Does a Cover Appearance Constitute a Full 'First Appearance'?

Comic Book Questions Answered – where I answer whatever questions you folks might have about comic books (feel free to e-mail questions to me at brianc@cbr.com).

Reader Wes W. wrote in to ask, "I'm new to comic reading, so please forgiving if I'm asking a seemly dumb question...

I see forums discuss 1st cameo appearances and 1st full appearances. What I would like to know is if a character appeared on the cover first before he/she appeared in the story, is the cover appearance considered the character's first appearance? Or is the definition of a 1st full appearance that the character has to appear as part of the story to be considered a 1st appearance? "

It's not a dumb question at all, Wes. It's a very interesting one, I think.

Generally speaking, when people say "first appearance" when it comes to comic book characters, they base it on the first time that the character makes a full appearance in a comic book, that is to say, more than just a single cameo appearance at the end of an issue.

For instance, Wolverine appears at the end of Incredible Hulk #180....

(and as a fan D. Lee Grooms pointed out to me on Facebook a couple of weeks ago, it's pretty hilarious how Herb Trimpe clearly just took John Romita's sketch drawing of Wolverine and copied it directly into the issue....


However, we treat the NEXT issue, where Wolverine fights the Hulk and Wendigo, as Wolverine's first appearance...

Some fans, though, disagree and believe that the cameo appearance should count. The same issue comes up for Venom, who has a creepy cameo on the final page of Amazing Spider-Man #299 but his full appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #300 is counted as his first appearance.

I tend to agree with the full appearance being the "first appearance," because if you count the cameo stuff, how much further do you have to stretch to say things like "Hey, remember that Wolverine ad in Daredevil #115? That came out before Incredible Hulk #180, so is THAT Wolverine's first appearance?"

Is the letters column of Marvel Premiere #19 Wolverine's first appearance?

But yes, if we count Incredible Hulk #181 as Wolverine's first appearance, then I believe that that inherently disproves the idea that the COVER of that issue would count as his first appearance...

As after all, if we are not counting the appearance in a panel of an actual comic book as his first appearance, we're certainly not going to count the COVER of the next issue, right?

So, generally speaking, comic book covers do not count as first appearance.

Of course, you all knew it couldn't be THAT easy, right?

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