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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.

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.

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.

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.

stan lee guardians of galaxy 2,png
…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!

stan lee spiderman 3
Does Stan Lee know he’s talking to Spider-Man?

PCHOF’15 – A Long Time Ago, Mark Boudreaux Started Designing Star Wars Toys

mark boudreaux

kenner han solo chewieIf you have fond memories of seeing “Star Wars” in the theater in 1977, you can thank Mark Boudreaux for some of that experience. He wasn’t part of the film production, however. He was the one of the chief designers of Kenner’s first “Star Wars” toys and figures. In fact, the 2015 Pop Culture Hall Fame Inductee is still on the job, now with Hasbro.

The action figures, paired with a plethora of playsets and spaceships helped kids use their imaginations to create completely new adventures. “What we realized,” he said, “is that if you could replicate what you see on the screen and allow fans to reenact those scenes and maybe even make up their own, that it allowed those fans to relive that experience.”

mark boudreux toysIt’s unfathomable to think about today, but merchandise for “Star Wars” was almost an afterthought. In 1977, nobody took science fiction movies very seriously, aside from art films like “2001: A Space Odyssey.” The critical acclaim and enormous box office success of “Star Wars” caught the world by surprise.

Kenner had signed on to produce the toys just a couple months before it was released. Early plans focused on the most obvious characters, such as Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, and Princess Leia, but fans took a shine to some of the more obscure and strange characters, too. “I think it became quickly apparent that this was a world that was just more than a half a dozen figures,” he said in an interview around the 40th anniversary of the movie’s release. “This was a world of countless characters, and every time there was a character that was on screen, we thought, ‘You know, this story needs to be told, and the best way for us to tell it is to immortalize this character in plastic.’”

kenner millennium falcon

Boudreaux has been at the helm of these toys since the beginning. With the sequels, they were able to plan much farther ahead, as the success of the films and toys was pretty much guaranteed. Another thing that has changed: In the early days, designers worked from black and white photographs and with short notice. Now, everything is digital, and the planning goes on much more in advance.

Kenner Star Wars action figures

One thing that hasn’t changed is the enthusiasm for “Star Wars” toys. Not for fans, and certainly not for Boudreaux. “You know, a lot of times you throw a pebble out into a lake and the ripples go out, but eventually fade away. I think it’s the exact opposite with Star Wars.”

PCHOF’15: Todd McFarlane’s Comics Spawned Action Figure Empire

todd mcfarlane

The Pop Culture Hall of Fame is proud to have Todd McFarlane as an inductee. To some, he is best known as a comic book superstar who got his start illustrating Spider-Man comics in the late 1980s. While working on such a high profile cartooning gig is a dream job for most, he had bigger visions. He parlayed that success into forming Image Comics, which became the home of his creation Spawn. There, he was able to write and draw his own stories, much darker than anything Marvel or DC would allow.

Mcfarlane spaw figureHis comics career almost was derailed by his interest in playing baseball, which he pursued with great passion. But he couldn’t quite  develop a big league swing, and an ankle injury in college sent him back to the drawing board. Early gigs with DC led to illustrating “Detective Comics” and other storylines featuring that title’s most famous character, Batman. From there, it was on to the aforementioned Marvel work.

Of course, these days McFarlane is known for much more than being a comic creator. In the mid-90s, he formed Todd McFarlane Entertainment to develop movies and TV shows based on his work. He also started McFarlane Toys to develop action figures of his own characters, in much higher quality and detail than anyone had ever made.

McFarlane Toys has expanded beyond the scope of his characters, way beyond super heroes in general. They are the go-to company for anyone one who wants a hyper-realistic figure, far more art than toy. It’s not too big a stretch to see figures representing “ The Walking Dead” or “Stranger Things,” but they are the sculptors of choice for the NFL and Major League Baseball. The textures and finishes on skin, hair, and clothing make McFarlane figures look like real miniatures of those athletes. Their figures have also included numerous heavy bands like KISS and AC/DC, and cartoonsh figures of The Beatles in the style of the Yellow Submarine movie and their Saturday morning animated series.

mcfarlane toys

There are more “cartoony” properties in the McFarlane stable, such as “Rick and Morty”, or “Five Nights at Freddy’s,” which both look like friendly kid joints until you watch for a minute or two. Even though the proportions and lines are much more stylized, the same attention of detail goes into these figures, bringing them to life in ways a two-dimensional image can’t.

