It is the late 22nd century. After a nuclear war, many of the survivors were contaminated by Strontium-90 fallout, leading to widespread mutations. Mutants face intense social discrimination, are forced into their own ghettos, and the only occupation available to them is bounty hunting on behalf of the government. Officially these hunters are as Search/Destroy (or SD) Agents, but they are commonly referred to as Strontium Dogs
from the source of their mutations.Strontium Dog
follows the career of the most famous and successful of these bounty hunters, Johnny Alpha, so called because he can emit "alpha waves" from his eyes. Johnny travels the world with his "norm" sidekick Wulf, a Norse viking, bringing in criminals in exchange for money and having varied and often surreal adventures across space and time.Strontium Dog
was created by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra, the creative team responsible for Judge Dredd
, and initially published in the short-lived sci-fi Anthology Comic Starlord
in 1978. When that mag folded, Strontium Dog
moved to 2000 AD
, where it has been ever since. Shortly after the move, Wagner brought on Alan Grant as a co-writer; Grant would quickly become the writer most associated with the comic.
In 1990, Johnny was killed off in a Heroic Sacrifice
to save mutants, over Ezquerra's objections. The series was then spun off into Strontium Dogs
which followed a group of supporting characters led by Johnny's friend, Feral, which was cancelled in 1996. Johnny himself would make a few more appearances in both Strontium Dogs
and Judge Dredd
due to Time Travel
. In the a later arc, Johnny is resurrected by a group of necromancers, and Feral and Gronk must journey to their planet to rescue him. Unfortunately, he ends up dying again.
In 1999, a TV series based on Strontium Dog
was proposed. This ultimately never materialised, but Wagner took the pilot
's plot and started writing a new series of Strontium Dog
stories. This revived series took the view that the classic stories were legends told about Johnny's life, with the new series presented as what 'really happened'. As such, the stories were considerably more down-to-Earth, and a number of old plot points were taken in significantly different routes.
However, after the initial reboot, the series returned to the original canon
, this time telling stories that occurred before Johnny's death
. Most recently, in June 2010, a story entitled "The Life and Death of Johnny Alpha" appeared. This is set after Johnny's death, and seems to be about to retcon
the end of "The Final Solution".
The comic provides examples of:
- Abnormal Ammo: Johnny's variable cartridge blaster can fire a variety of different ammunition for any given situation. Given that this is the same creative team that gave us Judge Dredd, this should come as no surprise.
- Absent Aliens: Although there are plenty in Strontium Dog, the spinoff series Durham Red doesn't mention them. The first tie-in novel says that The Pan Species Accord wiped out every alien species it encountered.
- Adaptation Distillation: The Big Finish-produced audio plays take the wacky hijinks of the series and run with them, while still managing to stay true to the basic themes of the story.
- After the End: There was a nuclear war in the past.
- The Alcoholic: Middenface McNulty. Given his nature, this is hardly surprising.
- Ambiguously Human: It's hard to tell if some characters are mutants or aliens.
- Awesome McCoolname: Wulf Sternhammer
- Badass Beard: Wulf.
- Badass Normal: Wulf. Middenface could probably qualify too, since he is only cosmetically mutated.
- Beauty Equals Goodness: Averted - there is zero correlation between appearance and personality.
- Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Durham Red is the only prominent female mutant, and looks like this.
- Bittersweet Ending: "Traitor to his kind". The neo-Kreeler Minister of the Interior is ignominously sacked, and replaced with a staunch pro-mutant. The ban on mutants holding other jobs than bounty hunting and leaving the ghettoes are partially lifted, and a 100 million credit stimulus package to jumpstart the ghettoes' economy is put together. King Clarkie, already a mutant sympathiser, has his eyes re-opened to the plight of the mutants and his grip on the throne solidified. In return, the mutant community ostracises Johnny for collaborating with the government, Johnny is forced to let the son of one of his old allies die, and the mutant liberation movement in Wales is all but destroyed.
- The Final Solution could be seen as a darker version. While the mutants get back to Earth and the New Church is destroyed, Johnny sacrifices his life and the Doghouse is destroyed in the process.
