First Ad, First Cameo, First Full… why is this so hard?

I've been fairly vocal about my feelings on this topic, but sadly it seems people have misconstrued what I'm really saying about it. So let me try and articulate it better. My hope is that people will become less defensive and more amicable to finally coming to a consensus… probably not today, but maybe someday soon.

Cameos seems to have become a dirty word with some collectors. I'm not sure why exactly. At some point some people got it into their heads that Cameo should be less valuable… For the record, I've never actually said that. In fact I've said repeatedly that cameos can be more valuable than a full appearance. I personally don't like cameo wasting space in my collection, that's my opinion.

I don't like that sellers use first appearance without the words full or cameo when they should. As a consumer I feel that it's my right to know the size of an appearance prior to spending any money on it.

I've heard people say, well a cameo is a first appearance and this is all stupid. Hate to break it to those folks, they don't get to make that determination, the market does. The market get's to decide what information is relevant, not the people with a stockpile of a particular issue.

A first appearance which ends up amounting to a few pages or panel, that's a brief appearance and the very definition of the word Cameo.

Calling it a cameo doesn't mean it not a first appearance, it simply distinguishes it from being a full appearance. Using a word like Cameo gives anyone a fairly good idea the size of the appearance inside. It allows people to make an informed buying choice. Customers don't seem to have a problem getting similar information in other markets were an omission of information like that is considered fraud… so why not in comics?

Some of you are probably saying, they should do their research. Which I'd agree with 100%, if nothing else, this column is a testament to sharing that researching effort… but what if you can't research it? What if the information out there is skewed.. or incomplete? Let me give you an example.

A couple of years ago I started trying to research Wonder Woman vol2 #7 and #9. I couldn't find a copy of issue #7 I could look through. Sellers would get very dodgy when I asked this simple question at conventions or online. “Does Cheetah actually appear in issue 7?”. I'd never get a straight answer. They'd say things like “Barbara Minerva/Cheetah first appears in this issue”. Which doesn't answer my question. I tried re asking the question a different way, “I know Barbara Minerva appears in it, I know she becomes Cheetah at some point, but does she appear in Cheetah form in this issue?” That's a simple yes or no question, wouldn't you agree?

Eventually I was able to read the issues in question for myself… granted it wasn't a priority since I already had issue #9 and it became an interesting experiment.

As it turns out, she does not become Cheetah until issue #9. It's infuriating that sellers either didn't actually know or couldn't be bothered to check… or were just plain being deceptive. Yes, Barbara Minerva's first “cameo” appearance is in issue #7 in 5 panels on 2 pages. Her second appearance is also brief and happens in issue #8. However she doesn't take the form of Cheetah until issue #9.

Personally I don't usually care about characters first plain clothes appearances, I think I've made that abundantly clear in the last year. I'm interested in their first costumed full appearances. As a consumer, I have a right to know if I ask a seller point-blank. If they don't know, ok, fine. Then say that you don't know rather than stumbling through a carefully ambiguous sales pitch.

People may want the character's first appearance in plain clothes. Which is totally cool, buy what you like. They may want every appearance of a character. That's great too. At the end of the day, the buying market has a right to make that determination on their own and not be manipulated due to ambiguous, incomplete or deceptive information.

Look at Incredible Hulk 181 vs 180. If a comic only has 5% Wolverine as opposed to 95% Hulk and Windigo, clearly that's not a full appearance. It's a cameo. On the other hand, if Wolverine first appears on a single panel in IH180, you can't call IH181 where he appears on the cover his first appearance either. Clearly it's not the first time he appears. Should 180 be listed as the first Wolverine? Absolutely… but it should be listed as First Cameo, so buyers have a way to gauge what they are paying for. The word cameo in the description isn't there to devalue it. It's for clarification so the buyer will understand the size of that appearance. Ultimately the market get's to decide which book is worth more, which is 181 because he's on the cover. However since more people are getting wise to 180, that could and should change over time.

Now we have things like first ad appearance. Which is fine also. I have no issue with it as long as it's properly classified. Just calling it a first appearance isn't really adequate for the same reasons as cameo and first full. I'm not saying ads are not valid as a first appearance, the market can decide that, not me. Classifying it in a way that reflects what it is allows a buyer to make an informed decision. A new collectors probably isn't looking for something like that while a collector who has everything else already would.

The classification breakdown can be as simple as First Ad, First Cameo, First Full. That's straight forward, informative and above all else, honest. Nothing about those labels implies more importance or less value. It accurately communicates what they are and in what order they would fall into based on publication date.

