What Defines A Comic Character’s First Appearance?


What’s the key factor that determines an actual first appearance of a comic book character? Well, that’s an easy question to answer, right? Greetings everyone! I am the 13th Crusader, and this article you’re about to read will be regarded as my 1st true appearance…well, not really. It’s more of a shadow appearance, since you can’t see me…or maybe it’s a cameo. No wait; I’m talking about myself, so it must be my 1st mentioned appearance…or, is it a full-fledged 1st appearance?

There’s no doubt that a 1st appearance of any character in a comic book is something to take into consideration. However, the criteria for which a character 1st appears could be debated at length among collectors.

Let’s stick with some Marvel characters, beginning with Wolverine, for example. The 1st time Wolverine is seen is in the last panel of the Incredible Hulk #180 (Oct 1974).


However, this is usually regarded as a cameo appearance despite being able to see Wolverine in full view. Wolverine’s 1st full-fledged appearance is widely considered to be Incredible Hulk #181 (Nov 1974).


Recently, F.O.O.M. (Friends Of Ol’ Marvel) #2 (June 1973) has come into the spotlight because a fan-submitted sketch titled, The Wolverine, and in that sketch it depicts a metal skeleton implant coupled with the idea of recuperative abilities. So, was the true 1st appearance of Wolverine in 1973, or was it more than a year later, in 1974?

foom 2 the wolverine

Another case in point: the mutant Apocalypse. His 1st appearance, or cameo/shadow appearance, was in X-Factor #5 (June 1986). He could be seen from the shadows in the last panel of that issue announcing his name.


However, he is not fully visible until the next issue, in X-Factor #6 (July 1986).


Even Apocalypse’s past, when he was known as En Sabah Nur, is open to interpretation. Did En Sabah Nur’s 1st appearance take place behind the scenes in Marvel Graphic Novel #17 (Oct 1985)?


Or was it in Moon Knight V2 #1 (June 1985), four months earlier? In the Moon Knight issue, Moon Knight’s origin is retold and a man named Sabah helps a desert-wondering Marc Spector into the Tomb of Khonshu.


 In the Marvel Graphic Novel issue, En Sabah Nur was not named, but instead presumed to be one of the Living Pharaoh’s henchmen.

Continuity appearances are also fun to discuss, such as Spider-Man’s alien costume for instance, which 1st appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #252 (May 1984).


 For continuity purposes though, it 1st appeared in Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #8, seven months later (Dec 1984).


Here’s one of my favorites, just because: Mary Jane Watson. Here’s her breakdown of appearances: 1st mentioned in Amazing Spider-Man #15 (Aug 1964), 1st brief appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #25 (June 1965), 2nd brief appearance in Amazing Spider-Man # 38 (July 1966), 1st cameo appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #42 (Nov 1966), 1st full appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #43 (Dec 1966).


There are plenty of other examples that could be listed; however, I think by now you get my point in how tricky 1st appearances can be sometimes for fans trying to acquire key books of their favorite character. In closing, I’ll leave you with my stance on this subject. I treat 1st appearances like a baseball umpire; if I see the ball coming over the plate, I’ll call it a strike. So, going back to Wolverine, I believe his 1st appearance was in F.O.O.M. #2. Why? Well, it’s a sketch, yes, but the character is clearly seen, it’s published in a book, it’s clearly titled The Wolverine for crying out loud, plus it coincidently carries traits similar to those of the Wolverine “debut” more than year later in Hulk #180; that’s “over the plate” . You want another example of the 1st time you see a character in a published book? Try Shatterstar. He fully appeared in a pin-up (unnamed) in New Mutants Annual #6 (1990).


Shatterstar isn’t used in a story until New Mutants #99 (Mar 1991).  What’s the 1st Shatterstar appearance then? Cleary it’s in New Mutants Annual #6.


In my opinion if you want to own MJ’s 1st appearance, look for Amazing Spider-Man #42. Looking for Spidey’s 1st black costume? Look for Amazing Spider-Man #252. But, please take your time looking for that one because I’m trying to reacquire it myself. LOL

By The 13th Crusader


Pics added by Al Mega

Unless otherwise indicated, all materials on these pages are Copyrighted and Trademark of their respective owners and used for demonstrative purposes.

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