Strontium Dog

Strontium Dog

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caption=Johnny Alpha, drawn by Carlos Ezquerra; Strontium Dog copyright Rebellion A/S 2005.
comic_color=background:#c0c0c0
character_name=Johnny Alpha
real_name=John Kreelman
publisher=IPC Media
debut="Starlord" #1 (1978)
creators=John Wagner Carlos Ezquerra
alliance_color=background:#ffc0c0
status=active
enemies/rivals=Nelson Bunker Kreelman, Max Bubba, The Styx Brothers, Durham Red
alliances=Search/Destroy Agency
previous_alliances=Mutant Army
aliases=Johnny Alpha
relatives=Nelson B. Kreelman (father)Ruth (sister)Nelson Culliver (half brother)
powers=Mutant eyes allow him to see through solid objects and read brainwave patterns,
limited telekinesis,
Superb military skills,
Has mastered Yogi trick of stopping & restarting his own heartbeat|

"Strontium Dog" is a long-running comics series featuring in the British science fiction weekly "2000 AD", starring Johnny Alpha, a mutant bounty hunter with an array of imaginative gadgets and weapons.

The series was created by writer John Wagner (under the pseudonym T. B. Grover) and artist Carlos Ezquerra for "Starlord", a short-lived weekly science fiction comic, in 1978. When "Starlord" was cancelled the series transferred to "2000 AD". In 1980 Wagner was joined by co-writer Alan Grant, although scripts were normally credited to Grant alone. Grant wrote the series solo from 1988 to 1990.

eries background

Nuclear wars had led to the birth of a sizeable population of mutants through showers of Strontium-90 in nuclear fallout. After the Great War of 2150 ("Nobody ever knew who fired the first missile - but suddenly the whole world went crazy!"), wiping out 70% of Britain's population, the number of mutants increased and was met with loathing by the "norms" and institutionalised racism: laws were passed forbidding mutants from owning businesses and segregating them into ghettos such as Milton Keynes. By 2180, one of the few jobs left is that of bounty hunter, a job considered too dirty for normal humans. The strongest of mutants thus hunt down criminals throughout the galaxy for the Search/Destroy agency, whose distinctive SD badges give them the nickname Strontium Dogs. The SD agents operate from an orbiting space station known as "The Doghouse".

The mutants of Strontium Dog differ from the usual depiction of mutants in American comics, such as those published by Marvel, in that they are generally afflicted with severe physical deformities and only rarely granted with superhuman powers. Often this leads to humour and character names being puns, as Spider-Dan in the "Young Middenface" spin-off and skull-faced Welsh mutant Dai the Death in "Strontium Dog: Traitor To His Kind".

Even by the standards of "2000 AD", "Strontium Dog" plotlines could be bizarre. In one story Alpha travels to an alternate dimension that passes for Hell. In another he is sent by time machine to 1945 to arrest Adolf Hitler. There was also a bleak, minimalistic edge to the series at times reminiscent of spaghetti westerns.

Earth wasn't often seen in the strip. When it was, the focus was often New Britain - Great Britain after a devastating nuclear war. It is much closer to modern-day Britain than Judge Dredd's Brit-Cit by the same writers, but contains areas of nuclear devastation like the Greater London Crater and Birmingham Gap. The flying building of Upminster contains both the parliament and the monarchy. The mutants of New Britain live in ghettos, isolated from the human population and living in poverty.

Johnny Alpha

The most famous and respected of the Strontium Dogs is Johnny Alpha, whose mutant eyes allow him to see through walls and read minds. He is responsible for such legendary achievements as destroying the Wolrog homeworld, leading the mutant uprising on Earth, and bringing Adolf Hitler to the future to face trial. His legendary career and his assistance to mutants in trouble - such as donating a large sum of money to the Milton Keynes ghetto in "Mutie's Luck" - has made him an icon to Earth's mutants. He is a highly skilled and dangerous fighter.

He is a highly dogged bounty hunter, never giving up in the pursuit of his quarry. While he does work for money, he possesses a conscience and will often take a job, forego payment or sometimes drop a job entirely: in "The Doc Quince Case", he immediately relented and rescued a man he'd hunted down. He also can be extremely vengeful when angered, as shown by his actions towards Nelson Kreelman and Max Bubba.

