Saturday’s Los Angeles premiere of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse marked the release of the first Marvel Universe-centered film since Stan Lee’s death and was full of fitting tributes to the comic book legend.
Lee, who died on Nov. 12 at 95 years old, was the brain behind many of Marvel’s iconic superheroes, including Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, and of course, Spider-Man. Attendees to the premiere were given pins with an image of Lee’s iconic aviator glasses, and walls were lined with numerous posters thanking and honoring him.
Lee makes a cameo in Into the Spider-Verse, which star Jake Johnson said was “kind of bittersweet now.”
“He’s got a line — that I’m not going to spoil — that was meant as one thing and now it’s another since he passed,” Johnson, who voices Peter Parker, told The Hollywood Reporter on the premiere’s red carpet. “I’m just really glad that he’s in it because this all started in between his ears at one point, and that’s a really wild idea if you think about it.”
The latest Spider-Man adaptation, this one an animated take using both CGI and hand-drawn designs, tells the story of one Spider-Man who teams up with Spider-Men (and Spider-Women) in other dimensions to fight crime. The story centers on Miles Morales, a Brooklyn teen bitten by a radioactive spider and hit with spidey-senses.
Brian Tyree Henry, who voices Miles’ father in the movie, also spoke about the importance of Lee’s appearance in the film, admitting he was “was shocked to see that he was in [the movie] because I was hoping, my fingers were crossed, I was like ‘Please Lord'” that Lee had been written into the story before his death.
“It’s just so special and we lost a great one and I’m really glad that Marvel is continuing to honor his memory by including him in the film,” Henry added.
Aside from Lee’s guest spot, Into the Spider-Verse is also making waves as the first time diversity has been seen inside of the iconic Spider-Man costume. Miles Morales is the first black Spider-Man, and teams up with Gwen Stacy, a Spider-Woman of sorts, as well as Peni Parker, an Asian female crimefighter.
Henry said that the diversity shown in this film stays true to why Lee created the Marvel Universe: “To champion for those who felt oppressed and those who felt they were receiving prejudice and bigotry and it just didn’t feel like there was anyone to stand in their corner, so that has to extend beyond just white superheroes.”
He continued, “I think it’s really great that this franchise has branched out and decided to really explore what it would be like if a 13-year-old biracial, bi-lingual boy from Brooklyn took the mask on himself, because anyone can be a hero wearing the mask and that’s what we need to show more of.”
Johnson said that although this movie is the first of its kind of terms of showing diverse female superheroes and superheroes of color, he thinks that very soon this will be the norm with big blockbusters.
“I think it’s just you go to watch an action movie or a superhero movie because you want to believe that we are greater than humans, that we are something special, and there’s no reason a woman shouldn’t be able to see herself or a person of color; they should have their heroes too,” he said. “We should all have them.”
Lily Tomlin, who voices Aunt May, chimed in that “Miles is half Puerto-Rican, half African American, his mom speaks Spanish, his dad is a cop… then there’s Spider-Gwen and Spider-Pig, there’s Asian characters, there’s everybody!”
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse also stars Mahershala Ali, Nicolas Cage, Hailee Steinfeld, Liev Schreiber, John Mulaney, Kimiko Glenn and Shameik Moore, and swings into theaters Dec. 14.
This article was originally published by The Hollywood Reporter.