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.