Regardless, there's really no reason not to set up a new series of classification to separate the different types of appearances. If we can evolve to the point of encasing books in carbonite to protect an invest, you'd think adopting a 3 classification system for first appearances would be a no brainer.

More information is always better for the consumer. It seems the only real resistance against better appearance classification stems from folks that are too deep in the wrong book, which is a perception, not actually a reality. Again, nothing about a First Ad, First Cameo and First Full type classification diminishes a particular book.

In a predatory market like comics better classification really is in everyone's best interest and long, long overdue.

Till Next Time.


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  • Avatar

    The problem with first cameo and first full is how many panels does a character need to appear in until it’s considered a first full. Some older villains may only appear in a few panels but it gets considered first full. Also if a character already has there powers in a first character appearance but there not in uniform then it gets tricky as well.

    • Avatar

      Exactly, this for example, as long as named, is a full first appearance in my book:
      “Barbara Minerva’s first “cameo” appearance is in issue #7 in 5 panels on 2 pages.”

    • Skot Whitman

      Thanks for reading and commenting Alana! Absolutely, many characters make their first appearances as “Cliffhanger Cameos” on the final panel of the final page, like Wolverine in IH180. Then there’s the whole ad appearance debate.

      The larger point I’m trying to make is we need to do something to atleast try and sort this stuff out. Just slapping “first appearance” on it really isn’t specific enough anymore. Just look at music and how many different classifications that has.

  • Avatar

    Even worse what if there’s multiple cameos before a first full appearance?

  • Avatar

    People who get upset when someone brings attention to newly discovered previews or ads has always been puzzling to me. I don’t know why this hobby demands such black and white rules. It’s stifiling. Actual fans (opposed to people simply investing for gain) should be asking themselves what is rare, interesting and relevant. Especially for characters with over-printed “first appearances.”
    We have collectors playing different games within this hobby, who love arguing apples to oranges with each other. Many have a narrow view and don’t even realize there are different ways to collect because their comic knowledge is low. Sophmore collectors with big mouths and keyboards.

    • Skot Whitman

      Thanks for reading and commenting David! I thinks there’s a lot of wisdom in what you’ve said. It all comes down to money with many of them and I think that hurting our hobby. Don’t get me wrong, I like money, I mean who doesn’t? But, atleast for me I love comics as an art form first and foremost.

  • Avatar

    It would be nice if there was some universal consistency in labeling. A one panel appearance in one comic is a cameo while it’s a first in another. Regardless like Skot said, ultimately the market will decide the value.

  • Avatar

    This is my cameo comment appearance!

  • Avatar

    “First cameo” could also refer to their first appearance…AFTER a first full appearance. Superman could have a first appearance in Action 1 and then his first cameo in All-Star 3 or something. I prefer Cameo First Appearance. Other than that nitpick, good stuff. Can’t believe no one mentioned Darkseid!

    • Skot Whitman

      Thanks for reading, I’ve talked about my views on Darkseid in the “Agree to Disagree” Column that runs here… It might have been last year… or earlier this year…

      To be honest, this was all just a vehicle to B***H about Wonder Woman Vol2 #7 LOL

  • Avatar

    Skot, great article as usual!

  • canadiancomicguy

    Nice write up! Like you say, it’s not actually too hard distinguishing between them… it’s anticipating where the market is going to go. Some “cameos” outsell first “fulls” and vice versa with the advantage typically going to the first fulls. Of course, you could add “first full/cover” which seems to help establish the first full app. And as said in the comments – when is a cameo just a cameo? How many panels is a small enough percentage? Do they appear in costume? Do they say their name/are they referred to by name? That, admittedly still leaves a bit for debate. For me, I just find it fun – and why not chase down ASM 299 and 300 if you’re a Venom fan, or Supes Pal 134 and Forever People 1 if you’re a Darkseid fan? Enjoy the hobby and the appearances.

    • Skot Whitman

      Absolutely, as I said people can buy all the books relating to a character’s first appearance, there’s nothing wrong with that. You do bring up a good point about covers which I probably should have touched on, but I figured I’d try to keep things simple to start. Adding a 4th type of classification would only have served to muddle the article.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • Avatar

      Hey, good, someone brought up Venom!

      The number of cameos and the length of time seems like something that should matter more to me.

      With Wolverine, it’s simple, cut and dried: Cameo in 180 and full in 181.

