Captain Marvel is the newest Marvel Cinematic Universe movie to hit theaters, but also has the unfortunate timing to be the first since Stan Lee's death. Lee was a comic book legend, having created and co-created many of the characters upon whom Marvel Comics, and now Marvel Studios, have built their brand. The man was so influential in the comics and film industry, that he was even honored in the In Memoriam tribute at the 2019 Academy Awards.
Lee had become known over the last decade for his captivating and tongue-in-cheek cameos in, not just Marvel Studios movies, but any movies based on Marvel Comics characters. The trend of cameos began with Fox's X-Men in 2000, and continued on with Sony's Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse in 2018. Captain Marvel is the first Marvel Studios film since his death, and the studio decided to honor Lee in the best possible way.
The Marvel Studios title card preceding its films have changed over the years, but most recently featured a sequence of scenes from all its movies, projected onto the three-dimensional lettering that makes up the name of the studio. At the beginning of Captain Marvel, the logo treatment is modified to feature all the scenes involving Stan Lee and his many appearances over the past 11 years of Marvel Studios films.
Captain Marvel is not without its own cameo of the comic icon. In a scene where Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) is looking for a suspect on a train, she comes across Lee, reading a script and rehearsing some lines. Larson's character smiles at him, and moves on, as Lee can be heard off-screen continuing to rehearse lines from something. Those lines happened to be the dialogue of his first ever film appearance during the 1995 movie Mallrats, directed by Kevin Smith.
Smith, who went on to become a close friend of Lee's, was the first person to give him a role in a movie and has shared numerous stories about Lee's passion for acting over the years. Without Smith and that appearance in Mallrats, Lee may not have had the cameo career he ended up with.
In many ways, Captain Marvel paid tribute to not only Stan Lee, the man himself, but also to his many appearances in movies based on the character he created in his lifetime. Fans who noticed the tribute were overwhelmed and shared their love for Stan Lee on Twitter.