'Captain Marvel' Stan Lee Cameo Explained: Kevin Smith Exists in the MCU
Here’s what you need to know if you’re scratching your head after watching the latest cameo.
Despite Stan Lee having died last year, his cameos still live on in Marvel movies. He does indeed appear in Captain Marvel, but the nature of his cameo might confuse a lot of people. Here’s what you need to know if you’re scratching your head after watching the latest cameo.
Spoilers follow for Captain Marvel and whether or not there’s a Stan Lee cameo.
Towards the end of Captain Marvel’s first act, Carol Danvers is hunting down a shapeshifting Skrull on a Los Angeles transit train. She punches an old lady right in the face, and while she’s stalking through the train car, she happens upon a none other than Stan Lee.
Stan Lee, actually playing himself, is sitting in a seat on the train reading the script to the 1995 comedy Mallrats. He’s rehearsing one of his lines from the movie: “Trust me, true believer.”
The scene references one of Stan Lee’s first movie appearances, which was not in a Marvel movie but in Smith’s sophomore effort, Mallrats, a cult classic that followed Smith’s indie breakout Clerks.
In Mallrats, which follows the antics of two slackers spending the day in a suburban New Jersey shopping mall, Stan Lee plays himself, who appears to offer one of the film’s main characters Brodie (Jason Lee) sage advice about love and life. Given that the film was shot and released in the mid-‘90s, it’s a neat throwback that brings Stan Lee and Kevin Smith full circle.
But seriously: Kevin Smith exists in the Marvel Cinematic Universe! The fanboy turned indie director turned podcaster gets a well-earned shout-out (finally) after years of banging the Marvel drum. Smith also notably wrote a handful of Marvel comics, including the first run on Daredevil when the series kicked off its Marvel Knights imprint in the early 2000s.
Smith also managed to pull off the interconnected cinematic universe (a concept inspired by Smith’s love of comics) even before Marvel tried it. Smith’s “View Askewniverse” is a shared continuity in which Smith’s earlier films, such as Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, and Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back, references each other via tiny, minuscule details or in recurring characters and events.
And of course, the line “Believe it” is Smith acknowledging how Stan Lee called Marvel fans “True Believers” for years.
What’s a little bit awkward about this scene are the cuts. First we see the back of a man’s head. We get a close-up on Danvers and then on Lee, and it seems pretty obvious that these were filmed separately. It’s possible Lee’s face might’ve even been digitally inserted, but we can’t say for sure.
Captain Marvel was filmed between January and July 2018. Lee died in November 2018, but the state of his health had been in decline for months. It’s unclear if he actually filmed a full cameo for the movie during Captain Marvel’s production.
Kevin Feige did confirm at the Captain Marvel red carpet that Lee filmed a cameo for at least one other Marvel film as well, but at this point, it seems like Lee might’ve filmed these in front of a green screen many months ago or something similar.
We’ll have to wait and see what happens with Avengers: Endgame, but that film might have the last legitimate Stan Lee cameo ever.
Captain Marvel is now in theaters.
UPDATE: An earlier version of this article didn’t mention Kevin Smith or his film, Mallrats. It was a missed detail that was picked up after senior staff writer Eric Francisco saw the movie and the Easter egg, because he is from New Jersey too. This article now reflects Eric Francisco’s edits.