When considering the huge impact of comic book movie adaptations, it’s perhaps natural to wonder what is the creative spark that led to these films being made. Comic books are big business, and while many may know the top names, a top 10 may be harder to guess.
Explore the top 10 biggest comic book companies with me as we go from the number one down to number 10, and you may see some surprises along the way.
1. Marvel Comics
A look at the raw numbers is a good place to start. Firstly, just considering how well the Marvel Comic Universe has done at the cinemas, it has no rivals. Grossing over 17 billion and counting from its collection of about 20 movies, no other company has come close.
With the 1961 launch of the Fantastic Four and other creations of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Steve Ditko, Marvel Comics became the primary brand for what was known at that time as Atlas Comics.
Featuring a huge cast of iconic names such as Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Spider-Man, Wolverine, and Captain Marvel, on top of teams like the Avengers, the X-Men, and the Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel is easily the biggest comic book company.
It also boasts well-known supervillains such as Magneto, Doctor Doom, Thanos, Green Goblin, Ultron, and Kingpin.
2. DC Comics
As one of the oldest comic book companies, DC Comics revolve around the main characters of Batman, Superman, and Wonderman, as well as teams such as Justice League, Suicide Squad, and the associated rivals and villains such as The Joker, Cheetah, and Darkseid.
Other major successes include Watchmen, V for Vendetta, Fables, and others.
Between Marvel and DC, approximately 70% of the United States market is covered. With DC Comics’ annual revenue estimated upwards of 100 million, they’re dominant in the publishing business, especially when graphic novels are taken into account.
3. Image Comics
Formed in 1992, Image Comics was established as a vehicle for creators to publish material of their own creation while still maintaining their copyrights.
Notable publications include Spawn and The Walking Dead, with mainstream success also achieved by other creations such as Savage Dragon, Kick-Ass, Jupiter’s Legacy, Witchblade, Invincible, Saga, and Radiant Black.
Known for their independence, there are certain fundamental principles regarding Image Comics, such as that no Image partner would interfere in any way, be that creatively or financially, with any other founding partner’s work.
4. Dark Horse Comics
With a range of characters that differs sharply from the more mainstream DC and Marvel, Dark Horse Comics has nonetheless left its cultural markings.
Titles and works such as Sin City, Hellboy, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 300, and many others are notable, as well as Dark Horse Comics’ reputation for being one of the biggest publishers of licensed content.
Dark Horse Comics is also famous for its revenue model, which shares profits of comic book and merchandise sales with the creator, unlike many others which only pay agreed-upon fees.
5. IDW Publishing
With several powerhouse franchises under its umbrella, IDW Publishing jumped on the licensing bandwagon early, getting several of its large comic books into movies and television shows.
Initially known for 30 Days of Night, IDW Publishing also has its hand in such iconic publications as G.I. Joe, The Transformers, CSI, Star Trek, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
IDW continues to nab high-profile franchises, including Hasbro’s My Little Pony and Wizards of the Coast’s Dungeons & Dragons to make them the fifth biggest comic book publisher.
6. Valiant Comics
While having gone through a few rebirths of its own, the latest iteration of Valiant Comics has taken the publishing world by storm, racking up sales records and awards over the last 10 years like almost no other in the space.
Known for X-O Manowar, Harbinger, Bloodshot, Shadowman, and Archer & Armstrong, alongside the wildly popular Divinity series, Valiant Comics has also been named best Publisher by many publications throughout the 2010s.
7. Aspen Comics
Taking its name from one of the characters in its flagship publication, Aspen is known for its works including Aspen, Broken Pieces, Ekos, Fathom, Iron and the Maiden, Lady Mechanika, Shrugged, and Soulfire among many others.
Aspen has done many collaborations with Marvel and DC, including the creation of art and story for comics such as Superman: Godfall and Supergirl. Aspen has also contributed to Black Panther, Incredible Hulk, X-Men, and also DC works such as Flash and Teen Titans.
8. Boom! Studios
Starting out as a way to get around the Hollywood stranglehold on optioning movies, Boom! quickly grew with the publishing of Hero Squared, Zombie Tales, Planetary Brigade, 10, Jeremiah Harm, and the Tales series.
The focus on original work drew in many creators who were sick of getting raw deals from the bigger publishers, letting Boom! become known as a unique, daring business. They also have several imprints for the kids market sector.
Collaborations with licensed material form some of the biggest revenue raisers for Boom!, with series like Planet of the Apes and other big-name movie adaptations such as Big Trouble in Little China and Escape from New York among others.
9. Archie Comics
While the classic series of Archie is from this publishing house, the many characters featured in the series over the years have had their own spinoffs, including Josie and the Pussycats and Sabrina Spellman.
Archie Comics has been notable for several firsts, including making available all its comic books available digitally on the same day as the print release.
The Archie line of comics has expanded significantly, with titles such as Afterlife with Archie putting Archie in a zombie apocalypse, and an adult-themed Life with Archie.
Dabbling in both comic book and graphic novels as well as imprints focused on educational content, Zenescope is the brainchild of Joe Brusha and Ralph Tedesco who were originally screenplay writers.
With notable titles such as Grimm Fairy Tales, Charmed, Final Destination, Monster Hunter’s Survival Guide, Se7en, and Vikings, Zenescope has remained a top publisher by focusing on a mixture of original and licensed content.