Anyone can make their own comic book, especially in the digital age when releasing your art to an audience is easier than ever before. However, if you want to get into the publishing game, there are a few industry leaders that you’ll have to compete against. Whether you’re a comic book expert or are just dabbling in the genre for the first time, there are some publishers that you need to know. Here are five publishers that produce the most successful comic book series.
These days, most of us know Marvel more for the cinematic universe which has seen heroes like Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and many more team up to take on villains like Loki or Thanos. The comic book history for Marvel goes way further back than the MCU’s introduction in 2008, however. Back in 1939, Marvel was founded as Timely Comics, then changed names eight years later to Magazine Management.
Finally, in 1961, the company was introduced as Marvel Comics and the new era was ushered in by the likes of Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, and Jack Kirby. The trio created characters who would become staples of Marvel including Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, and the X-Men, just to name a few. These days, Marvel has a catalog of nearly 30,000 comic books with a long list of heroes to choose from, but it might take some time to catch up.
The history of Marvel is pretty similar to that of DC. DC Comics changed names a few times throughout the years and then established itself after a couple of decades thanks to some flagship characters. DC was founded in 1934 as part of National Comics Publications, then branched out into its own company in 1977 as DC Comics. The big difference between the two, though, is that DC is based out of California while Marvel is in New York City.
Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson was the founder of DC Comics, and thanks to superheroes including Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, the franchise blossomed into one of the two titans of the industry. Like Marvel, DC has also gotten a cinematic universe that has seen up-and-down success throughout the years. Interestingly enough, DC is the second-largest publisher while Marvel is third because the top spot belongs to a company that Americans might not be too familiar with.
The top spot in terms of size belongs to Viz Media, a much newer company than the previous two which was founded in 1986. Headquartered in San Francisco, Viz Media released its first titles the following year, with “Legend of Kamui” being its first big hit. The company has a focus on Japanese anime, which is why it might be an unfamiliar name for Americans. However, there have been more Americans getting into anime in the 21st century, leading to Viz’s massive expansion.
Some of the comic and manga series that even casual readers will be familiar with include “Dragon Ball”, “One Piece”, “Bleach”, “Naruto”, and “Inuyasha”. These comics have all found success with television shows, helping to further Viz’s market reach. Revenue has been around $60 million for Viz as a result.
Dark Horse Comics
The year before Viz Media came into the picture, Dark Horse Comics was founded in Milwaukie, Oregon by Mike Richardson. Richardson was an artist and interior designer who opened up his own store in the early 1980s, then quickly started his own series of comic books with all of the profits going to the creators. This caused a lot of artists to join him, and some amazing new franchises came around as a result.
Dark Horse Comics began getting licenses for some well-known IPs including “Star Wars”, “Predator”, “Indiana Jones” and many more. Dark Horse originals include “Sin City”, “Hellboy” and “The Umbrella Academy”, all of which have seen successful on-screen adaptations.
The last comic book publisher on the list that you should be familiar with is also the youngest one. Image Comics was founded in 1992 by a group of artists featuring Erik Larsen and Todd McFarlane. Image Comics found fast success in the 1990s thanks to new IPs including “Spawn”, “Bone”, and “Savage Dragon”.
Over the years, Image has had a wider reach thanks to the success of “Kick-Ass”, “Invincible”, and “The Walking Dead”. The former got a pair of big-screen films while the other two have had successful television series. Image got a lot of fanfare when it debuted thanks to the founders all being big names in the comic book industry, so it was set up for success from the start and hasn’t disappointed.