Johnny Alpha the Strontium Dog
Strontium Dog is one of the long-running pillars of British sci-fi comics. So of course it started in the Starlord comics magazine (in 1978), and continued in the 2000AD comics magazine.
As often with this generation of tales, the depicted future is grim, violent and dismal. Johnny Alpha, the protagonist, is part of the persecuted mutant minority – though he’s far less disfigured than most of his kind. He works as a “Strontium Dog”, a sort of expendable bounty hunter tasked with the most dangerous manhunts.
- Real Name: John Kreelman.
- Marital Status: Single.
- Known Relatives: Nelson Bunker Kreelman (father, deceased), Diana Kreelman (mother, deceased ?), Ruth (sister), Marci (niece).
- Group Affiliation: Search/Destroy Agency.
- Base Of Operations: The Doghouse, in Earth orbit, late 22nd Century.
- Height: 6’1” Weight: 200lbs. Age: 30-ish.
- Eyes: No visible iris or pupil. Colour varies, usually white. Hair: Brown, curly.
Powers and Abilities
Alpha is a futuristic bounty hunter and gunslinger, with all the skills and attributes that suggests. He’s tough, tenacious, and quite, quite deadly.
In addition, he has a number of superhuman abilities associated with his mutation : he can see through walls, read thoughts, and generate fear in a target.
Supposedly, these powers are generated by his eyes, which emit Alpha radiation, but this is clearly nonsense. Alpha particles can’t even penetrate a sheet of paper. It seems much more likely that Alpha has been granted limited psionic powers, and that his eyes are merely a visible, but unrelated, side-effect of mutation.
Johnny could also pass for dead. The facts surrounding his apparent death and revival suggest he might be able to “play dead” for vast spans of time, but this is unclear.
Alpha carries a small arsenal on his person :
- Body armour.
- A typical late 22nd Century energy blaster handgun.
- An electronux (an insulated knuckle duster, packing an electrical charge).
- A time bomb – a grenade that generates a temporal displacement field. When used offensively, the field will displace the target a few seconds into the future, by which time the planet will typically have moved on sufficiently to leave the victim sucking on vacuum.
Alternatively, the device may be used to travel great distances, by moving the user to a nearby time period, chosen such that the desired destination has moved to the point in space currently occupied by the departure point.
- Johnny’s signature Westinghouse Variable Cartridge Blaster. The Westinghouse is a huge handgun (around two feet in length), with a distinctive triple-barrelled configuration. It fires several types of ammunition, which may be selected by voice command. The standard (“flesh”) setting is ballistic projectiles.
Johnny Alpha is a mutant, doing the only work permitted to mutants : hunting the scum of the universe. The Search/Destroy Agency, better known as the Strontium Dogs, uses mutants as field agents. Command and administration roles are filled by normals, or “norms”.
Mutants in general, and S/D Agents in particular, are viewed with hostility and suspicion by most norms. Few would care to tangle with Strontium Dogs, however, as they have a well-earned reputation as ruthless killers. Alpha is possibly the most formidable of these deadly men and women.
Alpha’s history is a tangled one. He was born John Kreelman in 2150, just after the Great War that left Britain a nuclear wasteland, and killed 70% of the population.
John was the son of Nelson Bunker Kreelman, a neo-fascist rabble-rouser who had built his career on hatred of “muties”. Kreelman was mortified when his wife Diana gave birth to John, who had clearly been affected in the womb by exposure to Strontium-90.
He kept him a virtual prisoner in the family home to ensure that no-one would learn of his mutant son.
Mutant liberation struggle
John escaped from his father at the age of 12, and joined the ragtag Mutant Liberation Front, which had formed to fight for mutant rights; by this time mutants were forbidden to own property, to work, and to live among normal people.
Unwilling to admit he was the son of the man responsible for this oppression, John took the surname Alpha, and fought fiercely and well. At the age of fourteen he led his first guerilla action, and at 17 he was second-in-command of the MLF.
Conditions continued to worsen: Mutant Labour Camps were established, in which mutants were forced to perform slave labour under horrendous conditions. Then Kreelman forced the Mutant Extermination Bill through Parliament.
Ultimately, Alpha made common cause with Kreelman’s Parliamentary opponents: Kreelman lost a great deal of support when it became public knowledge that his son was a mutant: and through a combination of military and political manoeuvres, Kreelman was defeated, and forced to flee Earth.
The Extermination Bill was repealed, although mutants were still not permitted to live or work outside dedicated ghettoes, such as Milton Keynes. Alpha and his closest allies were found guilty of terrorist crimes, but their sentences were commuted to exile from Earth.
Many of these battle-hardened veterans joined the Search/Destroy Agency as bounty-hunters for the Galactic Crime Commission, and relocated to the Doghouse, a vast space station in Earth orbit. For the rest of his life, Alpha was a Strontium Dog.
At first, he worked alone, but on a time-travel mission to 8th Century Norway he met Wulf Sternhammer, a huge Viking warrior, who became his partner and his closest friend.
Johnny Alpha brought hundreds to justice, including Sabbat, the arch-genocide Necromagus, who had murdered billions; an almost forgotten 20th Century despot named Adolf Hitler; and his own father.
He apparently died, blinded, preventing a horde of demons from pursuing his friends through a dimensional portal. The Strontium Dog was avenged by the young mutant, Feral.
