There are few personalities as inextricably linked to the Marvel Comics brand as Stan Lee. For MCU actors, meeting the late comics legend was a rite of passage of sorts. Of course, that rite could take strange and hilarious turns at times, as Guardians of the Galaxy filmmaker James Gunn recounted during an Instagram Q&A when asked about a memorable anecdote concerning Lee.
"I introduced Stan to Tom Holland just after Tom was hired to play Spider-Man. Stan says to him, 'Yes of course! I hear you're great! Personally, I don't see it!' And we all died laughing."
Stan Lee was well-known for his impish sense of humor, so his little dig at Holland's expense is quite in character. Besides, if there was ever a person who had a write to comment on an actor's portrayal of the webbed wall-crawler, it is Lee. It was Lee working alongside Steve Ditko all the way back in 1962 who created the original Spider-Man for the comics.
Since then, the character has undergone innumerable changes and reboots, but Lee has always kept a close eye on his development across comics, movies, and video games. In case Tom Holland fans think Lee was slighting Holland for his work in the new Spider-Man movies, in a Tweet from 2018, Lee praised Holland's performance, and even went so far as to say he was the most perfect Spidey yet.
"I think @TomHolland1996 is a great Spider-Man. He is the exact height and age I envisioned when I first wrote Spider-Man. Spidey was never supposed to be too large. How is my friend Tom doing?"
The Spider-Man who originally appeared in the comics was a high-schooler that was specifically created to cater to teenagers by giving them a teen superhero who was the main character rather than a sidekick.
In the Spider-Man movies before the MCU, the webbed wall-crawler was portrayed by Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield, neither of whom could ever quite manage to pull-off the teenage look for the character. Tom Holland was twenty years old when he was cast as Spider-Man, and his youthful demeanor easily translated to that of a fifteen-year-old like in the original comics. He was also the first Spider-Man to wear a suit that had the webbing design down both sides, which are also found in the original comics.
Tom Holland has often spoken of his love and admiration for Lee, and his words of encouragement meant much to him. After portraying the character of Peter Parker aka Spider-Man in the MCU across five movies, Holland will be jumping over to Sony to set up a separate Spider-Man cinematic universe filled with major supporting characters from the comics, including Venom, Morbius, Kraven, and Black Cat.
In the meantime, while Lee is no longer with us, the upcoming Kevin Smith movie Mallrats 2: Twilight of the Mallrats will pay homage to him through a scene involving Lee that will be a throwback to the original Mallrats movie in which Lee had a cameo. This news comes direct from James Gunn.