He's the son of Nelson Kreelman, a bigoted politician who drafted the anti-mutant laws and gained power on the back of bigotry. Despised, abused and hidden away by his father, Johnny escaped at a young age and joined the Mutant Army, becoming one of its key leaders by age 17 and playing a major part in the mutant uprising of 2167.

He has a "norm" sister called Ruth, who is married and has a husband (Nigel) and daughter. She and her family have traditionally been friendly to Johnny; she even helped him escape and caused Nelson Kreelman's blackmail during the Mutant Army uprising of 2167. However, after her daughter was abducted and almost killed by a criminal looking for revenge on Johnny, she forbade him from coming near her family again.

It should be noted that, 'Portrait of a Mutant,' was written when the right-wing National Front were at the peak of their power in the UK and the treatment of mutants, similar to that of the Jews under the Nazis, is an obvious allegory, a warning that, 'It could happen here.'

Weapons and equipment

Like all Search/Destroy agents, Alpha is armed with highly advanced technology including a variable-cartridge blaster, electrified brass knuckles, a short-range teleporter, a "time drogue" that can briefly "rewind" the last few minutes of time, and "time bombs" which can transport somebody minutes or hours forwards or backwards in time (by which time the planet has moved along in its orbit, so that the victim reappears in empty space).

upporting cast

Johnny's original partner is Wulf Sternhammer, who is not a mutant but a normal human from Scandinavia. He acted a lot like a stereotypical Viking - eventually being revealed he really "was" a Viking, accidentally brought into the 22nd century when Johnny was pursuing a criminal gang through time. While he doesn't need to work as a Strontium Dog and suffer the indignities of it, he stays with Johnny out of a sense of camaraderie.

Early strips included the Gronk, a timid, metal-eating alien from the planet Blas, in the Gallego system. The Gronk provided medical back-up and constantly worried about its "poor heartses". In the "Strontium Dogs" spinoff, the Gronk transformed into a gun-toting highly aggressive soldier.

Two allies who gained their own solo spin-off series were Middenface McNulty, a Scottish mutant raised in a ghetto/concentration camp called 'Shytehill' - presumably a reference to the Sighthill area of Glasgow - and whose head is covered with lumps; and Durham Red, a buxom agent whose mutation resembles vampirism and who is thus feared and despised by other mutants.

Feral, introduced in "The Final Solution", was a young, savage mutant.

The supporting cast would gain their own spin-off strip "Strontium Dogs" in the 1990s, written by Garth Ennis and Peter Hogan. It was criticised by Ennis in the book "Thrill Power Overload" as being anti-climactic and that the lead, Feral, "was nowhere near as interesting as Johnny". The series was scrapped when David Bishop became "2000 AD"'s editor. However Durham Red was given her own solo series, written by Alan Grant, Peter Hogan and Dan Abnett.

Date

The first "Strontium Dog" stories in "Starlord" and "2000 AD" were set in the year 2180. Later, the story "Max Bubba" gave the date 2185 (just as in the "Judge Dredd" stories by the same writers, the date changes over time). However, although the stories "The No-Go Job" and "The Final Solution" were said to take place two years after the events in "Max Bubba," the date was again given as 2180. This discrepancy was repeated in the story "Judgement Day" (written by Garth Ennis), which gave the date 2178 even though it was set after the events in "Max Bubba."

Occasionally some one-episode stories which appeared in annuals and summer specials were set outside the range of dates given above, being set in different points of Alpha's life.

