Comic-book legend Stan Lee has long made cameo appearances in superhero movies based on characters he either created or helped create, but since his death earlier this winter the few cameos still coming out that he pre-recorded are far more poignant than they may have been intended to be.
At least, that’s certainly the case for Lee’s posthumous cameo in animated Spider-Man spin-off Into the Spider-verse, which the former Marvel boss recorded lines for some time before his death.
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Warning – from hereon out, we’ll be discussing some spoilers from Into the Spider-verse. Though probably not much more than you could have picked up from the post-credits scenes of Venom, if you watched those.
In the scene where Lee appears, newly-spider-powered teen Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) heads to a costume shop called Stan’s Collectibles to pick up a cheap Spider-Man costume, following the sad death of his universe’s original Spider-Man (Chris Pine).
And when he hands over the low-quality outfit, the shop’s owner – an animated version of Lee – has some sage words of wisdom for Miles.
“I’m going to miss him,” Lee tells Miles of the deceased Spidey. “We were friends, you know.”
“Can I return it if it doesn’t fit?” Miles replies, looking askance at the suit.
Miles Morales looks at a rather more professional Spider-Man suit in Into the Spider-Verse (Sony)
“It always fits, eventually,” Lee replies with a twinkle in his eye – though the inspiring thought behind that sentiment is slightly undermined when Miles notices that Stan’s Collectibles has a no-return, no refund policy anyway.
“For sure, we always wanted to honour his legacy, because we felt like this movie was really building on the foundations that he and Steve Ditko built in the 60s, and that welcoming, inclusive message of YOU can be a hero, dear reader. This could be you,” producer and co-writer Chris Miller told RadioTimes.com of the cameo.
“And so we felt like we wanted to give him a special cameo that wasn’t just sort off off to the side, but something that was an emotional moment at a critical point in the plot, that would advance Miles’ story – and also to be funny.
“And obviously it’s taken on another level of poignancy after his passing. But it was meant as a tribute from the beginning.”
“It feels the way we wanted it to feel, which is that you’re grateful to him and Steve Ditko for creating something that has such resonance,” added co-producer Phil Lord.
“And that his kindness is the thing that seems like his superpower.”
“He was always so encouraging and inspiring to us personally, and he was really just delighted to be a part of this thing,” Miller concluded.
“It was a really positive experience, and he will be missed.”
— Christopher Miller (@chrizmillr) December 1, 2018
In a way, having Stan Lee hand over a costume to the next generation of Spider-Man would be more than enough of a tribute – but the film also slips a thank you to him in during the credits, where a card appears with a quote and a drawing of Lee’s trademark sunglasses.
“That person who helps others simply because it should or must be done, and because it is the right thing to do, is indeed without a doubt, a real superhero,” the card reads, before adding another postscript that includes Steve Ditko, the comic-book artist who co-created Spidey with Lee and also died earlier this year.
The message reads: “Thanks to Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, for showing us we’re not the only ones.”
Hold on a sec – we’ve just got something in our eyes….
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is in UK cinemas now