I’m not here to win a popularity contest – Gary Bettman
No superhero, except for maybe Booster Gold, has ever donned a mask and a costume and set out to fight crime as a way to find fame and fortune.
There are, if the ever-rising number of Instagram and YouTube millionaires is anything to go by, far easier ways to fill your bank account than being pounded into the concrete of New York City, Metropolis, and Gotham by megalomaniacal narcissists on a regular basis.
The selfless devotion to a higher calling that more often than not completely destroys any hope that they may have of forging a meaningful and rewarding personal life is one of the facets that they’re imbued with that makes superheroes so appealing to their audience.
They sacrifice everything for the common good, and that nobility, not to mention the soap opera-esque and voyeuristic appeal of being able to witness their trainwreck lives unfold first hand and the breathtaking action that unfolds across the pages of their stories, and because they make the sacrifices that we won’t and readily pay the price for doing so, they inevitably draw us to them like bears to honey.
Comics are an all involving medium, and now that they’ve made the transition from paper and ink to big-screen success, superheroes are more popular than they’ve ever been at any point in their, and fandom’s history.
As the books that they’re featured in, and the films that they “star” in continue to sell in vast numbers and generate staggering box receipts the world over, one question keeps rearing its persistent and demanding head over and over again, “Who is the most popular superhero?”.
And in order to try and quell its omnipresent voice, we thought that we’d try to answer the question once and for all.
The Numbers Game
The easiest way to judge a superhero’s popularity, among fandom at least, is by looking at the number of comics that they sell. It’s a simple equation that’s as true today, as it always has been.
The more comics a character sells, the more fans that character has, and the more fans that character has, the more popular he or she is. Therefore, the easiest way to ascertain characters’ immediate popularity is by laying your hands on a list of the best-selling comics.
So, that’s what we did, we found the most recent list of best-selling books, ranked by both dollar sales and units sold, and the results were more than a little surprising.
There were two superheroes who both had two books in the respective top tens – Spider-Man and Batman. And while Batman #102 placed slightly higher than Non-Stop Spider-Man #1 on both lists, Amazing Spider-Man #61 sold more units than Batman Urban Legends #1 did.
It sort of places both superheroes on an even keel in terms of comic book popularity, which proves that the Marvel and DC divide is just as relevant now as it has always been.
The main problem with trying to figure out who is more popular than who based solely on the sales list is that a lot of fans dip in and out every month, based on the story that’s being told at any given moment, and sometimes a book appears out of the left-field, that throws the chart into complete disarray.
In the month that we managed to obtain sales figures for (March 2021), the curveball that made us question the reliability of the results was Joker #1, which sold more units and more money than either Batman or Spider-Man.
Which made us think that there must be another test that we could use to establish which character was, and is, the most popular.
The Box Office
Spider-Man and Batman, have featured in more solo cinematic outings than any other superheroes, so we thought that another easy way to establish their ongoing popularity, would be by comparing the box takings for their most recent outings, namely Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, and Spider-Man: Homecoming and Far From Home, both of which starred Tom Holland as Peter Parker.
Nolans three films made a total of two and a half billion dollars at the box office, while Tom Hollands’ outings as Spider-Man made just over two billion.
This means that Spider-Man’s box office receipts, as there are only two films (so far), compared to Nolan’s three, are comparatively higher, giving the web-slinger a cinematic edge over Batman.
Given that we had to judge the appeal of Spidey and the Caped Crusader based on a slightly skewed premise (two films versus three), in order to finally lay the matter to rest once and for all, we attempted to find a third medium, which would hopefully allow is to finally figure out whether Marvel’s biggest hitter or DC’s dark detective is the fandoms and the world’s most popular superhero.
Luckily for us, OnePoll recently conducted a survey on behalf of VisitAnaheim to find out who America’s most popular superhero was.
Unfortunately for us, the results weren’t what we expected, as the superhero who came out on top didn’t even feature in the list of best-selling books, and has only topped the box office charts in a single, solitary cinematic outing in the last decade.
So, who according to OnePoll is America’s favorite superhero? Unsurprisingly, he’s also America’s longest-serving superhero, Superman.
Right about now, you’re probably asking yourself the same question that we did when we read the results of the poll, “Where does the leave Spider-Man and Batman?”.
Well, as the Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man took second place in the same poll and the Dark Knight came in third, it’s fairly safe to assume that according to mainstream America, Spider-Man is more popular than Batman.
The Final Popular Word
Based on what we already knew and the figures and numbers for Spider-Man and Batman, the OnePoll results while pushing Superman to the top of the popularity tree, provided us with a clear picture of which superhero fandom prefers to follow.
Mainstream America may love Superman, but in the hearts and minds of the comic book and movie house faithful, Spider-Man will always be the most popular four-color superhero.