James Gunn, the writer and director of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, has confirmed that Stan Lee’s cameo in the sequel was inspired by fan theories.
Stan Lee’s cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was inspired by fan theories. Lee was a familiar presence in adaptations of Marvel Comics, dating back to 1989 when he appeared in The Trial of the Incredible Hulk. His cameos are sometimes slight and mainly humorous, others have carried hidden depths. For example, Lee’s cameo in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse has Lee acting as something of an unexpected guide to Miles Morales.
Halfway through the movie, Lee is seen in space wearing an astronaut’s suit and surrounded by a group of characters known as the Watchers – a powerful alien race who observe and document all events in the universe. Lee’s character shares with them a story about a time he was a postman, a line thought to possibly be a reference to Lee’s role as a delivery man in Captain America: Civil War.
It’s not the first time this particular theory has been discussed by the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s executives. Back in 2017, Marvel chief Kevin Feige spoke favorably about the theory and even seemed to endorse the notion that Lee was in fact the same character in all of his cameos. In his post, Gunn was responding to a comment which seemed to be poking a bit of light fun at investing so heavily in fan speculation. But as the director affirms, the most dedicated viewers can sometimes cook up explanations that prove to be extremely satisfying in a narrative sense. Lee’s cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 connected different movies in canon. But on a much deeper level, it paid tribute to Lee’s long history with Marvel.
The Watchers could even work as a comedic framing device given that the comics have included a faction of Watchers that refer to themselves as The Critics. Not content to merely observe events, The Critics provide wry commentary on what they witness. For now, it’s only confirmed that Uatu the Watcher will narrate the Disney+ animated series What If…?, voiced by Jeffrey Wright. But it’s interesting to think of the possibilities that started with Lee’s cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2