Saturday, 24 June 2017

Strontium Dog: The Life And Death Of Johnny Alpha (2000AD #1689-1699)

"Help him! In the name o'all that's merciful, end his torment.  I'm begging youse - give him his life back!" - Middenface McNulty

Created by writer John Wagner and artist Carlos Ezquerra, for the comic Starlord then transferred to 2000AD when Starlord folded, mutant bounty hunter Johnny Alpha is probably the most famous character from 2000AD after Judge Dredd.  Born a society that is very prejudiced against mutants the only jobs open to them is being members of the Search/Destroy agency whose distinctive S/D badges has led to them being nicknamed "Strontium Dogs". Johnny Alpha has mutated eyes which allow him to see through walls and read minds.  His stories ran through the eighties, but then in 1990, John Wagner decided to kill him off.  Johnny sacrificed himself saving mutants from extermination in a storyline called "The Final Solution".  Ezquerra refused to draw the story and later Wagner said it was "one of the big regrets of my career. Probably the biggest".  However, after nearly twenty years of further adventures set before his death, Wagner teamed up with Ezquerra to bring Johnny back to life with this story set not long after his presumed death.  This story explicitly retcons the fact that in the original Johnny's remains were destroyed, while in this storyline his body was recovered intact. So it's up to Precious Matson a reporter, and Middenface McNulty who was Johnny's best friend to discover the real truth of what has happened to Johnny Alpha since.  This story is collected in Strontium Dog: The Life And Death of Johnny Alpha - The Project.
Precious finds McNulty.
We begin with Precious arriving at the "Desolation of Paisley" years after Lord Sagan initiated the events that led to Johnny's death.   She walks into a rowdy mutie pub and finds McNulty hanging out with his drinking buddies.  She tells him she's researching a book about Johnny Alpha's life and death.  McNulty says that Johnny was a very private person. She says he's not around to object, she wants someone on the record who cared for him because a lot of lies have been written about him.

Precious: "So much of Johnny's life is shrouded in mystery.  Sometimes I wonder if I can ever penetrate it, ever get to the real Johnny Alpha".

McNulty was his closest friend so she'd be grateful for his help.  So McNulty gets rid of his drinking buddies and they sit together and talk.  "The Final Solution" turned out to be a portal set up at Stonehenge by Lord Sagan's boys. They were sending mutants through to another dimension, it was a slaughterhouse.

McNulty managed to escape before he got forced though the portal but Johnny and another mutant called Feral weren't so lucky, "they were set upon by weird beasties".  The supernatural mumbo jumbo is over his head.  Precious says the story goes that Jphnny was blinded but he didn't give up. McNulty says he couldn't quit fighting, and it needed a blood sacrifice to open the portal and Johnny made that sacrifice so the others could get back out.
McNulty recounts what he heard about Johnny's death.
Precious asks why the left Johnny there. McNulty says there was just a pile of scorched bones.  Precious asks how he knows all this.  McNulty says Feral told him.  Precious looks him in the eye and says, "what if I was to tell you that's not the way it happened?  Feral lied.  They brought Johnny's body back with them."

McNulty doesn't believe her, he insists Johnny was burned to a frazzle.  He then asks her why Feral would lie to him.  Precious says she doesn't know but she does know what a man called "Barry Roberts" told her.  She wanted to interview the Churchers who forced Johnny and the others through the portal, and managed to find one of the few who hadn't been killed.

We flashback to her at Barry's house.  He is a paraplegic and sneers that there is a smell when she comes in.  But Precious butters him up and he decides to tell her his side of the story. He tells her he doesn't know who ordered Johnny through the portal, "he was a mutant, that's all we needed to know."  He says he found Johhny and Feral and pushed them through, best thing for their kind.

When the muties started coming back through and started attacking the Churchers.  It was a slaughter, "they wanted their revenge and they got it".  Johnny didn't come through then, it was later. He was hiding under one of the caravans when he saw Feral and a fish headed mutant carry Johnny's intact body out.  And then Johnny Alpha sat up.
The Churcher reveals the truth.
But after he witnessed that, the fish headed one spotted him, dragged him out and shot him twice in the back.  He was found and treated but never told anyone he saw Johnny Alpha, by the time he got out of hospital history had been written by the apologists and the mutie lovers were in charge.

