For more than 50 years, Stan Lee was Marvel’s premier ambassador, co-creating much of the universe and championing characters and stories until his death in 2019. Still, Stan Lee loved acting. Despite his many appearances over the years, his appearance on oblivion Spider Man: The New Anime Series was the darkest.
Before he was the guy who appeared in every Marvel movie, Stan Lee was the voice of Marvel Comics. His very first live-action cameo was in the 1980s TV movie The Trial of the Incredible Hulk, a moment of blinking and missing. Yet for the sequel to Saturday morning animated series in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Stan Lee was the voice that introduced each episode to members of the Merry Marvel Marching Society watching from their homes. While he never appeared on the emblematic X-Men: The Animated Serieshe voiced characters on The Fantastic Four and appeared as himself (in animation) on the original Spider-Man: The Animated Series. After making an appearance in Sam Raimi Spider Man movie, appearing on the new animated “sequel” meant the Marvel Comics godfather was creating his own Stan-Verse early on. Rather than an affable, avuncular man, Stan Lee’s character, Frank Elson, was both a disturbing figure and a victim in his own right.
Spider-Man: The New Animated Series Was More “Adult” Than The Raimi Movies
Most Spider-Man cartoons are aimed at young children, which means the action and situations are never too intense. Spider-Man rarely throws punches in these shows. On Spider-Man: The New Animated Series, the Web-Head was not so friendly and friendly. There were more than a few episodes where Spider-Man was in a fistfight, usually with villains enhanced in some way. Yet he also treated ordinary human villains quite rudely. He was still Spider-Man, though. He always made the right choice, until the episode where Stan Lee appeared. Playing a character named Frank Elson, Lee urged Peter Parker to kill Kraven the Hunter after killing Mary Jane.
Season 1 episodes 12 and 13 encompassed the two-part “Mind Games” finale. The very dark episode featured twins with mental powers, original creations for the series, who were able to trick Spider-Man into believing that Kraven the Hunter had killed Mary Jane. They also upset Stan Lee’s ill-fated character. Spidey eventually gets the hang of it and, well, only he and Mary Jane walk away from it. Once again, this series has not been afraid to delve into darkness. Yet to hear such horrible words come out of a character’s mouth and sound like Stan Lee? This is perhaps the most unsettling thing in the whole series. Interestingly, even though Frank Elson also fell victim to the psychic villains, Spider-Man treats him quite harshly.
Stan Lee cameos are a Marvel tradition, but he probably liked this one a lot
The first movie Stan Lee appeared in wasn’t a Marvel joint but rather Mallrats by director Kevin Smith, who went on to talk about how much he loved performing. In most of his MCU cameos or even cartoon cameos, he says a line or two and is generally as nice a character as Stan Lee was in real life. However, Frank Elson’s character is sinister and a bit creepy. It may bother Marvel fans who grew up with him to hear him say such horrible things, but it was probably a lot of fun for Stan Lee to play him. As someone who has always championed these stories to bring them into both live-action and animation, Stan Lee landing all those cameos is a great reward for carrying the Marvel torch for so long.
Stan Lee is gone now, but his cameos and characters live on. Although it is nice to remember him as his appearance in Spiderman 3uplifting characters and audiences, a turn as a near-villain is a fun departure from a prolific Marvel guest star.
Spider-Man: The New Animated Series streams on Disney+ starting October 18.