A character's "number of appearances" (or "# app.") is featured as a column on this website's list pages and as a field on detailed character pages.
First of all, although we strive to take great care with the accuracy of information on this website, the "number of appearances" figures can not be guaranteed to be 100% correct. In some cases, the numbers may be entirely inaccurate. (If you find one like this, please bring it to our attention.)
The primary purpose of this website is to identify the religious affiliations of various characters. We strive to be the most comprehensive and most accurate possible resource for answering this question. The "number of appearances" for characters is not our primary focus. These numbers are included here to provide context. There are other, more up-to-date and more comprehensive resources available for finding out a character's number of appearances. Typically those are the very sources we have consulted (and linked to) in order to obtain our numbers.
There are a number of difficulties in calculating the number of appearances for a character. One of the major ones is the fact that many characters are continuing to appear in new comics, publications, TV episodes, etc. A number that may have been accurate last month may be slightly too low this month because a character has appeared in a few more stories.
Also, data on the number of appearances is drawn from a number of sources and the numbers may be inaccurate if those sources are inaccurate. Sometimes our numbers came from our own indexing of source material. For characters who had only a few appearances - in stories which we indexed ourselves - estimates of numbers of appearances may be very accurate. But this level of detailed, first-hand data gathering is often not the case.
Note that our "number of appearances" estimates are not necessarily limited to comic books. Our database has separate fields for numbers of appearances in comic books, prose (text) books and stories, and film media (including movies, TV episodes, and video games). The "number of appearances" numbers shown on list pages is the combined total number from all of these fields.
We have not always obtained appearance counts for all media categories for all characters. Many characters, for example, may have only a count for the number of appearances in comics, and have zero for the number of appearances in film, even if they have had film and television appearances. Of course, we are always trying to improve the accuracy and usefulness of our website.
In most cases, the "number of appearances" shown on list pages is drawn from static number fields in character records in our database. But if a character has had one or more appearances indexed within our site's collection of primary sources (here), and there is no available number of appearances in the character record, then we will use the number of appearances indexed on our own site. These numbers appear in RED. Keep in mind that this is often only a subset or sampling of a character's overall appearances. The end result is that we provide some sort of estimate or number, but it may not be an accurate one.
In all cases, the character pages clearly identify and break down exactly what numbers are used to calculate a character's total number of appearances.
For example, if you see a character listed as having "2" appearances on a list page, but that character has actually appeared in dozens of comics, you can click on that character's name and see the source of this number. The character may have no "number of appearances" estimate, but two appearances were indexed for this character in our site's primary sources section. (A listing of primary sources indexed by our website in which the character appears can be found in a separate part of the detailed character pages.) Obviously this doesn't mean we believe the character only appeared in two stories. It means we have indexed two stories in which the character appears and we have not yet collected from other sources an estimate for the total number of appearances of this character.
Despite these and other difficulties, we feel including esimates about the number of characters can be extremely useful to researches as one way to gauge the significance or popularity of characters. These numbers provide additional context. For example, one may find that there are a small handfull of Santerian characters and a small handfull of Methodist characters. Simply based on the number of characters alone, neither religious group is particularly well-represented among comic book characters. But when one considers that some of the Methodist characters have appeared in hundreds of even thousands of separate publications, whereas the Santerian characters have appeared in no more than about 5 stories each, this observation provides additional perspective.
Of course, a researcher would also need to weigh the relative significance of a character's religious affiliation. In all those appearances, how many times was a Methodist character overtly identified as Methodist? How many times was a Santerian character overtly identified as a Santerian? Certainly the numbers of appearances a characters associated with various religious groups is not the only factor in considering the relative significance of a particular religious affiliation in comics and other popular medium.