- Boisterous Bruiser: Wulf Sternhammer, a Viking sent 2,000 years forward in time who, despite being a norm, works as a strontium dog because he likes Johnny.
- Bounty Hunter: The main characters. It's the only legal employment mutants are allowed to have.
- British Accents: Middenface is from Glasgow, and has the accent to go with it.
- Calling Your Attacks: Johnny has a habit of doing this with his weapons. It's possible that they're voice activated.
- Casual Interstellar Travel: Johnny doesn't own a spaceship but can usually get chartered flights to whatever planet he needs to go to, these flights never seem to take longer than a few days. The Gronk once travelled millions of light years from Blas to Alzir in four days.
- Cool Starship: The Shadow. The ship that Johnny uses to defeat the Wolrogs is the fastest in the galaxy.
- Collector of the Strange: The Collector, natch.
- Combat Pragmatist: Johnny has no problem using teleporters to beam himself out of the firing line, electroknux to give his punches more punch, his powers to manipulate someone into dropping their weapon or time displacement equipment to send an enemy into the cold vacuum of space.
- Continuity Reboot: The new series. Sort of. The old strips are treated as "The Legend" and the new ones as "The Truth". While some of the old strips are treated as canon, others aren't. Bizarrely enough, most of The Final Solution is treated as canon (except for the more gruesome aspects of Johnny's death).
- Continuity Snarl: As a result of crossovers, Strontium Dog officially takes place about 50 years after Judge Dredd. However, both Britain and Ireland in Judge Dredd are largely covered with Mega-Cities, while in Strontium Dog, they more closely resemble the modern day.
- Note, the stories take place not only after Dredd but also after a nuclear war sometime around 2150 which has yet to happen in Judge Dredd's timeline where it is currently 2132. Mega-Cities in Britain and Ireland could, possibly, have been compromised in such an incident. Only time will tell. One Dredd story dealt with a document known as "File Alpha" and Mega City One's efforts to keep the information about the 2150 nuclear war from Brit Cit.
- Not to mention that the Strontium Dog relaunch, as mentioned above, portrayed the original stories as legends, while the Durham Red series is based on that continuity.
- Considering that there are new Durham Red stories out now, the stories set in the far future are probably Canon Discontinuity now.
- Strontium Dogs is probably out too.
- Crapsack World: While the world of Strontium Dog isn't nearly as grimdark as the likes of Judge Dredd or Shakara, it's still deeply unpleasant. Unlike Judge Dredd, which was often darkly humourous, Strontium Dog never plays anything for laughs.
- Creator Cameo: Fly-Eyes Wagner in "Journey into Hell" was named after the story arc's writer and series co-creator John Wagner.
- Crossover: There have been several crossovers with Judge Dredd over the years.
- Ditto Aliens: The Gronk's species all look the same and are each referred to as The Gronk. One issue lampshades this when The Gronk is vacationing on his home planet and Johnny sends him a letter. The postgronk says he has a letter for The Gronk and they all put their hands up.
- Drop the Hammer: "Der Happy Stick."
- Drugs Are Bad: Granny MacNulty certainly thinks so, and several of the "Young Middenface"-stories show the ruinous effect of drugs on the Glasgow ghetto.
- Helmets Are Hardly Heroic: Averted for Johnny, who usually wears one as part of his body-armour (See Nice Hat), but played straight with Wulf.
- Heroic Sacrifice
- Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act: Subverted. One arc in the classic series involved Johnny and Wulf bringing Hitler forward in time to stand trial, but they had to intercept him at a point in time after he sought refuge in his bunker and all his crimes had been committed, rather than intervene at a moment that could possibly change history.
- Homage: The Headly Foot Job is basically a take on the gallows scam from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Johnny and Wulf rescue Bootsy from the gallows only to take him across the border and claim the bounty on him in the next jurisdiction.
- Humans Are Morons: In the same story arc as below, the alien freedom fighters traveled back in time and have taken Ronald Reagan hostage to achieve their own ends, but they find The Gipper to be so astonishingly stupid that they can't fathom how this man could possibly be "the leader of the human race" without assuming that the rest of us aren't that bright, either.