Back with McNulty he is stunned that Johnny sat up.  Precious says that can be a common post mortem reaction so not to get too excited.  They sit and think about what they can do next to confirm this story. Feral is missing presumed dead.  Precious says if he comes with her he'll pay all his expenses and a generous fee at the end.  But McNulty says he won't take money if it's for Johnny.  They decide to seek out the fish faced mutant and McNulty has a friend who might be some help.  They speak to a fellow S/D agent and he tells them they are looking for "Fish Wilson" who comes from the Chelmsford ghetto.  So off Precious and McNulty go.

They arrive at his house and his mother answers the door. As he climbs out of the back window his mum says he's been gone for months. McNulty spots him though and goes chasing after him.  Wilson manages to elude him, so Precious tells his mum that they just want to talk to her son and that she'd be willing to pay.  Back at their hotel Precious says "in my experience Middenface, the carrot usually works better than the stick".
Fish Wilson and mum.
And indeed it works, Wilson shows up being strongarmed into it by his mum.  Wilson is very nervous, but Precious tries to put him at ease.   They ask about what happened to Johnny and Wilson lies saying he saw one of the alien creatures burn his flesh away until he was only bone.  McNulty buts in saying that he knows they brought back Johnny's body.  Wilson stutters that it's not true, McNulty says he has four witnesses who say so.  Wilson says that can't be right there was only one.  Whoops.

He then says he made a promise not to tell to Feral, and if he finds out he'll come and get him, "there's something abnormal about him".   McNulty says if he doesn't start telling the truth, Feral will be the last thing he has to worry about.  Wilson's mum also threatens to put him over her knee, so he spills the truth.

He was one of the last to get to the portal when it was reopened. He saw Feral bending over Johnny's body.  Feral asks him to help getting him back through and hurry because the portal is closing.  They took him into one of the caravans and it looked to Wilson that Johnny was dead, he wasn't breathing. He did sit up and lie down again, but Wilson still swears he wasn't breathing.
Fish also spills the truth.
Feral said he was going to take the body away, if Lord Sagan's lot got ahold of it they'd do terrible things to it.  He then says that an old magic man he knows said that eating a dead man's heart will transfer all his powers to you.  "He said WHIT?" McNulty interjects. Wilson says he's just reporting what was said.  He drove them he doesn't know where and Feral made him promise not to say a word and that was the last he saw of Feral and Johnny's body.

Realising they won't get anymore information out of him, Precious pays his mum and after they leave Precious has some questions now.

Precious: "I don't understand - the story about Johnny being burnt to a cinder and left in that dimension - how did that become accepted history".

McNulty says he might be at fault, he did lots of interviews.  Feral told him what happened and he told the world.  He didn't want Johnny's sacrifice to be forgotten, "hoo wuz I tae know it wuz a pack o'lies?"  Their next move should be to find Feral and get some straight answers out of him.

They catch a shuttle to the Eezy Space Station and McNulty starts telling Precious about Feral.  Apparently he was last seen talking about "makin' wan big score, then giein' the heave".  Most S/D agents say that but maybe there was more to it this time. He took a transgalactic flight bound for Eros, he disembarked at a transport hub on the Kam-Karmam Rim and there is no record of him leaving.

Precious asks if he might be dead, McNulty can't say for sure. The station is a favourite place for people to disappear, freighters will take passengers for the right amount of cash, "an' Feral had reason tae throw a wee swerve - there were Stronty Dogs on his trail".  Precious says "there were?" And McNulty says it was a pair of chancers called Jammy Hendrix and Pooch Bickersby.

Apparently about the time Feral disappeared there was a big warrant out for Namu, daughter of the Mutator. It was for five million dead or alive which would be enough to retire with a pension.  She wasn't dangerous but she was hard to find.  The two Strontium Dogs figured Feral had a lead on her. He'd been mouthing off in the Doghouse bar and getting into fights.  Nobody liked him much.

