., The Avengers, The Amazing Spider-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man: Lee has racked up nearly as many acting credits as writing credits on his IMDb page. The most recent, a Stan Lee cameo in Deadpool , finds the legendary scribe in perhaps his most unexpected role yet.
In the new movie, Lee plays a DJ at a strip club. When he first appears in the film, he's perched on a balcony surveying the strip club below. (As is his usual modus operandi, the cameo is an unremarkable role — brief and trivial — but it's endowed with far more meaning because it's the godfather of Marvel, after all.) He pulls his headphones off of his ears to call out to the strippers below him ("You can't buy love, but you can rent it for three minutes"), and that's pretty much it. It's barely enough time to process the thought, Oh, that's Stan Lee — but fortunately, it's far from his only cameo. These 11 cameos, focusing on films in which Lee doesn't appear as himself (there are plenty of those, too), are some of the most entertaining Lee appearances in recent film history, because he's as much a fixture of the Marvel Studios franchises as the Avengers themselves.
1. X-Men (2000)
Lee plays a hot-dog vendor on a beach just following the opening credits. That's him, there — the old, perplexed-looking guy in the red apron.
2. Fantastic Four (2005)
The fabled Marvel writer makes a brief appearance as a mail man named Willie Lumpkin in 2005's Fantastic Four. (He didn't appear in the most recent Fantastic Four — he's grown increasingly detached from the FOX comic adaptations, and hasn't appeared in as many X-Men spin-offs as Avengers films.)
3. X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
When Jean Grey demonstrates her phenomenal powers, Lee is caught in his back yard, watering his lawn, when the water begins to mysteriously move upwards, against the pull of gravity.
4. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Lee opens his refrigerator, pulls out a bottle of green, Mountain Dew-looking liquid — a bottle of soda poisoned by the blood of Bruce Banner, alias Hulk — takes a swig, and immediately falls ill in this uncredited Incredible Hulk cameo.
5. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
When Captain America fails to show up to receive his Medal of Valor in the first Captain America film, Lee plays an Army general sitting in the audience, shaking his head and whispering in dismay.
6. The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
Audiences everywhere probably wondered, Where can I get a pair of those headphones? when Lee made his appearance on screen in the first Andrew Garfield Spider-Man movie. He plays a high school librarian (perplexingly, since he plays a different role entirely in the film's sequel — but cameos were never planned for their plot consistency) who bustles about tidying the books as Peter Parker fends off a beast in the background.
7. Iron Man 3 (2013)
Lee plays an over-excited pageant judge, holding up a hastily scribbled "10" for one of the contestants, in the third Iron Man — and in his third appearance in the franchise. (He plays himself in the first two.)
8. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
"Oh, man," Lee's character, a Smithsonian Museum guard, sighs. "I'm so fired." Chris Evans, the titular Captain America, has just stolen his superhero costume from the museum. But the joke is on Lee, since he goes on to be hired time and time again for subsequent cameos.
9. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
A guest at Peter Parker's graduation ceremony in the Andrew Garfield adaptation of the franchise, Lee sits in the audience as Parker swoops in at the last moment to collect his diploma.
10. Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014)
Rocket, the mouthy racoon voiced by Bradley Cooper, spots Stan Lee playing what IMDb calls "Xandarian Ladies' Man" and The Verge called "something of a Hugh Hefner-like character." It turns out, Lee had initially been written into the script as one of the exhibits in the Collector's museum, trapped in a cage and flipping off Groot. The creative team decided this would be too much of an in-joke and rewrote Lee's appearance to something that mirrored his roles in Iron Man and Iron Man 3.
11. Ant-Man (2015)
15 years after that X-Men cameo, Lee is back in the service biz with a cameo as a bartender in last year's Ant-Man. As in Deadpool, it's hardly a flash on the screen, but he's there.
According to Bleeding Cool, Lee hasn't appeared in every single comic adaptation in the Fox and Marvel Studios program in part due to lack of space. And though his roles tend to occupy approximately 0.005 nanoseconds of screen time, they're a fun scavenger hunt for fans of his work, and of the movies they've spawned — a strategy also used by directors like Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, and Wes Craven, who are as much a part of the tapestry of their films as any of the actors they cast.
Image: 20th Century Fox