Iron Man comic book sales through history

by John Jackson Miller and T.M. Haley

With the release of the second Iron Man film, we’re finally restoring a feature on the site that was first posted when the previous film came out, but was lost in our server crash a ways back: postal statement sales figures for the series, complete for the 20th Century. This version is more detailed, providing print runs, subscription totals, and other information for the core Iron Man title and its immediate descendants.

When Marvel renegotiated its restrictive agreement with its distributor in 1968, it was suddenly able to double its number of offerings. It did so by drawing upon the characters in several of its “double feature” titles. Iron Man and Captain America fissioned from Tales of Suspense, with Captain America continuting the original series’ numbering. Iron Man began with a fresh #1, only after a weird one-month gap during which the feature was paired with the Tales to Astonish orphan, Sub-Mariner, in the Iron Man and Sub-Mariner one-shot.

Marvel did not publish sales figures for the title for a very long time, but by the time it did, Iron Man was a mid-range seller along with the other Avengers titles. The series peaked above 200,000 copies in the mid-1980s during David Michelinie and Bob Layton‘s first run on the title; it approached that level again several times before collapsing during the market recession of the mid-1990s.

Marvel addressed the decline then — and several more times — with the same strategy: restarting the series from a new #1. The “Heroes Reborn” volume 2 and the “Heroes Return” volume 3 resuscitated sales (this run included John’s year on the title), as did the Warren Ellis Volume 4 in 2004. But unlike with Amazing Spider-Man and Fantastic Four, Marvel has yet to permanently reunify the series into a single numbering. The current flagship Iron Man title, Invincible Iron Man, shipped its 25th issue in April.

It’s apparent that the same postal permit was used for the series during its first three volumes; subscribers for the previous series were simply rolled into the next one. However, we don’t know if Statements of Ownerships have appeared in the post-2004 versions, so we’re reluctant to call the file on the original title closed. If you’ve spotted Statements in the later runs, please let us know.

Support research by Comichron on Patreon!