Stan Lee to Appear as Cameo in Upcoming Marvel Movies

Stan Lee movie cameos
alfred hitchcock lifeboat
Alfred Hitchcock’s appearance in “Lifeboat”

Legendary film director Alfred Hitchcock is known for many things – slow-burning suspense, frantic set pieces, witty repartee between characters. But one of his enduring trademarks is how he showed up in his own movies. Hitchcock appeared in 39 of his 52 movies in various guises.

In 1927’s “The Lady Vanishes,” he’s just an anonymous head in a crowd. In 1954’s “Rear Window,” he is seen through binoculars attending a party in a penthouse across the courtyard. His most ingenious cameo is perhaps in 1944’s “Lifeboat,” where he is only seen… well, see if you can spot him in the photo here.

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Just a few of John Ratzenberger’s Pixar characters

John Ratzenberger is another Hollywood figure known for frequent appearances in a certain range of movies. Since 1995’s “Toy Story,” Ratzenberger (aka Cliff the Mailman from “Cheers”) has voiced a character in every single Pixar theatrical release. Some of these roles are fairly straight up versions of his own voice, such as Mack the truck in the “Cars” movies. A few, such as a French waiter in “Ratatouille,” are brief and barely recognizable. His cameo near the end of “The Incredibles” has fueled suggestions that his character may be a pivotal villain in the upcoming sequel.

There’s long been speculation that Pixar has a recording of Ratzenberger reading every word in the dictionary so they can piece together any possible line of dialogue to keep the streak alive long after he is gone.

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Lee gets ready to judge The Incredible Hulk

Stan Lee (Pop Culture Hall of Fame 2015) is another frequent contributor to his own movies, showing up in most Marvel cinematic adaptations. Believe it or not, his earliest appearance goes back to 1989 with “Trial of the Incredible Hulk.” He shows up as a member of the jury in this largely forgotten made-for-TV movie. (And yes, he appears in many of the Marvel TV shows as well!)

But the modern streak began with 2000’s “X-Men,” which predates the current Marvel Cinematic Universe. He was a background hot dog vendor, something you could blink and miss. Same for his stirring role as “Man at Fair” in 2002’s “Spider-Man.” Both movies were made while Marvel had let the rights to those characters lapse to Sony. So even though he was the guy who basically built Marvel, Marvel was a long way from becoming the juggernaut is it today.

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Stan Lee in “Deadpool”

It took awhile before Marvel Studios figured out how to make compellling, action-packed blockbusters, but they really kicked it into gear with 2008’s “Iron Man.” (On one hand, has it really been a whole decade since Robert Downey, Jr. put on the metal suit? On the other, how is it possilble for Mavel to crank out so many memorable blockbusters in only 10 years?) Lee appeared as Hugh Hefner, possibly the only man having more fun on this earth than him.

stan lee iron man
…as Hugh Hefner in “Iron Man”

The earliest MCU cameos were fairly non-obtrusive, in some cases easy to miss if you weren’t watching for it, But his roles increasingly have become more, well, roles. In Deadpool, he appears as a DJ in a strip club, an appearance you have to notice. By the time “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” hit theaters, he had several seconds in his own universe as himself, appearing in not one, but two windows during the film.

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…spilling his guts in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”

Including 2018’s “Black Panther,” he’s made well over 30 cameos. If you don’t have time to watch all of the MCU (and beyond) movies, here’s a clip of most of his appearances.

stan lee spiderman homecoming
…as Peter Parker’s neighbor in “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”

It’s hard to decide whether a subtle background appearance or a grand-standing speaking part is more fun for the moviegoer. A well-timed cameo can provide a bit of comic relief in an otherwise tense scene, so regardless of the extent of his appearances, Stan Lee makes Marvel movies memorable in more ways than one. Excelsior!

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Does Stan Lee know he’s talking to Spider-Man?

