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Iron Man comics sales history updated, 1968-present

Thursday, May 2, 2013

by John Jackson Miller


With the release of the third Iron Man film, I've updated one of the features here on the site: postal statement sales figures for the main series. The main Iron Man series, as Marvel numbers the issues, unifies several distinct runs going all the way back to the first Iron Man title in 1968.  

When Marvel renegotiated its restrictive agreement with its distributor that year, it was suddenly able to increase 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 (and began a run that, later on, included my own year on the title). The Warren Ellis Volume 4 reboot in 2004 similarly gave a big boost to sales.

That title was officially renamed Invincible Iron Man in the indicia with #17 in 2007 and then Iron Man Director of SHIELD with #29 in 2008. That title ran until #35, but a concurrent Invincible Iron Man series had already started from #1 earlier that summer. It was that title that, after Invincible Iron Man #33, assumed the numbering from all the earlier series and continued with #500 in 2011.

(Which complicates matters even further, since all those comics added up to 503 issues. The rationale — further described here — was that the last three issues of Director of SHIELD had War Machine on their logos. That's so, but the indicias never changed, and in fact, the Iron Man Director of SHIELD Statement of Ownership ran in that third "War Machine issue." But if it's weird to not count Director of SHIELD #33-35, it's odd to count #29-32, as well, as those issues were coming out concomitant with the series that numerically would have followed. Ah, renumberings!)

Sales reports on individual issues can be found in the monthly reports. And there are many other Title Spotlights here as well.
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