The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005
Mandrake the Magician
This is where the tradition starts. In 1924, when he was 19 years old, Lee Falk first created the character Mandrake the Magician, initially drawing two weeks’ worth of strips. Ten years later he sold the character to King Features, the company that is often credited with creating the modern comic.
Mandrake the Magician first appeared as a newspaper comic-strip character in 1934. The comic strip and the character were extremely successful. Mandrake was a popular phenomenon although attempts at converting the strip into comic books never matched that success. In 1939, Columbia Pictures released a 12-part serial inspired by Mandrake the Magician, starring Warren Hull (January 17, 1903-September 14, 1974) as the crime-fighting superhero. The Mandrake radio serial aired from November 11, 1940 until February 6, 1942. Originally slated as a three-day-a-week program, by 1941 it ran five days a week.
Mandrake the Magician was the first superpowered costumed crime fighter. His costume was that of a stage magician. Although he appeared to be a mere illusionist, nothing more than an entertainer, that was actually a cover for his deeper supernatural powers, in the same way that Clark Kent’s career as a news hound was the front for his existence as Superman.
Mandrake set the standard for the superheroes of the future, magical or otherwise. According to the plot-line, Mandrake acquired his powers in Tibet where he had studied the magical arts since childhood. Among his teachers was one known as Luciphor, who eventually decided to use his power and knowledge for selfish purposes and was transformed into the evil “Cobra.” Mandrake’s faithful valet, Lothar, is really an African prince in disguise and another magical adept. (In response to changing times, over the years Lothar has transformed from employee to friend.)
Mandrake’s success inspired a multitude of other similar characters including Marvelo the Monarch of Magicians, Tor the Magic Master, and perhaps most notably, Zatara the Magician. He still makes periodic appearances; in 1986 he was among the superheroes on an animated television series, Defenders of the Earth, alongside such stalwarts as Flash Gordon.