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Top Five Most Famous Characters To Debut In Issues Where They Were Not The Most Famous Character Introduced In That Issue

Top Five Month (check here to see an archive of all the top five lists featured so far) continues with a list in honor of today’s cool comic, Action Comics #252. That issue is the debut of Metallo, but his introduction clearly gets second-billing to the OTHER character introduced that issue, Supergirl. So here is a list of the most famous comic book characters to debut in issues where they were not the most famous character introduced in that issue.




Storm is clearly the most famous of the new X-Men debuting this issue.

Aunt May

Very famous supporting character is out-shined a bit by her nephew

Betty Cooper

One half of Betty and Veronica, she (or Jughead, who also debuts in this issue) are no match for Archie Andrews.

Commissioner Gordon

Stalwart supporting character is overshadowed by the shadow of the bat.

5. Hawkman

Talk about serendipity, two classic DC heroes debuting in the same issue! It must be a pain for your first issue to be in a book named after the OTHER guy!

4. Human Torch

All of the Fantastic Four are famous, but the Thing is tops.

3. Professor Xavier

Xavier, like Cyclops and Jean Grey, have to take a seat to Magneto.

2. Catwoman

What are the odds of perhaps the second-most famous Batman villain debuting in the same issue as the MOST famous Batman villain?

1. Lois Lane

Here’s a scoop for you, Miss Lane, you’re never going to be the most famous person introduced in Action Comics #1!

That’s the list! Agree? Disagree? Let me know!


Good idea, but I think choosing the first appearance of a character that also contain the first appearance of lots of his supporting cast is a copout. The cool thing about the Supergirl/Metallo 1st appearances is that they are totally unrelated to each other yet both went on to be big parts of the Superman mythos. Saying one Fantastic Four or X-Men is less important doesn’t mean much since the 1st appearance of a team will of course have many new characters. And the first appearance of Batman, Archie, Spider-Man, and Superman will of course introduce members of their supporting roster. The Joker/Catwoman one is great and prob should have been number 1, but the rest are just lame.

Yeah no offense loving these quirky lists alot but have to 2nd what phillip said.

Yeah, not to jump on the bandwagon, but when it’s the first appearance of a major character, of course some of their supporting characters are also going to debut in that issue. The Joker/Catwoman one is good. But this Top 5 would have been more interesting if #1 issues were excluded.

And I know Joker/Catwoman were in a #1 issue, but it wasn’t Batman’s first issue.

I wouldn’t go so far as to call any of them “lame”, but I do agree that it’s hard to say who gets top billing in something like FF1 that introduces the whole team.

So when did Veronica first appear? (and I should know this, since I’ve just been reading about Archie stuff recently. Check out the Life with Archie mag, it’s good stuff!)

Veronica’s first appearance was in Pep Comics 26.

Speaking of second billings, Action Comics 1 also saw the debut of both Zatara and Tex Thomson (a.k.a Mr. America a.k.a Americommando).

I’m in with the previous posters. Really enjoying the series of lists this month, but this one was a bit of a disappointment. I was more hoping for pairings like Supergirl/Metallo, Joker/Catwoman…and I’d reference more, but I’m not aware of them. That’s why I was hoping to read the list and find out. Great job though. I really appreciate all you put into this site.

Sorry to pile on, but agree with previous posts. Was thinking more along the line of Iron Man 55, first AP of Thanozs and Dead.

..err, Thanos and Drax.

I agree, the list would be best with unrelated appearances- Supergirl/ Metallo, Catwoman/ Joker are textbook examples. The other two that come to mind would be Flash/ Hawkman and particularly Aquaman/ Green Arrow, since that avoids the #1 pitfall. I might also give Submariner/ Human Torch an honorable mention; I know Subby first appeared in Motion Picture Funnies Weekly but since there’s some doubt that was ever actually distributed it’s worthy of note.

First one comes to my head is Iron Man Vol. 1 #55. This marks the first appearance of Drax the Destroyer and Thanos. Drax is clearly the center of the story in that issue. Hell, he’s even on the cover. However, as much I liked Drax in the Annihilation stuff, there is no denying that Thanos is the bigger and more important character to come out of that issue in the long runner.

