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Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster saw their creation, Superman (also known as Kal-El, originally Kal-L), launched in Action Comics #1 on April 18, 1938 (cover dated June), an event which began the Golden Age of Comic Books. Siegel and Shuster had tried for years to find a publisher for their Superman character originally conceived as a newspaper strip without success. Superman was originally a bald madman created by Siegel and Shuster who used his telepathic abilities to wreak havoc on mankind. He appeared in Siegel and Shuster's book Science Fiction. Siegel then commented, "What if this Superman was a force for good instead of evil?" The writer and artist had worked on several features for National Allied Publications' other titles such as Slam Bradley in Detective Comics and were asked to contribute a feature for National's newest publication. They submitted Superman for consideration and, after re-pasting the sample newspaper strips they had prepared into comic book page format, National decided to make Superman the cover feature of their new magazine. After seeing the published first issue, publisher Harry Donenfeld dismissed the featured strip as ridiculous and ordered it never to be on the cover of the series again. However, subsequent reports of the first issue's strong sales and follow up investigations revealed that Superman was the reason, thus the character returned to the covers, becoming a permanent presence in issue 19 onward.
Originally, Action Comics was an anthology title featuring a number of other stories in addition to the Superman story. Zatara, a magician, was one of the other characters who had their own stories in early issues. There was the hero Tex Thompson, who eventually became Mr. America and later the Americommando. Vigilante enjoyed a lengthy run in this series. Sometimes stories of a more humorous nature were included, such as those of Hayfoot Henry, a policeman who talked in rhyme. The series saw the introduction of several characters and themes which would become longstanding elements of the Superman mythos. Lois Lane made her debut in the first issue with Superman. An unnamed "office boy" with a bow tie makes a brief appearance in the story "Superman's Phony Manager" published in Action Comics #6 (November 1938), which is claimed to be Jimmy Olsen's first appearance by several reference sources.
Superman was first depicted as possessing the power of flight in issue #13 (June 1939). Other new superpowers depicted for the first time for the character included X-ray vision in issue #18 (November 1939) and telescopic vision and super-breath in issue #20 (January 1940).
Luthor, a villain who would later become Superman's archenemy, was introduced in issue #23 (April 1940). The original Toyman was created by writer Don Cameron and artist Ed Dobrotka in issue #64 (September 1943). By 1942, artist Wayne Boring, who had previously been one of Shuster's assistants, had become a major artist on Superman.