      With Venom, it’s not. It’s Web #18 and 24, then ASM #298, 299, and full in 300. Oh, and there’s the matter of those first three involving shadows and Micheline’s intent for the Venom in Web to be completely different…

  • zraximus rouge

    Great read! Love the classification but as someone in the comics noted, defining a cameo is difficult. I would say if the character dosent play an integral role in the story and the appearance is small then that would be a cameo. IMO

  • Avatar

    Your key words: “It accurately communicates…”

    Anyone who is selling Wonder Woman vol2 #7 or #9 as “first appearance,” with no further explanation is ignorant or trying to cheat the buyers, and is not accurately communicating.

    • Skot Whitman

      I’d completely agree with that. The problem I think stems from laziness and not taking the time to researching… or hell, taking 10 second to flip through the book before trying to sell it.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • Avatar

    What are your thoughts on New Mutants 25 & 26? I have not seen anyone discuss this topic but I think these two books present a new precedent. 25 has a full appearance as does 26. Both are considered first appearances by many and demand for both is almost equal. In any other circumstance, this would not be the case, but 26 has such a strong cover that demands attention. There seems to be no arguing or contraversy over these two books. The hobby seems to have enough demand to support both as key issues. Personally, I would like to see more of this type of scenario.

    • Skot Whitman

      I’m assuming you’re talking about Legion and I was under the impression he appears in a single pin-up style montage after the main story in NM25. I guess it’s a “Charles Xavier Journal Entry” or something. Then he appears on the cover and in a full appearance in issue #26. The Shadow King makes an appearance in issue NM25 and seems to be heavily involved in what’s going on in issue 25 if I remember correctly. So I’m guessing that is what’s happening with it.

  • Avatar

    Wonder Woman #7 is the 1st full appearance of Barbara Minerva and Wonder Woman #9 is the 1st full appearance of Barbara Minerva as Cheetah.

    • Skot Whitman

      ok, if you think 5 panels constitutes a full appearance but the word Cheetah should never appear anywhere near it in a listing or description for issue 7. Truth be told, her appearance in issue #8 is actually larger and neither appearance is part of the main story.

  • Avatar

    I don’t like the term “1st Cameo Appearance” Personally I’d prefer “1st Appearance – Cameo” which would then lead to a “1st Appearance – Full” or “1st Full Appearance” in whatever subsequent issue. A simple “1st Appearance” when it is cut and dry. The use of “Full” is then an indication that there is some earlier appearance. The value shouldn’t have anything to do with the classification – the market can decide what it wants.

  • Earlybird

    read it, agree… clarity thats all we ask. great article thanks Skot 🙂

  • Avatar

    The laws of supply and demand will take care of things in terms of value and what the masses want and recognize in terms of popularity and price tag. For clarity purposes, I do think a 1st Appearance is simply a 1st appearance and there is no “cameo” if there’s a clear rendering of a character by the artist and naming of the character by the writer. The ones I’m more confused by would be the 1st Appearance of Mary Jane, in one breath the character is debuting in Amazing Spider-Man #25 and has a developing slow reveal, but isn’t identifiable until #42 which I’d say is her 1st appearance. With Polaris, in X-Men #49, Lorna Dane debuts, but in X-Men #50 she becomes Polaris, so when does a 1st appearance of a character and their aliases separate? The 1st appearance of Baby Groot I believe is in Groot #4 (cited as a cameo ‘tho where Groot #5 is the full appearance) but I don’t think the character is named “Baby Groot”, so I think I read there’s a possible different 1st appearance.

    • Skot Whitman

      Thanks for commenting! Polaris is a good one simply because she’ll be in the TV show gifted and people are already misrepresenting issue 49 as the first Polaris.

      X-Men #49 first Lorna Dane, while it’s revealed she has green hair and also speculated by Beast she has dormant mutant powers. She doesn’t exhibit any.

      X-Men #50 first Polaris… since she’s strapped to a machine and literally turned into Polaris on page 4, there should be ZERO debate about it.

  • AZBarbarian

    Love the article and agree wholeheartedly with what you have to say. I have been vocal on this issue myself. Mainly because I think if experienced comic collectors have issues, it must be massively confusing to new comic collectors. I also agree that predatory sales techniques do a disservice in this regard.

    I have always liked the term ‘preview’ for advertisements, artwork, and such that appear before a first appearance.

    You can tell how important and relevant this issue is by the amount of comments your article has received in such a short time. Great job.