ignificant stories

"Portrait of a Mutant", a flashback story in 1981, filled in the background of the series and Johnny's role in the Mutant Army; it introduced Kreelman and the Kreelers, his quasi-official anti-mutant police. Kreelman drafted laws stated mutants were not allowed to work or own businesses, leading to them being forced from their homes into slums and eventually into being forced into labour camps; the only option for many mutants was to join the nationwide guerilla Mutant Army. An attack was launched on Upminster in 2167 as part of a general uprising, but the Army's leaders were forced to surrender in the face of mass mutant executions. Kreelman used this as an opportunity to push forward the extermination of all mutants; Johnny Alpha and the other leaders escaped (thanks to Johnny's sister and mother) and led the Mutant Army in a second major uprising to prevent genocide. The Prime Minister and King agreed to draft into law a better deal for mutants, and - after hearing Alpha was Kreelman's son from Ruth - blackmailed Kreelman into resigning. The mutant leaders were pardoned on condition they go into exile in space, leading to the creation of the Search/Destroy agency; the Kreelers were disbanded and replaced with a new police force. (This changeover was depicted by a panel showing Kreelers, which was then repeated but with a different uniform, showing that the same people and attitudes remained). In the present day, bookending "Portrait", Johnny tracked his father down and activated a time device, causing his father to relive his final moments: begging for his life, forever.

In the story "Outlaw", Kreelman was later freed, and, in disguise, had himself appointed head of the Search/Destroy agency. He used his position to frame Johnny and other Mutant Army veterans for murder. Johnny was soon made aware of the truth and had no qualms about dragging his own father before the deceived mutants who gunned him down on the spot.

In the 1986 story "Max Bubba", a lengthy story explaining Wulf's origins, Wulf was killed off at the hands of Max Bubba and his gang. This led to the epic "Rage", in which Johnny remorselessly hunted down his partner's killers. After that Johnny either worked solo, or with Durham Red or Scottish mutant Middenface McNulty.

Johnny was killed off in 1990, sacrificing himself to save mutants from extermination at the hands of Kreelman's illegitimate son, Lord Sagan. Artist Carlos Ezquerra disagreed with the decision to kill him and refused to draw it, so Johnny's final adventures were illustrated by Simon Harrison and Colin MacNeil. John Wagner later admitted in "Judge Dredd Megazine"'s Thrill Power Overload feature on the history of the comic that "killing off Johnny Alpha was a mistake [that] I'm doing my best to rectify." ["Judge Dredd Megazine", volume 4, issue 17, p. 49]

The medium of time travel allowed him to make further appearances. In the 1991 "Judge Dredd Annual" John Wagner wrote and Colin MacNeil drew "Top Dogs", in which Johnny and Wulf travel back in time to Mega-City One in pursuit of a criminal, whilst encountering and only narrowly escaping Judge Dredd. Johnny and Dredd renewed acquaintances in 1992 in the "Judge Dredd" story "Judgement Day", written by Garth Ennis and drawn mainly by Ezquerra.

Revival

In the "Prog 2000" holiday special, published at the end of 1999, Johnny Alpha was revived by his original creators, Wagner and Ezquerra. The new stories were set before Johnny's death. Wagner introduced the concept that all previous stories were 'folklore', and the current series was the truth, which allowed him to revise continuity where necessary.

The first story, "The Kreeler Conspiracy", was based on a treatment Wagner had written for an aborted "Strontium Dog" TV pilot, and featured Johnny working solo, but Wulf returned in subsequent stories.

The subsequent story "Traitor To His Kind" (Prog 1406-1415) introduced Johnny's half-brother, head of a brutal police unit that dealt with mutant crimes. Hired by pro-mutant First Minister Negus, Johnny was sent to get a kidnapped King Clarkie back from mutant guerillas; loathe though he was to do so, he knew elements within the government were trying to use this as an excuse to viciously crackdown on mutants. Johnny and Wulf rescue the King, as well as uncovering a conspiracy in the Home Office to allow the kidnapping and subsequently fake the King's murder so as to provide a reason for mutant brutalisation. While this led to an improvement in the lives of mutants, all of it was behind the scenes and Johnny Alpha was branded a traitor by mutants for working against his kind.

Bibliography

This is a list of "Strontium Dog" stories which appeared in the regular issues of "Starlord" and "2000 AD". It omits stories which appeared in annuals and special issues.

"Starlord"

All stories are written by John Wagner and illustrated by Carlos Ezquerra, except where otherwise indicated. "Starlord" did not have issue numbers on the cover, so the issue dates are given.

