Marvel’s X-Men is without question one of the most successful comic book properties in history. Created in 1963 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, by the ‘80s, the X-Men rose to the top of the sales charts and ignited into a full fledged franchise. From “The X-Men” spawned such successful titles as “Uncanny X-Men,” “X-Factor,” “New Mutants,” “X-Force,” “Excalibur,” “Alpha Flight,” “Astonishing X-Men,” “Ultimate X-Men” and many more. Beyond comic books, the X-Men have expanded into animated series, toy lines, a plethora of other merchandise and a film franchise earning a climbing total of over $1.85 billion dollars at the box office, worldwide.
As one may have ascertained from that list above, the “X-Men” franchise found a majority of its success in team books, rather than series starring solo characters. As a result, out of hundreds of characters affiliated with the franchise, only a few handfuls have been given an opportunity to find individual success, let alone actually achieving it.
Examining those characters, some statistics about the three most successful solo X-Men characters may surprise you. None of them were original members of the X-Men, nor were their first appearances in the lead “X-Men” or “Uncanny X-Men” comic book series. In fact, the most successful solo character was not even first introduced in an X-Men-related series. Only one of the three is an American (according to current continuity). And only one of them is a longstanding member of an X-Men proper team.
Factors used to determine success are number of solo starring comic books, box office receipts and variety and reach of merchandise.
Box office figures courtesy of Box Office Mojo.
Okay, so the most successful solo “X-Men” character is Wolverine and that comes as no surprise, at all. First appearing in “The Incredible Hulk” #180-181, Wolverine was created by Roy Thomas, Len Wein and John Romita, Sr. Shortly thereafter, however, Wolverine joined the X-Men in “Giant-Size X-Men” #1 from 1975 and has been a member pretty much ever since.
Wolverine is the only “X-Men” character with over 400 solo comic book issues and his own movie franchise, totaling over $785 million at the worldwide box office. Those alone cement his seat atop the list, but Wolverine also has a constant stream of merchandise available both in direct market comic book stores and pop culture chain stores like Spencer’s. Wolverine merchandise ranges from toys and statues to apparel and kitchenware.
The second most successful solo “X-Men” character is actually a villain. No, it is not Magneto either. Deadpool’s first appearance was in the “X-Men” spin-off, “New Mutants,” in issue #98, which is one of the most sought after comics of its era. Created by Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza, “Deadpool” comics total over 200 issues and that is without considering the regular stream of “Deadpool vs.” mini-series Marvel is currently producing. The character is so popular that a team of Deadpools had a series at one point, called “Deadpool Corps.”
While Deadpool, currently, does not have a film franchise of his own, the character did appear in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” There is also a completed script for a “Deadpool” film and even test footage with actor Ryan Reynolds in the lead role. This footage was recently leaked online and received overwhelming praise. As of this writing, the film is still awaiting the green light from 20th Century Fox to begin production.
Deadpool was also the star of his own “R” Rated video game and the variety of his merchandise has potentially surpassed that of Wolverine’s. A brief glimpse at some of the Deadpool items available at Hot Topic reveals clothing, seat belts, wallets, sunglasses, phone cases and body jewelry.
The most surprising of all on this list is likely Cable, the third most successful solo “X-Men” character. First appearing in “New Mutants” #86-87 and, also, created by Rob Liefeld with Louise Simonson. The popularity of Cable’s introduction led to the series being re-launched as “X-Force.”
Cable is the only other “X-Men” character to reach over one hundred issues of a solo comic book series. Oddly enough, the next closest is “X-Man,” which starred Nate Grey, the “Age of Apocalypse” alternate reality version of Cable.
Cable has yet to appear in any of the "X-Men" films, however, "X-Force," the team he created, is reportedly in early stages of development for a possible 2016 release.
While Cable merchandise does not have nearly the scope of Wolverine and Deadpool, a highly detailed 7 inch Marvel Select Cable action figure from Diamond Select Toys was announced at San Diego Comic-Con.