Strontium Dog

Johnny Alpha

Johnny Alpha
Art by Carlos Ezquerra.
Publication information
Publisher originally IPC Media (Fleetway) to 1999, thereafter Rebellion Developments
First appearance Starlord #1 (1978)
Created by John Wagner
Carlos Ezquerra
In-story information
Alter ego John Kreelman
Team affiliations Search/Destroy Agency
Notable aliases Johnny Alpha
Abilities 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.

Series background

The Great Nuclear War of 2150, which wiped out 70% of Britain's population, led to a huge increase of mutant births due to exposure to nuclear fallout. The mutants faced a high degree of racism, similar to that faced by the Jewish population of Nazi Germany. Laws were passed forbidding mutants from owning businesses and segregating them into ghettos such as the giant mutant settlement at Milton Keynes.

Following the end of this storyline, in 2180, one of the few jobs left for mutants is that of bounty hunter, a job considered too dangerous for normal humans. The strongest of mutants 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 was not 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 such as the Greater London Crater and Birmingham Gap; areas known to survive include Salisbury (now a major area and political centre), Glasgow, Newcastle, Dover, Christchurch & Bournemouth (now a combined conurbation), Cardiff, Isles of Scilly, and Winchester. The flying building of Upminster contains both the parliament and the monarchy. In the sequel series Strontium Dogs, it was stated that Britain had a large empire of outer-space colonies.

The mutants of New Britain live in ghettos, isolated from the human population and living in poverty. Later stories like Traitor To His Kind would reveal some figures in the government, such as the First Lord of the Military (himself having a mutant daughter) are attempting to slowly improve the mutant's lot, but much of this goes unnoticed behind the scenes; many other figures in the government want to go back to greater oppression or attempted extermination.

In The Final Solution, the government was usurped by the New Church and the incumbent monarch killed; the first Strontium Dogs story had it that after the destruction of the New Church by the Strontium Dogs, a hastily assembled junta government exiled all mutants from Britain. Crossroads, in prog 898, revealed that Earth was in a severe political mess, with twenty six "minor wars", and the rest of the galaxy was cutting ties. The later strip The Life and Death of Johnny Alpha ignored all of this, instead having post-Church New Britain ruled by a more liberal government.

Ireland is known to still exist, though little has been shown; the United States of America and Canada were both visited in The Mork Whisperer (2009); and the leader of a West African Mutant Republic was shown in The Final Solution. Antarctica was the setting of part of Outlaw, shown to have been turned into a tropical area with marshes and rainforests by the Rad Wars. The centre was Antarctic City (also the name of a megacity in Judge Dredd), with military and police matters handled by the Antarctic Militia.

Johnny Alpha

The Strontium Dogs storyline focuses on John Alpha, whose mutated 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.

A dogged bounty hunter, Johnny never gives 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 is the son of Nelson Bunker 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 never revealed the identity of his father, changing his name from Kreelman to Alpha.

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.

Alpha has a norm half-brother, the son of Nelson Kreelman by an affair, called Nelson Culliver, who after the war became head of the Anti-Mutant Squad at Scotland Yard. In "Traitor to His Kind", Culliver tried to have Alpha murdered, but was exposed and fired from his job. Alpha decided to assassinate him, but relented on meeting his children.

Weapons/equipment and mutant abilities

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).

Over the years, Johnny Alpha's white, incandescent eyes have provided him with several mutant abilities. Most frequently, the high-level alpha radiation emitted from his eyes allows Johnny to see through walls and other solid objects, or to read people's minds. He has also used his piercing stare to inflict severe headaches on his opponents, or to "suggest" illusions or hallucinations (e.g., while fighting the Necromagus, Sabbat, Johnny made Sabbat believe the Grim Reaper was behind him).

Supporting cast

Johnny's original partner is Wulf Sternhammer, who is not a mutant but a normal human from Scandinavia; he became a Strontium Dog out of a sense of camaraderie with Johnny, and, despite the indignities, he viewed it as good work as it kept the galaxy "safe for decent people".[1] A blunt and straightforward brawler, Wulf was far less prone to doubt and introspection and tried to bring his friend back in line when he had doubts. Ever since Starlord #5, Wulf wore the fur pelt of a Gronk that he'd befriended - the alien's custom was for people dear to them to wear their skin, so part of them would live on. Wulf acted a lot like a stereotypical Viking and it was eventually retconned that he was a Viking, accidentally brought into the 22nd century when Johnny was pursuing a criminal gang through time.