Whom the Dog would destroy
As it turned out, Johnny Alpha was not really dead. He was later revived by the powerful Stone Wizards, as his old mutant partner McNulty sacrificed his life for that to happen.
Alpha came to lead a mutant rebellion in a new civil war in Britain.
Alpha is a tall, athletically proportioned man, who could be of any age between 25 and 45. His hair is thick, dark brown and curly, and his features are rugged, with a much-broken nose and a pocked, uneven complexion. A bit like a young Charles Bronson crossed with Lee Marvin.
His eyes are plain white, except when he uses his powers, when they glow red, or green, or yellow. Many people find his eyes disconcerting.
He dresses for business in green and yellow. Green trousers, and either a reinforced green jacket or a long-sleeved T-shirt, usually dark green with light green hoops. On top of this is his combat rig, a heavily padded belt and bandolier in yellow.
The bandolier crosses his torso from the right shoulder to the left hip, and is usually balanced by that Ezquerra standby, a shoulder pad on the left.
He wears the Search/Destroy insignia on his left breast, a scarlet disk marked SD in an angular script, and is usually shown with two guns: one is holstered mid-chest, while the Westinghouse is slung diagonally from his belt at the rear, it’s grip projecting beyond his right hip.
He tops this distinctive attire with a uniquely-styled helmet in green and yellow.
Johnny Alpha is basically Clint Eastwood in space. He’s the self-reliant outsider who rides into town, faces down the local bully, shoots a dozen desperadoes, and rides away. Like the typical Clint character, he projects an amoral, mercenary character, but is in fact a good man in a harsh universe.
He’s hard-working, loyal, brave, and possesses great integrity and strength of character. And if you go up against him, he’ll shoot you down like a dog.
Alpha: (negotiating) “You gentlemen have been calling me all sorts of names. And when my feelings get hurt, my price goes up… shall we say an extra 25 000 byknls for every insult ?”
Sternhammer: “Vulf has been keeping count… tvice they call you ‘mutie’… 50 000 byknls… vunce they call you der ‘strontium dog’ (very bad manners) 25 000 byknls… und vunce they are being verr nasty to our friend der Gronk… another 25 000 byknls.”
DC Universe History
Alpha would make an interesting contrast to the oh-so-squeaky-clean Legion. He’d be the man who dealt with the dark underbelly of the 30th Century.
Alternatively, he could give Lobo a much-needed Number Four Cartridge enema.
Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG
Tell me more about the game stats
|Dex: 07||Str: 04||Bod: 05||Motivation: Seeking Justice|
|Int: 06||Wil: 07||Min: 08||Occupation: Strontium Dog (Search/Destroy Agent)|
|Inf: 07||Aur: 05||Spi: 08||Wealth: 006|
|Init: 024||HP: 075|
X-Ray Vision: 08, Mind Probe: 06, Broadcast Empath: 06, Suspension: 03
Bonuses and Limitations:
- X-Ray Vision has no taboo material, but lead raises OV/RV by 2 CSes.
- Mind Probe has No Range.
- Broadcast Empath has No Range and can broadcast fear only.
Acrobatics (Climbing, Dodging): 05, Animal Handling (Riding): 05, Charisma (Interrogation, Intimidation)*: 07, Detective: 03, Martial Artist*: 07, Medicine (First Aid): 04, Military Science*: 06, Thief (Security Systems, Stealth): 05, Vehicles: 05, Weaponry (Exotic Weapons, Firearms): 11
Area Knowledge (Milton Keynes Mutant Ghetto), Buddy (Wulf Sternhammer), Credentials (Search/Destroy agency – Medium (note that this authority is invalid on Earth)), Headquarters (Expansive – The Doghouse), Iron Nerves, Leadership, Lightning Reflexes, Sharp Eye.
Search/Destroy Agency (High), Omni-Connection (usually another mutant).
Exile: Involuntary, SIH (Nelson Bunker Kreelman – Johnny’s father), Mistrust, Strange Appearance (mutant with strange eyes).
- 8 AP AC Omni-Gadget.
- COMBAT RIG [/BODY/ 07, Limitation : Partial (vest)].
- Blaster [BODY 07, Energy blast: 06, HP Cost: 37].
- Electronux [BODY 06, EV 04 (05 w/STR, 08 w/Martial artist), Lightning: 06, HP Cost: 27. Bonus : EV and Lightning can be Combined ; Limitation: Lightning has No Range.]
- Time Bomb [BODY 04, Teleportation: 13, HP Cost: 62. Power Bonuses and Limitations: Teleportation: Time Bomb can be programmed with one safe location only. Other destinations will invariably prove fatal (vacuum, solid rock, ocean depths, etc.)].
- Westinghouse Variable Cartridge Blaster [BODY 07, Projectile weapons: 06, Flash: 08, Heat Vision: 10 (Number Three Cartridge), Bomb: 08 (Number Four Cartridge), Stretching: 04, Lightning: 06, HP Cost: 126. Power Bonuses and Limitations: Flash has an Area Effect ; Heat Vision has halved earned RAPs (round up) ; Stretching represents a strong, electrically conductive cable, which can be used in conjunction with Lightning as a taser, or alone as a swing-line ; Lightning has No Range ; stun mode is simply Projectile weapons used as Bashing Combat].
Source of Character: 2000 AD comics.
Helper(s): Sébastien Andrivet, Peter Piispanen.