Action Comics vol.1 #6 - Cover date November 1938
Superman’s popularity caught National Allied by surprise, although they worked as quickly as possible to capitalize on the sudden national craze for the character. With the national zeitgeist turning its attention on the spanking-new Man of Steel, this story from late 1938 - where a con man sets himself up as “Superman’s agent”, crookedly arranging lucrative marketing deals and going so far as to hire an ersatz Superman performing rigged “super-feats” in order to present a convincing front - was a practically inevitable commentary.
Considering the vagueries of comics publication and the often-exceptional lead time involved in the life cycle of a story from conception to publication, it’s hard to say whether Siegel already had this story in the chamber or was writing it in response to the relentless marketing going underway at his publisher’s offices (Much of which, it becomes clear later, Siegel and Shuster weren’t even aware).
Besides the amusing and prophetic sight of Superman gracing billboards for every product under the sun, this issue also features two gems of the early series: Lois acquieses to Clark’s repeated hectoring for a date, ending up at a fine nightclub where the main attraction belts out a steamy torch song to Superman himself AND, lest you imagine that Lois was weakening under Clark’s persistent advances, we discover that she only accepted his offer of dinner so that she could drug him and leave him unconscious in the restaurant while she pursued a scoop. Typical of the early Superman/Lois Lane romance … he loves it, and plays along just long enough for Lois to get into trouble. Fiery, those two…