2000 AD Prog Slog

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Prog 64

Three progs ago, we were told via government committee that John Probe, better known as MACH 1, had died. This prog, in a super long eight page finale, it was proven not to be a trick; John Probe IS dead. The committee had been called together to decide weather or not he died… a traitor.

Thirty years ago, when I first encountered MACH 1, it seemed to confirm all of the preconceptions nine year old me had about British comics at the time. To me, the character was a cross between James Bond and The Six Million Dollar Man, except less spectacular. It’s not difficult to imagine someone at Universal TV during the seventies saying, "this Six Million Dollar Man TV show is a good idea but we can save money if we drop the whole bionics thing?" "Compu-punture" would have been seen as the ideal story solution to the man from finance (Compu-punture being the computer form of acupuncture that gave Probe his powers). To me, when TV and film disappointed due to budget and technical restraints, comics should excel, not the other way around.

Sure, MACH 1 might have been able to run at increased speed and had the strength of forty men but you never saw him lift up a building, bend a girder or have a run away car flip up into the air after it hit him like I saw in American comics. But I see now that the point of the strip might have been to function as a more plausible alternative to the exaggerated dynamics provided by Marvel and DC.

I think had I stuck around (I am encountering for the first time the strips from this period of 2000 AD which never got reprinted in the eighties), I would have warmed to MACH 1. By the final story, Probe is defying the orders of his dodgy secret service boss, Dennis Sharpe, by liberating a peaceful but dieing alien from captivity and returning him to his people.

The secret government committee decides that Probe isn't just innocent of treason but is also a hero what with having fought so hard to preserve Earth/Alien relations. Sure, the alien he returned to his people was dieing from the highly contagious common cold but it's the thought that counts, right? The story ends with the file on MACH 1 being closed and the big, paneled words, "The end".

Next prog, the return of MACH Zero, the Hulk like equivalent of MACH 1. I hope that John Probe doesn't return in this story or I am going to look very stupid, aren't I.


  • When I first read 2000AD, Mach 1 was by far and away my favourite story. But then, I was very young. A few years back I read some of the reprints and couldn't really get into it - the seven year old who had so loved the character and had been gutted when his friends told him he'd been killed was gone forever. I kind of feel that, alongside Dan Dare, Mach 1 was used to try to get readers on board to sample the darker fare 2000AD had to offer, and which of course took over the comic.

    By Blogger dmstarz, at 12:27 pm  

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