Early strips included the Gronk, the brother of the Gronk that Wulf had met earlier. It was a timid, metal-eating alien from the planet Blas, in the Gallego system (a tribute to the fantasy artist Blas Gallego). The Gronk provided medical back-up and constantly worried about its "poor heartses", and in "Outlaw" showed it could survive multiple heart attacks. A gag showed that "the Gronk" was the name for most of its species, causing problems when mail arrives for "the Gronk". In the Strontium Dogs spinoff, the Gronk transformed into a gun-toting highly aggressive soldier.

King Clarkie the Second, a thinly veiled parody of Prince Charles was the monarch for much of the strip, being deposed late in the series for his pro-mutant views. While presented as a buffoon in several strips, he was also essentially harmless and well-meaning.

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 female 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. He initially despised the Strontium Dogs, who he saw as abandoning the mutants on Earth, but was inspired by the actions of Johnny Alpha. Feral witnessed Alpha's sacrifice in "The Final Solution", and in the original "Strontium Dogs" strips of the 1990s, he became first a rebel outlaw in the colony worlds and then a renowned SD Agent. In "The Life and Death of Johnny Alpha", this was ignored and he became a SD Agent soon after "The Final Solution" – due to his abrasive personality, he soon left and became an outlaw who tried to resurrect Alpha, only to give up. In this second timeline, he was executed for murder on an alien world.

The revival would introduce Negus, the First Lord of the Military, a stern-faced and middle-aged politician who would both hire Johnny and act as his Upminster contact. Negus was pushing for increased mutant rights, having a mutant daughter that he kept at home (something Johnny remarked as being a brave act for a man in Negus' position), though he still wanted to keep mutant and norm bloodlines separate.

Flashbacks to the pre-Wulf days of Johnny's life would introduce Precious Matson, a reporter from the mutant colony of Freedonia. A competent and dogged reporter, she became friends with Johnny and helped him against the terrorist leader Blood Moon. In "Life and Death", she began investigating the true events of Johnny's death and, with McNulty's aid, was able to resurrect him.


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 progresses in real 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.

Major stories

Original run

"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 stating 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."[2] He later described it as "one of the big regrets of my career, probably the biggest."[3]

Post-death and Strontium Dogs

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.

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. The first story, Monster starring Feral, revealed the Search Destroy Agency no longer existed and mutants had been driven off Earth by a hastily assembled UK junta government; colony worlds were also shown to be under military occupation and severely ill-treating mutants, with the alleged mutant resistance merely using their organisation to extort "liberation" taxes from mutants (an allegory for The Troubles in Northern Ireland, Ennis' home). Meanwhile, Durham Red carried on a mission against the drug-dealing Gothlord.

Ennis would bring back the Gronk in Return of the Gronk, turning him into an aggressive berserker: learning that Johnny Alpha was dead caused a heart attack which awakened his aggressive side of this one. The Gronk and Feral were teamed up, and went out for revenge against the necromancers who'd killed Alpha in The Darkest Star. In the process, Feral found out he was the son of the lead necromancer and both he and the Gronk discovered that the necromancers drew their power from torturing the people they had killed – including Johnny Alpha. To destroy the enemy, the Gronk killed the captives – including, at his friend's request, Alpha himself, who couldn't live on in such excruciating pain.

From prog 897, Peter Hogan became the regular writer on the strip and in prog 898 he resurrected the Search Destroy Agency: an agent named Bullmoose revealed that the Galactic Crime Commission had cut ties with Earth (who had pressed for the Agency to be closed and mutants purged), moved to Ganymede, and recreated the agency as they needed mutants to "clean their dirty laundry for them".


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.

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. Wagner introduced the concept that all previous stories were 'folklore' and the current series was the truth, giving him free rein to alter a number of details (such as giving Johnny an AI computer assistant and Kreelman having been President of a unified Earth government). This concept was dropped after "Conspiracy", with the later stories directly harkening back to the original run.

A subsequent story in 2004, "Traitor To His Kind" (progs 1406–1415), introduced Johnny's half-brother, head of a brutal police unit that dealt with mutant crimes. Hired by pro-mutant First Lord Negus, Johnny was sent to get a kidnapped King Clarkie back from mutant guerillas; loath though he was to do so, he knew elements within the government were trying to use this as an excuse to viciously crack down 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.

