By what strange twist of Fate did the fearful menace which was to shadow every man and woman in New York City first rear its venomous head in the distant Caribbean? When terror suddenly boarded a little tramp steamer and left crimson havoc littering its narrow decks a spluttering wireless flashed the doom of every living thing aboard. Within a week, the same ghastly fate struck a gigantic new ocean liner, its luxurious cabins occupied by the elite and powerful of a dozen different nations! Death—swift and terrible—rode the ocean lanes. And the Spider—taken for once off guard—was supposedly dying in a hospital room on the very day when that terror from the seas first showed itself in all its terror above the city skyline. How can the Spider, fighting death himself, help the nation he loves in her hour of greatest need?
Fear stalked the corridors and offices on Capitol Hill, for it was from the ranks of the mighty—the rulers and lawmakers of America—that the Silver Assassins sought their victims! Singly, in pairs and in numbered groups they died, laying down their lives for their country—while panic spread, and the Spider, alone aware of the terrific catastrophe which impended, fought through black, bodiless shadows to reach and destroy the menace which festered underground!
Chaos, confusion, disintegration fall with swift, breath-taking disaster upon America! Already terrorized by a tottering, unstable world, American men and women are swept into a mad stampede when the great leaders of the nation are spirited away, one by one, to return broken men, useless, inept. Here Jimmy Christopher—Operator 5—sets forth on his most thrilling and dangerous exploit while the great brains of America surrender to madness and despair; as a leaderless people seethe in revolt against a government which is crumbling before their eyes. How can Operator 5, single-handed, hope to prevail against that dread Master of Broken Men?
Never before had any criminal dared give open challenge to the Spider! Never before had Richard Wentworth faced a foe who welcomed personal combat with the grim avenger whom all others feared… And while they fought—the Spider and the Fly—a new and fearless criminal army was forming; men and women were dying by the scores; and the youth of a nation was flocking to the dark banner of that gentlemanly killer whose battle cry was “Kill the Spider—and the world is ours!”
Thundering far beneath Manhattan’s thronging streets came the Death Express—a crack New York Central train bearing a gruesome cargo of lifeless men, women and children—their bodies stripped of valuables, naked and mutilated! A grim warning of the terror-reign that threatened America—at the hands of Twentieth Century land-pirates, whose weapon was neither gun nor sword, but the stunning, body-shivering force which lies in electricity! Can the Spider, using mortal weapons, fight the numbing power of the thunderbolt—and survive?
How fight a menace which strikes without warning—which disintegrates flesh and blood and stone to mere chemical atoms! Men fled in blind panic from the merest rumor of a new attack, and even the Spider—dodging the death blasts—can find at first no weapon with which to combat this new and devastating evil which obliterates its victims in the fraction of time between two heart-beats!
Secretly, behind closed doors and guarded portals the mysterious Black Power of Zaava spread its hidden terror throughout America. What evil force was behind the destruction of churches; the wholesale disappearance of entire congregations? What sinister spell had fallen upon American men and women to make them hurl themselves into white-hot flaming furnaces. A trap worse than death is laid for Operator 5 when, in a final effort to combat this monstrous hidden power, he makes his way alone into the Cavern of the Damned!
The “War and Peace of the Pulps” is finally collected in a two-volume deluxe, hardcover edition. Running in the pages of Operator #5 magazine from 1936–38, this 14-part epic chronicled the invasion and conquering of America by a mysterious foe from Europe: The Purple Empire. As Will Murray describes in this edition’s Introduction: “Battles rage from coast to coast. The exploits of Operator 5 shift from espionage and counterespionage to straight military adventure. Through it all, Jimmy Christopher rises to become the de facto leader of the resistance.” Written by Emile C. Tepperman (author of The Spider and The Masked Marksman) and containing nearly 300 illustrations by John Fleming Gould, this half-million-word saga remains the greatest epic to see print in Golden Age of the pulps and is still considered most risky and ambitious experiment ever undertaken in the single-character magazines.
This two-volume deluxe, hardcover edition includes an all-new Introduction by pulp historian Will Murray, as well as Tom Johnson’s retrospective on the series, The History of the Purple Wars. It also collects the rarely-reprinted Epilogue to the Purple War, “Revolt of the Devil Men.” Also restored are all of author Tepperman’s rarely-reprinted footnotes which graced the original pulp editions of the stories. Never-before collected, this remastered, comprehensive collection of Operator 5: The Complete Purple Wars has been one of the most eagerly-anticipated pulp publications of all time.
