Strontium Dog : A Potted History.
Part 2 Johnny & Wulf : Hunt Sabs’ / Holy Moses! / Family Ties / Valhalla beckons.
Of course he doesn’t mean you, dear reader. But you have to agree, that’s a panel and a half isn’t it?
After looking back on our hero’s origins, on we march. The body count and bounties rise as the baddies drop away, but Johnny and Wulf’s past starts to catch up with them. Luke on the other hand is having a whale of time re-reading classic Stront’ stories.
Okey dokey. Where do you go after that telling the origin of the main character? You’ve established the backstory, so would resume? Nope, first of all one of many jobs personal to Johnny & Wulf.
“The Gronk Affair”, is a convoluted means of Johnny and Wulf’s old enemies from Hell getting their own back. Hiss, Cuss and Silent (next to the Torso from Newcastle, Silent is has the mutation that probably raises the most questions), concoct an elaborate revenge plan.
The three brothers shack up with a rich gourmand and poacher Cruso Slugg and show him the way to Blas, the home planet of the metal eating Gronks. Turns out Gronks are quite tasty, and handily their pelts fetch a fair bit. Sluggy sends his hunters to the planet to kill and harvest, meantime the Weerds fake a mayday telegram to The Gronk knowing full well that Alpha and Sternhammer won’t be able to stop themselves coming to the Gronks aid.
As a trap, it was a bit crap, not particularly well thought out. Johnny and Wulf are the most heavily armed and lethal hunt sabs’ in history. They make short work of the hunters, and then turn their attention on the ring leaders.
In the meantime, the Weerds double cross their business partner and make a run for it. But as you can imagine, this doesn’t go well for the Weerds. Suffice to say, that’s the last we see of them….
Anyhoo,after a brief adventure with the founder member of Mac Mac Anonymous (I miss Mac Mac, it’s never mentioned in the prog’ anymore) and another subject for an article on the curious physiology of “SDs” mutants, Kid Knee,things take a darker turn.
Moses Quest idolises Strontium Dogs. Whilst watching Alpha duel bounty Dobie Zitch, He gets caught in the crossfire.
Alpha horrified, guilt ridden and and unhinged takes matters into his own hands to rectify what he sees as his crime. Johnny has a plan to resurrect Moses, and to atone for his crime. Enter Malak Brood :
Brood is the sole living survivor of 3 necromancer brothers who wrought terror on the galaxy in the region. Brood killed his brothers, draining of them of their power, but retaining their heads and mounting them on snake like columns (hey, who hasn’t?) ……for “bants” presumably. Imprisoned on the Island of the Living Dead (can you see where this is going?) by the Lyran Sorcerors and a mystical ball of chain, a physical manifestation of the crimes he has committed.
Johnny offers a trade to the incredibly evil, space voodoo, intergalactic alien sorcerer to help him resurrect Moses (spot the problem).
Annnnnnyway. Things don’t go quite the way Johnny hoped. Moses is resurrected, but as time goes on he becomes more and more, “hollow”. Wulf and Johnny have a tiff. Johnny becomes a river in Egypt (I’ll wait….) and returns the resurrected boy to his grieving mother. But joy turns to horror, as the boy is seen to be a soulless shell. In a series which has it’s fair share of emotional moments, “The Moses Incident’s” reunion of Moses with his mother is certainly one of the most affecting.
Johnny takes this badly. Demoralised, he and Wulf are lynched by the townspeople.Things are looking pretty bleak when they receive a seemingly unlikely rescue. Moses is finally laid to rest. But Johnny is ticked off. Leaving Wulf behind, he returns to the Island Of The Living Dead to confront Brood.
Against the odds, Johnny wins and Brood is destroyed. But that is not the last we see of him.
Next up, something a bit chirpier -even if the title says otherwise : “The Killing”
Alpha and Sternhammer visit “Zed” a world which holds the titular annual ritualistic arena based slaughterfest.Being a quick way of earning a lot of cash, it attracts a lot of the galaxy’s bad ‘uns. All very attractive for enterprising Strontium Dogs, lots of bounties all in the same place. Convenient. Entering as contestants, Johnny and Wulf literally and metaphorically look to make, well, a killing.