PCHOF’17 – Palisades Pioneer Mike Horn Inducted into Hall

mike horn palisadesMike Horn, a pioneer of high end, exclusive action figures and toys, is one of the 2017 inductees of the Pop Culture Hall of Fame. Horn has a pedigree in the toy and collectibles market. His father and older brother ran a comic book store and were among the early pioneers of the comic con industry. “I grew up in the background of shows like that,” he said.  “Through osmosis, I figured out what a valuable comic book was and the fact that you had to buy it for less than you sold it for…”

In fact, Horn practially invented the idea of the “Comic Con Exclusive.” Within a few years of offering their first super limited variants direct to conventioneers, about a fifth of the company’s revenue came from such items.

In college, he got a job with Diamond Comics Distributors dealing in trading cards and licensed merchandise. When he left Diamond, he formed a marketing consulting agency called Palisades Marketing, but the business gradually evolved into producing unique licensed merchandise such as action figures and other collectibles.

palisades army of darkness

Palisades figures represented everything from “The Muppets” to Adult Swim shows, all featuring uncanny detail and textures. Another popular segment includes numerous video game and anime titles such as Tekken and Final Fantasy. The points of articulation on Palisades figures were a point of pride… most figures were poseable in more places than comparable figures, but the design hid the joints particularly well. “It may seem odd for Kermit and the Predator to live under the same brand, but to us, it’s the ‘wow’ factor that brings them together,” he said.

Horn has a history of connecting directly to fans, espeically at comic cons and other trade shows. He has always been willing to listen to suggestions for future releases. The company enjoyed a close relationship with the producers of the movies and TV shows represented by their figures, allowing a better understanding of the characaters.

palisades x files

His more recent companies include, SwagDog and Power Up Factory, with a similar mission: Creating top notch figures of characters that weren’t available anwywhere else. Factory X was another of his companies, focused on reproductions of older, much beloved toy lines. Power Up Factory is also a leader in specialty advertising products.

As for what characters to produce, Horn has always relied on collectors. “It’s gotta be fun for everyone,” he said. “We get information from our message boards… fans know the properties better than anybody.”


PCHOF’17 – NERF Bounces Into Pop Culture Hall of Fame

nerf blaster

nerf original ballNERF, the company that pioneered safe, relatively destruction-free indoor play, is the latest company to join the Pop Culture Hall of Fame.

The idea of tossing a baseball or volleyball inside the house has always had great appeal to kids, without regard to the likely damage that would result in such horseplay. With that in mind, Parker Brothers set out to create a range of “safe” indoor sporting equipment. The result was the NERF line of soft foam toys.

Lightweight sponge balls that could be tossed with authority but with very little force behind them, were a hit with kids and parents alike starting in 1969.(Never mind the carnage caused by children crashing hard into the door to dunk a NERF basketball over a friend…)

nerf football

nerf ballsBright colors and smaller, kid-friendly sizes for the toys made the brand an instant hit. The NERF line expanded into heavier outdoor equipment in the 1970s with their new football. It was heavier and denser than the original foam toys, but still much less painful than a real football when hitting someone in the noggin.

Today, NERF is best known for their dart-firing blasters and archery equipment. Countless birthday parties have centered around kids bringing their arsenal of blasters and hundreds of lightweight foam darts, running around the yard, blasting harmlessly away. In fact, NERF has produced about 350 different projectile launchers, so they have become collectibles as well as toys. It’s estimated there are over four billion of those foam darts in the world (how many of them are in your yard?). As always, the mission is good, safe fun with minimal damage to to the furniture.

nerf darts


PCHOF’17 – Derryl DePriest Goes from Collecting to Dream Job with G.I. Joe

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Derryl DePriest gi joeCollectors envy someone who works in the toy industry for having what must be a dream job. Derryl DePriest was able to take his childhood love of G.I. Joe toys and turn it into a career. As Vice President of Global Brand Management of Hasbro, and previously at Midway Games, he has been in charge of many of the biggest names in the toy and game business, but it was Joe that got him into the business. And also into the Pop Culture Hall of Fame.

gi joe retro

When he was a kid, he had acquired about “75 to 100” G.I. Joes. “I didn’t come from a wealthy family by any means,” he said of the rather large collection. “Instead, I came from a family where we had a regular stand at a flea market, and my parents routinely bought and sold things on the weekends.” His two brothers were also obsessed with everything Joe.

derryl depriest gi joe book“My brothers and I would look through the Sears catalogs. We had three different colors of pens and each of us would circle what we wanted,” he said. “I remember when the Mobile Support Vehicle and the Headquarters came out. All three of us had drawn big circles around them. Under the Christmas tree that year, we got THREE of each toy, because we couldn’t share, we were all jealous of each other.”

