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Stan Lee’s Captain Marvel cameo raises a lot of questions

Photo: Frazer Harrison (Getty Images)

Last November, soon after the passing of Stan Lee, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige teased the fact that many of the comic book legend’s upcoming cameos in MCU films were already in the can. Fans got a look at one such cameo this week in Captain Marvel, which not only functioned as a touching send-off for Lee, but also completely changed the game in terms of MCU canon.

(The following contains minor spoilers for Captain Marvel.)

According to Nerdist, Lee’s brief appearance in the film—which takes place in 1995—finds him reading the script for Mallrats, the Kevin Smith comedy from that same year in which Lee has a substantial cameo. This means that, as opposed to playing a hapless museum security guard or FedEx delivery man as he has in previous Marvel films, Stan Lee is meant to be playing himself here. And this is about the point where the universe begins to bend back on itself.

You see, when Stan Lee meets Brodie in Mallrats, he discusses the fact that he created the Hulk and Spider-Man, two characters we know to physically exist in the reality of the MCU. So, what came first? Did Stan Lee think up these super-powered characters only to have them manifest in reality? Or does this imply that Stan Lee is more of journalist in the MCU, taking ideas from the world around him and putting them to paper? Also, how can a movie like Mallrats, which focuses on a group of emotionally stunted, comic book-obsessed suburbanites, exist in a world where there are literal comic book heroes?

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For answers to these mind-boggling questions, we need only look back to Lee’s appearance in Guardians Of The Galaxy, Vol. 2, in which his character references one of his previous cameos. “Stan Lee clearly exists above and apart from the reality of all the films,” Feige said at the time. The thought of Lee continuing on in the MCU as some sort of eternal, intergalactic comic relief is a comforting one. After all, it’s Stan Lee’s world, we’re just playing in it.

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About the author

Dan Neilan

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Have Fun — Will Travel.