In 2018, it’s expected that any Marvel movie — whether it comes from Marvel directly or through a licensing agreement with another studio — will have a Stan Lee cameo. In the last two decades before his death, Lee had become the modern Hitchcock, at least as far as cameos are concerned. He even began showing up in DC movies; he had a very funny appearance in Teen Titans Go! To the Movies earlier this summer.

The trope had to start somewhere, though, and that somewhere was 2000’s X-MenSpider-Man followed in 2002 — but it very nearly didn’t. According to director Sam Raimi, he was strongly against the idea of letting Stan “The Man” show up in Spider-Man. He told The Hollywood Reporter:

I got the job for Spider-Man in 1999. And [Marvel head] Avi Arad said, ‘I want you to put Stan in the movie.’ And I was like, ‘No. I know Stan, and he can’t act.’ And Avi was, ‘I want him in the movie. We did it for X-Men, we're doing it here.’ Now imagine you're a minor director in England doing Macbeth and you're told, ‘Put the writer in the play.’ It sounds absurd. ‘Fine, you want Shakespeare in the play, I'll put Shakespeare in the play.’

So now we know: The man most responsible for Stan Lee’s cameos becoming “a thing” was Avi Arad, the former head of Marvel’s film and television division. (It definitely didn’t hurt that Stan loved being on camera any chance he could.) Arad won out, of course, and Stan appeared in all three Raimi Spider-Man movies. Here are his cameos:

Raimi’s comments do kind of explain why his cameos in the first two Spider-Man movies are so brief — he didn’t think he was a good actor so he didn’t give him any lines and just had him stand in crowds as Spider-Man-related chaos broke out around him. By Spider-Man 3, Raimi softened a bit, and gave Stan a nice moment with Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker. More and more, that’s how Stan’s cameos went. Rather than hiding him, filmmakers put him front and center and gave him a funny line or two to say. The fans loved seeing him.

Raimi did too, eventually. He told THR Stan’s appearance is now “one of my favorite parts in the movie.” Be sure to head to THR for the full article, which also includes Raimi’s hilarious story about his first “meeting” with Stan “The Man” — and reveals that the pair once tried pitching Hollywood on a Thor movie. None of the studios bought it because, in Raimi’s words, “comic books don’t make good movies.” LOL, okay guys, good one.

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