How Stan Lee’s ‘Fantastic 4’ Cameo Was Brainstormed By Pre-MCU Kevin Feige And A Makeup Artist

Before Tony Stark… there was Willie Lumpkin. With so many Marvel Studios projects in development or on the cusp of release, it’s hard to imagine a world without Kevin Feige and the ever-expanding MCU franchise he founded over a decade ago. All the way back to the Dark Ages, from the early to mid-2000s, Marvel’s movie machine was a disjointed operation of titles that were either huge hits (such as X-Men and Spider Man) or wild misfires (such as daredevil and men thing).

It was during these early efforts that Mr. Feige cut his cinematic teeth and learned the ropes from longtime professionals like Laura Shuler Donner and Avi Arad on his journey to become the most lucrative producer in the history of the entertainment industry. While many facets of comic book making evolved rapidly with the onset of a shared cinematic universe in 2008 with the wide releases of Iron Man and The Incredible Hulkone thing remained constant: Stan Lee cameos.

Prior to his passing in 2018, the man, myth and legend almost always emerged in a big screen adventure inspired by the heroes and villains he helped create with Jack Kirby. Most of the time he just played some random guy in sunglasses, but other times he tackled a character ripped straight from the comics he wrote.

A good example of this exception to the rule can be found in 2005’s Fantastic four, in which Lee unofficially joined the US Postal Service as Baxter Building mailman, Willie Lumpkin. It was a pretty perfect choice, although it may come as a surprise to you that the idea was formed just days before Lee stepped on set after a quick brainstorming session between Feige and longtime makeup effect artist, Bart Mixon, who supervised held on to Michael Chiklis’ rocky transformation into The Thing.

“Kevin was the only other guy on set I could talk to about comic books because no one else knew about it,” Mixon, a lifelong follower of the Marvel canon, told SYFY WIRE during an extended conversation about his work on the 1990 television miniseries based on Stephen King’s THE. “I remember one day he was visibly excited, like, ‘Ooo, Stan Lee is coming! He’ll be here in a few days.’ And I thought, “Oh, that’s great. What’s his cameo going to be this time?” And he says, “I don’t know. We have to come up with something good.” I go, ‘Well, he should be Willie Lumpkin.’ And you could literally see the light bulb go off over his head. He said, ‘That’s a great idea!'”

Mixon continues: “The next day, new script pages featuring the Willie Lumpkin character were added. Originally, all of his dialogues were [spoken by] the doorman of the Baxter building, so unfortunately for that guy, they took some of his lines and gave them to Stan. For whatever reason, Stan refused to take off his sunglasses. He thought his sunglasses were his trademark. The costume or gag people tried to give him little round glasses, like Willie Lumpkin wears in the comics, but Stan didn’t feel comfortable not having his signature sunglasses.”

Fifteen years earlier, Mixon had the chance to interact with Kirby during a cast and crew screening for the now infamous Captain America movie starring Matt Salinger as Steve Rogers. The co-creator of Cap was reportedly not too happy with the Star-Spangled hero putting on his iconic costume only at the beginning and end. “Every time there was an action scene where it was just Steve Rogers, Kirby would sit there and say, ‘Put the uniform on! Put the uniform on!’” Mixon recalls. the suit!’ I thought that was funny.”

In recent years, the makeup artist and die-hard comic book fan has had the opportunity to work on a slew of high-profile MCU offerings such as Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Endgame, Thor: Love and Thunderand Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. “Working on all the Marvel stuff is a dream come true,” he concludes. “Kevin Feige still talks to me when I see him on set, so at least I have that in front of me…”

Looking for more sci-fi adventure in the meantime? Check out Battlestar Galactica, Heroes, Warehouse 13, Eureka, SYFY’s Resident Alien, Sliders, Intergalactic and more now on Peacock.

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