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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, 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 1995. Johnny himself would make a few more appearances in both Strontium Dogs and Judge Dredd due to Time Travel. In the final 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 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- British Accents: Middenface has a strong Scottish accent.
- Collector of the Strange: The Collector, natch.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Fantastic Ghetto: Mutant populations in New Britain are not allowed to hold any jobs (apart from bounty hunting) or live amongst normal humans, instead living in their own trashed ghettos, the most prominent one located in Milton Keynes.
- Final Solution: Well, if the title of the arc "The Final Solution" doesn't clue you in... The New Church publicly claims that they're moving the mutant population in New Britain to new homes in another dimension where they can live in peace away from normal human beings. What they're really doing, however, is rounding up mutants from their ghettos and are dumping them in a dimensional wasteland to be stranded and killed by an Eldritch Abomination, but they know that nobody would make much fuss if they make it sound like a peaceful relocation program.
- The Grotesque: The overwhelming majority of mutants are unattractive, but Middenface McNulty is particularly unfortunate.
- 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.
- Humans Are Bastards: 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.
- Humans Are Morons: In the same story arc as above, 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- Monochromatic Eyes: Johnny's are pure white, changing to red when he's using his "alpha-vision"
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!"
- 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.
- Pluralses: The Gronkses all talk this way.
- Prequel: The spinoff Young Middenface, which follows the adventures of Middenface McNulty as a teenager.
- Promoted Fanboy: Simon Pegg is a known fan of the comic, and provided the voice of Johnny in the audio dramas.
- 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.
- Spin-Off: As well as Strontium Dogs, Middenface McNulty and Durham Red got their own series.
- Tear Jerker: Johnny's ultimate fate in the classic series.
- Are we just supposed to forget about Wulf Sternhammer in the same series?
- 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.
- 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
- Would Be Rude to Say Genocide: See the Final Solution example above.
- 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!"