Thanks to comic book movies, the funny books are in vogue again. Granted, they aren’t selling the same number of units as the tickets for the latest Marvel movie, but the reports of the industry’s demise have been wildly exaggerated. So what is the bestselling comic book of all time?
Hint: It doesn’t feature Batman or Spider-Man
While the average person would expect the likes of Batman #1 or Amazing Fantasy #15 to be the highest-selling issues of all time, that isn’t the case. The books may fetch a pretty penny on the collectors’ market, but they weren’t immediate smash hits upon arrival.
It makes sense, though. Like with anything else, the Dark Knight and Spider-Man weren’t runaway hits when they debuted. They needed some time to build the momentum to becoming the pop culture juggernauts they have become now.
The bestselling comic book of all time is…
The honour of the bestselling comic book of all time goes to Marvel’s X-Men #1 by Chris Claremont and Jim Lee, which was released in 1991. According to Comichron, the book sold 8,186,500 copies. The X-Men wasn’t a new name to comic book fans, though, since this was effectively just a drop of the “Uncanny” from the title and a reboot of the numbers.
The Uncanny X-Men had already been pulling in fantastic numbers for Marvel Comics and seeing how well Spider-Man #1 had done in 1990, the publisher decided to try something similar here. However, there was a gimmick attached to it: variant covers that were effectively puzzle pieces. Five covers were released that formed a larger image, which incentivised the readers to collect all five editions (and helped Marvel Comics sell five times the number of issues for a single floppy). It worked, and kickstarted the X-mania of the ’90s. X-Force #1 by Fabian Nicieza and Rob Liefeld, which was also released in 1991, sits pretty in second place with around five million copies sold.
Collectively, Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man still rule the roost
Despite the Marvel’s mutants‘ single-issue success, they still can’t hold a torch to the collective sales of Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man over the years. According to stats released by Statista in 2015, Superman is still the Man of Sales, bringing in over 600 million issues sold worldwide. In second place, the Dark Knight proves that punching Gotham City’s criminals is pure money with 460 million issues. Then, in third, Spider-Man swings in an impressive 360 million issues sold around the globe.
Of course, these are comic book sales and not manga, because those numbers are simply unbeatable and squash the western superhero market like it’s a bug. Still, it’s interesting to see how the perfect storm of smart marketing and fanfare helped to make X-Men #1 the bestselling comic of all time.