Continuing his lifetime fandom, DePriest is the author of “The Collectible G.I. Joe—An Official Guide To His Action-Packed World.” It’s widely considered THE deifnitive guide to vintage G.I. Joe and accessories.

Shortly after the book came out in 1998, Hasbro announced they were closing the old Kenner offices in Cincinnatti and moving the corporate jobs to Rhode Island. One employee who didn’t want to relocate happened to Director of Marketing for the G.I. Joe line. “I interviewed with the President of Hasbro. A few days later they offered me the job and I told my wife we were moving to Pawtucket. I had joined Hasbro as the director—heading up G.I. Joe!”

40th anniversary gi joeOne of his early efforts was reviving the larger action figures for a 40th anniversary line in 2004. Hasbro produced a set of 24 figures in special retro packaging, and fans helped create outfits two more the Green Beret and Air Force Dress set. He is a regular attendee at JoeCon, the annual convention for fans of the brand, where he is regarded as a hero.

As popular as the anniversary dolls were, they were more of a niche product for collectors, so they were the end of the line at the time for the brand. DePriest moved over to the “Star Wars” division of Hasbro, which shows no signs of slowing down.


PCHOF’17 – Mez Markowitz, Man of Articulation and Detail

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mezco logoThe sheer number of companies producing action figures can be astonishing. One might think collectors aren’t often concerned with who makes it as much as who it represents. But when a company achieves a legendary level of detail and thoughtful design, a name like Mezco Toyz can be a huge selling point. For their amazing articulation and well-thought details, Mez Markowitz of Mezco Toyz is a 2017 inductee of the Pop Culture Hall of Fame.

mezco hellboyMezco made a splash in the early 2000s securing licenses for the “Hellboy” movie and “Family Guy” TV show. “Revolution Studios pitched “Hellboy” to me when it was available,” Mez said. “Trust me, it wasn’t like it was a hard sell on their end… I was real eager to get the license.

Mez can geek out quite a bit when talking about his figures, or action figures in general. As a collector himself, he loves the variety of styles and purposes of such toys and collectibles. After al, their slogan is “By collectors, for collectors.”

One area where Mezco excels is combining features from the movie version of character and the comics version. Even though their Hellboy figures were supposed to be based on the Ron Perlman movie portrayal, Mezco took some liberties. “I wanted the stone hand to be bigger, like in the comic,” he said, “and I wanted Hellboy’s features more chiseled, again like in the comic.”

Mezco’s offerings skew more adult than most toy and figure companies, but not always. They create figures for popluar DC and Marvel titles such as Iron Man or Batman, and the Living Dead Dolls are creepy and gothic, but not terrifying.

mezco living dead

Poseability is a priority for Mezco. “I try to articulate all our product where and when it makes sense,” said Mez. “I assume the core consumer is a collector. I want the consumer to be able to interact with the figure. Some companies do this by adding action features, some by capturing an iconic moment or pose.

mezco superman“For me, I want people to be able pose the figure how they want and then repose it – I’m not going for an articulation count, I’m going for articulation that counts.”

When asked about other companies who have worked for the same properties, Mez tends to be flattering. As far Mezco products being compared to others, Mez said, “McFarlane makes some great stuff, so I’ll take it as a compliment.”


PCHOF’17 – Marc Mostman, Most Successful Licensing Exec

marc mostman

striker entertainment logoOne of the most difficult and least understood elements of producing toys and collectibles is securing the proper licensing agreements that make sure everyone is properly credited and paid. It may seem obvious to fans that there should be action figures of Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan from “The Walking Dead,” for example, but actually making that happen is an art unto itself.

Macfarlane_walking dead

Marc Mostman, of Striker Entertainment, is one of the biggest names in licensing and marketing.  As a life-long Pop Culture and with a background as a lawyer he is ideally placed and for his behind the scenes efforts to bring toys and collectibles to market, he is a 2017 inductee in the Pop Culture Hall of Fame.  