What follows is 10 episodes of Johnny and Wulf picking off as many of the galaxy’s scum as possible for the biggest pay day.
There isn’t much more to it than that,other than of course there can be only one winner. This is just a shoot ’em up, nothing heavy or meaningful, just interestingly different ways in how to off crims’.
I can’t help but have a warm place in my heart for it, doesn’t outstay it’s welcome but “light” relief (other than the prerequisite black humor) after “The Moses Incident”. Interesting fact – this was made into a ZX Spectrum game by Quicksilva. I never actually got around to playing it, but I hear it was bobbins.
After that, we have a pseudo sequel to “Portrait of a Mutant”. The Stix brothers (there are loads of them) murder 5 occupants of a township on the planet Och 11., and convince them that it was actually Alpha and Sternhammer that did the deed. Alpha and Sternhammer are on the run, but looking for answers. They return to the Doghouse, where Harvey tries to arrest them, but with little success. Compounding Johnny & Wulf’s predicament Stix visit Harvey immediately afterward and mark his card.
Our heroes now need to make themselves scarce. Trapped and outnumbered by tehir fellow SD agents, they are bailed out by the “Old Guard”, Johnny’s comrades from the Mutant army : Torso, Evans the Fist and Middenface McNulty, and Clacton Fuzz’s son Frinton. They flee to Antarctica City, leaving a comatose Gronk on the Doghouse.
On the run, they become the Alpha gang, hiding in the forests surrounding Antarctic City. Hunted by their brethren, now under the control of the new head of the agency Norman King, they split up,
Middenface, Wulf and Johnny head to OCH 11 and find the truth, but still don’t know why the Stix’s framed them. ‘Course, Stix’ knew that they were going to do that. They trap and capture Alpha and take him back to the Doghouse, where the architect of Johnny’s predicament is revealed – his Dad, Kreelman, who is still “in skin and kicking” ((c) Ace Garp).
The Stixs’ had found Kreelman, in the time loop begging for his life. Being the mercenary kind of chaps they are, they saw the business potential and freed him, and he made them an offer they couldn’t refuse. A couple of calls, one spiffy mask, a pseudonym and an assassination later, et voila, one new S/D controller.
Johnny’s mates mount a death or glory rescue mission. Cover blown and outnumbered, they begin to get picked off one by one.
However, whilst Johnny’s buddies are stopping bullets, the now recovered Gronk has been busy, and the rescuee becomes the rescuer.
Kreelman gets his,once and for all, and this branch of the Stix family (seemingly they breed like rabbits) also meet their end.
Johnny has the last word :
He just had to jinx it, didn’t he?
After that we’re sort of back to normal. Everyone is re-instated, we have a new controller (Sidney)and Johnny & Wulf go off to earn a crust, or in the case of the next job the whole loaf.
“The Big Bust of ’49”, reads like a reprise of “The Killing”. Imagine if you will a planet which kind of like Spain was treated by British Criminals in the 80s. Where the British Police couldn’t get them and the authorities aren’t bothered as they have committed no crime in their country – but then the host country changes their mind and goes after them, declaring open season on a group of crooks, and a theme revisited a few times in the strips history (The Killing, The Rammy etc). Middenface has got the same idea, so the three team up, and a bounty huntin’ they go
Johnny however has more information, there is the star prize of Xen The Brainwraith, whose bounty would set them up for life. This isn’t a particularly memorable strip, but it’s important as it sets up the next significant storyline.
Pardon me for going off at a slight tangent, but Carlos produced some stonking painted covers for Best of 2000AD around this period – this is for the issue reprinting “Big Bust of ’49”.
Now minted, Johnny and Wulf decide to have a vacation on Smiley’s World, buying themselves a plot of land in the wilderness.
However, their retirement is disturbed by the “The Slavers of Drule”, who upset the local populace by kidnapping large swathes of them to be sold as slaves / fattening for some rich aliens lunch. Eleanor Keeble left for dead and the sole remaining member of her family at liberty, seeks assistance from the local police force. “We can’t help” they say, “But we know men who can”
Johnny agrees to work pro bono,Wulf’s grumbles about the money they spend helping the Keebles out.
