Warning: Minor SPOILERS for Guardians of the Galaxy ahead
As expected, James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 contains more than a few nods to the wider cosmic Marvel mythos. From subtle Easter eggs to more overt references, there's a lot to pore over for any fan of Marvel comics across the many locations and characters the film makes use of. One appearance that's unmissable is the Stan Lee's cameo, one of the most fun traditions of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Usually a notable gag in and of itself, Stan the Man's scene this time around is particularly special because he's joined by one of the stalwarts of cosmic Marvel: the Watchers.
During the sequence in which Rocket (Bradley Cooper), Yondu (Michael Rooker), Groot (Vin Diesel) and Kraglin (Sean Gunn) are jumping through space to get to Ego's planet, one of the planets they happen to jump over has Stan Lee in an astronaut outfit surrounded by three blue-skinned, humanoid looking beings with large, bald heads and glowing eyes in blue capes. These same aliens are seen in a post-credits scene walking away from Stan as he pleads for them to stay - or at least give him a ride home. Neither the blue-rocked planet they're on nor their race is mentioned on-screen, but for Marvel comic readers it's undeniable that these are the Watchers, an ancient race who wish to compile all knowledge in the known universe.
Observers Of All
Hailing from an unknown home-world, in an unknown solar system from an unknown galaxy, the Watchers are one of the oldest and most mysterious races in Marvel lore. Essentially a race of highly intelligent and technologically advanced monks sporting quasi-religious garb of blue and white robes, the Watchers have a vast array of superhuman abilities including super strength and psionic powers. Their sole mission is to observe and document the entire universe as we know it from beginning to end. Every folly, wrinkle, mistake, catastrophe and miracle, the Watchers aim to watch it all, each of them secretly observing their particular galaxy from a covert perch somewhere in the stars.
Several times taller than an average human with a proportionately larger head, they maintain a veil of secrecy so as to minimize any chance or temptation of interference in a race or planet's well-being. After one incident in which they gave some advanced knowledge to a race, the Prosilicans, only for that same race to almost blow itself to death with technology learned from said knowledge they owed never again. Since then, the Watchers have done as their name implies and quietly watched the universe unfold in its majesty from every point-of-view possible.
Uatu the Watcher
Introduced in Fantastic Four #13, Uatu is the Watcher assigned to Earth and our solar system. More lenient on his oath the rest of his kind, Uatu has a habit of interfering in mankind's troubles to ensure our survival (to be fair, it's not rare that we need it). After Reed Richards and the rest of Marvel's first family discover Uatu's base on the moon, he promises he will continue his observation from a greater distance. Despite this, and because he admired the Fantastic Four, Uatu continued to meddle on behalf of humankind, becoming a semi-regular character in Fantastic Four stories through-out the '60s and onward, helping the team against such threats as Galactus and Overmind.
Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and considered to be the “most powerful being in the galaxy”, Uatu swiftly became a staple of the Marvel universe that's been involved with many of its major characters including Captain America, Doctor Strange, the Hulk and the X-Men. Dedicated to protecting life, it's been estimated that he's broke the Watchers' code of no interference around 400 times. Such behaviour has seen him been banished from the Watchers and stripped of his position before, yet he's remained watchful over Earth regardless, too intrigued by our little blue rock to look elsewhere.
Uatu's last major story was 2014's crossover event Original Sin, written by Jason Arron with art by Mike Deodato and Frank Martin. Nick Fury and the Avengers find out Uatu's been murdered and set about trying to find his killer, an investigation that leads to Thor becoming unworthy and losing Mjolnir and ends with Fury acquiring Uatu's eye and becoming the new Watcher of Earth, known as the Unseen.
Even though their actual race and names were left ambiguous, it's surprising that the Watchers turned up in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 due to how entrenched they and Uatu generally are with the Fantastic Four, a property whose rights are still in possession of Fox. Often gateway characters for the broader, celestial side of Marvel, the Watchers have served many uses as a narrative device over the decades since their creation. Their presence rarely signals anything good for our heroes – after all, if they're letting themselves be noticed, things must be dire – but they do mean exciting times for any audience members.
With established canon that someone can be made into a Watcher and a second space adventure coming in November with Thor: Ragnarok, fans will want to keep an even keener eye than before on wherever Stan Lee may make his next couple of cameos.