- First appearances in comics can be subjective and collectors’ decisions often determine what is considered the true “first appearance.”
- Some characters, like Darkseid, debuted in cameos, but their cameos are considered their officially recognized first appearances.
- The logic behind determining cameos as first appearances can be inconsistent, as seen with characters like James Rhodes and Jason Todd.
In the latest Drawing Crazy Patterns, where we spotlight five recurring themes in comics, we examine five times that comic book character’s first appearances, while obviously cameos, are still considered their “first appearance” for some reason.
When speaking about Hollywood and the knowledge about what movies will become hits and which ones will not, William Goldman famously noted, “Nobody knows anything.” That same thing applies to the world of comic book collecting and the determination of whether something is a “first appearance” or not. There truly is no good rhyme or reason as to why something is deemed a “cameo” versus a “first appearance,” besides the main rule of it all – whatever people decided was “the” answer inevitably becomes THE answer.
For instance, as I’ve noted before, Gambit’s first appearance is clearly in Uncanny X-Men Annual #14. There is no doubt about it. People who try to term it a “cameo” are just being silly, and heck, in recent years, the “official” collectors guides have even slowly but surely come around and admitted that Uncanny X-Men Annual #14 IS Gambit’s first appearance, and it is not a “cameo.” However, at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter, since collectors have long decided that Uncanny X-Men #266 (which was INTENDED to be Gambit’s first appearance) is the book that anyone who wants Gambit’s first appearance will want to collect more so than Uncanny X-Men Annual #14. In other words, when it comes to what book fans want to collect, the decision has been made – the answer is Uncanny X-Men #266. The only issue is that some fans try to justify their decision by trying to somehow explain why Uncanny X-Men Annual #14 doesn’t count. It doesn’t work. And that’s fine, Uncanny X-Men Annual #14 is the first appearance of Gambit, but Uncanny X-Men #266 is the issue that fans treat as the more collectible. That’s totally fine.
This, though, leads to the hilarious examples where the collectors “logic” about cameos make absolutely NO sense.
For instance, famously, comic book collectors have determined that Incredible Hulk #180, which has the following in it..
is a cameo appearance and not the “real” first appearance of Wolverine, and that the following issue is the “real” first appearance of the iconic Canadian mutant with the sharp claws and the bad attitude…
That’s not something that was just, like, handed down from upon high. It was something that comic book retailers just decided, that cameo appearances don’t count as first appearances. The same thing goes for Venom, who has an extended sequence at the end of Amazing Spider-Man #299, but Amazing Spider-Man #300 is treated as his first appearance (and unlike Wolverine, Venom isn’t on the cover of either issue).
And yet, the following cameo appearances ARE treated as first appearances!
Discover five times that DC and Marvel character adopted secret aliases that turned out to be real people after all
This is the most infamous example of all, as, well, look at what is treated as Darkseid’s first appearance, in Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #134 (by Jack Kirby and Vince Colletta)!
It’s ONE TINY PANEL with his face just on a screen! And yet it is treated as his first appearance! The only possible logic I can come up with regarding this one is something I noted recently, which is that Darkseid started his comic book career being very much behind-the-scenes. He shows up in a cameo in Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #135, and then makes more of an appearance (although not really all that much MORE than a cameo) in Forever People #1. So I guess the theory is that if the character was ONLY making cameo appearances, that we should just pick the first cameo appearance as the “first” appearance.
Once again, James “Rhodey” Rhodes, who would later become War Machine, made just a small cameo appearance in Iron Man #118 (by Bob Layton, David Michelinie and John Byrne)…
And that issue is treated as Rhodey’s first appearance. I guess, again, the issue is that Rhodey’s SECOND appearance, in Iron Man #120, is also basically a cameo…
So I guess, again, two cameos were too much to consider Iron Man #121 his first appearance, so the first of the two cameos got the nod.
This is a weird one, as Batman #357 (by Gerry Conway, Don Newton and Alfredo Alcala) has Dick Grayson visit a circus where the Flying Todds are performing. In one small panel, we see a little kid…
And then there is a larger panel, but Jason Todd isn’t even NAMED in the panel!
Again, Jason’s next appearance isn’t that significant, either, so I guess that’s why his first cameo is chosen for his first appearance.
Discover five times that comic book characters debuted in a “back door pilot” comic book story
In Uncanny X-Men #282 (by Whilce Portacio, John Byrne and Art Thibert), Bishop appeared on the final page of the issue, so he was just like Wolverine’s appearance in Incredible Hulk #180, which is considered a cameo…
But this is considered his first appearance among collectors. Obviously, the key is the fact that Bishop is on the cover of Uncanny X-Men #282…
So that’s probably why it was chosen instead of Uncanny X-Men #283.
In Captain Marvel #14 (by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Scott Hepburn, Gerardo Sandoval, Andy Troy and VC’s Joe Caramagna), the old Kree villain, Yon-Rogg, the guy who was responsible for Carol receiving her Kree powers in the first place, Yon-Rogg plans to turn Earth into New Hala, the Kree throneworld, and he is being powered by a mysterious source. As it turns out, he is being powered by essentially a brain tumor within Carol own brain! So yes, the very thing that is threatening to destroy Earth is powered by Carol herself. Not only that, but using her powers exacerbates the tumor, and could kill her! The final battle occurs in New York City, and Carol and the other Avengers fight off Yon-Rogg’s men, while also evacuating innocent bystanders…
Of course, this was before Kamala actually received an official design from Adrian Alphona, so the artists for this issue only knew that Kamala was Pakistani-American, and went with that.
While she was unnamed, it definitely WAS meant to be Kamala, as Kelly Sue DeConnick later noted that the intent was to show Kamala watching Captain Marvel in action saving people before Kamala got her own powers, to really tie in why Captain Marvel was such an inspiration for her. And this is treated as Kamala’s “first appearance” despite being about as much of a cameo as you possibly could get.
Remember, everyone, that these lists are inherently not exhaustive. They are a list of five examples (occasionally I’ll be nice and toss in a sixth). So no instance is “missing” if it is not listed. It’s just not one of the five examples that I chose. If anyone has suggestions for a future Drawing Crazy Patterns, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org!
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