They track the Keeble’s to the planet Jerboors ruled by Larry the Certifiable. You can guess that as a species the Jerboors are not known for their compassion. Locating the father and sons Johnny and Wulf start a slave revolt as a diversion to help rescue the male members of the family,
Then they head off to the palace to rescue Mij Keeble, the daughter. They take the direct approach.
Mij rescued, they head back to Smiley’s World
So, after the small matter of dispatching the Slavers themselves, Johnny and Wulf settle back into their extended vacation. Loads in the bank, peaceful, happy and mutually beneficial existence with norms on a beautiful new world. What can go wrong?
Just as you think everything is looking a bit twee and cosy, Wagner and Grant look to upset the apple cart. And what better way than a death (oops, sorry – spoilers).
Bent on revenge, Max Bubba and his gang arrive at the Alpha / Sternhammer homestead, catching our heroes completely unawares.
Facing death, staked out and tortured by Bubba’s minions Johnny & Wulf reminisce on the circumstances of their meeting.
The “Max Bubba” storyline,or as I know it “The Ragnarok Job” sees Johnny and Wulf’s past finally catching up with them and reveals the how and more particularly when,they met. This is Johnny’s first “time” job.
Bubba and his gang escaped from prison, break into a timelab and travelled back to 8th century Norway.
They then set about by eliminating the local population, killing family trees at their roots and causing shock waves through history. Time paradox? What time paradox?
As the most normal looking SD agent, Johnny is sent back in time to stop Bubba. He materialises near a village of vikings and specifically one Wulf Sternhammer. As is traditional Johnny and Wulf fight it out, but soon bond and Wulf and his comrades agree to help Johnny save the world. The time disruptions become more and more frequent, with objects arriving from all over history into 793AD, Vietnam war era US soldiers, refrigerators and electric cars.
Meanwhile Bubba is building to his big climax, throwing the population of the local village whose descendants populate most of the western world, into a volcano.
Alpha and his viking allies win the day but not without loss and in the melee Wulf is transported into the future. Indebted to Johnny, Wulf chooses to remain and becomes Johnny’s “business” partner.
but now time has caught up with him.
and then it all goes a bit dark for a bit really.
Thirst for vengeance satisfied, Bubba leaves the corpses of the two friends near the burnt out husk of their homestead. But Johnny & Wulf’s new friends the Keeble’s come calling and find a barely alive Alpha.
Soon, a rescued and recuperated Johnny is in a “Rage” and out for revenge.
Johnny spends weeks searching the ghettos, the old haunts and visiting both norm and mutie family members of the gang members, he gets sidetracked a few times on the way by starship hijackers, crooked prospectors, false leads and fellow Stronts’, out for the bounty rather payback.
Tracking the gang to Dragan’s World, Johnny hops from settlement to settlement looking gofr clues, until he comes across a gang member who fell out of favour with Max and gives him the break he needed.
The gang are holed up in a monastery by the sea, taking advantage of the gentle nature of the monks. Johnny makes short work of the gang, but not before finding that Max and his closest lieutenants are away, planning a job.
Johnny tracks them to the town of Dragan Beach, and chases them into the country, playing a game of cat and mouse.
Moseley and Jones suffer painful and gruesome deaths, Bubba is seemingly spared until he walks from his hospital and Johnny carries out what can only be described as a public execution.
When I was reading “Rage” weekly I thought it went on for too long and meandered a bit. But a bit like Rogue Trooper’s pursuit of the traitor general, Johnny couldn’t get there too quickly otherwise it would lose it’s impact. Although Rogue is probably an example of the other extreme.
So going into part 3, we have a very unhappy Dog. What he needs is a Bitch to cheer him up……
Collections. Where to get it :
Strontium Dog : S/D Agency Files 02 & 03
Strontium Dog : The Final Solution
Best of 2000AD Monthly, 6, 7, 24, 35, 50, 57, 58, 68, 69, 79, 87, 88