Warning: this is long and completely weird. Almost spoiler-free, but there might be some in there as well.
Saw Guardians of the Galaxy yesterday and it was pretty much what I expected: funny and cartoonish, great action and great special effects (but, really, when was the last time you saw a movie with BAD special effects? But I digress.)
And, of course, we had the funny cameo by Stan Lee right there at the beginning of the movie. Good old Stan, funny as usual. And a very strong showing by Thanos, the bad-ass similing foe glimpsed at the end of the Avengers.
What struck me this morning was this horrible thing: what if Stan Lee and Thanos were one and the same?
Bear with me here for a minute or two... I'll try to explain
Thanos is defined, in the Guardians of the Galaxy, as "The Mad Titan", and one of the common thread that unites the Marvel movies (Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, The Avengers) is the fact that there are in the universe these incredible artifacts, named the stones of power.
But the OTHER common thread in all these movies (plus the Spider-Man movies and the Fantastic Four) are these funny little cameos by Stan Lee, who appears for a few minutes in pretty much all of them.
What if Stan Lee is Thanos himself, or an agent of the Mad Titan?
All of a sudden, all these little appearances start to make sense!
You see, Thanos is a Titan, an ancient being of almost unfathomable powers and resources. Surely, to being like this one, time traveling and dimension/realm hopping is nothing but a trifle?
My theory is this: Thanos knows that nothing in the Universe is truly a threat to him... EXCEPT maybe for the combined might of Earth/Midgard and Asgard. Think of it this way: Asgard was able to kick the dark elves collective asses (Thor 2) not just once but TWICE, and the elves had "the Ether" (magical McGuffin #1), something so powerful that it was supposed to be able to drag back the entire universe back into darkness.
PLUS, Odin, Asgard's King and All-Father has another "stone of power" in his possession, the Tesseract (Magical McGuffin #2), something so powerful a minuscule fraction of its power was supposed to power the Entire Red Skull Hydra army (Magical McGuffin #2).
Thanos is not an idiot, you are not the kind of being who survives so long -- maybe even from the beginning of the universe -- by ignoring potential competitors. So what he does is research the opposition. And, for this, what better agent than good old Stan Lee?
Think I am crazy? Consider the following time-line:
Circa 1944: Stan Lee appears as a general -- infiltrating the US Army -- certainly in order to research the super soldier programme (Captain America 1) and, possibly, the use of the Tesseract by Red Skull & Hydra.
2008: Stan Lee is mistaken for Hugh Hefner, probably researching Tony Stark and the Iron Man programme (Iron Man)
2010: Stan Lee again is mistaken, this time for Larry King, again extremely close to, and researching, Tony Stark and the new development of Iron Man (Iron Man 2).
2011: Stan Lee tests Mjolnir weight, trying to pull it out of the earth with his pick-up truck (Thor 1). Being so close to Mjolnir, he probably was able to witness first-hand the battle between Thor and The Destroyer, gving him very valuable information on both the strength of the Prince of Asgard and the kind of military technology Asgard can put in the field if needed... But also on the average technology of Earth and of SHIELD - probably the toughest opposition available on the planet (think Helicarrier here).
2012: Stan Lee was in NYC during the battle between the Avengers and Loki's army -- which was supplied by Thanos in a bid to recover the Tesseract. Think of it this way: Stan Lee is Thanos eyes and ears ''on the ground'' and was probably able to judge first hand if Loki was in a position to win that conflict. Why do we see Thanos smile at the end of the Avengers, despite the battle having ended in complete defeat? Because he already knew the outcome of the battle through Stan Lee report and because he considers the lessons learned have provided him with invaluable information on the strength and weaknesses of its two worst potential enemies: Earth (Midgard) and Asgard!
2013: Stan Lee is in London (Thor 2), in the very hospital where Dr Erik Selvig is interned, keeping an eye on him, and probably researching the way Earth foremost expert on the multiverse is able to understand the realms, a topic of the foremost importance for Thanos (what would happen if Tony Stark and all his armors were to launch a trans-dimensional attack with weapons possibly based on Asgard Technology?) and all this just a couple of hours before the Dark Elves try to use the Ether to bring darkness to the Universe. That's the second time Stan Lee is in a position to (a) be a witness of a battle between Asgard/Thor and dangerous foes and (b) learn more about one of the Magical McGuffins and their powers, something that could become very valuable in the future.
2013: Stan Lee, again appears in a very close vicinity of Tony Stark (Iron Man 3). I think his interest here is more of a port-mortem on the Battle of N.Y. in the Avengers: how are the humans who defeated Loki's army holding up? How are they adapting to this new multiverse? Have they developped new weapons and tactics? It seems obvious Thanos has an interest in the super-soldier programme and its ramifications into the different super objects that have been gradually been discovered. But the strength of Earth, its military technologies, also have its full and undivided attentions. He wants to know about it BEFORE Earth is in a position to use that technology against him!
2014: Stan Lee is in the Smithsonian Museum, as a security guard to the Steve Rogers expo (Captain America 2 - The Winter Soldier). But, seriously, since it appears he has been researching the super soldier since the mid-1940s, it's not really surprising: he IS probably the foremost authority on Captain America, thanks to his time travels! And, again, please note he is in Washington D.C., really close to where the action is. Coincidence? I THINK NOT!
2014: Stan Lee is present on Xandar, probably keeping an eye on Gamora, and is able to witness the fight between her and the other characters who will become the Guardians of the Galaxy. Not just that, but, being in Xandar, he may even be able to scout and research the security around the Infinity Stone, which is going to be held by Nova Prime. Again, this cannot be a coincidence: Stan Lee is in the perfect place to observe, collect information and report possibly crucial data back to Thanos.
AND... This is just the Iron Man/Avengers/Thor/Captain America movies. Stan Lee has also appeared in the Spider Man movies (some very interesting military applications here) and in the Fatastic 4 movies (Earthling defat Galactus? Inconceivable!!). Again, always at he right time, right place to observe, note and report back to his master, the Mad Titan, Thanos himself.
There you have it -- of course, Thanos and Stan Lee NEVER appear together at the same time during the movies. Even if they did, that would simply prove that Stan Lee is an agent of Thanos, and not Thanos himself.
Now, I believe the question we all need to ask Stan Lee is this one: "Are you an agent of Thanos, or have you ever been an agent of Thanos? And, if not, how do you explain your presence in all of these places and times?". Make him swear on a Bible, and surround him with SHIELD agents equipped with more copies of the big gun Coulson used on Loki in the Avengers (and please note that THAT gun was inspired by Asgard's Destroyer in Thor 1 -- how is that for technologies hopping dimensions?).
You have been warned. Stan Lee works for Thanos. And he is not on Earth to help us.