Before Marvel became the major player it is today, DC Comics’ Superman would regularly sell over 1 million copies per month, and Batman wasn’t far behind. Those exact numbers have been lost to history for the most part, but here’s our list of the top selling comics of the modern era compiled from articles and information found online.
10. The Amazing Spider-Man (1963) No. 583 (530,000 copies)
The “Obama Issue” featured two covers. One with good old Peter Parker and two lady friends, and one with the 44th President of the United States. Spider-Man and the leader of the free world together in one comic? A mini-media event was born.
9. The Amazing Spider-Man (2014) No. 1 (533,000 copies)
Spider-Man + First Issue = Massive Sales. Marvel didn’t quite reach the Todd McFarlane-level success of Spider-Man (1990) No. 1 (it’s coming up on this list), but over a year after Doc Ock took over as Spider-Man, the return of Peter Parker (and a plethora of variant covers) generated some of the largest sales of the past decade.
8. Deathmate (Prologue, Blue, and Yellow) (1993-94) (700,000 copies each)
When the two new kids on the block initiated the biggest crossovers of its time, anticipation (and sales) were high. Valiant launched the Deathmate event with three colors (instead of numbered issues) — The Prologue, Blue, and Yellow. The Image half (Black, Red, and Epilogue) came out seriously behind schedule and out of sequence. Needless to say, interest was lost and numbers for the final issues came nowhere near Deathmate’s launch.
7. Fantastic Four (1998) No. 60 (752,000 copies)
Helped out by an insanely low 9-cent cover price and new creative team, Fantastic Four (1998) No. 60 was cheap enough for most fans to pick up 20+ copies and still not bust the bank.
6. Star Wars (2015) No. 1 (958,000 copies)
Aided by 76 variant covers, Marvel’s relaunch of the title they had back in the 70’s was coming on the heals of the first new Star Wars film in over a decade. Its success was pretty much built-in, and fans ate up Jason Aaron and John Cassaday’s return to a galaxy, far, far away.
5. Spawn (1992) No. 1 (1.7 Million copies)
It was the beginning of the Image Comics revolution. In the early 90s was there nothing Todd McFarlane couldn’t do? Fresh off his run on Marvel’s Spider-Man (1990) series, McFarlane joined other comic book creator/superstars in forming Image Comics, where Spawn would rule for years and is still published to this day.
4. Spider-Man (1990) No. 1 (2.5 Million copies)
A couple of years before he would break records again with Spawn (1992) No. 1 (using the same iconic pose for that series’ first issue as he did for this one), Todd McFarlane took complete control of a brand-new Spider-Man title for Marvel, and the comic book buying public couldn’t get enough. Aided by five slightly different variant covers, Spider-Man was the highest selling comic book of all-time … for about a year.
3. Superman (1987) No. 75 (3 Million copies)
Many believe this storyline — and the media hype surrounding it – is what lead to the “collector mentality” of the 90s that nearly broke the industry. DC Comics killed off the world’s most famous superhero in Superman (1987) No. 75, complete with a black, polybagged cover and now iconic bleeding ‘S’ symbol. The Man of Steel would of course return the following year, but the “death” of such a well-known character had everyone and their grandmother buying up copies. Three million to be exact. Consider that these days a popular title sells around 90,000 copies a month, and you can see how insane Superman (1988) No. 75 was.
2. X-Force (1992) No. 1 (5 Million copies)
That’s right. A Rob Liefeld creation is one of the biggest selling comic books ever. Let that sink in for a minute. The X-Men were super hot, so what about a grittier, rougher version of them? Red-hot. Liefeld would move on to become a founding member of Image Comics not too long after this series debuted, basically duplicating X-Force as an off-brand team called Youngblood.
1. X-Men (1991) No. 1 (7.1 Million copies)
Today, he’s the main man at DC Comics, but back in the early 1990s, Jim Lee was THE artist everyone was emulating and no one – and no comic book property – was hotter than the X-Men. Lee had already worked his magic on a run for Uncanny X-Men (including the debut of fan-favorite Gambit), but with this series – the first new X-Men title in almost thirty years – fans would get his pencils and his scripts. And they ate it up, buying multiple copies. You know, just in case they ever went up in value (with 7 million sold, they didn’t).