Quick Links:

Newspaper Strips | Annuals | Comic Books |
Around the World | Cameos


The Avengers in Diana comic: Story Two

Part One - Issue 202, December 31st 1966

The Miser strikes at midnight.
JOHN STEED sat next to Emma Peel, holing firmly on to his bowler hat, as she drove her sleek Lotus Elan through London towards Victoria Station.  "The Avengers" were on their way to meet an old friend off the 4.20 train from Southampton

The Avengers - Diana #202Steed and Mrs. Peel have arranged to meet an old friend off the 4.20 train from Southampton at Victoria Station. It pulls into the station half an hour late, but instead of slowing for the platform it carries on into the buffers. On board the train all the passengers and the driver are sleeping like babies, but nobody is harmed.

An announcement comes over the public address system. It is from somebody calling himself ‘The Miser’, and he declares that this is only a sample of what he has in store for the people of London unless he is obeyed. He says that he will strike again at midnight.

Back at Mrs. Peel’s flat, their friend, Dick North, is coming round. He remembers up to the point where the train stopped at a signal. After that, nothing.

Towards Midnight, Steed and Mrs. Peel are driving around London. They cross through Piccadilly Circus and into the West End. As Big Ben chimes midnight London is plunged into a sudden and complete darkness. Cars and buses crash into each other before they have a chance to put their headlamps on. Mrs. Peel swerves to avoid a double decker bus and prangs the Lotus on a streetlamp. Suddenly one bright light comes on – a neon sign. It reads: ‘Every bank in London will turn over its money to me at midnight tomorrow. I will let them know how. The Miser’.

Steed and Mrs. Peel decide to investigate. They retrace the train-track, taking Dick North with them. He discovers the point at which he believes the train was stopped. Mrs. Peel decides to investigate up the track, and Steed and Dick work their way down the track. As Mrs. Peel bends down to examine the track she is jumped by three hooded figures.

Part Two - Issue 203, January 7th 1967

The fire-breathing scarecrow!
JOHN STEED and Emma Peel, "The Avengers", are secretly investigating a mysterious character known as "The Miser", who has threatened to rob all the banks in London.  The Miser has already shown his power by fusing all the lights in London's West End, and by sending a trainload of people, all drugged, crashing into the barriers at Victoria Station.  Dick North, a friend of "The Avengers" who was on the train at the time, takes them to the stretch of railway track where he reckons the train had been halted by persons unknown - and while looking for clues, Mrs. Peel is attacked by three hooded men...

The Avengers - Diana #203Steed and Dick North hear the scuffle, but when they reach the point where the sounds were coming from, Mrs. Peel is gone. Steed tells Dick to return to London while he looks for Mrs. Peel alone. In the meantime, the three hooded men drag Mrs. Peel into an old tumble-down farmhouse.

Amazingly, behind the tumble-down exterior there is a laboratory full of high-tech electronic equipment. The voice of The Miser comes over a loud speaker and commands the men to lock Mrs. Peel in the cellars so that he can deal with her later.

Outside, Steed, on a hunch is heading towards the farmhouse. He spies a scarecrow dressed in smart clothes and makes a joke to himself. Suddenly a flame leaps from the scarecrow, aimed directly at Steed. He avoids being grilled by a split second. The field itself bursts into flames, and Steed is trapped. He hears a great rustling and watches as a horde of panic-stricken field mice and rats emerge, fleeing for their lives. He realizes that the animals seem to know where they are going, so he follows them across the field, and is grateful to discover that they have been heading for a shallow stream at the edge of the field. Steed emerges himself in the water and waits long enough for the fire to pass. Presently, he starts heading for the farmhouse again, and notices a helicopter coming in to land.

In the cellar, Mrs. Peel hears footsteps. The door of her cell opens and a puny, baldheaded man enters. It is The Miser. He tells Mrs. Peel not to be put off by his size – he has big plans to make up for his small stature. His henchmen place Mrs. Peel in a cider press, and begin turning the screw to make the weight descend towards her…

Part Three - Issue 204, January 14th 1967

Secrets of the wax museum.
JOHN STEED and Emma Peel, "The Avengers", are secretly investigating a mysterious character known as "The Miser", who has threatened to rob all the banks in London.  They track The Miser's secret hideout to an old farmhouse, where Mrs. Peel is captured and dumped on to an old cider press to be - eliminated!   Meanwhile, Steed is literally "hot on the heels" of the villains when a flame-thrower concealed in a scarecrow narrowly misses him and sets fire to a field of grain.

The fire started by the automated scarecrow sentry is out of control and heading for the farmhouse. The Miser decides to cut his losses and quit the laboratory, but leaves Mrs. Peel to a fiery doom. Outside, Steed sees the helicopter leave and realizes that he must act quick if he is to save Mrs. Peel. He douses his umbrella in water and uses it as a shield while he enters the now-burning building. He gets to Mrs. Peel just in time and frees her from the cider press.

