TMNT Karai First Appearance

The first full appearance of Karai from TMNT is in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle #54, rather than the #52 that is commonly believed. I came to know this after Sean from the Mewe community alerted me to this tidbit. I thought this will be useful to share with all my readers.

The article will detailed the evidence on why Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle #54 is the full appearance of Karai.

Why bother with Karai?

If you have been keeping track of the comic market, you will know TMNT comics are pretty hot right now. Nobody knows how long this heat will last but if you want to get in on the action, Karai is not a bad choice.

Karai is always one of the more popular characters. Below is a screenshot showing trending pages on wikia for friends/allies of the Turtles. In other words, these are most searched characters outside of the turtles themselves.

As you can see, Karai is definitely one of the most searched characters, which is a good proxy for popularity. In fact, she is just behind the more famous Casey Jones, whose recent first appearances have skyrocketed.

In terms of media, Karai has also made movie appearances. While some might believed that this means the potential of the character has been realized, I would argue that this might not the case as Karai wasn’t flashed out too much.

For example, if you look at Snake Eyes recent explosion as a case study. He has appeared in G.I. Joe movies before. However, once his own solo is announced, his books start to rise even higher.

Cameo vs full appearance of Karai

The commonly accepted first appearance of Karai is in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle #52. Even the label on the CGC casing indicates that this is so.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #52

Date of Publication: 1992
Sale number: 23,000 (estimated)

Key strengths of this book
1. First cameo appearance of Karai?

 

However, I read through the comic last night and couldn’t find Karai as the character I know. After flipping the book a couple of times, I managed to identify a single panel that COULD be her.

Below is the panel.

From this one panel, it is pretty hard to tell it is Karai, isn’t it? There is no name and you don’t get to see her full form.

If this is indeed her, I would say this book ranks up there in terms of the Mother of All Bad First Appearances, that is comparable to Kamala Khan in Captain Marvel Vol 7, #14.

In summary, this is what we get in this issue:

  • One panel
  • No name
  • No full figure
  • No costume
  • Not main story

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #53

Date of Publication: 1992
Sale number: 23,000 (estimated)

Key strengths of this book
1. 2nd cameo appearance of Karai?

 

The next appearance Karai made is in TMNT #53. In this issue, we get a 2 panel appearance from her.

Below is how the 2 panels look:

Again, this is not a satisfactory full appearance as this is what got

  • 2 panel of her
  • No name
  • Full figure
  • No costume
  • Not main story

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #54

Date of Publication: 1992
Sale number: 23,000 (estimated)

Key strengths of this book
1. First full appearance of Karai?

 

The next contender for Karai’s full appearance is in TMNT #54. In this issue, we get a 2 page splash of her with multiple panels. However, she is not in costume.

The most important thing that happen here is that we now know the character’s name is Karai. In addition, there are more panels of her compared to #52 and #53.

Although the above makes it attractive to name this book as Karai’s first appearance, the main story still isn’t about her. You can tell from the way she is always operating in the background, with no interaction with the turtles.

In summary, this is what we have in this issue:

  • 2 page of Karai with multiple panels
  • Name is made known
  • Full figure
  • No costume
  • Not main story

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #56

Date of Publication: 1993
Sale number: 23,000 (estimated)

Key strengths of this book
1. First full appearance of Karai?
2. First cover appearance of Karai
3. First Karai in costume

 

The final book up for consideration is TMNT #56. This cover already has some value as it is the first cover appearance of Karai. However, I like to argue that it might also be considered her first full appearance.

In this issue, Karai is the main antagonist in the story, and not a backstory like what the previous issues have shown. In addition, she puts on the costume for the first time here as well. Finally, the picture of her on the cover might make the market push for this issue.

  • Multiple pages with multi panels
  • No the first time the name is known
  • Full figure
  • First costume
  • Main story

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Universe #12 Variant

Date of Publication: 2017
Sale number: 9,716

Key strengths of this book
1. Cool cover of Karai

 

Since we are on the topic of Karai, I want to highlight this variant of her which I consider to be the best. Featuring an all black background with a cool red/white/black color combo, it really looks good.

The incentive ratio for this cover is 1:10. Since the print run is only 9.7k, I cannot imagine there are many copies out there. Also, given the black cover, high grade copies are probably even lesser.

Conclusion

I hope this article has shed some light on Karai’s first appearance. While the market is currently fixated on #52, I think the full first should be either #54 or #56. Personally, I prefer the latter due to the cover art but my preference has no bearings on what the market will choose.

With this article, I hope more TMNT fans will know the interior of the comics they collect and change their view of what should be the first appearance of Karai.

2 thoughts on “TMNT Karai First Appearance

  1. I do wish there were more universally accepted terms for describing early appearances.
    Cameo, 1st appearance, 2nd appearance, brief cameo, unnamed cameo, 1st full appearance, etc.

    From your analysis standpoint, unfortunately you have the CGC comic notes of TMNT 52 going against you.

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