The current Help page is inadequate. It does not have any information about what counts as a character appearance that needs to be credited. All it says is that characters should only be credited if they have a speaking role. This is ridiculous, since some characters never speak at all. It also fails to give a definitive answer about what to do with characters that have alternate version. All it says that characters should not be separated based on universe (there shouldn’t be a separate character page for Ultimate Spider-Man) but there are some exceptions like Superboy-Prime and Maestro. The Help page doesn’t say how different is different enough.
So I’ve decided to write my own Help page to deal with these issues. Maybe if enough of you guys agree with it, we can make it official. This is only the first draft:
What counts a character appearance?
- A character appearing on a cover only counts as an appearance if the cover is not a photo cover. This is because a photo cover is usually just a promotional image from the TV show or movie that the comic is based on. A character appearing on a photo cover might not appear in any comic at all.
- A character appearing in an advertisement does NOT count as an appearance.
- A character appearing inside a comic counts as an appearance even if the character only appears in one panel and doesn’t speak. Even if it’s a flashback. Even if the flashback is later revealed to be an exaggeration or a lie.
- A silhouette of a character does NOT count as an appearance.
- A statue of a character does NOT count as an appearance.
- A painting or poster or photograph of a character does NOT count as an appearance.
- A character’s computer avatar does NOT count as an appearance.
- A character appearing in a dream or a hallucination counts as an appearance only if the character speaks.
- A character appearing on a TV or computer screen counts as an appearance if the character has a speech balloon or another character on the same screen has a speech balloon.
- A character appearing on a TV or computer screen is an appearance if the screen shows characters fighting. Basically, it only counts as an appearance if the image on the screen looks like it’s a video and not a simple photo.
- If a shapeshifter assumes the appearance of another character, it counts as an appearance for the shapeshifter but does not count as an appearance for the other character.
- If it's unclear if a certain character is the real character or a shapeshifter in a particular comic, assume that it’s the real character.
- If one character switches bodies with another character, it is an appearance for the character whose mind is in the body, but not for the other character.
- If one character possesses another character, it is an appearance for both characters.
- A character appearing as part of a gallery of floating heads does NOT count as an appearance.
- Some characters have no physical form, so they appear in comics in the form of a speech balloon with no tail.
- The Bluewater Comics series “Fame”, “Female Force” and “Political Power” often show actors portraying various movie characters. These are appearances for the actors but not appearances for the movie characters.
Does it count as a first appearance if the character was not named?
- An unnamed character can be identified by reference books that have more than one first appearance for the same character..
For example, The Official Handbook Of The Marvel Universe lists 4 different First Appearances for Erik Josten, one for each each of his aliases. Superman: The Ultimate Guide To The Man Of Steel says that Jimmy Olsen first appeared as an unnamed office boy in Action Comics #6 and first appeared as a named character in Superman #13.
It's easy for a writer to make a mistake when they're just writing a single issue title for the First Appearance section of a character description. That's why The Marvel Encyclopedia and The DC Comics Encyclopedia are littered with mistakes. But reference books that list multiple first appearances for each character require a high level of research, so they tend to be more accurate.
- An unnamed character can be identified if Comic Book DB, Grand Comics Database and either DC Comics Database or Marvel Comics Database agree on who the character is.
It doesn’t matter that no official source backs that up. No one tries to claim that it isn’t George Taylor or that it is someone else. It couldn’t have been Perry White because he is listed as first appearing in Superman #7. Online databases may not always be accurate but they have 2 big advantages over reference books: they are accessible to everyone and they can correct their own mistakes.
Does an alternate version of a character need a separate character page?
This depends on the situation.
- If one version of a character lives in modern times and another version lives in the 19th century, they are still the same character.
For example, the regular Batman and the Batman from Gotham by Gaslight.
- If one version of a character has dark hair and another version has light hair or red hair, they are still the same character.
For example, DC Universe Lana Lang and Smallville Lana Lang.
- If one version of a character is white and another version is black or Asian, they are still the same character.
For example, Nick Fury and Ultimate Nick Fury are the same character.
- If one version of a character is a man and one version is a woman, they are separate characters unless the character is a shapeshifter.
For example, Deadpool and Lady Deadpool are separate characters.
- If one version of a character is human (or a humanoid alien) and one version is a zombie, they are separate characters.
For example, Deadpool and Headpool are separate characters.
- If one version of a character is human and one version is a vampire, they are still the same character. A vampire is much closer to being human than a zombie is.
