M.A.C.H.1. premiered in the very first prog
comic, way, way back in 1978 when i was 8 years old. Having half-inched
the comic because i wanted the frisbee
-type space spinner
on the front cover, i was both surprised and delighted to find that it was really, really good, packed with real stories and and lots of that eight-year-old staple diet
, mindless violence
However, it completely lacked any of what i considered to be a comic's main selling point - to whit, Korky the Cat, Dennis the Menace or Desperate Dan. There were no clubs to join, no badges to collect. 2000AD were grownup. That made me a grownup now as well. We don' need no steeking batches. M.A.C.H.1 was my favourite character right from the start.
He had the strength of 50 men and was not so much a secret agent as a secret weapon. M.A.C.H.1. stood for "Man Activated by Compu-puncture Hyperpower", - yeah, i know but it's cooler when you're eight - and was 2000AD's take on the bionic man except that nothing in M.A.C.H.1.'s body (other than the computer in his head) was mechanical. His tremendous strength came from compu-puncture - a sort of electrically enhanced acupuncture.
The hero, (only codenamed M.A.C.H.1) was called John Probe. The antihero, and his boss, was Mister Sharpe. The conflict in the series cames from the relationship between Probe and the computer in his head (favourite catchphrase: "Emotions irrelevent"). There was also the creeping realisation that Probe didn't actually like his job very much. To have a secret agent who hated his boss and couldn't stand the lousy things that the Government was making him do, well, in 1978 that was revolutionary stuff.
M.A.C.H.1 ran from Progs 1-46 and then Progs 53-64:
Series 1 (Progs 1-46) was your typical bionic action-adventure stuff (with perhaps hints of what was to come in terms of the man-machine conflict). It moved in later issues to more sci-fi stuff (space missions, aliens, etc), and ended with the Probe walking out of his job after the M.A.C.H.0. debacle.
Series 2 (Progs 53-64), was a shorter run designed to bring the conflict between Probe and Sharpe to a head and write M.A.C.H.1. out of the comic.
The end of the M.A.C.H.1. series left the way open for a sequel featuring the prototype M.A.C.H. man, M.A.C.H.0. ("macho", geddit? hur hur hur). He appeared for two short runs in 1978 and 1980.
In 1997 a spoof M.A.C.H. man appeared in the form of B.L.A.I.R.1. - instead of a computer in his his head, a thinly disguised Tony Blair had Doctor Spin telling him what to do. It was funny then. It doesn't seem quite so funny anymore....