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While 2017 and 2018 Direct Market comic books have been off their 2016 highs, sales remain relatively healthy the last few years.
No, most top-selling titles don't match the numbers of the heydays of comic book sales, but consider this - nine out of the top 10 best-selling titles of the 21st century were released between 2014 and 2018.
According to the industry standard rankings of Comichron, the list that follows are the top selling single issues of the 21st century so far. Some of the issues on the list may surprise you - and some not on the list, like DC Universe: Rebirth #1, which sold around an estimated 297,000 copies, may surprise you even more.
Note: These sales figures are not exact numbers, but estimates based on Diamond Comic Distributors' released rankings. Furthermore, these do not include numbers outside the Direct Market, such as bookstore sales and digital. Why? Well frankly, because publishers and those vendors don't release those figures to the public. And finally, they don't count books sold at promotional low costs, such as the various ten-cent, 25-cent, and in some-cases-free titles.
The Caveats: Big Trouble in Little China/Escape From New York, Orphan Black #1 & Bravest Warriors Tales: Holo John #12 of 13
Released: October 2016 (Big Trouble in Little China/Escape From New York), February 2015 (Orphan Black #1), May 2015 (Bravest Warriors Tales #1)Publisher: IDW (Orphan Black, BOOM! (Big Trouble in Little China/Escape From New York, Bravest Warriors)Unit sales: 421,600 (Big Trouble in Little China/Escape From New York), 502,000 (Orphan Black), 503,000 (Bravest Warriors)
Technically, these three titles should rank at #7, #5, and #4 on this list, respectively. However, their sales numbers come with a major caveat – their massive numbers are primarily thanks to the inclusion of the issues in Lootcrate’s subscription boxes. This “Lootcrate bump” constitutes anywhere from 200,000 to 400,000 of the issues sold for each title, meaning their numbers would otherwise be somewhere in the 100,000-300,000 range. Still very respectable numbers, especially for smaller publishers, but not enough to crack the top ten highest-selling issues of the 21st century on their own, which is why we’ve moved them down to an “honorable mention” status.
#10: Harley Quinn #13 of 13
Released: August 2016Publisher: DCUnit sales: 359,957
Hot on the heels of a big cinematic debut in the critically maligned but fan approved Suicide Squad film, and bolstered by DC’s "Rebirth" initiative, Harley Quinn #1 cracked the top ten single issues of the 21st century so far, beating out all other "Rebirth" titles. As a fan favorite, it’s no surprise that a new #1 coupled with her first movie appearance would appeal to fans hungry for a jumping on point to read Harley Quinn’s comic books. And that’s not all – Diamond Distributors, on whose sales charts Comichron’s numbers are based – adjusted its "Rebirth" entries by 10% to account for DC making the single issues returnable, meaning Harley Quinn #1 may have actually shipped up to 390,000 units to retailers.
#9: The Walking Dead #1004 of 13
Released: July 2012Publisher: Image Unit sales: 384,800
There's no denying the popularity of Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore's The Walking Dead. But the fact that its television success has translated to such massive comic book sales is impressive on a whole other level, with #100 selling 384,800 copies. That kind of crossover appeal is all too rare in the age of comic adaptations. Walking Dead is also the only non-Big Two book to crack the top ten – though its other big selling issues have slowly crept back down the list since this top selling release.
#8: Civil War II #15 of 13
Released: June 2016Publisher: MarvelUnit sales: 391,500
Marvel cashed in on the 10th anniversary of one of its biggest events ever twice in 2016, first with Captain America: Civil War, a loose film adaptation of the original Civil War story, and with Civil War II, a comic book sequel that thematically picks up from the original. This time pitting Iron Man against Captain Marvel over whether to use a apparently-precognitive Inhuman’s powers to protect or change the future, Civil War II #1 surpassed even the peak issue of its predecessor, making it Marvel’s top-selling comic book of 2016 – and one of the top sellers of 21st century.
