Stan Lee, the iconic face of Marvel Comics who co-created Spider-Man, Avengers, and Hulk, used to be seen in every Marvel movie. From the days of Sony’s Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy to the current Marvel Cinematic Universe, he has had a cameo in nearly every Marvel Comics movie adaptation.
Lee died in 2018, with his last cameos being presented in Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse, Captain Marvel, and Avengers: Endgame. He was given a heartfelt Thank You message and special placement in the Marvel Studios logo for Captain Marvel, the first Marvel Cinematic Universe film after his death.
Since his passing, there hasn’t been much of an attempt to keep placing Lee within Marvel movies. That may change with a new deal inked between Stan Lee Universe (Stan Lee’s brand represented by Genius Brands International and POW! Entertainment) and Marvel Studios. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the deal refers to Marvel Studios and Disney being able to use Stan Lee’s name and likeness for a variety of projects for the next twenty years.
So what does this mean? Well, we could be seeing Stan Lee in more Marvel Studios films and television projects as an animated character or stand-in actor. It remains to be seen, however, if Disney and Marvel Studios intends to go ahead with a digitized version of the character for future developments.
There’s already been some backlash for digitally resurrecting dead actors for the last few Star Wars movies. Rogue One (2016) featured a digitized Peter Cushing as well as a de-aged Carrie Fisher for the role of a younger Princess Leia. Fisher was also digitally inserted into Rise of the Skywalker (2019) as the legendary Star Wars actor had died in 2016, soon after filming The Last Jedi (2018).
But the Stan Lee deal goes further than just movies and television cameos. The deal also means Disney can use the likeness of Stan Lee in their theme parks and for merchandise purchases. There’s a high chance you may be able to buy a Stan Lee plush in a Walt Disney gift shop.
Andy Heyward, chairman and CEO of Genius Brand, spoke about what this broad deal would cover:
“It really ensures that Stan, through digital technology and archival footage and other forms, will live in the most important venue, the Marvel movies, and Disney theme parks.”
Genius Brands was developed by Heyward in July 2020 as a means of trying to manage Lee’s career after his death. There had been a sordid affair between his family and money, leading to legal disputes. The Genius Brand development aimed to control Lee’s likeness and the deal with Marvel Studios confirms he’ll remain a part of the franchise he helped create.
Heyward opened up more about this:
“The audience revered Stan, and if it’s done with taste and class, and respectful of who he was, [uses of his likeness] will be welcomed…He is a beloved personality, and long after you and I are gone, he will remain the essence of Marvel.”
So plans are locked for if and when Stan Lee will once more grace the big or small screen in some form. The legal matters are settled. Now it’s just a matter of how tasteful the studio wants to get with the iconic Marvel Comics creator.