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Early Life

Dennis Piper was born into wealth. From a young age, Dennis' father subjected him to a brutal training regime to make him an acceptable soldier, a path in life young Dennis didn't want to take.[3]

By 1930, Dennis had taken to stealing from the wealthy and giving to those affected by the Great Depression. One night Dennis broke into the home of Matthew Masters, who in his youth was the Black Rider, an outlaw vigilante in the old west. Masters recognized Dennis as someone that would fight against the powerful on behalf of the downtrodden and gave him the Eternity Mask, a magic mask that made the wearer the equal of their opponent. With the mask reinvented himself as the Operative.[1]

Dennis Piper (Earth-616) from Mystery Men Vol 1 1 002

As the Operative

The Operative

When his then-girlfriend Alice Starr was found murdered, Piper was made a patsy for the murder, and escaped the police, eventually finding Alice's sister Sarah at a hangar where he was confronted by murderous and corrupt police officers. With the help of the mysterious Revenant and Alice's sister, Sarah, Piper sought to find Alice's murderer,[2] revealed to be his father.[4]

During the investigation of his father's holdings and the Board, the trio found the one member of the Board they thought would reveal why Alice was murdered. Breaking into his home, they found him dead at the hands of the Surgeon.[5]

Dennis Piper (Earth-616) from Marvel Mystery Comics Vol 1 4 001

The Ferret's original appearance

Piper eventually changed careers and became a private detective/crime writer under the assumed name Leslie Lenrow. His detective work earned him the nickname "Ferret" for his ability to "ferret" out criminals. He often beat the local police in solving crimes, gaining him some notoriety with the police. He adopted a pet Ferret named Nosey who sometimes helped him in his cases.[6][7]

The Ferret

Pre-War Activities

In his first recorded adventure, the Ferret was sitting at home listening to a news report about a shooting that occurred on 56th Street when the victim suddenly arrives at his door and drops dead, having been robbed of his valuables. Going off a matchbook found on the dead man's person, the Ferret investigated the Monte Carlo Club, the site of numerous other robberies. There he interviewed a man named Doc Wagner, another man named Prima, and a detective. While Doc and the detective stated they remember the victim, Prima said he didn't.

On his way home, the Ferret spotted actress Lynn Forehm being tossed out of a car after being robbed. Following the car to a pier, he attempted to get the drop on them when he was jumped by Knuckles Johnson, who shot him and left him for dead in New York Harbor. Surviving thanks to his bulletproof vest, the Ferret called in a favor to learn the location of Johnson's apartment but accidentally fell asleep before the crook showed up. Knuckles arrived lit the place on fire but the Ferret managed to escape. Realizing the leader of the robbery gang could either be Doc Wagner or Prima, the Ferret enlists the aid of Forehm to set a trap, however, the crooks saw through it and captured her. Deducing who the kingpin was, the Ferret rushed to the club and found a secret entrance and got the drop on Doc before he could murder Lynn. After Doc was taken away by the police, the Ferret points out that he realized who the shooter was when he determined that only a doctor could shoot a man in such a way and deduce how long it would take him to die to ensure he would not reveal his identity.[6]

His next case began after learning of the recent murder of a stooley. The Ferret convinced the police inspector to give him the most worthless object on the man's body: a scrap of paper. After a botched murder attempt, the Ferret found a hidden address written on the paper and decided to investigate. While initially captured, thanks to the aid of his pet ferret Nosey, the Ferret managed to take down a counterfeit operation after nabbing their leader.[8]

Soon after he would be summoned by Lily Saunders to investigate threats against her boss, wealthy cosmetics magistrate Cora Waterbury, by a disgruntled former employee named Venario. When they arrived at Cora's estate, the Ferret found that Cora had died of mysterious circumstances. As the night progressed a list of suspicious characters began to rack up: Venario, who was spotted near the property, Cora's doctor Jelenko, and a man claiming to be her brother Rene. Collecting evidence from the scene of Cora's death and examining it under a Spectroscope, the Ferret learned that Cora had been murdered with a lethal dose of thallium. Using his detective skills he discovered that the man posing as Rene was Rene's assistant Ryan, who staged everything to steal Cora's fortune.[9]

