Now that Avengers: Endgame has arrived, a new era of Marvel films has begun, and the MCU as we know it is forever changed. For the first time in 20 years, the X-Men, Fantastic Four, and Deadpool are theoretically available to meet the rest of the on-screen Marvel characters thanks to the Disney-Fox merger. And of course, things are different, and always will be, now that Stan the Man is no longer here to cameo in Marvel movies.

Spoilers ahead forEndgame. If you haven’t seen it yet, STOP READING.

Those who saw Endgame know that Stan’s cameo featured him sporting a mean set of sideburns and driving a muscle car back in the 1970s. This appearance, which was digitally altered, was especially meaningful because it showed Stan as the carefree and life-loving guy we all knew him to be. The Russo brothers treated this role with great care; they knew how much it would mean to fans since it turned out to be the last Stan cameo filmed for a Marvel movie.

Stan Lee seated in character for his cameo in Avengers: Endgame surrounded by the Russo Brothers and other crew members.

Joe Russo commented on the scene, saying:

“It’s sort of the hippie era, and Stan’s cameoing as a hippie and it’s the free-love era. He’s saying, ‘Make love, not war!’”

The sequence was also worked out well before Stan’s passing; it turns out that making him into a hippy was always the plan. Russo continued:

“It seemed like fun when we originally had the idea, before Stan passed. Oh, what did Stan look like in the ’70s?”

Stan Lee in the 1970s feigning surprise at a person dressed as Spider-Man next to him.
For reference, this is really what Stan looked like in the early 1970s.

We all know the world of Marvel movies is far from over. So, how do filmmakers plan to go on without the King of Cameos himself? Well, Stan’s presence will certainly be felt, at least in X-Men: Dark Phoenix, the next Marvel film to hit screens next month.

Given the fact that this movie’s release date was delayed, Stan was still with us when the film was produced. There had been speculation regarding a possible Stan cameo in Dark Phoenix for some time, but director and executive producer Simon Kinberg set the record straight:

“We don’t have a cameo. I’d rather say that than then keep it mysterious, out of respect for Stan. We do have some tribute to him, and it’s something that obviously we weren’t thinking about when we were making the movie because he was still very much alive. And he’s been such a huge part of making these films over the years. He’s had cameos; he’s had input into the process of making them.”

It’s true, as Marvel fans know, that Stan had plenty of cameos in the X-Men series since it first hit theaters 19 years ago, from the hot dog vendor in the first X-Men to Jean Grey’s confused neighbor in The Last Stand all the way to his final X-Men cameo in 2016’s Apocalypse, which also featured his wife Joan.

Stan Lee holding his wife Joan Lee in their cameo in the 2016 film X-Men: Apocalypse.

Kinberg also spoke about the Apocalypse cameo, since it was Stan’s last one in an X-Men film (not counting Deadpool):

“We went to his house for his cameo in Apocalypse, with him and his wife – which was a really special one because it was with his wife. They were so close, and they were together for, I mean, I think most of their adult lives.”

A tribute isn’t the same as a cameo, but as the many Marvel on-screen adaptations move forward, honoring the man who started it all is a great way to celebrate his memory and to continue his legacy. We’re all looking forward to seeing Fox’s homage to Stan in Dark Phoenix next month.