PCHOF’15 – Stan Lee Created A Marvelous Universe

stan lee marvel comics

If there wasn’t already a character named “Captain Marvel,” Stan Lee could officially make that his name and no one would think he was crazy. Lee has been the driving force for the company since its earliest days, and is practically synonymous with the name Marvel. For all of his contributions to comics, film, and toy culture, he is a member of the Pop Culture Hall of Fame.

avengers action figuresMarvel comics has become such an entertainment juggernaut that it’s hard to remember they were once a humble new comic book publisher. Lee’s early ambitions were to be a novelist, but he discovered that using images could be a more effective way to tell stories. He started at Timely Comics (which would eventually become Marvel Comics) as a production assistant, filling ink wells and erasing pencil lines from original art pages. He eventually began submitting story ideas for other artists to illustrate, and quickly rose through the ranks at the company.

In the late 1950s, he was asked to develop characters for a superhero series. His complex, supernatural, yet rooted cast became the Fantastic Four. When he was teamed up with artist Jack Kirby, the format for Marvel’s future was set. They followed that success up with new heroes such as the Hulk, Iron Man, and the X-Men. He was so prolific that he was teamed with additional artists such as Steve Ditko to develop Doctor Strange and other titles.

Toys and action figures were a natural extension of the comic characters, and Lee helped steer Marvel into that territory as well. As publisher, and later as more of a figurehead and public face of Marvel the company would grow to a billion dollar enterprise of film, television, toys, and comics.

stan lee hulk thorLee gets a cameo role in most Marvel films, some more subtle than others. His first major appearance was as the narrator of the Incredible Hulk TV show in the 1980s. To this day, he remains as popular and recognizeable as many of his own creations. Excelsior!

PCHOF’15 – Funko Pops Into The Collector Hall

funko pops lead

Hey collectors, we just launched a new market filled a huge selection of Pop!s and other Funko. Don’t miss the best deals! 

Funko Toys, best known for Wacky Wobblers and Pop! vinyl toys, is the latest addition to the Pop Culture Hall of Fame. Founded in 1998 by Mike Becker, the company was originally conceived as a small project to bring back low-tech, nostalgia-themed toys.

The first Funko toys were based on vintage advertising figures such as Reddy Kilowatt and Big Boy. Later characters included gone (but not forgotten) cereal spokescharacters such as  Quisp and Boo Berry. For much of their early years, FunKo’s main products were Wacky Wobblers and vinyl banks based on various pop culture characters. The subject range expanded into pop culture themes like Ed Roth’s Rat Fink, Speed Racer, and various old Saturday morning cartoons.

funko big boy

But then they stumbled onto a whole new market. As they expanded into newer and then current comic and pop culture areas, they also began to add different types of figures. Key chains and plush toys entered into the mix, and the number of FunKo products increased exponentially.

funko scooby dooThe range of characters and pop culture icons available from Funko is staggering. It seems every major movie will show up in Pop! form, yet no comic book, video game, vintage spokescharacter, or cult movie is too small to be represented.

Their line of Pop! figures, with large squarish heads and round beady eyes, were an instant hit. Soon After, the ultra-cute Dorbz line debuted, and collectors had another range of characters to find.

The entire Funko brand shows no signs of slowing down, with dozens of new characters from every range introduced every month.

funko dc Bombshells

PCHOF’15 – The Force of Rey from Star Wars is Strong

star wars rey

star wars rey action figureWhen plans emerged for the next trilogy of “Star Wars” movies to come out in 2015, writers created a mix of old, familiar faces with exciting new characters. Rey (so far, that’s the only name she’s known by) is a desert scavenger who discovers a robot with a secret, which leads to a hero’s journey.

If the backstory of her character sounds like a cross between Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia, that’s not by accident. Those early clues are foreshadowing her eventual revelation as a Jedi.

star wars rey bb-8

star wars rey action lego minifigAs important as Leia was to the first three “Star Wars” movies, she was often presented as a damsel in distress. Rey, on the other hand, is more of a hands-on action hero right out of the gate in “The Force Awakens” and really takes over the proceedings in “The Last Jedi.” As the anchor of the final trilogy of films (and all attached merchandising), Rey from Star Wars is a 2015 inductee in the Pop Culture Hall of Fame.

star wars rey wobbler

Fans were puzzled and disappointed when the first merchandising from “The Force Awakens” did not include much representing Rey. The outrage sparked various online campaigns such as “#wheresrey.” As it turns out, Hasbro had intentionally kept her designs under wraps at first to avoid giving away any spoilers to her identity. Once the movie was out and everyone knew the storyline, Rey merchandise started flowing with great force.

In fact, delaying her toys may have only added to the buildup, creating even more hype when they were finally released. Rey is often paired up with BB-8 or her junk speeder vehicle in Lego, bobblehead, or action figure form, which only makes those toys more appealing.

In hindsight, it seems silly to think a science fiction franchise with a female lead was considered a big risk. Regardless of age or gender, fan response has been overwhelmingly positive for the latest movies. The box office and merchandising, along with critical acclaim certainly suggest otherwise. Fans are more than willing ready follow Rey, Finn, Poe, and BB-8 anywhere in the universe.