On another note, the cover for Pep Comics #22 has to be one of the most awesome covers ever. I like how the artist went out of his way to make sure all his bases were covered: “Heroic America facing impossible odds? Check. Evil goosestepper? Check. Waitaminute, I don’t know if kids will be able to pick up on the subtle message here, better slap a swastika on his shoe to be sure. Also, we need to remind them that we’re fighting on two fronts, so let’s have a rising sun on the heel as well. Come to think of it, we’ll want to put some spikes on the toe, so kids will know how treacherous the enemy is. And the heroes are fighting on top of the globe, because the conflict is GLOBAL! Do you see what I did there?”

Saturn visible in the distance is a nice touch, as well. And I wonder what’s holding the evil stomper’s other foot.

Didn’t Zatara debut in Action no. 1?

I guess by these standards that’d count as 5th or 6th billing after Superman’s supporting characters, but in any case, the poor guy got shuffled out of the limelight.

Who’s second billing in Marvel Comics no. 1, Torch or Sub-Mariner? I guess Subby had way more longevity there.

John Constantine’s debut also introduced one of the scariest/most unsettling assassins in comics, The Invunche (aka boy with his head twisted backwards). True he didn’t last 10 issues but I still remember the little freak…

I can’t remember which issue it was in, but didn’t the Mad Hatter and Vicky Vale appear in the same issue.

Brian, I love your columns — usually — but if you ever have one called TOP FIVE WORST CSBG COLUMNS, this one would surely be near the top.

Better luck next time, sir.

Domino and Deadpool debuted in the same issue, right? I think she was meant to be the more significant character, but it certainly hasn’t turned out that way.

And Firebrand, Human Bomb, and Phantom Lady all take a back seat to Plastic Man.

Yeah this list is missing some serious actual second billing characters, not just supporting cast. Flash’s 1st had Johnny Thunder and Hawkman.

Emma Frost’s and Kitty Pryde’s shared introductions should probably get a mention too.

Well, the readers have voted with their fingertips: Eight thumbs (of 17) pointed directly downwards so far, and the day is young.

At least everyone is being polite about the rejection.

Still, yeesh, it makes me long for the days of yore at GUD, when there was a regular feature called “Snark-Free Zone.”

Brian, you may want to mention that the Joker is the #1 villain appearing in Batman #1. I know that may be apparent to some (like me), but not all of us are as comic book history savvy as others.

I’d point out that nowadays we think of the Thing as the most famous FFer, but in the first few years of the title, the Torch was the initial breakout star, and got his own solo series. He even had his own rogues’ gallery, several of whom were folded into the FF and other books over the years when the Torch’s solo feature faded. Indeed, the original basis of the Frightful Four was that all the male members had been defeated by the Torch in his Strange Tales series and wanted revenge.

The later team-up with Ben, turned it into more of a second FF story each month; note that the Torch got plenty of original enemies, while the Thing-Torch team-up was generally devoted to battling established (usually FF) baddies. (The Beetle is the only exception, being the one new villain who turned up in the Thing-Torch team-up series. And he was treated like the Torchs’ enemy, not Ben’s, when he returned ina Torch-Spidey story in Amazing Spider-Man.)

Even as late as 1970, the Torch was still the character from the FF who was treated like a potential solo star, not Ben. You don’t find Ben Grimm appearing in other comics without the rest of the FF until Marvel-Two-In One, but the Torch had his friendship/rivalry with Spider-Man and was apparently intended to anchor the non-Spidey issues of Marvel Team-Up.

Who’s second billing in Marvel Comics no. 1, Torch or Sub-Mariner?

Ka-Zar! He was in that issue too.


Quote: “Storm is clearly the most famous of the new X-Men debuting this issue.”

Actually, it was Colossus that Marvel intended to be the most famous of the new X-Men, but it was Wolverine who became the big hit.

Except that wasn’t Wolverine’s debut …

And to add more fuel to the fire, Strange Tales #97 is *arguably* Aunt May’s 1st appearance:

And IMHO, Jughead > Betty. (In terms of character importance/popularity, not buxom blondeness.)

When I saw the title, I thought you were going to do a Top 5 of characters who were introduced in back-up filler stories, but who then became popular in their own right.

