70 Super Years: Don't Tug on Superman's Cape!

Given the sudden popularity that Superman achieved. It's no surprise that imitators began appearing almost immediately.

The first appeared less than one year later: Wonder Man in WONDER COMICS #1 (May 1939) from Fox Feature Publications. Supposedly, Fox publisher Victor Fox had been an accountant at DC (which is shorthand for all the various names the company has used over the years...), and when he saw the sales figures for ACTION COMICS, he rushed out and started his own company. Whether that's true or not, he did present a veritable Superman clone.
He hired Will Eisner and basically told him to create a character that was like Superman.
DC saw the first issue and brought a lawsuit against Fox. At the trial, Eisner testified against Fox about the creation of the character and DC won the case.
WONDER COMICS #1 was the first and only appearance of Wonder Man.
You can check out a fairly amazing side-by-side comparison of panels from Superman and Wonder Man that clearly establishes the similarities at Superman v. Wonderman
Judge Hand's Side-By-Side Comparison for Superhero Infringement

More info on Wonder Man:
Wonder Man @ Toonopedia
Wonder Man @ Wikipedia
Wonder Man @ The Spirit Database

The next two "imitators" were a one-two punch delivered from Fawcett Publications: Captain Marvel in WHIZ COMICS #2 (February 1940) and Master Man in MASTER COMICS #1 (March 1940).
One year after filing it's lawsuit against Fox, DC filed a similar suit against Fawcett over Master Man. Rather than take it to court, Fawcett simply ceased publication of Master Man, removing him from MASTER COMICS after 6 issues, never to be seen again.
DC waited until June of 1941 to issue a letter of cease and desist to Fawcett over Captain Marvel. But this time, Fawcett fought back. Of course, by this time, Cap was on his way to becoming the most popular and top-selling superhero in the country. By the mid-40s, he was even out-selling Superman.
The lawsuits, trials and appeals lasted until 1952, when the courts decided that Captain Marvel was too similar to Superman, and cited Fawcett with copyright infringement. Fawcett and DC settled out of court, with Fawcett paying DC $400,000 and leaving the comics publishing business.

More info on Captain Marvel, Master Man and Fawcett:
National Comics Publications v. Fawcett Publications @ Wikipedia
Captain Marvel @ Wikipedia
Master Man @ Wikipedia
Fawcett Comics @ Wikipedia
The Marvel Family Web

It's interesting to note:
In the early 70s, DC licensed the rights to Captain Marvel (and the Fawcett universe of heroes) and have been publishing them ever since.
For the past 15-20 years, DC has been trying everything they can think of to make Captain Marvel relevant and serious and merge him into the DC Universe proper.
It seems they've forgotten, that when Captain Marvel was fun, light and comic...he was out-selling Superman!!

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