Times Stan Lee was a total boss

Over the past half century, Lee has become one of the most recognizable figures in pop culture—not just through his role as co-creator of many of the world's most popular superheroes, but his appearances alongside them in the movies and comics. It's hard to pick our favorites from the many he's had over the years, but here's a look at some of the most epic Stan Lee moments of all time.

Stan the supervillain

Stan has gotten meta since the early '60s, and the proof can be found in Fantastic Four #10. An early example of Marvel Age greatness, this story shows Stan and collaborator Jack Kirby acquiring the license to produce comics based on the team—and they're working on a new story when Dr. Doom suddenly shows up at their office. Doom forces them to call Reed Richards, luring him into a dastardly trap that involves swapping bodies. Luckily for Stan, Reed ends up saving the day.

Stan the superhero

Usually Stan just wrote about the Fantastic Four, but in 1978, he actually became a member of the team thanks to the crazy story in the pages of What If? #11, which explored what might have happened if Stan and the other members of the original Marvel team—artist Jack Kirby, production manager Sol Brodsky, and secretary Flo Steinberg—had become the Fantastic Four. Spoiler alert: they defeat the evil alien Skrulls, just like the slightly more fictional Fantastic Four, all while still putting out comics about their own adventures. Leave it to Stan to save the world in his spare time!

Stan the guru

In most movies, Stan appears just for a few moments in a humorous cameo—but not in Kevin Smith's 1995 cult classic Mallrats. Throughout the movie, lead character Brodie talks about how Stan is his idol. At a key moment, just as Brodie is having a crisis of confidence, Stan suddenly shows up out of the blue and delivers a rousing inspirational speech that turns Brodie around, allowing him to save the day. Chalk up another win for America's sensei.

Stan the playa

Given that he's pushing a hundred, Stan is kind of like everyone's grandpa at this point, which is why it was so surprising to see him show up in a strip club in Deadpool. Okay, so it's true that Stan isn't exactly making it rain, or shoving Hamiltons into g-strings; instead, he's the emcee running the whole skin show. Which is kind of fitting, because when it comes to superhero movies, Stan is always in charge.

Stan the librarian

Maybe the funniest of all of Lee's many movie cameos was his brief appearance in 2012's The Amazing Spider-Man. As Spidey and the Lizard are engaged in a knock-down, drag-out battle that trashes an entire library, there's one thing that escapes completely unharmed: Stan Lee. Not only that, but Stan doesn't even notice the fight happening right behind him, because he's got a pair of sick headphones on and is too busy jamming out to some classical music to notice the brawl. Hey, when you're in the zone, you're in the zone.

Stan the playboy

Stan's strip club appearance in Deadpool is just one of several cameos that see Stan surrounded by beautiful women. Case in point: 2008's Iron Man, in which Tony Stark himself accidentally confuses Stan for Playboy creator Hugh Hefner. In real life, of course, Stan is anything but a playboy: he and his wife Joan will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary next year.

Stan the huckster

It's safe to say Stan Lee and Jack Kirby had a complicated relationship. In 1972, Lee's longtime collaborator revealed the depth of their divide to the world with the publication of Mister Miracle #6. After quitting Marvel two years earlier and defecting to their most bitter rival, DC, over a lack of respect (and money), Kirby had plenty of beef with Lee—thus the creation of Funky Flashman, a toupee-wearing huckster, con artist, and serial liar who was very obviously based on his former partner. And as for Kirby's feelings about Marvel in general? Well, it's no coincidence that Funky Flashman's base is a plantation house.

Stan the wedding crasher

You have to give Stan credit, because he's nothing if not persistent, as proven by his repeated efforts to crash the wedding of Fantastic Four members Reed Richards and Sue Storm. The first time he tried it, in 1965's Fantastic Four Annual #3, he was accompanied by Jack Kirby and decked out in a top hat. He didn't get in, but he tried again over four decades later—and in an entirely different medium—in the 2007 movie Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Unfortunately, he was yet again shown the door. Maybe next time, Stan!

Stan the superhero: part two

One of the coolest Stan Lee movie appearances came in Disney's 2014 animated hit Big Hero 6. Based loosely on a comic that Stan didn't really have anything to do with, the film still paid homage to Marvel's living mascot with a post-credits scene revealing that he is actually the father of superhero wannabe Fred. Even better? Stan is secretly a superhero himself! We know exactly what we want to see in the sequel.

Stan the Man

Last but not least comes Guardians of the Galaxy, which proves that even in the far-flung reaches of distant, remote space, the legend of Stan the Man lives on. During the team's visit to Xandar, home of the Nova Corps, they catch a glimpse of Stan macking on an attractive young woman. But director James Gunn actually had a different idea for Stan's cameo: he wanted him to be shown in one of the Collector's cages, only to have his head blown off when the Collector's museum is leveled by an explosion. Now that would truly have been an epic Stan lee moment.