Stan Lee’s ‘Endgame’ Cameo Is A Full-Circle Moment For The Influential Creator
We wouldn't have the Marvel Cinematic Universe without the vision and drive of Marvel Comics creator Stan Lee. Now that so many of the comics, characters, and stories he helped create have been made into movies, part of the joy of watching them is trying to predict or catch Lee's now-famous cameo appearances. While Stan Lee's died at the age of 95 in November of 2018, he had already shot a few finale cameos for future movies. He made a touching appearance in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. His cameo in Captain Marvel was a callback to his role (as himself) in 1995's Mallrats. Stan Lee also has a pretty fun cameo in Avengers: Endgame, which will reportedly be his last. Major spoilers ahead for Avengers: Endgame.
Stan Lee's Endgame cameo comes during a sequence when Captain America, Iron Man, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Nebula, War Machine, Hulk, Thor, Ant-Man, and Rocket have all traveled back in time to various points in history to obtain the Infinity Stones and use them to undo Thanos' snap. Ant-Man, Cap, and Iron Man head back to the Battle of New York, from the 2012 movie The Avengers to nab the Tesseract, Time Stone, and the Mind Stone contained in Loki's sceptre. Unfortunately for them, their plan doesn't go as predicted, and Loki escapes with the Tesseract, perhaps paving a path for the upcoming Loki television series.
Lacking one of the stones and short on Pym Particles for any further time travel, Cap and Iron Man head to Lehigh Army Base in New Jersey, the same base where Captain America was trained. They travel to 1970, when the base was being used by S.H.I.E.L.D, and when they figured both the Tesseract and Hank Pym were in residence. As the scene approaches the military base, the sounds of the era can be heard in the classic rock playing as hippies protest outside the base. A car drives by and the driver, Stan Lee, wearing a flower power shirt and long hair, yells out, "Hey man, make love not war!"
The cameo is a loving tribute for a number of reasons. First of all, in name, Marvel Comics was developed in the 1960s and grew to prominence in the 1970s, which makes the time period setting an appropriate homage. The appearance is also a callback to Lee's cameo in 2017's Ant-Man and the Wasp. Lee's character is about to get in his car when it's hit by a Pym Particle, shrinking it to a tiny size. He says, "Well, the '60s were fun, but now I'm paying for it." There's a fan theory going around that all of Lee's cameo characters are the same person, which would make this one a fun conclusion to a Lee's reported fun personality and a 30-year stretch of cameos.
Lee has been making cameo appearances in Marvel movies since 1989, when he served as a jury member in The Trial of the Incredible Hulk. Since then, he's made over 50 more appearances, including his most recent in Endgame. Some earlier cameos feature him as just a background extra or observer — he played a hot dog vendor in 2000's X-Men and a heroic bystander in 2002's Spider-Man, for example.
But after a couple of years, the cameos started getting really funny. In 2003's Hulk, Lee plays a security guard espousing wisdom to a younger colleague played by none other than the original Hulk actor Lou Ferrigno. In a couple of films, he even played himself, such as in 2007's Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. In Iron Man and Iron Man 2, Tony Stark first confuses him for Hugh Hefner then Larry King.
There were also more sincere cameos, such as when he told Peter Parker in 2007's Spider-Man 3, "I guess one person really can make a difference." Indeed, Stan Lee truly has made a difference, and his legacy will last for generations to come.