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Secret Agent "X"

Entry updated 12 August 2018. Tagged: Character, Publication.


US Pulp Magazine. Published by Periodical House Inc, an imprint of Ace Magazines. Editors were Rose Wyn for the first few years, then Harry Widmer for the remainder of the run. Publication varied from monthly to an erratic bimonthly schedule. 41 issues from February 1934 to March 1941, initially with "X" in quotation marks and cover subtitle "The Man of a Thousand Faces"; from #20 (November 1935) as Secret Agent X without quotes and subtitled "Detective Mysteries".

The titular Secret Agent "X" – created by pulp author Paul Chadwick (1902-1972) under the House Name Brant House – was never identified by name. He had an X-shaped scar above his heart from a shrapnel wound in World War One, leading to his alias; apparently some of the metal remained and occasionally caused him great pain. Billed as "The Man of a Thousand Faces", X could quickly change his appearance, using make-up and props rather than any Superpower. Originally he fought crime on behalf of an unknown group of very wealthy sponsors, but then became a US Government agent for the "K-R" group, presumably led by Harvey Bates. Colleagues included reporter Betty Dale and the more conventional private investigator Jim Hobart. Though himself an only mildly offbeat detective/counter-espionage agent, X often faced Mad Scientists and other villains who used futuristic Weapons, were capable of reanimating the dead, and so on. X, somewhat unusually for the time, preferred non-lethal weapons such as a gas pistol which temporarily knocked out opponents. As in most similar titles of the era, the magazine featured several backup stories, sometimes with fantastic themes; authors included Norman A Daniels and Frederick C Davis.

Later novels featuring X came from G T Fleming-Roberts (1910-1968), Emile C Tepperman and Wayne Rogers. The character was adapted for Comics as "X – The Phantom Fed" in a short-lived series from Ace Comics in the early 1940s; this drew on some of the novels as source material. In 1966, Corinth Books attempted to revive the character in paperback following Bantam Books' success with Doc Savage, but this venture ended after only seven volumes (listed in the entry for Brant House). Other Small Presses began reprinting the title in recent years, together with new novels by such authors as Sean Ellis. [GSt/DRL]

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