Lord Peter Flint Mod­esty Blaise MACH 1

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The huge Bri­tish weekly comic book hit of the mid-’70s, War­lord, be­gan a com­bat story re­vival and early is­sues re­volved around the ad­ven­tures of Lord Peter Flint (Co­de­name: War­lord), an aris­to­cratic WW2 se­cret agent with a nice line in white suits, clearly mod­elled on Roger Moore’s Bond. His cover is that he’s a fop­pish con­sci­en­tious ob­jec­tor, giv­ing him some­thing of a Scar­let Pim­per­nel vibe, too. His boss was the King­pin and, post-war, he’d teach his ward to shoot, drive, fight, et al. The lad would grow up to be­come an­other se­cret agent, this one a very ’70s mous­tache-sport­ing man-about-town co­de­named Fire­ball in the short-lived comic. 2000 AD, like Ac­tion Comic be­fore it, glee­fully raided ev­ery pop­u­lar movie and TV archetype of the time, then added its own dark, vi­o­lent twists, and so it was with MACH 1 – a Bri­tish take on The Six Mil­lion Dol­lar Man, with agent John Probe (yeah, right) given su­per-speed, strength and agility by the magic of acupunc­ture (MACH stands for Man Activate by Compu-Punc­ture Hy­per­power). Ar­riv­ing with 2000 AD’s first is­sue, in 1977, he shared his brain with a tac­ti­cal com­puter he talked to, much like Marvel’s Deathlok of a cou­ple of years ear­lier. While Steve Austin’s TV ad­ven­tures be­came in­creas­ingly light and fam­ily-friendly, MACH 1 got ever darker, not least with the ar­rival of a bro­ken, Franken­stein’s monster-like pre­de­ces­sor, the in­sane MACH Zero. We were un­kind to 007, rel­e­gat­ing him to #18 be­cause “comic strips don’t count”. Well, wel­come to our hypocrisy: Mod­esty Blaise charts much higher, de­spite be­ing a daily news­pa­per strip char­ac­ter (also, nov­els, comic books and a lit­tle-loved film too). How come? Well, per­haps be­cause 007’s news­pa­per strips, no mat­ter how good, are a mi­nor add-on, whereas they’re core to Mod­esty Blaise. Or maybe be­cause she’s been so very in­flu­en­tial on the wider comic book world, her ori­gin stolen for Marvel’s Storm, her look and meth­ods by half the fe­male agents on this list. An or­phan who rose to head a crim­i­nal or­gan­i­sa­tion, then re­tired to the Lon­don high­life, she and tough East End side­kick Wil­lie Garvin keep bore­dom at bay by ac­cept­ing free­lance mis­sions from the Bri­tish Se­cret Ser­vice. Su­pervil­lains, be­ware! Mod­esty’s strip ran in the Lon­don Evening Stan­dard and across the world from 1963 un­til 2001, and most have been col­lected in re­lent­lessly ex­cel­lent Ti­tan Books al­bums.

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