** SPOILERS for the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 post-credits scenes & Stan Lee cameo follow. Don't read if you don't want to know! **
Even if you haven't yet made it to the cinema to see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (which you absolutely should do at some point), odds are you might have heard the rumblings regarding famed Marvel Comics chairman Stan Lee's traditional cameo role.
Typically, Lee pops up in every #Marvel movie in a small cameo, beginning in 2000 when he appeared as a hot dog vendor in X-Men. He even showed up in the critical bomb Daredevil and the lukewarm Fantastic Four and its sequel, Rise of the Silver Surfer.
He also appears in Marvel TV shows Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Agent Carter and briefly in Daredevil and Jessica Jones in the form of a photograph on a wall in a police station. And his presence in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in particular has become a mainstay of the series. For a 94-year-old, he gets around.
But the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 reveal was special, because it appeared to confirm the popular and long-running theory that Lee's cameos actually revealed him to be a Watcher, perhaps even the famous Uatu the Watcher from the Marvel Comic Universe. In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Lee is seen conversing with a group of Watchers on the moon, telling them stories about the various cameo roles he's appeared in, specifically his Captain America: Civil War cameo as a Fed-Ex delivery driver.
This reveal also hinted that the MCU, the 20th Century Fox X-Men Universe and Sony's Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man Universes may also be connected as part of a larger multiverse, as Stan Lee cameos in all of the above franchises.
But, while #StanLee appears with the Watchers, clearly he is not one of them. He doesn't share their bulbous-headed appearance, and he needs a spacesuit to survive in outer space. But clearly, he also is not quite human. So, what else could he be? Here are our top picks.
1. The Living Tribunal
The Living Tribunal is an interesting one, because his existence in the MCU was all but confirmed in Doctor Strange, with Baron Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) wielding a "relic" named the Staff of the Living Tribunal (better known as the Staff of Polar Power).
In the comics, the Living Tribunal is an ageless humanoid entity who guards cosmic gateways. He exists to protect the cosmic balance of the multiverse, specifically to keep mystical forces in check. Considering Lee's appearance across time, space and universes, it wouldn't be a surprise to learn he is the Living Tribunal.
Like the Living Tribunal, Galactus also plays an important role in balancing the forces of the multiverse, and is often held to be one of the more complex antagonists of the comics. Galactus consumes worlds to sustain his life force, which would explain why Lee appears across different universes, and though he began life as a Fantastic Four villain, he went on to develop as a necessary force in the Universe.
Interestingly, Galactus was born a mortal man before gaining cosmic powers and becoming god-like, which could perhaps connect to why Lee appears in a spacesuit on the moon.
Eternity is another being who was named dropped in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and another major cosmic entity. He's such a big deal, in fact, that he is the leader of another bunch of cosmic entities, which includes the Watchers, and even Death herself.
Though the flippant manner with which the Watchers treat Lee in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 makes it unlikely that he holds power over them, Lee being Eternity wouldn't be too crazy an idea; he's a sentient force who supports all of creation and controls reality, so perhaps Lee is Eternity's way of watching over the worlds he has created.
4. The Beyonder
The Beyonder is one of the most powerful members of the Marvel Universe, and the initial force behind Marvel's Secret Wars. A partially omnipotent being and primarily an antagonist, the Beyonder is the sentient energy of an entire multiverse. He created the patchwork planet Battleworld, and abducted various superheroes and supervillains to make them fight, so kind of similar to Jeff Goldblum's Grandmaster in the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok.
The fact that The Beyonder likes to play dice with the Marvel heroes could hint at his appearance in the guise of an unassuming old man, in order to keep an eye on his potential future game pieces. It makes a certain amount of sense.
5. The Stranger
Finally, the mysterious Stranger, another cosmic being who claims to be comprised of the combined sum of the inhabitants of an entire planet. And speaking of being comprised of an entire planet, the Stranger has a significant relationship with Ego the Living Planet (portrayed in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 by Kurt Russell) in the comics. Indeed, the Stranger is the one who created Ego in the first place.
The Stranger survives by manipulating cosmic energy, and exhibits the ability to travel across universes and between dimensions. He possesses a type of cosmic awareness, but is constantly driven by his thirst for further knowledge. Perhaps this drive has let to him disguising himself as a human to walk amongst them?
Of course, none of these options explain why Lee's character still requires a spacesuit to survive in outer space. Perhaps he, as one of these beings, has been in the form of an elderly human long enough that he's stuck that way. Perhaps he's just really committed to playing the role.
More likely he's none of the above, and this is just a continuation of the fun nods to one of the most important men in Marvel Comics' history. And even if Stan Lee does happen to be some significant cosmic figure in the MCU, we'll likely never know the truth for sure.
Got a theory about Stan Lee's cameos? Have your say in the comments below!