While the late Stan Lee's cameos in the Marvel Cinematic Universe are practically legendary, the beloved Marvel Comics icon had an appearance in another film that is as much a fan favorite as anything he did in the MCU. That appearance is in 1995's Mallrats, a two-scene appearance in which the legend plays a fictional version of himself offering some sage relationship advice to Jason Lee's Brodie Bruce. While the appearance is now itself iconic, filmmaker Kevin Smith says that what he didn't realize at the time was that Lee's appearance in Mallrats wasn't just a really cool moment; it was also a gift.
Speaking with ComicBook.com for Mallrats' 25th anniversary Smith explained that over time Mallrats has become not just a time capsule of that specific time in the 1990s, but a mirror of the future as well -- and a big part of that is because of Lee.
"Only with time has Mallrats become what it is. And it's a little time capsule, but actually functions as a mirror of the future. Like, when that movie came out, you know, everyone [in Mallrats] knew all about comic book culture. And everyone in the movie knows who Stan Lee is," Smith said. "And when the movie came out in real life, those two things were not true at all, so much so that Jason Lee has to about Jay what he's doing here, he's imitating Wolverine with his adamantium claw berserker attack with his adamantium claws because you can't use the shorthand of like, 'Oh well, people have seen an X-Men movie, they'll know what a snikt is, they'll know he's doing Wolverine.' So, it was like early, before people were talking about this stuff. And now the world more resembles Mallrats then when we made Mallrats."
Smith continued, "Now, other than the fact that they don't use many cell phones or any cell phones in the movie, it could still play today. Style looks weird, some of the fashions look weird, but it still actually kinds of holds and that was Stan's secret gift. Like, you know Stan never told me when I wanted to put him in the movie, 'Oh this is gonna be good for you in the future because Marvel's going to take over the f-cking world and when that happens, you're going to look smart, and you're going to be made relevant again. Even though you haven't done anything worth talking about in years, this movie is going to be your legacy. This movie is going to help you live forever. This movie is going to make you credible.'"
Smith also said that it was after Lee's cameo in Captain Marvel which saw him practicing his Mallrats lines that he realized Lee had been doing him and Mallrats the favor all this time.
"This is me presenting this guy who the world doesn't know, to a new generation be like this is a guy that created Spider-Man, man. And so I felt like I was doing him a solid in '95," Smith said. "So, it was me shining spotlight on him and still the movie that like eventually nobody saw when it first came out. Years later, he goes and does Captain Marvel ... there Stan reading the script for Mallrats is by Kevin Smith. You know that to me is my Oscar. They'll never give me an Academy Award. That's totally fine. But this, that moment was like my Oscar."
He added, "Like it was almost like he was paying me back. He gave me back the relevancy that like we thought we were lending him with the Mallrats cameo. But we were never doing Stan a favor. He was always doing us a favor, like that buoyed the movie a decade later."
Fans can experience Lee's Mallrats cameo "gift" in the limited-edition two-disc Blu-ray set from Arrow Video which features a number of bonus features, including a new introduction to the TV cut of Mallrats by Smith, miniature copies of the blueprints used by Jay and Bob in the movie, and much more.