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Comic Book / Strontium Dog

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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 known 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 and Outlaw 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. Then, in 2010, a story entitled "The Life and Death of Johnny Alpha" appeared, set after Johnny's death and revealing what really happened to Johnny's body. It culminated in Johnny coming back to life, and the series continued intermittently until the death of Carlos Ezquerra in 2018. Since then, it remains on indefinite hiatus.

Strontium Dog 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.
  • Alone-with-Prisoner Ploy: Johnny's "norm" sister Ruth uses her status as Minister Kreelman's daughter to get alone in a cell with Johnny under pretense of berating a mutant who tried to oppose her father, as Alpha's true identity is a secret. She gives her brother the gun he needs to escape.
  • Ambiguously Human: It's hard to tell if some characters are mutants or aliens.
  • Archnemesis Dad: Johnny Alpha's father Nelson Kreelman is a racist politician who abused and ultimately locked his own son up for his mutation, and leads a Nazi-like anti-mutant movement.
  • 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.
  • Boarding Pod: The wolrogs attack a human ship with these in one issue. When they're defeated, Johnny tells them to leave the pods where they are or else all the ship's air will leak out through the holes they drilled in the hull.
  • 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.
  • Calling Your Attacks: Johnny has a habit of doing this with his weapons. It's possible that they're voice activated.
  • Canon Discontinuity: Strontium Dogs, the sequel strips sans-Johnny are no longer considered to have occurred, especially the later strips by Peter Hogan. The Durham Red far future stories can be considered this too, especially seeing as new stories are being set in the regular timeline of the main strip.
  • 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: Strontium Dog takes place about 50 years after Judge Dredd - the former starting shortly after 2150, the latter (which proceeds in real time) is currently in 2144 (2022). In Strontium Dog, Britain more closely resembles the modern day, but by Dredd's time they are covered with Mega-Cities. The reason being the massive nuclear war that happens around 2150 that Dredd's series will in theory hit before the end of the decade. (One Dredd story even 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). However, this does lead to some continuity complications. The Dredd crossovers were technically with the "legend" version of Johnny Alpha. Though since the "real" Johnny Alpha series ended and the supposedly "legend" version came back, this may be irrelevant now, and since history can be changed in the Dredd-verse, it might simply branch another way.
    • Durham Red, confusingly, spun out of the Strontium Dogs spinoff that was based on the "legendary Johnny" continuity, but was rendered non-canon by "The Life And Death of Johnny Alpha". That series had stories set in the far future that don't jibe with either continuity any more. (An interview with Alan Grant and Carlos Ezquerra said there would be no more far future stories).
  • Contrived Coincidence: While using the D-Warp that will send them to a random universe, Johnny and Wulf conveniently end up in the same universe as the man from their world who invented the D-Warp.
  • 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.
  • Early Instalment Weirdness: Things like escaping Hell or going back in time to arrest Hitler stopped happening after the first few issues.
  • Exotic Equipment: We see a bathroom for an Inn Between the Worlds with urinals that look like they were designed for aliens with multiple penises and genitals at head level.
  • Fantastic Racism: Mutants are heavily discriminated against. During Kreelman's time, they were being exterminated and Kreelman even had a special unit known as the Kreelers to do so. After the peace deal was brokered, mutants were merely reduced to living in ghettos with no employment opportunities outside of the Search/Destroy Agency.
  • Fantastic Slurs: Officially, Bounter Hunters are referred as Search/Destroy Agents. Generally, though, they're referred to as "strontium dogs", or "stronts". That is when they're not just outright called "muties" or "freaks" instead.
  • Fantastic Underclass: Mutant populations in New Britain are not allowed to hold any jobs apart from bounty hunting or to live amongst normal humans, instead living in run-down ghettos.
  • The Federation:
    • The Bad Timing Tie-In Novel has the Galactic Crime Commission as a subgroup of one called the Galactic Commission.
    • In the Durham Red spinoff has the galaxy being ruled by the Pan-Species Accord.
    • The revival stories post-1999 refer to Earthcom as a unified planet Earth.
  • Fisher King: The Hell that Johnny gets trapped in was originally an empty dimension that changed to fit the will of the first person that went there.
  • Funetik Aksent: Wulf always talks this way to show his heavy Norse accent. Same goes for Middenface's Scottish accent.
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop: When Johnny is contracted to bring his abusive Nazi-esque father Nelson Kreelman to justice, he decides not to collect on the bounty and instead traps him in a temporal loop where he's forever reliving his final moments, pathetically begging Johnny to spare his life.
  • Helmets Are Hardly Heroic: Averted for Johnny, who usually wears one as part of his body-armour, but played straight with Wulf.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Johnny opens a portal using Blood Magic to get Feral and several other mutants home at the end of The Final Solution.
