This Surprise ‘Captain Marvel’ Tribute Has the Internet Crying

Captain Marvel
Photo: Chuck Zlotnick/Marvel Studios.

As the creator of Marvel’s most popular heroes, Stan Lee has had a cameo in pretty much every Marvel movie since 1998. But with the writer’s recent death on November 12, 2018, the writer’s role in the Marvel cinematic universe is left unknown. So what is Captain Marvel‘s Stan Lee cameo? Fortunately, Captain Marvel was filmed long before Lee’s death, so the writer appears in the movie in the flesh, rather than as a painting or a poster like in some Marvel TV shows. (Warning: For those who haven’t seen Captain Marvel, this post may include spoilers.)

Lee’s cameo comes toward the start of Captain Marvel when the titular hero hunts down a shapeshifting Skrull on a Los Angeles train. The scene sees Captain Marvel walking down the aisle of the train, looking at each passenger to determine whether they’re a real-life person or a Skrull who’s shapeshifted. She stops at a man who’s reading a script and reciting the lines, “Trust me, true believer.” On the script is a red cover with the title Mallrats. (More on that later.) The man—played by Lee (obviously)—stops when he notices that Captain Marvel is watching him. The two have a sweet moment, Captain Marvel smiles and they go about their separate business: The man continues to practice his script and Captain Marvel continues to hunt down the Skrull.

Now, here’s the importance of the cameo. The script lee is reading is from the actual movie Mallrats, which came out in 1995, around the same time that Captain Marvel is set. Lee appears as himself in the movie, where he gives a character some dating advice and tells him the same line he recites in Captain Marvel: “Trust me, true believer.”

It’s a cool Easter egg for fans. But it also suggests something else: Does Stan Lee exist in the Marvel universe? If he’s playing himself practicing his lines Mallrats, does that mean the rest of Lee’s movie cameos are of him? Woah, trippy. The scene isn’t the only time Marvel paid tribute to Lee in Captain Marvel. In the Marvel’s opening title card, which usually features clips of its heroes like Captain America and Black Widow, the title card featured clips of Lee’s cameos. After the sequence was done, the screen cut to black and read, “Thank you, Stan.” Cue the tears.

Fans will have the chance to see Lee’s cameos in two more movies, Avengers: Endgame on April 26, and Spider-Man: Far From Home on July 5. After that, we’re unsure on how Marvel will handle Lee’s cameos. But we know the writer will always be remembered.