Comics - Return of the Dog
It is the tale of Johnny Alpha, a man forced to become a Search and Destroy agent, a bounty hunter, by his mutation. For becoming a 'Strontium Dog' is one of the few jobs a mutant can get in a world riven by nuclear war and hatred for the changed people born in its wake. The Strontium Dogs are feared and despised as much, if not more, than the people they bring to justice.
The strip started life in Starlord in 1978, a high quality science fiction comic that eventually merged into 2000AD with a few of the main stories. Johnny Alpha was one of the ones that made the transition, and in the process picked up a partner, the viking giant, Wulf Sternhammer as well as a new co-writer in Alan Grant.
Together Alpha and Sternhammer righted wrongs and brought killers to justice in one of the more thoughtful strips of 2000AD. Johnny Alpha was always a more human complex character than Judge Dredd (who showed few insights into his personality during the 80's) and Strontium Dog became the favourite strip for many readers. Johnny and Wulf did a dirty and dangerous job and they rarely got thanked for trying to do the right thing.
After ten years, 2000AD changed. The long time editor left, it changed publishers, writers and artists departed for the states. Strontium Dog carried on for a little while, but like other elements of the comic it appeared to be running out of steam.
The strip and Johnny Alpha supposedly met their end in 'The Final Solution' a long epic written by Alan Grant and drawn by Simon Harrison. It was an odd note to end on, and it was perhaps a reaction to other long lived characters being taken over by new creative teams. Some found it hugely dissatisfying, including myself and artist Carlos Ezquerra who famously said 'if I didn't draw it, it didn't happen'. The strip ultimately failed to stop Johnny Alpha being sent to hell and resurrected by subsequent writers.
In 2000, the original creative team returned with Strontium Dog, with a story that used a historical perspective to say that all we knew about Johnny Alpha could be taken with a pinch of salt. Although this wasn't pursued, Strontium Dog returned almost yearly for a new adventure with tales set before Final Solution, and before, during and after Alpha's partnership with Wulf.
These new stories slot effortlessly and seemlessly into classic Strontium Dog canon, with tales that often explore Alpha's relationship with the mutant cause, reflect on modern issues and provide the same humour and action readers have come to love on the strip. It stands out in the current 2000AD as a class act. It's simply the best thing in the comic and if you are a fan of Strontium Dog, you should make the time to reaquaint yourself with an old friend.
You can catch up on the original runs of Strontium Dog from Starlord and 2000AD in the four volumes of Stropntium Dog case files (available from all good bookshops and internet retailers) and The Final Solution Story runs from the end of book 4 into book 5. The new tales of Johnny Alpha can be found in The Kreeler Conspiracy and the pages of weekly comic 2000AD.
Alpha's Back in 2000AD