When Stan Lee died Nov. 12 at age 95, plenty of folks fondly remembered the Marvel Comics legend and his sly cameos in Marvel movies. (Lee as a FedEx deliveryman hollering for "Tony STANK" might forever be my favorite.)
Soon, talk turned to what remaining Lee cameos moviegoers would get to see in future films. (Here are some to watch for.)
Marvel hasn't said anything about this. It's all fan chatter. But just in case it rises any further, let's be clear: that idea is as terrible as swiping a parking place from the Hulk.
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One Reddit contributor started the idea nicely, suggesting Deadpool, the mouthy Mercenary played by Ryan Reynolds, show up in Lee's stead. And another fan twisted the idea, saying Deadpool should wear Lee's iconic sunglasses, along with a gray wig and mustache. To steal a line from Deadpool himself: "You're clowning. You're not clowning? I sense clowns." And to steal another line the famously foul-mouthed character probably said at some point, "No @#!%!^# way."
It's a fun idea, but it's a fun idea for maybe an editorial cartoon, to go along with the one showing Lee reaching St. Peter at the Gates of Heaven using Spider-Man's webbing, or of the costumed superheroes all standing around Lee's casket.
Lee's cameos, just as Alfred Hitchcock's before him, were tiny moments in a complex cinematic universe. While rewatching them this week, I was surprised by how short some of them were. Some, like Tony Stank's delivery, were a little longer, but sometimes he literally was just a face in the crowd, a background character who rewarded fans' careful eyes.
Having Deadpool show up in a Stan Lee getup would yank viewers out of the film's carefully crafted universe. Deadpool in a wig could never be just a guy at the gaming tables or a man on the street. He'd always be a reminder that Lee used to do these cameos, and now he's gone, and here's a gimmicky way to remember him.
Anyone who knew Lee's contribution to the world would likely be briefly saddened, or at least would get a bit nostalgic. Anyone who didn't know would be confused: Why's this mouthy character suddenly showing up in, say Wakanda, standing there in a gray wig and sunglasses?
It's not that such cameos would be intended in bad taste, just that they were a part of Lee, and Lee alone. Not everything can or should be remade and reworked endlessly. With great power comes great responsibility to not go back and screw everything up.
Sometimes, entertainment concepts, whether a character or a storyline or a cameo, should be laid to rest along with those who owned them. From FedEx driver to Larry King lookalike, Lee delivered his cameos with a one-of-a-kind edge that's as irreplaceable as he is. He's the one Marvel actor who can't be recast.
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