So, I’m suggesting that as a future Top 5 List.


Hmmm…it took me a while to even understand this Top 5, but I think I got it now.

Got one more for you: I believe Vicki Vale also debuted in the same issue as the Mad Hatter.

In fact, the Mad Hatter in that first story is an incredibly minor villain, and doesn’t seem as if he were intended to be a recurring villain. The 1950s version of the Hatter did become a recurring villain, but he’s so different than the 1949 version that Gerry Conway was able to claim they were two different characters in 1980 when he established the mind-controlling version of the Hatter most of us know today.

I’m going to assume this is either a joke or some secret message because, taken at face value, this is the worst Cronin written article on the site.

I don’t really get why so many people hate this article, particularly to the point of commenting on it. It’s a month of Top 5 columns! Why shouldn’t Brian experiment with a few unusual topics? Maybe everyone should just sit tight and wait 24 hours, and maybe you’ll be more excited about the next one.

And in ASM no.1, J. Jonah Jameson became a bigger Spidey villain than the Chameleon ever did. See? You don’t get a keen observation like that with some two-bit “Top 5 Venom covers” list!

I don’t think people are hating on the article, they just think the choices weren’t that interesting. I agree that more examples such as Mentallo/Superman and Joker/Catwoman would have been awesome. I think Nightcrawler/Storm counts too, but the ones that popped up in the first issue of the main character shouldn’t count.
Weren’t Gwen Stacy and Harry Osborn introduced in the epic three part story about the Master Planner (Amazing Spider-man #31-33)?

This needs to be redone. I was so looking excited to this when I saw the X-Men but most of these didn’t make sense. Commissioner Gordon outdone by Batman? Aunt May out done by Peter Parker? They are the main characters!!! I liked the X-Men one, but I need some more supporting evidence that Storm is the star. You say it’s obvious, but it was awhile ago I read that issue and I never got the impression she was doing more. I do agree Nightcrawler gets second billing but compared to the whole new cast not just Storm. The Metallo one was good too.

The list should be characters who are shown up by other secondary characters. Like how the White Queen and Kitty Pride (and Dark Phoenix) stole a lot of thunder from Sebastian Shaw (who was supposed to be the head of Hellfire). Oddly, a comic book made decades and decades ago can give women tserious powers and complex characterization, and wonderful iconic stories yet nowadays, women in comics are tokens like Wonder Women (big three my arse, Green Lantern is the real completion of the trinity) and Storm (When was the last time you read a great Storm story? I bet you can’t name one post Claremont) or sex symbols with breast implants (I haven’t seen big breasts that looked remotely natural in a comic book).

I believe the Jackal debuted in the same issue as the Punisher (the first Spider-Man issue I ever read, by the way). But Miles Warren, who was later revealed to be the Jackal, had first appeared many years earlier, so maybe he doesn’t count.

I agree: This is an odd list. I too was imagining it was going to be about the best characters who actually had billing on a comic — like Hawkman appearing in Flash Comics. Or maybe it was going to be about supporting characters that surged ahead of preexisting characters? Like Black Canary squeezing out Johnny Thunder from his own backup feature, or Lobo outshining/outlasting the Omega Men. Anyway, as many have already stated, this list doesn’t make much sense; of course Commissioner Gordon and Lois Lane are always going to lesser know/less popular than Superman and Batman.

tough crowd…..

I know I like the concept of the list; it’s just that I- and a lot of others- feel that supporting characters don’t really count in the spirit of the thing. People have pointed out some good ones.

Ah, well. At least it’s been friendly discussion; that’s all too scarce online.

Yeah, there’s a really good article to be written with this title and premise, but unfortunately, this wasn’t it.

See, we’re all disappointed because the level of quality that Brian has elsewhere is SO high, that anything that’s not perfect like usual makes us sad. It’s free entertainment, guys! He’s only one man, folks!

But it generated good (and friendly) discussion in the comments, so he actually succeeded. Again.

Ooh, he’s tricky!

I’ve got to agree with the masses, Brian. This list missed it’s mark. It’s a fine line between supporting cast and “second billing”, which would, in my mind, be like some of the current DC comics, where you’ve got the main feature, then a backup with a totally different character.

