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If you’ve seen Captain Marvel, you know that Stan Lee’s much-anticipated cameo is something different — not only for the way the movie sets the stage for the comics icon this time around, but also because it carries the poignant distinction of being Lee’s first live action cameo appearance since his passing late last year (he already had an animated, posthumous cameo in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse).
And while Lee’s Captain Marvel moment may not quite be the last we’ll see of his cameos, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige says the time’s approaching when there’ll be no more pre-recorded Lee material, meaning the studio will have to decide how to proceed in his much-felt absence.
**Spoiler Alert: There are spoilers ahead for Captain Marvel. If you haven’t seen the movie and want to go in with fresh eyes, turn back now!**
Speaking with Entertainment Tonight, Feige confirmed that Lee definitely won’t be missing from Avengers: Endgame, and hinted that he also could show up at least once more, when Spider-Man: Far From Home slings into theaters this July.
But, he admitted, the supply of footage Lee shot for future cameo appearances is nearing its end. “We'll see,” he said of Lee appearing in Far from Home. “We're heading — We shot a couple of others, so we're coming up on the last of them, yes.”
While Feige hasn’t yet weighed in on how Marvel might keep the tradition going once there’s no more authentic cameo footage to use, Samuel L. Jackson — who’s no stranger to digital manipulation, thanks to Nick Fury’s impressive de-aging trick for Captain Marvel's 1990s throwback look — already has floated the idea that the studio could use CGI to pay homage to Lee in the more distant future. With technology fueling so much of Marvel’s screen magic, anything’s certainly possible.
Lee’s Captain Marvel cameo goes straight for a clever meta-reference, as the movie version of Lee rehearses for his (very real, very 1990s) Mallrats cameo while taking the bus. Feige said the idea was to find humor and optimism in the scene, rather than make an obvious play for audiences’ heart strings — because Lee himself would have wanted it that way.
“I know that, not specifically but in general, a celebration is what Stan always wanted as opposed to any sort of mournful event,” Feige explained. “So, it happened very, very quickly soon after we got the unfortunate news [of Lee’s passing]…We put that together and our visual development department, led by Ryan Meinerding, illustrated all those illustrations of him that you see, before we then go into the clips.”
“The clips” Feige’s referring to come via Captain Marvel’s revamped intro splash. Instead of the usual menagerie of Marvel Comics characters, the movie reframes the Marvel Studios logo at the very start, by replacing Hulk, Thor, Spider-Man and the like with a career-spanning pastiche of photos of Lee himself.
Not only is it an effective emotional tribute right at the movie’s start; it’s also a passing reference to the kind of digital wizardry that, if Marvel chooses, could keep Lee’s image fresh in the MCU — long after his canned cameo footage has all been used. Check out Lee’s latest appearance in theaters everywhere in Captain Marvel now — while we wait to see what Marvel has in store when Endgame arrives on April 26.