Feral was banned from the place, as he was shown out he made some claims that he'd soon be rich enough to buy the place.  So when he left he was followed to the hub where he then vanished.  McNulty says his bet is that of the freighters that left, Feral was on the one to Min'Ul'-Q-Uurl which was where Namu had pulled a big sting. Precious says that's where they go next.

McNulty protests that it's no job for a lady, but she retorts that she's accompanied Johnny on a hunt, and as she is financing this expedition her involvement is non-negotiable. As they travel, McNulty reminisces.

McNulty: "Y'know whit gets me is aw them lies.  Me an' Feral met up at Stonehenge maybe a week efter.  I can still see him standing there - I swear there wuz tears in his eyes".

He remembers Feral saying Johnny's blood opened the way back and how unfair it is that everyone else gets a happy ending except for Johhny. He wonders what he was really up to, Precious says they need to find him first.
McNulty, very diplomatic.
McNulty admits he's always felt guilty about abandoning Johnny, and if he'd been wih him maybe things woud have been different, "I let him doon.  We were pals an' I let him doon". Precious gets up saying she's going to sleep now, leaving McNulty alone with his bottle.

They disembark and McNulty uses his Search/Destroy identity to get stamped through customs.  We then get a note which tells us that they spent thirty-nine days questioning official, law enforcement agencies, hoteliers and other likely contacts.  Their enquiries proved exhausting and fruitless.  During this time McNulty remained in control of his alchohol habit.

They sit in a bar and finally have to admit that no one has seen Feral there, humans aren't exactly common there and someone should have remembered him.  McNulty says he'll check out the other ships crews which could take years.  He tells her to leave things to him and he'll keep her informed.  So Precious returns to Freedonia to work on her book while McNulty sent her updates which at first were frequent, then later less so.

Sometime later Precious returns to Paisley and finds a drunken and miserable McNulty who has given up the search. Precious then tells him that she has found Feral, at least she knows what he was doing three months ago.   She put out an offer of a large reward for information about him and the other day was contacted by 1/9870590, a Robocian who definitely saw Feral on Garn. McNulty says he's probably a chancer, but Precious says Robocian's are genetically incapable of any form of deception. Now is McNulty going to come with her or will he stay and wallow in booze.
Precious's contact.
As they travel there, they speak to Precious's contact.  His ship delivers supplies to the alien prison on Garn.  While unloading those supplies he spotted Feral who was being moved to the "feeding cells".  He has perfect recall so are almost never mistaken. They finish speaking to him and Precious says she's arranged a meeting with the immigration assessor on Garn.  They are so close now and McNulty decides to go for a drink, Precious tells him not to get drunk.

Later Precious has to go and get him out of the brig, she pays off his tab but agrees with keeping McNulty there for the rest of the trip.  Finally they reach their destination and will find out what has happened to Feral.  Before we get to that, the following has been inserted into the narrative:

Author's Note: "Much has been written about Feral, principally by the notorious fantasist Ho Gan, little of it bearing any resemblance to actual events. As previously stated I rely solely upon the accounts of Precious Matson, who was intimately involved in events and whose veracity has been established."

And if you are wondering what that's all about, please be aware that Peter Hogan wrote spin-off stories in the nineties starring Feral after Johnny Alpha was killed off.  This explicitly writes those out of canon in a somewhat mean-spirited way.

They speak to the alien representative over video communications. It seems Feral is in prison for the destruction of a Garn spaceship and the slaughter of its crew, "Feral is now in the fattening cells being prepared for ritual immolation" They ask to speak to him but are told they cannot enter Garn because they have noses and thus are "unclean".

They plead with the alien saying they want to ask Feral about where the body of Johhny Alpha is.  This sways the alien as Johnny was instrumental in saving their Grand Inquisitor from the clutches of the Durran and is regarded as a hero. So they are allowed access to the prison alone, and when they get there they find he is extremely obese now and being force fed by the Garners.  They leave them alone with Feral and McNulty expresses his sympathy at seeing Feral like this.
Feral in the feeding cell.
Feral says that in a few days him and six others will be taken out, tied to stakes and ritually immolated which they believe will give their Grand Inquisitor continued good health.  Tommorrow they are coming to cut off his nose. He asks if there is anything they can do to help him, McNulty asks if he did the things they said and Feral says he did.  Precious says that there is nothing they can do for him.