Terminator-Arcade-gameMarc has worked on numerous popular franchises over the years, including The Walking Dead, Angry Birds, Five Nights at Freddy’s, The Terminator, Street Fighter, Dark Stalkers, Resident Evil, Devil May Cry, Tomb Raider, Hitman, God of War, Assassin’s Creed, The Twilight Saga, The Hunger Games, Doctor Who, The Crow, Star Trek and so on and on. As a licensing exec, Mostman has been responsible for these and many other popular entertainment brands ending up on arcade games, roller coasters, and of course, toys and collectibles.

The legal and logisitcal headaches are numerous when attempting to bring a brand and a product idea together. For a movie character, the copyright must be secured for say, the movie, the comic book publisher, and the actor if an action figure or to is going to look like that specific person. Mostman is one of the most successful and wrangling all of these things together and getting toys to the shelves. 

Before working at Striker, he had his own company, MOST Management, who handled various television and video game contracts. It’s no surprise to learn that prior to that gig, he worked for Paramount, Disney, and other entertainment companies, learning the ropes and forging relationships.

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PCHOF’17 – It’s a Robot! It’s a Chicken! It’s Seth Green

seth green adult swim lead

Seth Green is one of the biggest proponents of playing with your action figures. An avid collector for years, he is said to have numerous storage lockers filled with collectibles. And he’s a regular attendee at comic-cons, both as a guest of honor and a fan. But he’s best known these days as the creator of  “Robot Chicken” show. For his unusual contribution to the hobby, Green has been inducted into the Pop Culture Hall of Fame.

robot chicken beach scene

robot chicken figures“Robot Chicken” uses crude stop motion animation to put action figures, dolls, toys, and clay models through a variety of decidedly not-kid-friendly escapades. Speaking of crude, the show’s humor is definitely more suited to Adult Swim, which is what Cartoon Network becomes after kids go to bed.

Despite the show’s often violent and/or scatological content, owners of the copyrights have tended to look the other way when their characters are parodied on “Robot Chicken” so as not to further rile up his satirical senses. In fact, much of the voice talent on the show are playing versions of characters they voice elsewhere.scott evil figure

In addition to producing the show, he is also one of the head writers, directors, and the most prominent voice talent on the show. He also lends his dulcet tones to characters in various other animated projects such as “Family Guy” and “Titan Maximum.” Oh, he’s also appeared in some self-deprecating cameos on his own “Robot Chicken.”

Green was the subject of his own action figure in the form of Scott Evil (his character from the Austin Powers movies), which was produced by MacFarlane Toys. It’s a faithful reproduction of Scott right down to his black nail polish and Kurt Cobain T-shirt. He’s also been immortalized for his role as Oz on “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” in several miniature forms.

“I love action figures and really appreciate educational toys that are imaginative versus heavy handed,” he said on Twitter.

As cool as it is to play with action figs for a living and to actually be one, Green is a talented customizer as well. When there were no figures produced of the Ravagers from the “Guardians of the Galaxy,” he created a custom set to present to director James Gunn. All of which may have helped Green land a cameo role as the voice of Howard the Duck in the second movie.

seth green ravagers


PCHOF’17 – Captain Toy, Michael Crawford Makes the Hall of Fame List

michael crawford big bsng theory

michael crawford captain toyWhen we think of people in the toy industry, we tend to think of the folks who work directly for a particular brand or license. Michael Crawford doesn’t work for any of those companies, but as a writer and blogger, he plays a huge role in the popularity of action figures. He’s best know for his Captain Toy website with its weekly reviews.

As a collector himself, he is as passionate as anyone about action figures, which is why he is now a member of the Pop Culture Hall of Fame.

michael crawford captain toy

Captain Toy has been honoring the best action figures since 2000, with his annual “Poppies” Awards. He also does frequent top ten lists, such as including older models.

