A post on Jason Kottke blog yesterday explored who really was the first super hero (and how do you define a super hero). He maintains that the first super hero was Mandrake the Magician which debuted in newspapers in 1934 – four years before Superman.
Toonpedia.com provides some historical information on the strip (which is still in production today):
Lee Falk created Mandrake at the age of 19, in 1924, and drew two weeks’ worth of strips. Ten years later, he sold it to King Features Syndicate. Not trusting his own artistic ability, he brought in commercial artist Phil Davis to draw it. Falk’s tightly-plotted stories kept the strip lively for decades, but much of its early success is due to Davis’s smooth, clean rendering, reminiscent of the contemporary art deco movement. Mandrake’s tuxedo virtually shone of its own light, and the same could be said of his fashionably slicked-down hair. Davis died in 1964. His replacement, Harold “Fred” Fredericks Jr., initially adopted Davis’s style, and few readers noticed the changeover. Fredericks continues to draw the strip today, but has gradually, over the years, let his own style emerge.