Stan Lee, the man responsible for co-creating all your favorite Marvel superheroes — from Spider-Man to the Fantastic Four — isn't just one of the founding fathers of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, he's also one of the faces that ties it all together. Lee has appeared in pretty much every Marvel adaptation ever, with cameos covering the MCU and beyond. Most of Lee's cameos have just been funny bits, but his Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 cameo hints that his role might be bigger than fans thought, begging the question, is Stan Lee playing a Watcher in the MCU?
Spoilers ahead! The Lee cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 happens mid-way through the film, when Lee appears among a group of Watchers. The scene is quick, but Lee is overheard telling the Watchers about that time he was on Earth posing as a FedEx delivery man. Putting aside the fact that the cameo literally puts Lee in league with other Watchers, his line appears to confirm the long-held fan theory that the icon is, in fact, a Watcher in the MCU universe. Lee, of course, played a FedEx delivery man in his Captain America: Civil War cameo. Thus, his GotG 2 cameo character would appear to be the same man. And, if the Lee from Civil War is the same man as the Lee in GotG 2, then who's to say he hasn't been playing the same character all along?
Watchers, for those unfamiliar, are an alien race in the Marvel cannon who appear to witness important events. They never interfere, they only observe, which would explain why Lee's cameos are never really consequential. If the legend is a watcher, it's widely believed he's Uata, the Watcher tasked with overseeing Earth. While his exact MCU identity has not been confirmed, it looks like Lee just might be a Watcher after all.
That said, it seems that Lee's potential role as a Watcher isn't really intended to move the MCU forward. "Stan Lee clearly exists, you know, above and apart from the reality of all the films," explained Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige at a press conference, via ScreenRant. Feige admitted that he and GotG 2 writer-director James Gunn debated whether or not to leave the line referencing the Civil War cameo before eventually deciding to leave it in the film as a wink to fans. "We thought it would be fun to put that in there because that really says, so wait a minute, he's this same character who's popped up in all these films."
Feige seems perfectly happy to have fans believe that Lee is, indeed, a Watcher, but no doubt more eagle eyed fans will find issue with that theory. In fact, many already have. Contrary to the role of a Watcher, Lee's cameo characters have frequently interfered in the story. In Spider-Man 2, Lee saved a woman from being hit in the head with rubble during a fight. In Thor, he attempts to move Thor's hammer using his truck. These actions, no matter how small, are contrary to the mission of the Watchers. Furthermore, to determine whether or not Lee really is a Watcher one first has to decide whether or not he is playing a Watcher in every single of his Marvel cameos, or just those in the MCU. (Is he still playing the same Watcher character in X-Men: Apocalypse as in Spider-Man and as in The Amazing Spider-Man?)
So, despite GotG 2's possible establishment of Lee as a Watcher, it's not easy to say for sure whether this new characterization will stick. Fans willing to overlook some plot holes will no doubt embrace Lee's potential new role, while others will choose to ignore it. And, after all, isn't that the true Marvel fan way?