One of the most common arguments that you’ll ever hear in public is about who the greatest superhero of all time is. There are plenty of reasons for one person to back a certain superhero, whether it be their powers, their ability to hide their alter ego, their backstory, you name it. Very few things are tangible when talking about a superhero’s overall greatness, but you could bring up how popular their media are.
Of course, the medium that introduced all of these great superheroes is the comic book. Throughout comic book history, there are a handful of superheroes that stand out well above the rest of the field in terms of overall popularity. Let’s take a look at the superheroes and see which one has sold the best on comic book shelves.
It might feel like cheating to use the X-Men since there are several main characters instead of just one, but it’s hard to deny that they’re so synonymous with being a team that they’re all one entity in the public eye.
Stan Lee and Jack Kirby released their first X-Men comic book in 1963, and around 12,000 new issues have been made ever since with total sales of 210 million, or about 21,600 on average. X-Men #1 (1991) is the best-selling comic book of all time with over 8 million copies.
Surprisingly, Captain America doesn’t have nearly as many issues as some of the big boys on the list, but there have still been 9,000 issues featuring him as the main character.
The Joe Simon and Jack Kirby creation first hit shelves in 1941 during World War II, and have sold 210 million copies since its inception. That’s good for more than 23,300 copies sold of each issue. The debut issue had a mint condition copy that has sold for over $3 million multiple times, as well.
Spawn is a bit of a surprise entrant since the Todd McFarlane creation has had a tiny number of issues when stacked against the rest of the comic books on the list. First introduced in 1992, Spawn has had just around 600 issues but has been able to sell 150 million copies worldwide.
The exclusivity has been part of the appeal, which means that around a quarter million copies of each comic featuring Spawn have been sold. King Spawn #1 alone sold nearly half a million copies. Like the others, Spawn also received a movie adaptation, earning around $88 million at the box office.
Now we get into the “big three” starting with the Dark Knight himself. Batman has been around since 1939 when he was introduced in the 27th issue of the Detective Comics series and has been a mainstay of pop culture ever since.
There have been over 17,000 issues of Batman, including the best-selling Batman: The 10-Cent Adventure which reached over 700,000 copies sold. On average, Batman comics sell over 28,400 copies to the tune of 484 million.
The world’s favorite web-slinger might not have as many issues sold as Batman over the years, but he also came onto the scene a quarter-century afterward. Spider-Man was introduced by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko in 1963, and quickly became a massive hit with audiences.
Over 13,500 issues, Spider-Man comics have sold 387 million copies, which is slightly above Batman’s average. The first edition of Ultimate Spider-Man was a best-seller with over 631,000 copies sold. If you want to give Spider-Man a bump in your ‘popularity’ argument, he is the highest-grossing standalone film superhero.
Spawn may be an outlier when it comes to average copies sold of each issue, but when it comes to the average sales at a large volume, nobody comes close to Superman. The oldest superhero on the list, Superman was introduced the year prior to Batman (1938) by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, giving DC Comics their first iconic character.
Since then, there have been around 15,000 issues of Superman comics and sales of over 600 million, meaning that the average Superman comic sells 40,000 copies. The best-selling Superman comic came in 2018 when the landmark Detective Comics #1000 was released with Superman front and center, celebrating his 80th anniversary.