- Humans Are the Real Monsters: Apart from how normal humans tend to view mutants, the story arc "Bitch" centers around a group of alien freedom fighters whose goal it is to see the removal of humans from their home planet, which humans have colonized for their own purposes and subjugated the local alien race in the colonization process.
- I Love Nuclear Power: Mostly subverted in how very few mutants gained super-powers from the Strontium-90 fallout, but, of course, this is played straight with Johnny Alpha (and a very small minority of other mutant characters).
- Inn Between the Worlds: Roadhouse on Portabella is a deserted bar full of doors leading to other dimensions. It was created by an artist to hold other artists prisoner.
- In-Series Nickname: You have to read the comic pretty damn carefully to figure out that "Middenface" MacNulty's given name is Archibald.
- Intimidating Revenue Service: In one story Orville Paxman the tax agent becomes an antagonist. What is more surprising is that he is more than willing to hound Alpha and Stenhammer into multiple warzones to get them to finally pay their back taxes is spite of being a pudgy little pencil-pusher. You get the feeling he would have made a fine strontium dog if he had grown up on the wrong side of the tracks.
- Jaywalking Will Ruin Your Life: "The Rammy" ends with Johnny and Middenface forced to pay a 3 million credit fine each for drunk and disorderly charge.
- La Résistance: Johnny led a mutant uprising in both the classic and modern series. Middenface was also a member of one in his youth.
- Law Procedural: "The Rammy" is told mainly through flashbacks during a court proceeding.
- Lower Deck Episode: Tales From The Doghouse was a series of one shot episodes focused on other stronts and the bounties they collected (or died trying to).
- Mass Super-Empowering Event: Downplayed: The mutants in the series were all mutated by Strontium-90 fallout, but most mutants are just deformed and have no powers.
- The Milky Way Is the Only Way: Mostly played straight with characters referring to "The Galaxy" but some planets are quoted as being millions of lightyears from eachother, this is most likely a case of Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale. Interestingly the story where Johnny fights the Wolrogs is set in the Isthman Galaxy.
- Monochromatic Eyes: Johnny's are pure white, changing to red when he's using his "alpha-vision"
- Ms. Fanservice: Durham Red.
- Multiboobage: Precious Matson has three.
- An unnamed Search/Destroy agent in Shaggy Dog Story also has three.
- Multiple Head Case: Hedda from the Kreeler Conspiracy had her husband's head grafted to her body after his body "gave out".
- A few mutants have been seen like this but it's not known if they have different personalities.
- A Nazi by Any Other Name: The Kreelers, with mutants taking the place of Slavs. Later, The New Church would also come to evoke this trope.
- New Neo City: New Britain. Johnny once mentioned a planet called New Venus.
- Nice Hat: As well as providing protection, Johnny's helmet provides communications, eye-controlled computer-interface, head-up display, Helmet Mounted Sight, and video cameras to record his arrests/kills for evidential purposes (necessary both for staying out of jail and getting paid).
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: King Clarkie II, who is quite obviously Prince Charles.
- Noodle Incident: The nuclear war that provides much of the comic's backstory isn't detailed much further than, "Nobody ever knew who fired the first missile—but suddenly the whole world went crazy!"
- One World Order: One of the retcons after the Continuity Reboot is that New Britain is replaced with Earthcom.
- Our Vampires Are Different: Durham Red is actually just a mutant; it just so happens that her mutation requires her to feed off of other peoples' blood for sustenance and nourishment. Apart from the fangs and the bloodlust, she shares no other characteristics with vampires, despite frequently being referred to as such. She can go out in the daylight, she can't turn into a bat, and she can potentially die in as many ways as a normal person, though she doesn't age.
- Penal Colony: There were a few of these for mutants that have since been closed down. Rodos was kept open to house Kreelman.
- Planet England: The planet Gnob's main continent and city are both called Gnob.