Outside the farmhouse, Mrs. Peel discovers a handful of papers dropped by the villains as they fled. On one of them there is a London address, which the pair decide to visit.

Arriving, they discover that it is a small waxworks museum. They enter through an open window. At the end of the main hallway, light is peeking from under a door. Inside, The Miser is explaining his plans to a pair of goons. He tells them that the time to strike is now. The Avengers overhear this and realise that the same applies to them. They move waxwork images of uniformed policemen to strategic places around the museum, then Steed calls out , ‘The games is up. You are surrounded.’ The villains panic when they see the dummies as they think they are penned in by an army of policemen.

The Miser decides to make a break for it, but Steed and Mrs. Peel fool him by pretending to be wax dummies and grabbing him as he passes. The villains realise that it is they who are the dummies. Steed and Mrs. Peel end the adventure sharing a coffee and a joke in an all-night coffee bar.

by Matthew Bradford

Emilio Frejo’s amazing artwork manages to improve in the second story, which makes me very eager indeed to read the rest of the Diana comics! Overall, Steed’s likeness is even more dead-on, particularly in profile at the bottom of the first page. (Though he does have a close-up on the final page of the story where his face is weirdly elongated and he looks nothing like Patrick Macnee, but that’s forgivable once in a while!) Emma still doesn’t quite look like Diana Rigg, but she’s quite attractive, nonetheless. (Especially in the black leather catsuit of the monochrome era episodes, which she dons for much of this story!) This artist can really draw a good Lotus and a good Bentley, which is certainly an asset when working on The Avengers. The cars don’t look very good at all in later comics I’ve read (by other artists).

The colour is again amazingly well-done. It’s too bad there weren’t more four-colour Avengers comics from this era, because they really look great like this. I don’t know what the colouring process was that Diana used, but these pages look much better than any other comics I’ve seen from that time, British or American.

The layouts are also, again, outstanding. In the first story I complained that while the jagged, dynamic panels were exciting, they didn’t always serve the flow of the story. While some pages in this story also appear kind of arbitrary, others make perfect sense. At the bottom of the first page, a loudspeaker is given its own circular panel, the clear equivalent of an “insert shot” in film or television. The three characters listening to that announcement occupy the long panel to the right, clearly reacting to what is being said. These layouts are very cinematic. Emilio Frejo is to Avengers comics what Sidney Hayers was to the contemporary television episodes. He tells the story through a series of unusual and interesting shots.

Another good example comes on the second page of the second installment, where a series of panels falls across the middle of the page, slightly descending left to right, like a deck of cards tossed on a table. These panels are very effective because they make the whole page incredibly clear from a narrative sense. There is no confusion over which panel is to be read in what order, as there is in the less successful following page which looks cool, arranged in a kind of haphazard jigsaw pattern, but doesn’t read as clearly. Still, the odd miss is worth the hits for such exciting--and at the time rare--dynamic comic storytelling. I still can’t believe such groundbreaking artwork can be found in a TV adaptation, since they are often given the short end of the creative stick when it comes to comics.

Despite the stunning visuals, the story itself remains on the weak side, again suffering from obvious limitations in terms of what can be accomplished in just six pages. Still, it is an improvement over the first story. At least the villain doesn’t turn out to be The Avengers’ mysterious friend Dick North, the only other prominent character in the story again. I’m not sure if he’s an intentional red herring or not, but reading this story immediately after the first story, I certainly suspected the outsider of villainy. Of course, the fact that it’s not the only other character we’ve been introduced to means that the villain turns out to be someone completely random, someone we haven’t met before, which is also kind of disappointing. I know, I’m being overly nitpicky about a six-page comic. Still, there has to be a balance somewhere! (Perhaps one will be found in the further Diana comics…)

The initial mystery is intriguing, but it is dropped for a more conventional scheme by the comic’s end. The villain, known as “The Miser,” initially threatens London with amazing feats like putting a whole train (including the engineer!) to sleep and causing all the lights to black out. (Amazingly, no one had their cars’ headlights turned on at midnight!) He’s then in a good position to blackmail the government, which he does. However, by the story’s end he himself seems to have forgotten his masterful plan, because instead he’s babbling to his men about robbing banks! I’m not sure how a writer loses track of his own storyline in only six short pages!

Mrs. Peel is abducted under the Miser’s rationale that “she can be of more use alive” but despite that reasoning he immediately tries to kill her by putting her in an apple press. This is essentially the same predicament she found herself in in “A Surfeit of H2O,” only without Diana Rigg’s impeccable grace under fire and perfect delivery of the best line in the whole series (“You diabolical mastermind, you!”), it doesn’t live up to its illustrious forebear. The finale takes place in a wax museum, which is a suitably strange location for a typical Avengers fight. Despite the story’s problems, it flows well and has some interesting action. It’s a step up from the first story, and I hope the stories continue to improve!

Art: ****1/2

Story: **1/2

Back to Diana Index on to Story Three