His fame would soon bring the Ferret trouble when one day he was kidnapped by a thief named Duke along with ransom victim Cynthia Bryant. They would attempt to force the Ferret into paying them out a massive amount of money. Put through the Chinese water torture, the Ferret would be freed by his pet ferret Nosey and round up the crooks, turning them over to the authorities.[10]

The Ferret would stumble upon his next case by being at the right place at the right time: When going to put a deposit into the bank, the Ferret stumbled upon a bank robbery being committed by Blackie Giles and his gang. Unable to stop it, the Ferret had the police chief withhold his witness of the robbery from the press. He then put a classified ad in the paper in code requesting Blackie Giles to pay him off to keep silent. Giles instead came to kill the Ferret, taking him aboard a ship and taking him out to sea. Blackie attempted to shoot the Ferret, however, the bullet only grazed him. The Ferret then took out all the men on the boat and returned it to port where he turned them over to the police.[11]

In his last recorded pre-war case, the Ferret would get involved with Stacey Cleaners Inc. The company was being targeted by a group of crooks who were using terror tactics on the company in what appeared to be shady work perpetuated by the competition. However, when Brown, the co-owner of Stacey Cleaners would be murdered, the Ferret would deduce that Mr. Martin -- a man refused to be taken on as a third partner in the company -- was responsible for the murder, having hired the crooks to throw off his involvement.[12]

World War II

Dennis Piper (Earth-616) and Scientists Guild (Earth-616) from Marvel Comics Vol 1 1000 001

The Ferret meets with the Three Xs

In 1940, the Ferret was approached by the Three Xs, a trio of supposed scientific investigators that allegedly represented the "next stage" of humanity. They told the Ferret that they believed once the Allies won the war in Europe, a new generation of "X-Humans" would rise to shape the future, and to bring about their existence, they needed the Eternity Mask. The Ferret thought the Three Xs only needed it to fight the Nazis and agreed to give it to them.[1]

In the summer of 1940, the Ferret would be hired by Miss Portnoy to search for her missing mother,[13] who was the cleaning lady for a Nazi spy named Albrecht Kerfoot who posed as Professor Hamilton in the United States. Unknown to the Ferret, Portnoy's mother was killed when she discovered that Kerfoot was a Nazi spy.[14] When tracking Kerfoot down, he came across him just as he was giving fellow spy Heinz Kruger orders to assassinate Abraham Erskine. While attempting to trail Kruger, the Ferret was caught by a Nazi spy and fatally stabbed to death. When the spies learned that he was a private investigator, they had his office firebombed. Witnessing the murder, the Angel took in the Ferret's beloved pet Nosey as his own.[15] Ultimately, the Angel avenge the death of the Ferret by aiding Captain America and Bucky in exposing a Nazi/Atlantean rebel conspiracy to attacking Washington D.C.[16]

Anomalous Appearance

In the Spring of 1941 The Ferret, or someone posing as him was an informant for the government during the outbreak of World War II. In one of his early cases he was hired to learn the location of Professor Philo Zog, the inventor of the robot known as Electro. The Ferret learned that Zog was kidnapped by the Nazis and their ally Doctor Manyac for something called Operation: Blockbuster. Teaming with Betty Dean, the Sub-Mariner, the Angel, Human Torch and Toro, the Ferret found the location of the Nazi hideout. There the gathered heroes learned that the Nazis were utilizing Manyac's "green flame" weapon and Zog's robot technology to create an army of green-flame robots. This army included Blockbuster, which was a massive robot. With the Ferret's aid, the heroes destroyed the Green Flames, freed Zog and destroyed operation Blockbuster.[17]




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