Yes, Laser Time is seriously judging Stan Lee’s acting talent, and the results may surprise you…
Stan Lee is one of the most important people in comic book history, and he’ll likely be the first to tell you that should you meet him. Stan began working on comics back in his teens, writing Captain America stories while Hitler was still alive. Born Stanley Leiber, he’d go on to be Editor-in-Chief/head cheerleader of Marvel Comics in the 1960s, when the publisher’s Silver Age characters changed super comics forever. After all that work, the last 40 or so years saw Stan The Man transition into the role of the living cartoon character we know today. The demanding writer who argued over scripts with legends like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko became every comic nerd’s lovable grandpa, which led him to his true calling: Cameos!
Kevin Smith was an early lover of casting Stan for bits that demand the kind of low impact acting Stan is capable of. When the age of Marvel films began, Stan Lee’s random appearances expanded like they’d been struck with gamma radiation. While billed as a producer on most Marvel film, Stan’s to date has appeared in 23 different cameos – likely to be 25 once Ant-Man and Fantastic Four come to theaters this summer. Originally Lee’s appearances were momentary shots for fanboys to find while pressing pause. The tributes have now grown into full fan service scenes that you wait in the theater to see. One friendly videographer put all but the two most recent cameos into one supercut, of you want to familiarize yourself with them.
But one question remains: What are the best and worst cameos? Which scenes take advantage of Stan in the merry Marvel manner, and which waste the man’s few precious minutes left on Earth? As Laser Time’s resident comic expert and host of Cape Crisis, I’m rip-roaring ready for the responsibility of ranking and reacting to these rambunctiuos performances. (Whew… It’s not easy to be as alliterative as Stan Lee.) Let’s start from the bottom and work our way up…
23. Spider-Man 3
Of course one of the worst Marvel films has Stan Lee’s worst ever cameo. The creators front load it into Spider-Man 3, springing Stan on unsuspecting audiences mere minutes into the sloppy sequel. Not only that, but Stan just spouts off one of his famous slogans then walks away, with Peter Parker not saying a thing to this strange man. This confusing scene is an early red flag for a disappointing film.
This one gets a low ranking because it’s so brief and meaningless. Stan gets approximately 13 frames of film to work his craft, mainly to act like he and a little girl are about to crushed by the Green Goblin. Spider-Man showcases more of Macy Gray singing than it does Parker’s co-creator. Filmmakers really took Lee for granted in those early days.
21. Spider-Man 2
I think Sam Raimi either hated using Stan or had no clue what to do with him. Lee’s second Spider-Man appearance is much like his first: dodging falling super villain detritus in under a second. At least this time he gets to shout “Look out!” and gets to clearly dodge the wreckage.
I mark this one pretty low, even though I think Ang Lee (no relation) made 45% of a good Hulk film. Mainly I rate it poorly because I think Lou Ferrigno might be the only worse cameo actor in Marvel films than Lee. Seeing the two of them together immediately bottoms out my opinion on this brief moment. It happens so close to the start that it feels like Ang Lee wanted the fan service done early, and got both men out of the way fast.