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The Avengers' best-selling comic ever isn't by who you think (it's Rob Liefeld)

Marvel's mightiest Avengers heroes might surprise you

Avengers #1
Image credit: Rob Liefeld (Marvel Comics)

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Marvel Comics have been publishing an Avengers title continuously for 61 years, going all the way back to 1963. Although a late addition to the franchise, the series became the figurative tentpole to Marvel's superhero line - and then the literal tentpole with the advent of the MCU era. For comics fans, when you look back at Avengers runs of the past you probably have an idea of which runs sold the best - names like Bendis, Busiek, Shooter, Stern, and Byrne might come to mind, or of course the originals of Lee and Kirby.

Avengers #1
Image credit: Rob Liefeld (Marvel Comics)

But a long-time Marvel insider has revealed a little nugget of information that will have you reconsidering your Avengers longboxes: Rob Liefeld, Jim Valentino, and Chap Yaep outsold them all.

"It’s also worth pointing out that Rob’s Avengers #1, pictured at the start of this column, is the single best-selling issue in the title’s history," Marvel's Senior VP of Publishing Tom Brevoort, who has been with the company since 1989 and would have access to sales data for the title going back decades prior, wrote in December 2023 on his blog. "There was a huge amount of excitement in and around the industry surrounding the Heroes Reborn effort, and it definitely fulfilled its goal of re-igniting interest in a string of titles that had largely fallen out of favor with the masses..."

This is an important bit of information because public sales data on comics is exceedingly hard to find - even harder these days for modern comics. But for sales data going back the length and breadth of superhero comic history, it's piecemeal at best. But Brevoort, who has been with Marvel for 35 years and has become a leading standard-bearer for Marvel lore- both in the stories in the comics and the stories of the comics, revealing this fact seems somehow more substantial than anything revealed to date - especially since he would have access to to sales data for printed editions, digital editions, and even versions translated into other languages.

This is magnified by the divisiveness surrounding Rob Liefeld's storied history in comics.

"There are those who absolutely adore his kinetic, detailed, action-oriented style and boundless enthusiasm and others who decry what they see as his weaknesses in anatomy and perspective and his sometimes-aggressive persona." Brevoort wrote, "But whether you like his work or not, you have to concede that he’s remained popular and relevant for far longer than any number of other talents of his era and beyond."

Avengers #1
Image credit: Rob Liefeld (Marvel Comics)

In other words, whether or not you appreciate Liefeld's work, if you're a superhero comics fan you no doubt have a strong opinion about Liefeld - which is something few other creators can say.

The book in question, 1996's Avengers #1, was part of 'Heroes Reborn' - a dramatic attempt by Marvel to revitalize four titles by ditching decades of continuity in favor of a rebooted universe with new stories - using the previous stories as ideas for consistency, but not continuity.

In a 2020 edition of his podcast Robservations, Liefeld said that Marvel was so enamored with him working on Avengers and other Heroes Reborn titles that the publisher paid him a $3 million signing bonus, on top of the contracted terms of the deal.

1996's Avengers #1 rocketed the franchise back into Marvel's highest echelons of sales, and according to longtime comics statistician John Jackson Miller that Liefeld lift lasted long after he left prematurely after six issues - lasting up until the early '00s. It was only then when Avengers' sales went down to pre-Heroes Reborn levels that Marvel again plotted a major revamp - 'Avengers Dissasembled' with Brian Michael Bendis and David Finch, which began in 2003's New Avengers #1.

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