Stan Lee passed away on November 12, 2018. For a full account of the legendary comic creator's life and legacy, please read CBR's obituary.
In "When We First Met", we spotlight the various characters, phrases, objects or events that eventually became notable parts of comic lore, like the first time someone said, "Avengers Assemble!" or the first appearance of Batman's giant penny or the first appearance of Alfred Pennyworth or the first time Spider-Man's face was shown half-Spidey/half-Peter. Stuff like that.
Reader Ekko wrote in to ask me what Stan Lee's first cameo was. What's interesting about this is that this sort of thing has a couple of different possible answers, so let's split it up into a few different instances of "first," from his first appearance in a comic book, his first appearance in a comic book story, his first appearance in a television show and his first appearance in a movie.
As you may or may not know, back in the old days, the postal rates for comic books played a major role in the development of the comic books themselves. The price that was charged for starting a new volume was high enough that comic book companies would go out of their way to avoid starting new volumes if they could avoid them, which is why so many comic book titles just picked up the numbering of earlier titles instead of starting new ones (plus, at the time, when comic books were more of a browsers market, higher numbers were considered a MORE appealing thing than a low-numbered comic book, so people tried to avoid #1 books. Justice League of America #1, for instance, totally hides the #1 as much as possible). More notably, there was a special postal rate provided so long as you had at least two pages worth of text in the book, so comic books all had text pages back in the day (later, letter columns took care of this requirement and even later, the rate stopped being an issue).
In any event, in All-Winners Comics #2, Stan Lee did a text story (with art by Jack Kirby) that explained how the Whizzer and the Destroyer joined the other heroes. It involved them running into the Editor (Lee himself) and convincing him that they should be allowed to join the series....
Stan Lee later did a comic book in 1947 called The Secrets Behind the Comics, where he narrated a good chunk of the book personally. I wouldn't count that as a cameo, right?
Stan made his first appearance in Astonishing #4 (by Hank Chapman and Wayne Boring), a clever tale where a comic book writer forces himself to have terrible nightmares that he then uses to inspire himself to write awesome monster stories. However, the demons in his nightmares do not like him taking advantage of them in such a way and they get revenge on him. Stan cameos as his Astonishing editor...
Good stuff. Chapman was a heck of a writer.
Okay, so that's it for Stan's cameos in comics (in general) and comic book stories (in specific), so now let's move on to when Stan first made a cameo in a television show and a movie!