*"Max Quirxx" #1-2 (13/5/78 to 20/5/78)
*"Papa Por-ka" #3-5 (27/5/78 to 10/6/78)
*"No Cure For Kansyr" #6-7 (17/6/78 to 24/6/78)
*"Planet Of The Dead" #8-10 (1/7/78 to 15/7/78)
*"Two-Faced Terror!" #12-15 (29/7/78 to 19/8/78)
*"Demon Maker" #17-19 (Art: Brendan McCarthy 17; Ian Gibson 18-19) (2/9/78 to 16/9/78)
*"The Ultimate Weapon" #21-22 (30/9/78 to 7/10/78)

"2000 AD"

All stories are written by John Wagner and Alan Grant, and illustrated by Carlos Ezquerra, except where otherwise indicated.

*"The Galaxy Killers" (written by Wagner alone) #86-94 (1978)
*"Journey Into Hell" (written by Wagner alone) #104-118 (1979)
*"Death’s Head" #178-181 (1980)
*"The Schiklegruber Grab" #182-188 (1980)
*"Mutie’s Luck" #189 (1980)
*"The Doc Quince Case" #190-193 (1980-81)
*"The Bad Boys Bust" #194-197 (1981)
*"Portrait Of A Mutant" #200-206, 210-221 (1981)
*"The Gronk Affair" #224-227 (1981)
*"The Kid Knee Caper" #228-233 (1981)
*"The Moses Incident" #335-345 (1983)
*"The Killing" #350-359 (1984)
*"Outlaw!" #363-385 (1984)
*"The Big Bust Of ’49" #415-424 (1985)
*"The Slavers Of Drule" #425-436 (1985)
*"Max Bubba" #445-465 (1985-86)
*"Smiley’s World" #466-467 (1986)
*"Rage" #469-489 (1986)
*"Incident On Mayjer Minor" #490-496 (1986)
*"Warzone!" #497-499 (1986)
*"Bitch" #505-529 (1987)
*"The Royal Affair" #532-536 (1987)
*"A Sorry Case" (art by Colin MacNeil) #540-543 (1987)
*"The Rammy" #544-553 (1987)
*"The Stone Killers" (written by Grant alone) #560-572 (1988)
*"Incident On Zeta" (written by Grant alone; plot suggested by Carlos Ezquerra) #573 (1988)
*"The No-Go Job" (written by Grant alone; art by Simon Harrison) #580-587 (1988)
*"The Final Solution" (part 1) (written by Grant alone; art by Simon Harrison) #600-606, 615-621, 636-641, 645-647 (1988-89)
*"The Final Solution" (part 2) (written by Grant alone; art by Simon Harrison) #682-687 (1990)

Revival

All stories are written by John Wagner and illustrated by Carlos Ezquerra.
*"The Kreeler Conspiracy" #2000, 1174-1180, 1195-1199 (1999-2000)
*"The Sad Case" #2001 (2000)
*"Roadhouse" #1300-1308 (2002)
*"The Tax Dodge" #1350-1358 (2003)
*"The Headly Foot Job" #1400-1403 (2004)
*"Traitor To His Kind" #1406-1415 (2004)
*"A Shaggy Dog Story" #2006, 1469-1472 (2005-06)
*"The Glum Affair" #2008, 1567-1576 (2007-08)

Collected editions

In 1987 Titan Books produced the first collected volume of Strontium Dog stories and others have appeared piecemeal over the years. Starting in 2007 Rebellion have begun releasing a complete run of collected Strontium Dog stories as the “Search/Destroy Agency Case Files”.
*"File 01" (336 pages, January 15, 2007, ISBN 1-905437-15-3) [ [http://www.ekmpowershop2.com/ekmps/shops/2000ad/strontium-dog-sd-agency-files-1-xb286-231-p.asp File 01 details] ]
*"File 02" (288 pages, June 15, 2007, ISBN 1-905437-29-3) [ [http://www.ekmpowershop2.com/ekmps/shops/2000ad/strontium-dog-sd-agency-files-2-xb300-272-p.asp File 02 details] ]
*"File 03" (384 pages, September 9, 2007, ISBN 1-905437-38-2) [ [http://www.ekmpowershop2.com/ekmps/shops/2000ad/strontium-dog-sd-agency-files-3-xb306-273-p.asp File 03 details] ]
*"File 04" (352 pages, January 15, 2008, ISBN 1-905437-51-X) [ [http://www.ekmpowershop2.com/ekmps/shops/2000ad/strontium-dog-sd-agency-files-4-xb314-282-p.asp File 04 details] ]
*"The Final Solution" (160 pages, May, 2008, ISBN 1-905437-63-3) [ [http://www.ekmpowershop2.com/ekmps/shops/2000ad/strontium-dog-the-final-solution-xb321-291-p.asp Final Solution details] ]

