Superman, the brain child of Cleveland science fiction fans Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, mad his debut in Action Comics #1, dated June 1938. The rest is history.
Here's that ground-breaking issue which contains not only Superman's origin, but also an H. Fleming "Chuck" Dawson western adventure, the very first adventure of Fred Guardineer's Zatara (the Master Magician), as well as Guardineer's take on Craig Flessel's young athlete "Pep" Morgan. Plus the first half of a Captain Frank Thomas' text story, "South Sea Strategy," a tale of "Sticky-Mitt Stimson" trying to avoid arrest, the first past of "the Adventures of Marco Polo," illustrated by Sven Elven, Will Ely's "Scoop Scanlon, Five Star Reporter," and Bernard Bailey's modern day cowboy "Tex Thompson", who this time out is touring England. Quite a bargain for your dime, considering a copy of this issue sold for over $3 million.
Young Billy Batson, who is given the power to transform into Captain Marvel by the wizard Shazam, has just to say the word "Shazam" and zippo, change-o, he becomes the red costumed superhero. Captain Marvel became a cash cow for Fawcett publications, outstripping DC's Superman in popularity. DC finally won a lawsuit against Fawcett, tossing Captain Marvel into oblivion until the character was no longer protected by copyright. Since then, there have been eight other incarnations of the superhero.
Let's go back to the beginnings of the character.
The first story in Captain Marvel Adventures #1 (March 1941) was written by Manly Wade Wellman. Although the story was uncredited, Wellman proved his authorship in court during DC's lawsuit against Fawcett by pointing out that the first letters in each panel's first balloon on the first three pages of the story was meant to spell out M-A-N-L-Y W-A-D-E W-E-L-L-M-A-N. An editor's tinkering changed the acrostic to MANLY MADE TELLMAH, but Wellman's intent was obvious. Wellman also testified that he was instructed by Fawcett copy Superman. This means that Wellman probably had a hand in creating the first Captain Marvel adventure which appeared in Whiz Comics in 1940; that story was written by Bill Parker and drawn by C. C. Beck. Wellman may have also authored the other Captain Marvel stories in that issue. (Also at that trial, artist Joe Simon testified that he and Jack Kirby had supplied the art for Captain Marvel Adventures #1 from the Fawcett scripts, not by Simon alone as has often been attributed.) Anyway, here's a reprint of that first issue:
And just for sake of completeness, here's a copy of Whiz Comics #2 (February 1940) with the very fist Captain Marvel story. Also in that issue, stories featuring Ibis the Invincible, Golden Arrow, Spy Smasher, Scoop Smith, Lance O'Casey, and Dan Dare.