They ask him about Johnny's body and Feral says he knows nothing, which enrages McNulty who shouts at him saying he wants the truth. Feral says "So you want the truth?  Funny, lies are usually enough for most people."  He says he won't tell them unless they bust him out.  This angers McNulty again, but Feral calls the guards to come take them away.

Next day the Garners come to cut off his nose.  Feral screams that it isn't right.  Two hooded priests come in and turn out to be McNulty and Precious in disguise.  They train weapons on the surgical team and tell them to get lost and end up alone with Feral again, this time he is willing to tell them everything that happened with Johnny.
Feral gives them the truth.
He says that Johnny had been struck blind when he went to face the creature on the other side of the portal.  He had a theory that the creature that was killing them could be split apart and that would reverse the direction of the portal, "just a flare, that's all he had.  The Churchers had missed it on the way in".

We then see the creature blown apart and Johnny lying there with Feral and Fish Wilson coming to his aid.  They took him through and tried to revive him but he wasn't breathing. But it was weird, he wasn't like a normal dead body, "all the life had drained out of him and yet... yet it was like there was some little ember burning inside."  He never went cold, he stayed warm to the touch, Feral had never seen anything like it.

He decided he couldn't take the chance of the Churchers getting hold of his body and using it as a trophy so he decided to take him to a healer he knew in the Badlands.  McNulty asks if he didn't stop to take a nibble of Johnny's heart. Feral laughs and says he just told that to Fish Wilson to frighten him.

Precious asks why he didn't tell McNulty about this when he met him a week later.  Feral says he couldn't trust anyone, he was suspicious of McNulty because while he and Johnny got caught and sent through the portal, McNulty got away.  This angers McNulty again who starts throttling Feral, but Precious tells him off and he stops.

Feral continues with his story, he took Johnny to the hermit healer who wasn't able to bring him back but told Feral that there was those out there who had powers greater than he, "have you ever heard of the Stone Wizards?"

Hermit: "They say they can create life itself.  Some believe they are the god that man has worshipped since he crawled from the swamp - the ones who seeded this planet.  Of course that's all tosh, but it's true that the Stone Wizards have powers beyond the ken of mere grubs like us."

Feral says the journey there would be long and difficult as the Stone Wizards are on Zen, the far side of the galaxy.  McNulty is disbelieving, saying that a mutant from the Milton Keynes ghetto with no cash wouldn't suddenly be able to speed across the galaxy, he's making the Stone Wizards up.  But Precious says they Wizards do exist she has read accounts from very reliable sources.

Feral says the hermit had a lot of contacts, including several Spacers and he travelled off Earth on a mutant crewed freighter. He has Johnny's body with him in a box, and he was barely out of the system when the crew opened the box and demanded to know what he was playing at.  Feral told them the truth and they believed him.  They passed him onto another freighter, then aboard an asteroid miner whose crew he didn't trust so he jumped ship at a way station near the Gargoniles.
Feral travelling across Zen.
To make the final leg of the journey he met an older woman "of sorts"on the way station.  She was very rich and took a shine to him, "oh the things we did together, it would make your stomach turn.  But I didn't have a choice.  I had to do it for Johnny".  She took him to Zen and waited for him while he went off to see the Wizards.  Precious asks if he found them and Feral says "in the end".

Zen was a strange place, the land itself was in a state of flux. He wandered for days and just as he was about to give up, he found them, "they just looked like... well, like pillars of stone." There was another pilgrim there who wanted the gift of invisibilty.  The wizards granted it but made him insubstantial as well and when the alien complains they tell him he should have been more specific.

Feral then stepped into the stone circle holding Johnny's body. He shouts that he has come to them whose magic is greater than the Lyrian sorcerers who did this to Johnny.  The Wizards examine Johnny and say that "soul-sucking is so passe... they really haven't progressed, have they?"

