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The Avengers in Diana comic: Story Seven

Part One - Issue 219, April 28th 1967.

In which THE AVENGERS go shopping - and Steed gets more than he bargained for!
The Avengers are going for a quiet drive in the country, in Steed's vintage Bentley - at least that's what they think!.

The Avengers are heading for a quiet drive in the country. They find the street they want to drive down in London has been blocked to make room for a procession by Princess Helga of Varania. They park up in order to watch the procession. Suddenly, there is a huge explosion just beside Princess Helga’s coach. When the smoke clears, the unconscious princess is lifted from the coach, and Steed and Mrs. Peel move in for a closer look.

The Avengers - Diana #219Steed discovers a suspicious piece of cloth. Back at Mrs. Peel’s flat he looks it over – it is the remains of a hat, but suspiciously it reeks of explosive. Mrs. Peel surmises that the hat could have been a cleverly designed bomb. On the lining, the maker’s name was still legible – Stradley’s hat shop.

The next day, with Steed and Emma pretending to be husband and wife, they visit Stradley’s. As Steed tries on a number of hats, Mrs. Peel showed the remains of the cap to the assistant and asked for a hat made in that material. She explains that it is a sample from a hat made for a friend. The assistant finds the style they are looking for and says that it was made for Algernon Oakwood. In the end, Steed settles for a new bowler.

As they drive back to Mrs. Peel’s flat, the duo discuss the case. Mrs. Peel surmises that this ‘Algernon Oakwood’ could be the bomb-thrower. Unbeknownst to Steed, there is a tiny microphone concealed in the lining of his new bowler hat, it is relaying their conversation back to Stradley’s hat shop. The assistant is listening in. It turns out that ‘Algernon Oakwood’ is an invention of his.

Back at the flat, Steed has a nap as Emma prepares supper. Silently, a deadly poisonous snake uncoils from within the band of the new bowler hat. It takes up a position to strike Steed’s hand.

Part Two - Issue 220, May 5th 1967.

The Mad Hatter's Party!
WHEN a bomb, cunningly concealed in a hat, is thrown at Princess Helga of Varania on her State visit to Britain, the "Avengers", John Steed and Emma Peel, decide to investigate.  Their inquiries lead them to an exclusive hat shop where Steed buys a new bowler hat.  But on his return to Mrs Peel's flat for coffee, Steed dozes off - and from the lining of his new hat a deadly snake slithers towards Steed's hand.

The Avengers - Diana #220Mrs Peel steps into the room with the food. She notices the snake about to strike. She tells Steed to stay absolutely still. Then she pounces, throwing a cup of scalding coffee at the snake. It retreats back to the interior of the hat and Steed is able to leap from his seat. They agree that this proves the hat shop owner wants to put a stop to their investigations and that they must stop him before he makes another attempt on the life of Princess Helga.

The next night they pay another visit to the hat shop. There is a light burning in the shop. They enter the shop stealthily through a basement window at the rear. Inside, they see a group of cruel-looking men being given a variety of styles of hat by Stradley. He explains that each hat has been fitted with a device to carry out a variety of jobs that should ensure the death of Princess Helga at the ballet that night.

As the men prepare to leave, Mrs Peel accidentally knocks over a stack of hat boxes. The assassins come to investigate, but they are given short shrift by Mrs. Peel until the hats are put into use, one flies through the air to attack Mrs Peel, ultimately imbedding itself in the wall. Another pumps out a suffocating red gas. Steed uses his bowler as an impromptu mask and uses his brolly to trip up the escaping Stradley.

The police arrive and Steed hands the hats over to the inspector. He tells Steed that Stradley, "The Mad Hatter", was one of the most wanted criminals in the world. He moved from country to country assassinating top leaders and royal personages, and thanks to the Avengers he’d made his last hat.

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