  • 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 Psychic in the Future: Most mutants don't have superpowers but the most commonly seen ones are telepathy or other psychic abilities.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Instant Ice: Just Add Cold!: Victims of Johnny's time bombs end up in space surrounded by huge blocks of ice when no water was present.
  • Interdimensional Travel Device: The D-Warp will send the traveller to a random universe.
  • 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.
  • Loophole Abuse: At the end of "The Tax Dodge", when the Inland Revenue starts auditing the rest of the Search/Destroy Agency, non-mutant command and support staff included, the head of the agency manages to get everyone out of it by moving the Doghouse out of Earth's orbit and, therefore, outside of the taxman's jurisdiction. Seemingly, the rest of the Inland Revenue weren't as persistent as Orville Paxman.
  • 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).
    • In a way, Strontium Dogs was this too, focusing on the supporting cast. However, without Johnny, it wasn't all that popular a strip and was eventually discontinued.
  • 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.
  • Meaningful Name: Several mutant characters have names that are a pretty good description of their mutations. For example, Headly "Bootsy" Foot has an extra foot on the top of his head, Kid Knee has his face on one of his knees, the Fuzz family are all incredibly hairy, etc. Johnny himself is an Appropriated Appelation example in regard to his alpha wave emitting eyes in that it's to disguise his real last name of Kreelman. And, of course, there's Wulf Sternhammer, who is fond of "Der Happy Stick".
  • Meet the New Boss: After the mutant uprising, the Kreelers were officially disbanded. What this actually entailed is that most of them were kept on as cops, just given different uniforms.
  • 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.
  • Mutants: Come in a variety of types, both with powers and simple cosmetic mutations.
  • 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.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: Shortly after the reboot, Johnny demonstrates a weak telekinesis that never gets mentioned again.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: King Clarkie II, who is quite obviously Prince Charles.
  • Not in Front of the Kid: At the end of "Traitor To His Kind", Johnny is fully prepared to kill Nelson Culliver in his own home. When he breaks into the grounds, he discovers that Culliver has two children and changes his mind. As he explains, "I could do it to him, but not to them", especially seeing as how Johnny is the children's uncle.
  • 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.
  • Origins Episode:
    • Portrait Of A Mutant delves into Johnny's backstory from his abusive upbringing to his time as a Rebel Leader.
    • The entire Young Middenface series goes into Middenface's early life in Glasgow and his time in the mutant resistance.
    • Ghosts shows how Durham Red became a Strontium Dog and is book ended by a Distant Finale. In turn, the Distant Finale is given a Continuity Nod by being referenced at the end of Red's far future storyline.
  • 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. His anti mutant policies called for the eradication of mutants which include his own son.
    • Young Middenface introduces Scottish First Minister William "Stinking Billy" Cumberland, whose policies lead to Kreelers massacring mutants at Killoden, many of whom were children.
  • Radiation-Induced Superpowers: 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).
  • 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 Is Cold: Victims of Johnny's time bombs usually end up as frozen blocks in space.
  • Space Police: The Galactic Crime Commission that the Search Destroy agents work for.
  • Space Trucker: Johnny teams up with one from another universe when trapped in Hell.
  • 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.
  • Tearjerker: Johnny's ultimate fate in the classic series.
    • Are we just supposed to forget about Wulf Sternhammer in the same series?
  • Teleportation: Johnny carries a short-range teleporter and long-range ones are used to teleport long distances on Earth.
  • Teleport Gun: Johnny's time bombs are grenades that send the target through time to a point where the world has moved and their freezing to death in space. A prequel story shows that the Kreelers had guns that did this.
  • 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. It's even been weaponised in the form of time bombs.
  • 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.
  • Trick Bomb: Various different types of grenade are used throughout the strip, but the most unique and memorable of these is the time bomb, which sends its target into the future, at which point the planet the target is on will have moved in space, leaving the unfortunate victim to freeze to death in space.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Johnny encounters a couple of local cops in "The Tax Dodge" who demand to go through his equipment. The senior of them is warned not to mess with a time bomb, ignores the warning, and ends up being temporally displaced into space along with his Clueless Deputy. Johnny's reaction is to state that they were warned.
  • 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.
  • Unwanted Rescue: Billy Glum didn't want Johnny to break him out of death row because he believed Johnny had betrayed the mutant rebels.
  • 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
  • What If?: One story asked what if Wulf hadn't been killed by Max Bubba. It cuts to many years later, where Johnny and Wulf are a lot older and Wulf has contracted a fatal illness that has left him paralysed except for his right arm and only has a few days left to live. Max Bubba comes after Johnny and Wulf and Wulf eventually manages to kill Max with Der Happy Stick just before dying.
  • 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 discrimination.