Mild spoilers for Into the Spider-Verse ahead.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse features an (animated) appearance by the late Stan Lee, and it's one of his best cameos ever. The Marvel Comics icon, of course, co-created several of the most popular superheroes in comic book history and went on to become a celebrity in his own right, famous for his comic convention panels and movie cameos. Known for his playful demeanor and eccentric personality, Lee showed up in numerous Marvel films throughout the 2000s, even before his string of cameos in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (starting with Iron Man back in 2008).
Lee didn't limit his appearance to live-action Marvel movies and TV shows, either. The comics legend appeared in everything from Spider-Man cartoon TV series to Disney Animation's Big Hero 6 film and even made a wordless cameo during Ralph Breaks the Internet, shortly after his passing in November. Fortunately, this week's Once Upon a Deadpool and Into the Spider-Verse both found (very different) ways to properly pay their respects to Stan the Man.
In the case of Into the Spider-Verse, a computer-animated Lee plays the owner of the comic book shop where Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) buys his first Spider-Man costume. A nervous Miles asks Lee's character if he can return the costume if it doesn't fit, to which Lee gently assures him "It always fits... eventually". Lee's shop owner's kindly smile then transforms into a cheeky grin as the camera pans left to reveal a "No Returns or Refunds" sign. Into the Spider-Verse co-director Bob Persichetti told Vanity Fair that Lee's shop owner can also be seen on New York's subways in the film, as well as the scene where Miles and alternate universe Peter Parker (Jake Johnson) crash-land in the middle of a busy intersection. Lee is briefly shown walking his dog past the beleaguered superheroes.
Lee's Into the Spider-Verse cameo is a clever little nod to not only his beliefs and desire for inclusiveness in superhero and comic book culture (something Into the Spider-Verse itself champions), but also his fun-loving and frequently mischievous persona. The movie later goes on to honor Lee's principles and philosophy with its mid-credits scene, which features an animated rendering of his trademark glasses and one of his most famous (and insightful) quotes: “That person who helps others simply because it should or must be done, and because it is the right thing to do, is indeed without a doubt, a real superhero.” This is followed by a title card that not only salutes Lee, but also Spider-Man's co-creator Steve Ditko - who only passed away back in June - for his contributions.
Even if Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse wasn't one of the year's most critically acclaimed films (superhero, animated, or otherwise), it would be worth checking out for one of Lee's final appearances alone. As amusing as Lee's movie cameos typically are, his Into the Spider-Verse role does an excellent job of encapsulating everything that people loved around the man (namely, his morals and his humor) and leaves audiences with a smile on their face, just like Lee would've wanted. You can add that to the long list of reasons of why the animated Spider-Man film is one of this month's must-see releases.