For example, regular Batman and the Batman from Red Rain are the same character.
- If one version of a character is human and one version is some kind of animal, they are separate characters unless the character is a shapeshifter.
For example, the regular Speedball and the Marvel Apes Speedball are separate characters.
- If one version of a character is an adult and one version is a small child that wears the same costume as the adult, they are separate characters.
For example, the X-Men and the X-Babies are separate characters.
- If one version of a character is human and one version is some kind of toy, they are separate characters.
For example, the action figures on Twisted Toyfair Theatre and the characters they are based on are separate characters.
Generally, if two different versions of a character have different real names, they count as separate characters. But there are some exceptions.
- Sometimes a character’s surname is spelled differently in different stories. Both versions still count as the same character even if they exist in a separate continuity.
For example, Jack O’Neil and Jack O’Neill, Curt Connors and Curt Conners, Kal-El and Kal-L.
- A female character may change her surname after getting married. Both versions still count as the same character even if they exist in a separate continuity.
For example Lois Lane and Lois Luthor (from Superman: Red Son) are the same character.
- Sometimes a character’s surname might be partially changed when a comic is adapted into a move. Both versions still count as the same character as long as the first name is the same and part of the surname is still the same.
For example, Stella Olemaun and Stella Oleson from 30 Days of Night, Adam Susan and Adam Sutler from V for Vendetta, Billy Russo and Billy Russotti from Punisher: War Zone.
- An Earth-1 version and an Earth-2 version of a character sometimes have different names. Both versions still count as the same character if both names were used in Golden Age comics. The Golden Age was a simpler time when there was only one continuity but it sometimes had a few inconsistencies.
For example, Jonathan Kent and John Kent, Martha Kent and Mary Kent, Harvey Dent and Harvey Kent. These were later retconned to exist in separate Earths but originally they were just minor inconsistencies in the same character.
- The Tangent Comics universe and the Just Imagine Stan Lee universe are so different from the regular DC universe that all alternate versions appearing in those comics count as separate characters.
- If an Amalgam universe character is a combination of two or more DC and Marvel characters, then the Amalgam character counts as a separate character from both of them.
For example, Super-Soldier is a separate character from Captain America and Superman even though he has the same name as Superman (Clark Kent). The characters in Superman: Speeding Bullets and the Marvel series Bullet Points are also a kind of amalgamations so they also count as separate characters.
- However, Amalgam characters that are not amalgamations, do not count as separate characters.
For example, Nick Fury and Amalgam Nick Fury are the same character.
- If two versions of a character from different parallel universes meet each other, they will be considered separate characters only if they have different Super Names and the 1st Appearance of the later version involves a meeting with the earlier version.
For example, Superboy-Prime first appeared in DC Comics Presents #87, where he first met the earlier version Superman so he is a separate character.
- If public domain character has a DC Universe version, a Marvel Universe version, and an Image Universe version, they all count as separate characters.
For example, the different version of Hercules. I actually very strongly disagree with this rule, but this is how Comic Vine currently does it. All versions of Hercules are very similar in many ways. The same is true for other public domain characters. Each comic book company, may put their own spin on a public domain character each version still retains many recognizable aspects of the classic version.
I’m still trying to decide if a human version and an alien version should be considered the same character. This rule would be relevant for the different versions of Supergirl and Hawkman as well as Ultimate Lilandra and Clark Kent from Superman: Secret Identity.
I’m also trying to decide whether the characters in Marvel 1602 should be considered separate characters from the regular versions. Some of them have different names from the regular versions and some don’t.
I’m also trying to think of a rule that explains why Superman and Superman of Earth-2 should be considered the same character, but Supergirl and Power Girl should be considered separate characters. Having different Super Names is essential but it’s not enough, since Giant-Man met his earlier Yellowjacket self in the miniseries Avengers Forever. Maybe something about the fact that both versions of Superman existed in the Golden Age (the Earth-1 version existed as Superboy). Or maybe something about the fact that both Giant-Man and Yellowjacket were part of the Avengers team. And I still have no idea about what to do with the different incarnations of Nathaniel Richards. Why do Kang, Immortus and Iron Lad have separate character pages but Rama-Tut doesn’t?
An alternative to all of this confusion is that we make a list of every single alternate version that should have a separate character page and all other alternate versions’ character pages will be removed. All an alternate version really needs to be considered a separate character is to be easily distinguishable from the original version (so that when there’s a movie we know which version to credit) and to be interesting enough for someone to bother making a new page for them.
So, what do you guys think?