Never before in history had anything quite so horrible as the Mad Horde been loosed upon a terrified humanity! In rural towns and through the thronging streets of great cities the death-bringers stalked, spreading the slow madness of which they themselves must soon die! The Spider, dismayed and horrified as never before in his long career, is forced at last into risking the life of the girl he loves—so that a million others may live!
When the Underworld united in one compact army of crime, the Spider—his prestige gone—faced the most vicious collection of criminals and degenerate killers ever assembled under one dark banner of bloody social war! How can Richard Wentworth, robbed of Kirkpatrick and Nita, renew the Spider-fear which alone can bring him victory from a menace that is making casualty columns of our daily papers and filling our institutions with driveling victims of the new madness?
Out of the blue it struck—that dread, mysterious force, dealing death, destruction and misery to millions. America found herself stripped of her strongest defenses as battleships, huge guns, skyscrapers, factories and transportation systems crumbled to dust before the voracious flame. No one could tell where it came from; where it would next strike; no one was safe from its hot, devouring maw. An entire nation stood crippled, paralyzed by panic as Operator 5, alone, fought to save America from the red ruin loosed upon it.
What manner of men were these who burned their victims alive—and in public! With flaming pyres adding their nightly terror to a city already tasting the grim pangs of slow starvation, the Spider, revealed at last, is forced to disappear! Can Richard Wentworth, unmasked and in hiding, successfully combat the Flame Men?
America faces certain doom as its citizens fall in screaming thousands before the noxious death vapors loosed upon them by the Green Hand. How can the Spider, harried and threatened by a hundred new and deadly perils, check the rising power of the next Dictator—and lay bare the scheming, criminal mind which seeks to enslave the nation?
One moment good-will bound the United States and the great Power across the sea… the next, shells screamed their death wails into Coast homes and factories. No citizen was safe from the bloody holocaust when the Yellow Empire struck without warning from the Pacific. With fiendish artifice the world was turned against us. And somewhere in this country, covertly completing the terrifying work of wholesale destruction, lurked the ruthless agent of the invading hordes. Operator 5 alone guessed the dread secret and matched his individual might against a million war-drunk terrorists—while the nation trembled on the brink of red wreckage!
The Flaming Shadows fell upon the city, shrouding whole neighborhoods in a fiery gloom—wherein walked screaming death and merciless destruction… Go with the Spider as he battles, single-handedly, the Flaming Shadows—to save the very people who pray for his destruction!
Like the consuming flames of a prairie fire the dread news spread: “The Spider has gone mad! He will massacre us all!” But Richard Wentworth, never more sane, was even then gambling life itself in one desperate effort to save the city which cursed his name—from the awful ravages of man-spread plague!
Unseen, impregnable, the strange war engine of a foreign power hovered over America, awaiting the fatal moment to hurl death upon a thousand cities and towns. Foredoomed to destruction and desolation before the ravaging hordes of the Yellow Empire, bleak despair gripped the nation’s millions. And then men held their breath in agonizing hope—as Operator 5, single-handed, seized the last grim chance to save the United States!
Mysterious death, suicide, and madness took uncanny toll of New York’s most prominent citizens. Only the Spider sensed the presence of the criminal genius whose tentacles were strangling the city—and the Spider was next on the crime monster’s death list!
Meet the Spider—master of men! More just than the Law… more dangerous than the Underworld. Hated, wanted, feared by both! Alone and desperate, he wages deadly, one-man war against the super-criminal whose long-planned crime-coup will snuff a thousand lives! Can the Spider prevent this slaughter of innocents?
Invisible, secret, deadly, the masked empire wielded its dread power of darkness throughout the nation. Havoc and ruin followed the terror-torn thousands who fled the country to escape the Thirteenth Darkness. America, faced with certain disaster, placed her chance of survival in one man’s capable hands—and prayed that the warrior gods might smile once more upon the miracle man of her Secret Service—Operator 5, Jimmy Christopher!
They sped through the night—a patrol of batlike monsters, their eyes fire, their breath a poison vapor that wiped out every living thing it touched. What were these flying beasts? What was the strange doom they carried? Grimly G-8 and his hellion buddies follow the wings of this horror staffel straight into terror skies!
Original John Fleming Gould painting for The Saturday Evening Post (1941). Story illustration, watercolor on paper. Signed lower right. Inscribed on reverse and having old Curtis Publishing Company label for The Saturday Evening Post. Image 21″ x 27.”