#7: Star Wars: Vader Down #16 of 13
Released: November 2015Publisher: MarvelUnit sales: 410,600
Marvel’s Star Wars comic books have consistently been top sellers, so it’s not surprising that the first Star Wars crossover since Marvel regained the license would be a big draw for fans of the franchise – especially with Darth Vader taking center stage. Vader Down #1 was not only one of the top selling comic books of 2015, it ranks among the top ten selling single issues of the 21st century, helping to make 2015 a banner year for comic book sales.
#6: Dark Knight III: The Master Race #17 of 13
Released: November 2015Publisher: DCUnit sales: 449,100
DC bringing Frank Miller back to Batman is basically like printing money – the legendary creator made his name on The Dark Knight Returns, creating the portrayal of Batman that still dominates the media to this day, and paving the way for this second sequel to his magnum opus. Though Miller is only a co-writer on Dark Knight III: The Master Race, the combination of Miller and Batman was enough to bring the sequel’s first issue into the top five selling single comic books of the 21st century.
#5: Action Comics #10008 of 13
Released: April 2018Publisher: DCUnit sales: 449,787
Anthologies aren't typically big sellers in the comic book industry, but Action Comics #1000 isn't your typical comic book anthology.
Keying in on the 80-year history of Superman going all the way back to 1938's Action Comics #1, it is a literal all-star showcase of modern DC talent (with some stars of the past also returning).
(Making this the first issue in which Superman's iconic red trunks return after 7 years might've helped too).
Early sales estimates for the book from Comichron peg the book at 449,787 - with non-North American and re-order numbers not included. In early April 2018, DC announced the book had already surpassed 500,000 in sales so the final numbers are still to be announced.
And one more thing... in addition to being a top-selling title, it is also the highest-price title on this list of top 10s. While some are $2.99 and 3.99, Action Comics #1000 retailed for 7.99 and still rated #5 in units.
#4: Amazing Spider-Man #5839 of 13
Released: January 2009Publisher: MarvelUnit sales: 530,500
Amazing Spider-Man #583 may seem like an innocuous single issue – no major deaths, no big character debuts, not a new #1 – but one glance at the cover shows why it’s such a big seller. Amazing Spider-Man #583 featured then-U.S. President-elect Barack Obama on the cover, and in a back-up feature. Wide mass appeal drove the first comic book appearance of noted Spider-Man fan and the first black U.S. president Obama to the top of the charts, with printing after printing continuing to sell out long after the issue’s release.
#3: Secret Wars #110 of 13
Released: May 2015Publisher: MarvelUnit sales: 550,500
The original Secret Wars is widely considered the first major event comic book ever, and Marvel revisited the concept of its top characters warring on an artificial world in 2015, with a new Secret Wars, the first issue of which reached all the way to become the third highest selling issue of the 21st century. The mini-series would go on to relaunch Marvel’s entire line – the closest the Marvel Universe has come to an actual reboot in its modern history.
#2: Amazing Spider-Man #111 of 13
Released: April 2014Publisher: MarvelUnit sales: 559,200 (#1)
Spider-Man has been Marvel's unofficial mascot for decades, and the return of the one true Spider-Man, Peter Parker, in Amazing Spider-Man #1 (Vol. 3) takes the penultimate spot of this list, with a massive 559,200 copies sold. Not only does this make this the second highest selling single issue of the 21st century, it’s the number one selling superhero title on the list.
#1: Star Wars #112 of 13
Released: January 2015Publisher: MarvelUnit sales: 1,073,000
In the '70's, Star Wars saved Marvel from bankruptcy. By licensing Star Wars early, Marvel became instrumental in increasing the blockbuster sci-fi epic's profile, and provided Marvel with a much needed hit. 30 years later, the franchise returned to Marvel, with Star Wars #1 becoming the only single issue of the 21st century to crack 7 figures in sales so far. Now, there is a slight caveat – like Orphan Black #1 and Bravest Warriors Tales: Holo John #1, it did receive a significant boost from Lootcrate orders. However, even counting a maximum possible Lootcrate bump of 400,000, Star Wars #1 would still have cracked 600,000 copies sold – making it a lock for the top spot on this list and the number one selling issue of the 21st century.
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