Stan Lee is the godfather of modern comics, and his death at 95, while extremely sad, is an opportunity to celebrate exactly how much he gave to the world of pop culture. Today, the internet has been inundated with praise for his work, his life, and his immense impact on comics and film. Many fans fondly remembered the cameos that Lee regularly made in Marvel movies over the years, including Marvel’s pre-Disney movies, the new Sony Spider-Man Universe, and of course the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
It’s an Easter egg that never fails to elicit cheers, but it also inspired one of the most powerful moments I’ve ever experienced in a movie theater.
It’s rare to witness the personal effect that an icon like Lee has on people. It’s easy to gauge someone’s celebrity in the comics or entertainment world from the huge gatherings and lines they inspire at San Diego Comic-Con. But witnessing that deep, often intimate impact that a creator like Lee has on people’s lives isn’t all that common. I was fortunate to witness one of those moments first hand earlier this year.
It happened during AMC’s 31-hour Marvel movie marathon, which led to the debut of Avengers: infinity war. Along with my Edge Colleague Megan Farokhmanesh, I decided to sit through the entire marathon on behalf of content. I had attended movie marathons before and expected more of the same: trouble keeping my eyes open at some point, friendly conversations with other fans of the fans, drinking an absurd amount of coffee.
Those things certainly happened, but the highlight of the 31-hour endurance test came from the seemingly uncontrollable reaction of the crowd to Lee’s cameos in each film. Nothing – not Iron Man, not Captain America, not Spider-Man, not Doctor Strange, not the debut of any other hero, could match the voracious appreciation and love that the public had for Lee. No matter how exhausted people were, they all gathered the energy to give Lee his due every time he appeared on screen.
We didn’t know how many more Stan Lee cameos we were going to get.
So just before Infinity war started, something unexpectedly wonderful happened. A fan, dressed in a superhero t-shirt and wearing Thanos’s Infinity Gauntlet, stood before an excited crowd and asked for one thing: silence during Lee’s cameo. It wasn’t that he was tired of everyone’s yelling, yelling, and yelling, but he wanted to take a moment to really hear what Lee had to say.
The request had a sad tone: At the time, Lee was sick and in and out of hospitals, and we didn’t know how many more Stan Lee cameos we were going to receive. The fan just wanted the chance to really experience another quiet cameo from Lee and pay tribute to him with other fans.
The public honored his request. When Lee appeared on screen during Infinity war As a bus driver, no one said anything, everyone was quiet. It was only after Peter Parker escaped the bus that people cheered. There is hardly any way to describe the intoxicating feeling of that moment when I looked around and realized the impact Lee’s work and creations had, not just on the few hundred people in an AMC theater in downtown. Manhattan, but by millions of people. People around the world.
That’s the clearest memory I have right now of Stan Lee and his legacy, but it’s one that left me moved and grateful for all that he created and inspired, including the legion of incredible fans he left behind.