In the 1930s, when the secret agent was still a fresh concept in genre fiction and words such as patriotism and sacrifice were not cynically derided, Jimmy Christopher, Secret Service Operator 5, covertly defended American shores from all sorts of foreign and domestic threats that plotted the subjugation of the U.S. through the most outlandish methods (The Green Death Mists, Rockets from Hell, the Flaming Death, etc.).

"He was in his early twenties; his face was clean-cut and strong. His bright blue eyes flashed with the alertness of youth; his forehead was high, his chin firmly determined. He possessed a poise that added stature to his years and obviously he was American through and through. ...On the back of [his right] hand shone a peculiar scar--a black and white marking shaped strangely like a spreadwinged American eagle. Its wings seemed to flex, as though straining to take flight, as the young man's fingers moved."

His Paraphernalia

Jimmy's chief weapon is a rapier concealed in his belt. Another is the famous death's head ring which bore the numeral 5 and contained a powerful explosive in the hollow top. There was also a small gold ornament, a reproduction of a skull with ruby eyes, which Jimmy usually had clipped to his watch chain; inside the skull there was a silver ball containing Diphenolchlorasine, a death-dealing liquid which would change into gas upon contact with air.
(Much of this and the text that follows has been condensed from Don Hutchinson's Operator #5 article from Captain George's Whiz Bang no.14, an infectiously wry piece that spurred my initial interest in this character!)

His Friends

With such scourges as The Melting Death, Master of Broken Men and TheWar Dogs of the Green Destroyer, a fellow needed all the friends he could get. Jimmy was blessed with a number of close aides:

Diane Elliot was a special writer for the Amalgamated Press news service but became a full-fledged intelligence agent during the Purple Invasion crisis. As Jimmy's girl she led a life of harrowing adventures. Many of the Operator 5 cover paintings bear likenesses of Diane: strapped to the muzzle of a cannon; about to be hurled from a giant catapult; facing firing squads; tied to dynamite kegs, and once- - shades of Pearl White-bound to railroad tracks, the thundering locomotive mere yards away.

Young Tim Donovan was Operator 5's unofficial assistant. They had met one drenching night on the lower East Side, when Tim, a bootblack huddling in a dark doorway, had saved Operator 5 from death by a bullet from a criminal's gun. Jimmy virtually adopted the plucky youngster, accepting him into his family circle and into his numerous adventures. Tim is allowed to grow up in the course of the novels and eventually enters the Intelligence service himself.

A leading character in the series was the man who was commander-in-chief of the United States Intelligence Service, a man known even to his most trusted agents only as Z-7. Dressed entirely in gray with black hair and black, glittering eyes, he is described as an older man of stocky build and grim visage. There is a bond of affection between Z-7 and Operator 5, a bond which is sorely tested in the course of the novels. Later in the series, Jimmy replaces Z-7 as head of intelligence.

Jimmy's twin sister, Nan Christopher, was an important flgure in the novels as was his father, ex-Secret Service Operator Q-6. In spite of a bullet lodged near his heart which constantly threatened his life, John Christopher managed to assist his son on a number of cases.

In his guise as Carleton Victor, Operator 5 employed a man servant named of Crowe. The estimable Crowe, gentleman's gentleman extraordinary, did not dream that Carleton Victor, photo- portraitist of world-wide reputation, was a convenient cover for Jimmy Christopher. Crowe's colossal cool was a runnlng gag which consciously or unconsciously satirized the sensational nature of the pulp series. The four walls of Victor's penthouse were the boundaries of his entire world. Outside, the nation reeled; havoc and ruin sullied the streets; dead men marched; Mongol hordes raided; America's proudest cities were reduced to ashes or frozen with giant neutron projectors. But Crowe was oblivous to it all. He was the one "normal" person in a universe overtaken by madness.

Crowe was dropped from later issues, as were other characters and schticks from the early numbers--such as Jimmy clumsily stopping the frenzied action to explain a pointless magic trick to Tim Donovan. In fact, unlike most other pulp hero novels, the Operator 5 books can be divided into two distinct series. The first, running for some two dozen issues, was in the mold of prevailing bizarre fantasy pulps.

The second, beginning in early 1936, concentrated more heavily on militaristic explolts, starting with...

The Purple Invasion

In a series of cataclysrnic cliffhangers, the Purple Invasion chronicled an assault upon America by the hordes of dictator Rudolph I of "Balkaria," the Purple Emperor. The complete saga ran well over three-quarters of a million words. Each novel detailed immense battles in America's second War of Independence. Numerous major characters were introduced, fought for several issues, then were summarily disposed of. At the end, America was left in ruins, Canada and Mexico were under the subjugation of vandal rule. Small wonder that the Purple Invasion has been called the War and Peace of the pulp magazines. By pulp magazine standards the Purple Invasion was daringly innovative. In the past, other paper heroes had grappled with avaricious dictators but never before with such horrendous consequences. Check your well-stocked magazine seller for Adventure House's bimonthly digest High Adventure, which is reprinting the Purple Invasion Sage (starting with issue #18).

A listing of Operator #5 adventures!

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