pin-offs

Computer games

In 1984, a computer game called "Strontium Dog - The Killing" was released by Quicksilva for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum. [ [http://www.2000adonline.com/index.php3?zone=news&page=features&choice=specemu 2000 AD's games section] , with the game (and emulator) free to download] In the game, Johnny Alpha has to rid the galaxy of all the 'vicious murderers' by roaming through a maze of corridors and rooms killing the murderers with his gun.

The game was of extremely poor quality, with reviews of the period deriding it for poor graphics, a lack of playability and for being extremely boring. [ [http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~jg27paw4/yr12/yr12_27.htm Your Sinclair magazine review of the computer game "Strontium Dog - the Killing"] ]

The same year, Quicksilva released "Strontium Dog - The Death Gauntlet", a side-scrolling shoot-em-up for the Commodore 64.

Rebellion Studios, the current owners of "2000 AD", have hinted that a Strontium Dog game may be in the works (their third "2000 AD" game property after Judge Dredd and Rogue Trooper). However, nothing has been heard of this for several years.

Novels

In 2003, Black Flame started publishing official "2000 AD" novels, including a number featuring Strontium Dog. To date, these are:

* "Bad Timing" (Rebecca Levene, June 2004 ISBN 1-84416-110-2)
* "Prophet Margin" (Simon Spurrier, December 2004 ISBN 1-84416-134-X)
* "Ruthless" (Jonathan Clements, April 2005 ISBN 1-84416-136-6)
* "Day of the Dogs" (Andrew Cartmel, July 2005 ISBN 1-84416-218-4)
* "A Fistful of Strontium" (Jaspre Bark and Steve Lyons, October 2005 ISBN 1-84416-270-2)

Audio dramas

In recent years, Big Finish Productions have released a number of audio dramas with "2000 AD" characters. These have mostly featured Judge Dredd, but three have starred Strontium Dog. In these Judge Dredd and Wulf Sternhammer are played by Toby Longworth and Johnny Alpha is played by Simon Pegg. The current list of Strontium Dog plays includes:

* 3. Strontium Dog - "Down to Earth" by Jonathan Clements
* 10. Strontium Dog - "Fire from Heaven" by Jonathan Clements
* 16. Judge Dredd - "Pre-Emptive Revenge" by Jonathan Clements (with Strontium Dog)

"Pre-Emptive Revenge" takes place in the immediate aftermath of "Judge Dredd/Strontium Dog" crossover story "Judgement Day".

Fanzines

"Dogbreath" is an unofficial small press comic produced by fans of the series.

In popular culture

"Strontium Dog", and in particular the death of Johnny Alpha, is referenced in an episode of TV sitcom "Spaced". Actor and co-author Simon Pegg later went on to play Johnny Alpha in the Big Finish Productions "Strontium Dog" audio plays.

ee also

*Middenface McNulty
*Durham Red

References

External links

* [http://www.2000adonline.com/?zone=thrill&page=profiles&choice=stront 2000 AD Profile]
* [http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/comics/audio/index.shtml Strontium Dog Audio plays at] bbc.co.uk
* [http://www.strontiumdog.com www.strontiumdog.com - a fan-site]

Reviews

* [http://www.2000adreview.co.uk/newsite/mambo/content/view/272/54/ Review of "Strontium Dog Agency Files" 1]
* [http://www.2000adreview.co.uk/newsite/mambo/content/view/291/54/ Review of "Strontium Dog Agency Files" 2]


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