But he’s also known for singling out the most disappointing figures each year. It’s refreshing to hear from someone in the field who doesn’t have to automatically praise every single toy to stay in the industry’s good graces. In his regular reviews throughout the year, he offers criticism where he thinks it’s warranted. “I have a very good relationship with most of the companies,” he said. “Toy companies have always responded well to my reviews, because I do my very best to remain fair in my assessments and they appreciate that. I hear from them on a regular basis that they read my reviews and take the information into consideration.”

michael crawford poppies

Crawford is a fixture at comic cons and toy fairs. He reviews the big shows the same way as individual toys, pointing out the good and bad. Not only does he get a jump on the latest toy news, but he also gets to share the world of action figures with his kids.

michael crawford captain toy

The Simpsons have long been a favorite line of his. “I remain a huge fan of the show, although I do believe that the writing has had its ups and downs over the years,” he said. “I probably have more Simpsons merchandise than any other license.”

Crawford has advice for collectors, as well. “Just a reminder to all the collectors like me out there,” he said. “The only thing keeping you and me off the ‘Hoarders’ show is a good sense of organization.”


PCHOF’17 – Wonder Woman Lassoes Pop Culture Hall Induction

Wonder Woman movie

Wonder Woman comic book

Wonder Woman has been a super hero icon for over 75 years, a hero not just to girls who read comics but to all fans of the genre. For her long lasting impact, especially over the last year, she is a 2017 inductee of the Pop Culture Hall of Fame.

Wonder Woman BarbieWonder Woman debuted in 1942, an Amazon Princess who is given the chance to return a U.S. Intelligence officer to “The Man’s World.” Her origin story has changed over time, from a mythical demigoddess using her powers for good, to one who surrenders her powers and learns to use more pedestrian martial arts skills to coming from another dimension to erase all the inconsistencies.

Her Lasso of Truth, Magic Tiara, and Invisible Plane have been remarkably stable tools of the trade however, all appearing in early comics.

Regardless of her backstory, she has easily remained the most promienent female super hero over her entire existence. Popularity on TV accelerated her toy and doll/action figure sales, especialy with girls. While Wonder Woman had great television success in the “Super Friends” cartoon, and later her own 1970s series, none of that predicted the reception of her 2017 film.

Wonder Woman TV

Wonder Woman lego minifig

The new “Wonder Woman” movie drew rave reviews both as a flat out super hero origin movie, and as a powerful feminist statement. While most Wonder Woman comics were helmed by male writers and artists, Patty Jenkins was tapped to direct the relatively unkown Gal Gadot, and the results were magic. It quickly became one of the highest grossing super hero movies of all time and garnered almost universal critical praise.

In fact, among recent DC movies, “Wonder Woman” has easily gotten the best critical and fan recognition, so it’s apparent that sequels and appearances in ensemble movies will be here for years to come. That’s wonderful news.


PCHOF’17 – Transformers Changed the Toy Industry Forever

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transformers original

transformers bumblebee

When Transformers were first introduced, they seemed like an obvious success. What kid wouldn’t like playing with cars and robots at the same time? Even so, when they debuted as “more than meets the eye,” the designers had no idea how much more they would turn out to be. For their success in changing the toy industry forever, Transformers are a 2017 inductee in the Pop Culture Hall of Fame.

Transformer toys feel like they have been around forever, but they really got their start as recently as 1984, when Takara Tomy of Japan and Hasbro of the United States teamed up to update the Japanese Micromen and Dioclone toys. The older toys have been humanoid figures that could fold or transform into other objects. but the Transformers line rebooted them as robots disguised as cars, trucks and other forms of transportation as well as the occasional boombox or other object.

transformers optimus prime

Transformers began almost simultaneously in toy and television forms. The toys came with a rich backstory involving ongoing interstellar between the “good” Autobots and “evil” Decepticons. Details varied from the official explanation of the TV show versus the toys and even the wildly popular comic books, but based on their popularity, kids didn’t mind the discrepancy too much.

At one point they became so big, they even teamed up with G.I. Joe to form one of the most potent toy and media crossovers ever.

The toys would go in and out of production in the 1990s, but In the 2000s, Transformers took on a new life as a series of big budget, CGI heavy movies. The enormous box office numbers and continued sales of toys indicate there will always be more than meets the eye with these robots.