    • Skot Whitman

      Thanks for reading! 100% agree that it’s got to be nerve racking for a new collector looking to get into the market now. Which is a major reason I think it’s imperative we all come together and make some headway on this topic… especially if we expect the hobby to continue to grow and attract new collectors.

  • Topher

    For anyone who argues that a cameo is less important than a first full I ask you this, what if in that last panel of Hulk 180 Wolverine skewered the Hulk, killing him. In the context of the story it would be the most important even in the Hulk’s history right? But because it happened in a cameo appearance Hulk 181 would still be considered by the market to be Wolverine’s first? The answer is no. If Wolverine had killed Hulk it would have been huge news then and no one would be talking about 181 other than the fact that it’s a badass cover. Hulk 181, like soooo many others is mistakenly believed to be the first because of the cover and nothing more.

    I believe that 181 should be worth more but it’s not his first. Why does a comic have to be worth more than any other appearance to validate it’s status as a first?

    Wolverine’s first appearance is in Hulk 180, his first cover ( via advert ) is in three other books, his first cover appearance is Hulk 181. We can argue about that Foom issue but I thing that guy has a case.

    A few other things…

    The only way to accurately determine a first is to discount the market because unknown agenda’s can influence the value and information surrounding a book. I know this in an investment web page and we are here to get tips and accurately gauge the market to make money, but to do that we must first get to the truth. Don not equate value with truth.

    So I hear people say that the cameo means less ( and is worth less ) because the character hardly appears. That is fine. I can’t knock ya if your preference is to collect the books where Cable has a lot of panel time but don’t try and tell me that NM 86 is irrelevant. As a completest alone I would vehemently disagree. And don’t try to say that the story is more important without telling me that what happens in NM 87 is any more relevant to the arc than NM 86 without telling me why.

    For those who argue about the importance of the narrative then why is the modern market driven by art and not story? People want the cool cover and will pay a premium for it, especially when they believe it contains a first appearance ( see Spider-Gwen )

    Here’s how I would do it:
    Not all of these apply to every character.

    EXAMPLE: Venom, Symbiote, Eddie Brock

    First published image of the black costume: Amazing Heroes 53-first Alien Costume

    First comic book appearance of the Black Costume: ASM 252

    First chronological appearance of the black costume: Secret Wars 8

    First appearance of Eddie Brock ( via cameo, symbiote unseen ): WOS 18

    First appearance of Eddie Brock as Venom ( via Cameo ) WOS 24

    First full comic book appearance of Venom ( via cameo ) ASM 299

    First cover appearance ASM 315

    First full cover appearance ASM 316

    • Skot Whitman

      That’s an incredibly thoro breakdown for Venom/Alien Symbiote Topher. It’s exactly the type of unbiased breakdown comic appearances need these days…

      It’s also illustrates perfectly where you and I differ in our views of what the term/words “full appearance” means.

      When I use the term “Full appearance” I’m talking about fully appearing throughout the majority of the story/comic.

      When you use it, your talking about being fully viewable in an appearance.

      Regardless of whatever else comes from this, finally understanding that we have a different view of what these terms mean is huge.

      • Topher

        I get what you are saying about a full appearance and yes I do look at a first full a certain way. Here’s my question. Where do we draw the line as to what constitutes a full appearance in terms of the amount of panel appearances by the character? Determining such things is pretty subjective and some examples throw a wrench in the whole thing which further illustrates the need for a universally accepted definition. To bad humans can’t universally do much beyond defile Earth!

        Take Venom Sinner Takes All 2 & 3. Is 2 the first full or 3? I am not assuming you are a Venom fan so here is what I mean…

        Yes She-Venom literally makes her first full appearance in 2. But the story is important too. Her origin is fleshed out throughout the entire book with her ending up She-Venom. We get a costume reveal, in full, on the final page. The narrative is there, she does not appear out of nowhere like Venom in ASM 298 or how many other characters have.
        The reason I use this example-Sinners 3 is considered the first full appearance by the market and majority of collectors. Why? She appears in full on the cover. But if you need the character to appear throughout the majority of the book then Sinners 3 does not meet your standard. She-Venom only appears in a handful of panels and very early on the symbiote returns to Brock and the story continues, without She-Venom. Technically both appearances as She-Venom qualify as the comic definition of cameo, a brief appearance in another character’s book. Her first full cannot be 4 months later so which book is the first full? Sinners 2, 3 or Along Came a Spider.