Feral says he pleaded and begged with the Wizards but they wouldn't help.  McNulty says he might be a "drunken bam" but he's experienced enough to know when he's not getting the full story. Feral admits that they would only bring Johnny back in exchange for Feral's life.  And of course Feral didn't agree to that. He left Johhny buried underneath a tree in a forest that had appeared overnight and carved a memorial to him on the tree and left him there on Zen.
Feral unable to make the final sacrifice.
McNulty asks him why he didn't come and tell him the truth, Feral says "you and the people had your legend.  Why should I spoil it?" McNulty says maybe the truth was more important and he's still not sure they're getting it all.  "Take it or leave it" shrugs Feral. He then says he's given them what they wanted, and he owes them for pulling his fat out of the fire with the Garners.

Precious knocks on the door saying actually "I'm afraid that was something we were not able to do". They had colluded with the Garners to pretend they were saving him so he'd talk.  As Feral rages, the head Garner says they did it for Johnny's benefit and McNulty thanks them.

Next day they are still on Garn waiting to get transport off planet. As Precious types up her notes, McNulty witnesses the execution of Feral - now minus his nose - through the window.  He is lead to a stake, tied to it, slathered in fat then flaming arrows are fired into him and he goes up like a torch.  Upset McNulty says Johnny would have found a way to rescue Feral and make things right with the Garners, "I'm no' half the he wuz. No' half the man".  Precious comforts him saying Feral paid for his crime, but McNulty is still miserable.
Later on a spaceship, Precious tells McNulty she'll finance a trip to Zen and accompany him as long as his excessive drinking stops.  McNulty agrees although he just wants one good bender to forget the Feral execution.  On the long journey to Zen, Precious finds more time to work on her book and the time spent with McNulty provided her with valuable stories of their adventures together.

Finally they reach Zen and ask how to get to the great forest.  They are told that it was last seen "upways" last, so they should head "sideways" to catch it when it swirls round. Precious is a bit dubious but McNulty says he's being told "nothing is certain oan Zen, but there's a good chance this time of year.  Maybe eighty percent.  Mak O' that what ye will".

They set out with some Zenian guides and rations for months of travel.  On the evening of the sixth day their guide sniffs the air and tastes the soil and predicts the forest would appear there so they make camp and wait.   That night the ground is in heavy flux and suddenly the forest appears not far away and they travel to it.

They hunt around and find the memorial carved on one of the trees, they dig and find the box that Johnny's body is inside.  McNulty stops and tells Precious he's brooded a lot about the bad things he's done and how he believes that if he'd gone through the portal he might have been able to save Johnny, "but I know I'd just huv chickened oot.  Because that's the kind o'man I am." And he takes a swig of some booze to fortify himself.
Johnny's grave discovered.
Precious says he's too hard on himself. She says it's the same reason he calls himself "Middenface" instead of "Archibald", for some reason he hates himself.  She says she spoken to people who have fought alongside him and have nothing but good to say about him. She wouldn't have enlisted his help if she had doubts about the kind of man he was.  McNulty says it's nice of her to say all that but it doesn't change the truth and they continue digging Johnny up.

They drag the box out of the ground and tentatively open it and find Johnny's body still in perfect condition. He's even still warm to the touch, Precious asks McNulty what it means.

McNulty: "He's no deid. He cannae be.  I know deid. I've seen deid mair than I care to remember.  An' that's - no - deid!"

They decide to take Johnny back to the Stone Wizards, he thinks he can talk them round.  Their guide seems to have buggered off so they set out to find the Wizards themselves or make it back to Port Hopeless to hire another one. They had brough solar generators to recharge the skimmers so they had plenty of time to look and finally after a lot of travel get back to the Port.

They rest up, then something unexpected happens.  A crowd forms and tells them the Stone Wizards are due the day after tommorrow and they are going to come with them. And so Precious, McNulty and Johnny's body travel out to the Wizards with the rest of the crowd who are coming to petition them for favours despite the capriciousness of the stony ones.