If this was a Bill Reed or MarkAndrew post I’d understand but I expect better from you Brian.

^lol agreed

feel that supporting characters don’t really count in the spirit of the thing.

The “spirit of the thing” is “the most famous characters whose first appearances are not the top-billing looking back at the issue.” So unless you wish to argue that Lois Lane is not more famous than the Joker or Magneto, she specifically fits the criteria of the list.

like Hawkman appearing in Flash Comics.

That’s actually a good suggestion! I think Hawkman is probably more famous than Gordon, so on to the list he goes!

Hm, I don’t know, Brian. While I agree that the Flash/Hawkman book belongs on this list, I don’t really think that Hawkman is more famous than Commissioner Gordon. Gordon was in the Batman TV show, in all the movies (I think, maybe I’m wrong there, but he was Gary Oldman in the 2 most recent, right?).

Hawkman, I don’t know if most people would know him.

But the Flash issue definitely belongs on this list.

I think your explanations may have caused some issues.

“Stalwart supporting character is overshadowed by the shadow of the bat.”

“That issue is the debut of Metallo, but his introduction clearly gets second-billing to the OTHER character introduced that issue, Supergirl.”

Your intro makes it seem that it’s merely a contest of secondary characters. But then some of your choices have the secondary character (ex 1) being “overshadowed” by the comic’s man character. So it creates uneven perceptions.

And we could argue that Storm is not more famous than Wolverine “looking back.”

All in all, the premise of the list isn’t clear. And it seems most people here aren’t being petty. They are just fans who were excited. It comes with the territory of being a writer that people respect. If no one cared, it means no one is reading, or no one is taking you serously.

And we could argue that Storm is not more famous than Wolverine “looking back.”

She isn’t more famous than Wolverine. He didn’t debut in that issue, though. Had he, it would be a different story. Lois Lane and Commissioner Gordon, however, actually debuted in the same issues that Superman and Batman debuted in, hence looking back the introduction of those two super-famous character get second-billing to the even more famous characters introduced in those issues.

Using the term “second billing” (note the quotes, by the way) was a good deal more efficient than “top five most famous characters introduced in the same issue as characters who are more famous than them”, which is actually what I first had written before it just looked way too long of a title so I switched it. But if it the term confuses you, feel free to substitute the original longer title.

I think you mistitled it. When people see “second billing” we tend to think literally. Like how Zatara was a back-up feature in Action Comics, or Hawkman a back-up in Flash Comics. Hell, your example of Pep Comics #22 makes Archie (not even on the cover) a valid choice. People didn’t like this because the title mislead us into thinking it was going to be about that sort of introduction, not what we got.

People see “second billing” we tend to think literally.

Well, that’s their mistake. Especially when the specific example given at the start of the piece explains what it is. Metallo’s debut is the LEAD story in Action Comics #252. He was also not a featured character. So the only way Metallo/Supergirl reference should (I would say could here, but obviously people can do a lot of things, so I’ll say should) be read is that they share a first appearance and of the two first appearances, she gets top billing, he gets second billing.

Just for fun, how would Aquaman/Green Arrow go? Which one would be considered the overshadowed character?

It’s a great question and one that I figured I’d avoid by just leaving them off the list. ;)

But if I HAD to pick one, I guess Green Arrow would have to be second-billing, if only because of Super Friends.

I’d like to thank all the posters in this thread (especially DanLarkin, Ajit, Marvin and Eric Gimlin) for supplying a better column than the actual column writer.

Yeah, I debated that one myself when I suggested the issue. And decided Aquaman, for just the same reason you did.

I want to apologize for my attitude earlier; “the spirit of the thing” is whatever you think it is because it’s your list. I personally think that a list of completely separate characters that happened to first appear in the same issue is more interesting than just “most famous”, but that’s just me. I also disagree with you on Nightcrawler/ Storm and Professor Xavier/ Magneto; I personally can’t make the call on either of those- and Colossus, Cyclops, and Jean Grey all have cases to be made for them.

Well, Aquaman’s also in the public consciousness from Entourage, right? They were going to do an Aquaman movie (according to the show). And Craig Ferguson has dressed as Aquaman too.

Although on the other hand, GA has been on Smallville a while now. Hm.

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