        Many, many collectors see it your way though. There is nothing more important to me than the story. I wish all book values were based on a combination of killer art, high quality printing and original storytelling. Then I think we would have a perfect hobby.

        Fun article by the way! Fun read!

        • Skot Whitman

          Ok, I was actually planning a She-Venom article breaking this down… but what the hell, let’s do it here and get it over with.

          Venom: Sinner Takes All #2. This is the first appearance. She appears on the last page in what I typically refer to as a cliffhanger cameo. But wait, this issue is also the origin of the Bride of Venom or She-Venom, whatever you want to call her. So it’s hard to dispute it’s importances.

          Venom: Sinner Takes All #3. She appears on the cover however, I’d also consider this a cameo. She appears on only 3 pages and one panel on a 4th page. On the 4th page, Eddie takes the the symbiotic back. So 2nd overall appearance, but still a cameo in my opinion since it’s such a small fragment of the overall story.

          Venom: Sinner Takes All #5. This is the 3rd over all appearance of a She-Venom, but I also would probably only qualify as a cameo, since it’s only 3 or 4 pages of a 24 page comic book.

          Venom: Along Came a Spider #1: 4th over-all appearance, still just another cameo… I think it’s one or two panels spread across 2 pages.

          Venom: Along Came a Spider #2: 5th overall, another single page cameo.

          Venom: Along Came a Spider #3: 6th overall, first full. This is the first issue where She-Venom actually appears in the majority of the main story for a comic issue. She even has to fight Spider-man and beats up a bunch of thugs. This appearance is about the same size as ALL the other previous appearances combined. However, being as it’s the 6th overall appearance, it’s hard to argue this issue having any greater importance than any of the other appearances that came before it.

          Are there other appearances after this? Well to be honest… and who really cares, it’s She-Venom. The artwork is so horrible for all these books I just couldn’t subject myself to it any more. So I quit looking.

          I 100% disagree that a character’s first full appearance can’t be 4 months later. Based on this criteria and how comic storytelling works it can. You outlined it yourself with you breakdown of Venom and the span between WOS 18 and ASM300 is roughly 20 months!

          In this particular case I think Venom: Sinner Takes All #2 is probably the better book, since she has the full page cliffhanger cameo and the origin of how this mess all starts. After that Venom: Sinner Takes All #3 due to a slightly larger appearance inside and the cover. Then, as much as I hate to say it, Venom: Along Came a Spider #3 because the issue is really focused on her for the first time rather than her being a supporting character in a story about Eddie.

          I agree that it would be great if killer art, high quality printing and original storytelling were the main things driving value, this would be a great hobby. Unfortunately many key issues have some of the most dreadful interior art or covers. Which is sometimes how a characters first appearing on a cover is considered more important than the content inside.

          I think it’s simple to quantify this type of thing based on page count alone and connectivity to the main story. It’s basic math, if there’s 24 pages of comic art and they appear on only 1, 2 or 4 pages, it’s a cameo since it’s so brief.

          • Topher

            Yes She-Venom art sucks ( minus a few panels ) but my point is that the whole thing is really a mess. It’s easier to just go by what we see. I believe that all the Venom books I mention are key books. Unfortunately collector’s tend to want and pay a premium for that one book. So being labeled a first is very important in terms of buying and selling. People try and use the word cameo to devalue a book all the time and it really shouldn’t if the context the cameo occurs in is important to the arc. But investors usually aren’t in it for all that.

            Eddie Brock is a special case with those 2 WOS appearances. The full happens right after the cameo where we see Venom’s form and design for the first time, as it does in countless other books for countless other characters. You might be right that a first full can happen much later but no one is going to make an appearance that comes out many months later the market darling
            especially when the character in costume is on the cover right after a cameo. If we are going by definition and leaving the market out of it then you are correct about She-Venom.

            The story should be the driving factor but sadly it just isn’t. As a seller one has to realize that in today’s market art and rarity sell books not the narrative.

  • AZBarbarian

    More information is always better than less information. Using terms consistently is always better than using them inconsistently. Describing books in good faith is always better than describing a book in a disingenuous manner.

    I think we all agree on this.

    Oh, yeah, and ‘She-Venom’ is an abomination.

    • Skot Whitman

      yes at the end of the day I think She-Venom being an abomination is the only thing “everyone” can agree on lol.

      One thing has become abundantly clear. It’s imperative that we all get on the same page about this stuff sooner rather than later.

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