“I’m not going to tell you what specifically, but Stan always appreciated a good surprise,” Feige told Variety of future cameos in the wake of Lee’s death from complications brought on by a medical emergency.
Lee’s works, many of which he co-created with collaborators Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, have laid the foundation for Feige’s shared Marvel Cinematic Universe — home to iconic Lee co-creations Spider-Man (Tom Holland), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), and Thor (Chris Hemsworth).
A little more than a year ago, the Disney-owned franchise became the first ever to earn more than $5 billion at the North American box office. In July, following the blockbuster releases of Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War, the MCU surpassed $17 billion in box office receipts.
“The amazing thing to be thankful for is that Stan got to see it all happen,” Feige said.
“Stan dominated pop culture. He saw it and was aware and he loved it. I’ve been saying for years that the characters he created will outlive all of us making the movies, and enter the pantheon of myth which he read and was inspired by as a kid.”
One of those influences, Lee noted in a video just two months ago, was the Scarlet Pimpernel: a dashing righter of wrongs who emerged in literature as “the first character who could be called a superhero.”
Lee, who has made a cameo appearance in every single entry in Marvel Studios’ 20-movie filmography thus far, was instrumental in the success of those films but was sure to let Feige and his team reinterpret Marvel’s characters — many of whom he helped create or define — for a new generation on the big screen since launching the shared universe with 2008’s Iron Man.
“Stan was always very gracious with all of us at Marvel Studios and very encouraging. Despite his persona on stage, Stan was very humble. He was not the type to come in and tell us how to be, but he encouraged us to follow his lead,” Feige said.
“Take Black Panther — people would talk about the importance of the movie and what a brave thing it was for Walt Disney Studios to spend this kind of money on an almost entirely African-American cast — which is entirely true. But look at what Stan Lee and Jack Kirby did in the 1960s, creating that character in the center of the Civil Rights movement. At many turns, as we work on the movies and aim to do justice, part of that is in taking those kinds of risks. And recognizing the important thematics that Stan did.”
Lee previously reflected on creating T’Challa and the forward-thinking technologically-advanced nation of Wakanda, which has gone on to play a central role in the MCU since its full introduction in Black Panther, serving as the setting for the ending of major crossover event film Avengers: Infinity War.2comments
T’Challa and his people have emerged as the latest breakouts in a universe that shows no signs of slowing, continuing on next in the Brie Larson-led Captain Marvel, finale-slash-new-beginning Avengers 4, and Spider-Man: Far From Home. All three films, releasing in 2019, are expected to feature cameo appearances by Lee.
Captain Marvel opens March 8, followed by Avengers 4 May 3 and Spider-Man: Far From Home July 5, 2019.