The 2009 story Blood Moon retconned in a fanatical mutant rebel leader, William Blood Moon, who was responsible for civilian massacres and suicide bombings. Johnny had been seconded to him during the war, and swore vengeance for Moon having his friend Mardi killed as a suicide bomber; years later, before meeting Wulf, he and other former rebel leaders would hunt down Blood Moon to kill him for his continuing terrorist atrocities. Johnny would use a time bomb to take Moon back to the site of Mardi's bombing and executed him there.

The Life and Death of Johnny Alpha

In prog 1689, June 2010, Wagner and Ezquerra began a strip called The Life and Death of Johnny Alpha which took place following The Final Solution. The strip featured reporter Precious Matson trying to discover the true circumstances behind Johnny's death: the story explicitly stated itself to be a retcon and the "true" story of what happened, and diverged from The Final Solution when Precious revealed to Middenface McNulty that Johnny's body had been brought back by Feral (the original strip showed it destroyed and the remains left behind).[4] Mutants remain on Earth, the S/D Agency still exists and has a new Doghouse satellite, and the UK government is said to be "apologists and mutie-lovers", ignoring Strontium Dogs.[5]

Middenface and Precious went searching for the truth behind Johnny's death and the whereabouts of his body. In the process, they found out that Feral had taken the body on a quest for the Stone Wizards, immensely powerful entities that could bring Johnny back to life – but, as the cost would be his own life, he backed out and buried him instead. (Feral would end up executed during the story for unrelated crimes.) Precious and Middenface located the body and took it to the Stone Wizards, where McNulty offered to die so Johnny would live – the story ended with Johnny returning to life.

The story continued in three further installments from 2011 to 2014. Alpha discovered a conspiracy to secretly sterilise all mutants in New Britain. This revelation led to a new civil war, with Alpha leading the mutant faction.

Crossover stories

Johnny Alpha has also appeared in three Judge Dredd stories, in which he travelled back in time to Dredd's era. The first was Top Dogs, written by John Wagner, which appeared in the Judge Dredd Annual 1991 (published in 1990). The second was Judgement Day, a 20-episode story written by Garth Ennis, which appeared in both 2000 AD and in the Judge Dredd Megazine in 1992. The third was By Private Contract in issue 2000 of 2000 AD in September 2016, also written by Wagner.


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 released a complete run of collected Strontium Dog stories as the Search/Destroy Agency Files. In 2008 Rebellion also began reprinting the new series of stories. Most of the post-Final Solution 'Strontium Dogs' stories were collected in softback collections bagged with issues of the Judge Dredd Megazine.

All material from Max Quirxx to Journey into Hell written by John Wagner and illustrated by Carlos Ezquerra unless otherwise stated. All stories thereafter written by John Wagner and Alan Grant writing in partnership unless otherwise stated.


All stories written by John Wagner except where otherwise indicated, and illustrated by Carlos Ezquerra. Ezquerra's son Hector joined as co-artist from the stories "Blood Moon" to "The Project".


Following "The Final Solution" there were a number of spin-off series, with Durham Red and Middenface McNulty (and later Young Middenface). In addition, Strontium Dogs focused on the other bounty hunters, especially The Gronk and Feral.

Prior to The Final Solution there was an intermittent series of one-off stories called Tales From the Doghouse, featuring other S/D agents.


Computer games

In 1984, a computer game called Strontium Dog: The Killing was released by Quicksilva for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum.[12] In the game, (based on the storyline "The Killing" from progs 350–359,) 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.[13]

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


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

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:


In the opening scene of the 2012 film Dredd, one of the "mega blocks" of Mega-City One is named "Sternhammer".


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

In an episode of TV sitcom Spaced, an angry Mike tells his friend Tim to remember "whose shoulder you cried on" when Johnny Alpha was killed in 2000 AD. Tim's actor and Spaced co-author Simon Pegg later went on to play Johnny Alpha in the Big Finish Productions Strontium Dog audio plays.

See also


  1. Starlord #1
  2. Judge Dredd Megazine, volume 4, issue 17, p. 49
  3. Judge Dredd Megazine #377, 2016.
  4. 2000 AD prog 1689
  5. Prog 1690
  6. File 01 details
  7. File 02 details
  8. File 03 details
  9. File 04 details
  10. Final Solution details
  11. In December 1999 the issue after #1173 was numbered 2000, after the New Year. Another issue #2000 followed issue #1999 in September 2016.
  12. 2000 AD's Spectrum games section, with the game (and emulator) free to download
  13. Your Sinclair magazine review of the computer game "Strontium Dog - the Killing"


This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 12/3/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.