- Planetville: Averted in The Headly Foot Job. Johnny and Wulf bust Headly "Bootsy" Foot out of a Feefoofan prison and get him across the border into the United Hectorates so they can claim the bounty on him there.
- Pluralses: The Gronkses all talk this way.
- Prequel: The spinoff Young Middenface, which follows the adventures of Middenface McNulty as a teenager.
- President Evil: Nelson Kreelman.
- Promoted Fanboy: Simon Pegg is a known fan of the comic, and provided the voice of Johnny in the audio dramas.
- Recycled Script: John Wagner's aborted attempt at a tv pilot script was recycled into The Kreeler Conspiracy.
- Secret Test of Character: The Stone Wizards tell Middenface that he'll have to give up his life in order to bring Johnny back. When he says he'll do it, they say they were just testing him to see how much he wanted Johnny back.
- Sexbot: The only human-looking prostitute in a brothel on Edelbron has "pay here" written above a slot on her back.
- Siblings in Crime: Two separate groups of these have appeared in the comics: The Weerd Brothers (Hiss, Cuss, and Silent) and the Creepy Mutant Twins known as "Stix" in Outlaw.
- There could be even more than that, as two more of them turned up in Durham Red's Spin-Off.
- Space Police: The Galactic Crime Commission.
- Space Western: Most of the worlds Johnny visits are frontier-type places and Johnny himself is the old west Bounty Hunter archetype.
- Spinoff: As well as Strontium Dogs, Middenface McNulty and Durham Red got their own series.
- Stockholm Syndrome: King Clarkie actually enjoys being kidnapped by mutant rebels, he spends most of the time identifying new species of insect.
- Stop Helping Me!: Billy Glum didn't want Johnny to break him out of death row because he believed Johnny had betrayed the mutant rebels.
- Tearjerker: Johnny's ultimate fate in the classic series.
- Are we just supposed to forget about Wulf Sternhammer in the same series?
- Tie-In Novel: Blackflame published five each for Strontium Dog and Durham Red.
- Time and Relative Dimensions in Space: A time grenade sends you ten minutes into the future, by which time earth has progressed several thousand kilometres in its orbit, leaving you to suffocate in space.
- Time Travel: A recurring plot device.
- Translator Microbes: In The Life and Death of Johnny Alpha, when an alien is rude to Middenface, he sarcastically says that his translator must be broken. Later in the same story, Middenface is using a set of headphones and a microphone to talk to an alien on Zen that nobody else can hear.
- Ungrateful Bastard: Headly Foot gives Johnny and Would nothing but verbal abuse and threats after they rescue him from being executed they were really just taking him somewhere else so that they could turn him in for the bounty.
- Unresolved Sexual Tension: Between Johnny and Durham Red. Johnny would never admit to it, but Middenface is pretty sure of it.
- Use Your Head: For Middenface McNulty, this is practically his signature move. Though, given his reputation, he would probably like to refer to this as a Glasgow Kiss.
- Violent Glaswegian: Basically, the entire extent of Middenface McNulty's character development (and that's why we all love him).
- We Will Spend Credits in the Future
- Wizards from Outer Space: The Lyran Necromancers and the Stone Wizards.
- Would Be Rude to Say "Genocide": See the Final Solution example above.
- Wretched Hive: Metastis is described as the refuge of wanted criminals-The scum of the galaxy but half the planets Johnny visits could be called Wretched Hives.
- X-Ray Vision: Johnny's "alpha wave"-emitting eyes allow him to see through walls etc.
- You Taste Delicious: Durham Red liked to nibble on Johnny Alpha to taste his blood when he'd cut his face. Of course, she liked how his blood tasted asks Johnny if he'd be willing to donate a pint. Johnny, naturally, declines.
- She also did this to Ronald Reagan when he accidentally cut himself.
- Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: When Ronald Reagan's alien kidnappers explain to him that they are part of "the freedom movement of the Kaiak peoples," Reagan's immediate reaction to the phrase "freedom movement" is to exclaim, "Terrorists!"
- Zombie Advocate: Udas Borg threatens to report Johnny to the League of Cyborgs for descrimination.