The guy who’s appeared in the most Marvel movies isn’t Robert Downey Jr. or Chris Evans or Chris Hemsworth. It’s Stan Lee, the co-creator of many of Marvel’s greatest characters, including Spider-Man, the Avengers, and the X-Men. Lee was the writer and editor through Marvel’s glory years of the 1960s, then gradually transitioned to a figurehead position where his jovial, gregarious persona became synonymous with the Marvel brand.

After serving for decades as the company’s chairman emeritus and ambassador in Hollywood, he spent his final years popping up in dozens of cameos in Marvel movies. His final appearance was in Avengers: Endgame, which he recorded shortly before his death in 2018.

But a new deal between Marvel and the company Stan Lee Universe has paved the way for Lee to return posthumously to Marvel’s movies, or TV shows, or in other areas. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the two corporations have signed an agreement to license Lee’s name, likeness, voice, and even his signature in “feature films and television productions, as well as Disney theme parks, various “experiences” and merchandizing.”

They do note the deal “does not necessarily pave the way for the return of Lee cameos in movies, at least not in the way fans traditionally knew them, insiders caution.” But under the terms of the deal Marvel could insert Lee — perhaps using archival footage, or with the same sort of digital effects that added the late Peter Cushing to Rogue One, for example — into films or shows set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The agreement gives Marvel a wide array of areas where they can utilize Stan Lee’s likeness, including...

... in movies and television projects, as well as to use images, existing footage and existing audio recordings featuring him. The rights to use Lee’s name, voice, likeness and signature exclusively in theme parks, cruise lines and in-park merchandise were also included the deal. Audiences and parkgoers could see Lee turn up as figures and toys, on apparel and stationery, in video games and VR.

Marvel and Lee are inextricably linked (even if most of Lee’s greatest contributions to the company wouldn’t have been complete without major input and artistry from illustrators like Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and others) so on some level, the agreement makes a lot of sense. People love Stan Lee, and there are surely ways Marvel can take advantage of that connection in fans’ minds in ways that also honor Lee’s work. On the other hand ... does anyone want to see CGI Stan Lee popping up in the background of a scene from Thor: Love and Thunder? Stan’s cameos were fun, but I don’t think they should continue past his death. That’s just too weird.

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