Retro Cool - M.A.C.H 1
The strip was heavily influenced by TV's The Six Million Dollar man which was huge at the time - the character of M.A.C.H 1, agent John Probe even looked like Steve Austin as played by Lee Majors. In the introduction to the Extreme M.A.C.H 1 magazine, editor Alan Barnes said John Probe was not so much Steve Austin as an Austin Allegro and he confirms that during the comic's early days the character was more popular than Dan Dare and Judge Dredd combined.
The earliest strips saw John Probe battling terrorists, enemy agents and killers but as 2000ad found its legs and became more subversive, Probe found himself battling against his own government. Probe's boss Sharpe was revealed to have insisted a piece of code be written into the computer inside Probe that would self destruct, killing the agent if he disobeyed orders. This added much depth to the character and made Probe less Steve Austin and more a tortured man forced to work for a shadowy government organisation.
The first truly epic story for the character was M.A.C.H 0 in which Probe discovered that he wasn't the first man to be turned into a secret agent (again a plot that had been used in The Six Million Dollar Man) but this earlier experiment had gone wrong. Of course Probe saved the day. In the final strips of M.A.C.H 1 we saw John Probe turn on his boss and kill him . He then sacrificed his own life to save the world from alien invasion. This was a massive shock to the readership. This was not Marvel of DC and when a character was killed he usually remained dead.
M.A.C.H Zero would return to the comic for his own short lived series, but this was more Frankenstein retold than anything else.
Stories from M.A.C.H 1 have been reprinted in several versions - Reprinted? 2000 AD Extreme Edition #6 (12/04) reprinted 9 of the first 10 episodes (all but #3), along with "Airship," "The Planet Killers," "Everest" and "MACH Woman." 19 episodes in one handy package, with a great cover by John Burns. A second batch of 20 episodes were reprinted in Extreme Edition #9 (6/05). These included "UFO" and the final 16 instalments. Many other episodes had previously been collected by Quality Comics in a series that ran nine issues.
The character was so fondly remembered that a spoof, entitled B.L.A.I.R. 1, a satire on Tony Blair appeared in 2000 AD in the late 1990s, and gained considerable media attention at the time. The story was not popular with readers, however, and was soon killed off.