WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Sony's Venom, in theaters nationwide.
Over the past 18 years, a Stan Lee cameo has become as much a fixture of comic book movies as the post-credits scene. From Fox's X-Men, which in 2000 launched the modern era, to Marvel's Ant-Man and The Wasp, the 95-year-old comics legend has provided audiences with a sort of Where's Waldo?, played out across dozens of features and television series, both live-action and animated. But with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Lee's seemingly random cameos in the Marvel Cinematic Universe were given new meaning, as the studio effectively confirmed a popular film theory: that Lee has been playing the same character, an informant for the alien Watchers.
Lee continues his cinematic tradition with a minor role in director Ruben Fleischer's Venom, intended not only to launch a new franchise but also Sony's Spider-Verse, a long-planned expanded universe that will also include such characters as Morbius the Living Vampire, Black Cat, Silver Sable and Kraven the Hunter. Although Tom Hardy's Eddie Brock doesn't currently exist in the same fictional world as Tom Holland's Spider-Man, Lee's appearance might actually hint at a connection between Sony's Venom and the MCU.
Introducing Mr. Lee
The cameo comes towards the end of the film. Eddie Brock has successfully saved the world from Drake and Riot’s plan to bring enough symbiotes to Earth to cause a widespread invasion. His ex, Annie, believes the Venom symboite was killed in the ensuing explosion, but the symbiote has survived and formed a spiritual bond with Eddie. He says goodbye to Annie, their relationship not repaired, but at least on the mend.
As he walks away, Eddie is stopped by an old man walking his dog. The man is Stan Lee, and he makes sure to give Eddie some life advice. He tells him it’s tough, but that he knows “the two of you” can make it work.
While it initially seems like an innocuous line referring to Eddie and Annie, it works even better if you realize Lee is referring to Eddie and Venom's agreement to become a Lethal Protector for San Francisco. And when you take Lee's recent Marvel Cinematic Universe cameos into account, there's a solid argument to be made that he knows more than he's letting on.
The Watcher Sees All
A longstanding fan theory suggested that Stan Lee was appearing in all those Marvel films as Uatu the Watcher, a member of an ancient race of aliens who observe the universe around them while trying not to take a hand in the events.
This theory was sort of confirmed during Stan Lee’s cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, when the creator is seen alongside more distinctive members of the Watcher race. He’s recounting some of his journeys to Earth, suggesting he’s either a Watcher or at least affiliated enough with them to be sharing his findings of the universe.
With that kind of knowledge, a coy line takes on a whole new meaning. Does this Stan Lee know about Venom? Because if he does, it could reinforce his role as the Watcher, and provide a potential backdoor for Venom to eventually stand alongside (or against) the Avengers in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Just saying.
In theaters nationwide, director Ruben Fleischer's Venom stars Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Scott Haze, Reid Scott, Jenny Slate,Woody Harrelson, Sope Aluko, Scott Deckert, Marcella Bragio and Michelle Lee.