By Devan Coggan
December 14, 2018 at 04:51 PM EST
Credit: Sony Pictures Animation; Inset: Jun Sato/WireImage

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a love letter to all things Spider-Man, uniting the various webslingers who’ve taken up the mantle since Stan Lee and Steve Ditko first introduced Peter Parker back in 1962. And one of the film’s most touching moments comes with the customary cameo appearance from Lee — a moment that took on an added meaning after he died last month at the age of 95.

The film follows Afro-Latino teenager Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore) as he gets a superhero crash course from other Spider-People, including the original Peter Parker (Jake Johnson). It’s an ambitious adventure, packed with quippy one-liners and sinister villains that feel like they’re straight out of a Lee story, and the filmmakers wanted to make sure Lee’s appearance honored everything he brought to the Marvel universe.

WARNING: Spoilers for Lee’s cameo in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse follow.

Directors Bob Persichetti, Rodney Rothman, and Peter Ramsey have revealed that Lee pops up in a few different ways throughout Spider-Verse, especially in crowd scenes around New York. But his main appearance comes as the owner of a costume shop who sells Miles a cheap Spider-Man suit.

In Miles’ universe, Peter Parker’s Spider-Man has passed away, and the teenager takes it upon himself to try to fill his shoes. When he brings the Spider-Man costume to the counter, Lee’s shop owner tells Miles, “I’m going to miss him. We were friends, you know.”

Miles isn’t sure the costume will fit, and it looks like more of a baggy Halloween costume than a proper superhero outfit. But Lee’s character winks and tells him, “It always fits eventually,” before pointedly gesturing to a “no refunds” sign.

Credit: Sony Pictures Animation

“We always wanted to honor his legacy and Steve Ditko’s legacy as the godparents of this character,” producer Chris Miller told EW. “The movie itself was supposed to feel like an extension of what they were doing in the ’60s, when they made an ordinary nerdy teenager from a lower-middle-class family in Queens a superhero, who wasn’t a god or an alien or a billionaire. That felt very welcoming and inclusive, and that message resonated with us as kids, like, ‘It could be me.’ And we were just trying to pass that on.”

And although Lee’s cameo is sweet, Miller and writer-producer Phil Lord wanted to make sure it properly captured Lee’s sense of humor and huckster charm, too.

“In the beginning, we wanted to give him a real place in the movie and not just a moment — something that was exciting and could honor his legacy and also be funny at the same time,” Miller said. “Obviously it took on a whole added poignancy after his passing, but the spirit of it remains exactly the same.”

For Johnson, who voices Peter, it’s a fitting tribute to the man who helped create one of the most beloved superheroes of all time.

“As somebody who likes to write and create himself, I can’t even say what he brought to the character because he brought everything,” Johnson told EW. “We are all still playing in his imagination.”

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is in theaters now.

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