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How A Stan Lee Cameo Ended Up In Superman: The Animated Series

Years before he made cameo appearances in everything Marvel Studios produced, Stan Lee had a largely unnoticed cameo in Superman: The Animated Series. Warning: The following contains SPOILERS for the Superman: The Animated Series episode "Apokolips… Now! - Part 2" While comics' legend Stan Lee is best known today for the many characters he co-created for Marvel Comics and his cameos in various Marvel Studios productions, his appearance in an episode of Superman: The Animated Series went largely unnoticed. This was because the cameo had only been seen once on television and was edited out in subsequent broadcasts, due to some of the other famous faces that appeared alongside Stan Lee.
The two-part Superman: The Animated Series episode "Apokolips... Now!" was the culmination of the series' efforts to fully introduce Jack Kirby's New Gods into the reality of the DCAU, with Darkseid and his forces invading Earth. Displaying a beaten and bloodied Superman to the people of Metropolis, Darkseid expected despair and immediate surrender. Instead, the people of Metropolis, rallied by MPD Detective Dan Turpin, charged Darkseid's troops and freed Superman. This bold act would have ended badly, had it not been for the timely arrival of the good New Gods of New Genesis, whose leader, Highfather, declared that Earth was under his protection. This forced Darkseid to retreat, but before he made his escape he warned Superman that "victory has its price" before using his Omega Beams to vaporize Dan Turpin. Who Is Darkseid? Justice League Villain Uxas & Apokolips Explained "Apokolips... Now! - Part 2" ended with Dan Turpin's funeral and an assemblage of the series' cast gathering to honor the man posthumously dubbed Earth's Greatest Hero, with a teary-eyed Superman declaring that "... the world didn't really need a superman. Just a brave one." This moment took on an increased poignancy for comics fans, given that Dan Turpin was also created by Jack Kirby, who based Turpin's appearance upon his own, and that Kirby had died before the episode aired. The episode also ended with a title card dedicating it to Kirby's memory and the caption "Long Live The King," in reference to Kirby's nickname as the King of Comics.
The animators offered up another subtle tribute to Jack Kirby's legacy, sneaking several prominent figures, real and fictional, into the background of the crowd assembled for Dan Turpin's funeral. This included Stan Lee, who could be seen in his trademark sunglasses alongside Lois Lane, artist Bruce Timm, and obscure Kirby creation Goody Rickles. A later crowd shot focused on a number of figures who might have been Reed Richards, Susan Storm and Johnny Storm from the Fantastic Four and Nick Fury. The original sketches for the scene confirmed the characters' identities and identified other characters in the crowd whom Kirby had created or co-created, such as Namor, Steve Rogers, and Tony Stark. These characters were largely obscured by other characters in the foreground of the final scene, but the top of Captain America's head was just visible over Lex Luthor's shoulder. Unfortunately, this tribute was re-edited for later screenings of "Apokolips... Now! - Part 2" and the Superman: The Animated Series DVD collections, with all of the Marvel heroes and most of the creator cameos being removed. No reason has ever officially been given for this by DC Comics or Warner Bros. but it is speculated that Marvel Comics may have objected to the appearance of their characters, even in a non-speaking cameo where they were not identified by name and not in their trademarked costumes. However, the original scene, complete with the Stan Lee cameo, can now be seen in the remastered edition of Superman: The Animated Series airing on HBO Max.

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