Operator #5

Tagged: Publication

US Pulp magazine, 48 issues, April 1934 to November/December 1939, published by Popular Publications; edited by Rogers Terrill, originally monthly and then alternated between bimonthly and monthly. This was one of the livelier and more successful hero/villain pulps, thematically more ambitious than most, as it changed after the first twenty issues into a set of Future War narratives garishly prefiguring World War Two. Operator #5 throughout was secret agent Jimmy Christopher, whose assignment – increasingly hard to fulfil as later issues of the series became more apocalyptic – was to save America from destruction by various menaces (often superscientific) and from the Invasions of unfriendly powers (both Central European and Asiatic). The lead novellas were published under the House Name Curtis Steele, which concealed the highly prolific pulp writer Frederick C Davis (April 1934-November 1935), whose Operator is basically a spy; then Emile Tepperman (December 1935-March 1938); and lastly Wayne Rogers (July 1938-November 1939). Other features included a series of spy stories by Arthur Leo Zagat.

Thirteen of the early lead novels, all the work of Davis, and each of them comprising a complete story, were reprinted in book form:

After Davis's departure, Operator #5 moved over to story arcs, two of which dominated its remaining years. The Purple Invasion sub-sequence by Emile C Tepperman describes an Invasion of America by Rudolph I, "Purple Emperor, War-Master of Europe and Asia", augmented by germ-warfare and climaxing with an assault on New York by Mongols who have occupied (see Yellow Peril) much of America; much of the action clearly prefigures the Military SF and Survivalist Fiction of later decades. The Purple Invasion narrative arc comprises:

  • "Death's Ragged Army" (June 1936 Operator #5)
  • "Patriot's Death Battalion" (August 1936 Operator #5)
  • "The Bloody Forty-Five Days" (October 1936 Operator #5)
  • "America's Plague Battalions" (December 1936 Operator #5)
  • Liberty's Suicide Legions (Holicong, Pennsylvania: Wildside Press, 2005) as by Curtis Steele [coll: title story first appeared January 1937 Operator #5: pb/]
  • The Siege of the Thousand Patriots (Rockville, Maryland: Wildside Press, 2008) as by Curtis Steele [coll: title story first appeared February 1937 Operator #5: pb/]
  • "Patriot's Death March" (March 1937 Operator #5)
  • "Revolt of the Lost Legions" (May 1937 Operator #5)
  • "Drums of Destruction" (July 1937 Operator #5)
  • "The Army Without A Country" (September 1937 Operator #5)
  • "The Bloody Frontiers" (November 1937 Operator #5)
  • "The Coming of the Mongol Hordes" (January 1938 Operator #5)
  • "The Siege That Brought the Black Death" (March 1938 Operator #5).

The last nine issues of Operator #5 form the slightly looser Yellow Vulture sequence by Wayne Rogers, during which the Japanese "Hordes of the Yellow Vulture" (see Yellow Peril), after conquering Canada, invade America from the north, armed with futuristic Weapons. The magazine was terminated after the issue in which Canada is destroyed, as is Washington, leaving the remnants of America in despair. The Yellow Horde narrative arc comprises:

  • "The Suicide Battalion" (July 1938 Operator #5)
  • "The Day of the Damned" (September 1938 Operator #5)
  • The Dawn That Shook the World (Holicong, Pennsylvania: Wildside Press, 2005) as by Curtis Steele [coll: title story first appeared November 1938 Operator #5: pb/]
  • "When Hell Came to America" (January 1939 Operator #5)
  • "Invasion From the Sky" (March 1939 Operator #5)
  • The Winged Horror of the Yellow Vulture (Holicong, Pennsylvania: Wildside Press, 2005) as by Curtis Steele [coll: title story first appeared May 1939 Operator #5 as "Winged Hordes of the Yellow Vulture": pb/]
  • "War Tanks of the Yellow Vulture" (July 1939 Operator #5)
  • "Corpse Cavalry of the Yellow Vulture" (September 1939 Operator #5)
  • "The Army From Underground" (November 1939 Operator #5)

In addition, several complete issues – in addition to those volumes containing Purple Invasion and Yellow Horde tales cited above – were reprinted under the name of the lead novella; they are listed here by internal chronology:

  • The Masked Invasion (Rockville, Maryland: Wildside Press, 2011) as by Curtis Steele [coll: title story first appeared April 1934 Operator #5: pb/]
  • The Army of the Dead (Rockville, Maryland: Wildside Press, 2006) as by Curtis Steele [coll: title story first appeared March 1935 Operator #5: pb/]
  • Blood Reign of the Dictator (Holicong, Pennsylvania: Wildside Press, 2004) as by Curtis Steele [coll: title story first appeared May 1935 Operator #5: pb/]
  • Hosts of the Flaming Death (Rockville, Maryland: Wildside Press, 2008) as by Curtis Steele [coll: title story first appeared August 1935 Operator #5: pb/]
  • Invasion of the Crimson Death Cult (Holicong, Pennsylvania: Wildside Press, 2005) as by Curtis Steele [coll: title story first appeared September 1935 Operator #5: pb/]
  • Revolt of the Devil-Men (Holicong, Pennsylvania: Wildside Press, 2005) as by Curtis Steele [coll: title story first appeared May 1938 Operator #5: pb/]

It is not known to what degree, if any, the clear imminence of genuine war inspired the closure of the magazine. [JC/MJE/MA/PN]

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