Finally it's McNulty's turn and he stands in the middle and after the Stone Wizards adjust to his dialect they ask if he thinks they got it wrong about Johnny, is he "crusin' fer a brusin'?"  McNulty says that he thinks Feral didn't give them the full story about Johnny.
McNulty pleads his case with the Wizards.
He tells them that as a teenager Johnny came to joing the fight for freedom, he had funny eyes and could see into a man's soul.  Oh and part of the deal is Johnny gets his sight back.  The Stone Wizards make a note. McNulty goes on to say Johnny fought like a lion, "he couldny stand injustice and cruelty", he never walked away from it, he'd always fight it and that's what brought him to this "sorry pass".

McNulty continues that after the war Johnny became a bounty hunter, but he never "shoot naebody who wouldny be the better fer a wee hole in the heid".

McNulty: "He a'ways took the side of the underdog.  Always tried tae protect folk who couldny stand up fer themsel's.  An' the whole o'mutantkind looked up tae him as a true hero.  An' when the end came - when the end came... sniff"

He tells the Stone Wizards that Johnny saved hundreds from Lyrian sorcery and that's how he ended up dead but not dead. He says there's something still alive in him and doesn't know if Johnny has been aware of what's been going on all this time and please could they help him?

The Stone Wizards say they get the picture, but the deal is the same the offered Feral, his life in exchange for Johnny's.  McNulty says as long as Johnny gets his eyes back he will take the deal, "Johnny Alpha's worth ten o'me and ye'd still get change". 

And Stone Wizards cause lightning to flicker round McNulty and also around Johnny while removing the remnants of the Lyrian sorcery inside him.  There is a huge flash of light and we end with Jonny kneeling outside the circle and Precious running up to him calling his name.  Cliffhanger!
He's back! But what of McNulty?
This was actually a pretty clever way of bringing Johnny Alpha back. It gives Feral a reason to lie about the state of Johnny's remains because he couldn't trust anyone with the secret bar one easily frightened fellow mutie. Of course if you were a reader who was at all invested in the nineties Feral stories you might feel hard done by as they are retconned out of existence and Feral himself subjected to an epic humilation conga.  Something makes me think John Wagner didn't think much of the character somehow.  The twists and turns of the investigation is exciting to read and the pairing of Precious as the sensible one and McNulty as the volatile one works very well.  It's sad to see how much self hatred consumes McNulty and it was obvious as soon as the fact it would take a sacrifice of another life to bring Johnny back that he'd offer himself up.  Some great sci-fi ideas with the planet of Zen and its shifting geography and of course I have to compliment Carlos Ezquerra's art and Hector Ezquerra's exquisite colouring job.  Carlos's art is as wonderful as it's ever been.  When he half arsed his arc of The Boys I worried that maybe he'd got worse over the years, but fortunately he hasn't and it feels very right seeing him drawing Strontium Dog again.  He'd already done some pre-Johnny Alpha's death stories with John Wagner prior to this, but drawing the events leading up to Johnny Alpha's return must have been very satisfying as he cared enough about the character not to draw his death back in 1990.  So how has being "dead" all this time affected Johnny? And is McNulty really dead himself?  Find out in the next UK comics month when I look at the next book in the series "The Project".


  1. If I put down everything I'm already thinking about this then my comment would be longer than your post! So I'll do it in installments as we get into our Socratic method style back and forth. :-)

    I'll start Meta before getting into the story itself. Now I must confess I was somewhat dubious when I heard they'd done that 'legends' idea to continue mors stories. I loved Strontium Dog. Possibly even more so than the stoic big chinned chap. It managed to be both brutally grim and hilarious in a way that even Dredd couldn't manage. And Wulf and the Gronk are two of my favourite ever characters.

    I was though so pleased when they killed Johnny off. Not because I wanted shut of the character. Quite the contrary. But I thought it demonstrated a real commitment to integrity and was such a brave move that they didn't do the American style comic book death. There may also be a bit of Brit-centric snobbery there. But it also really upped the stakes. In 2000AD consequences were real and permanent. It brought a real sense of seriousness to the stories. Anyone can die means nothing if you know 'meh, he'll be back in a month or two'.

    I remember a great thing in the letters page. Someone referenced a quiz that had appeared in one of the annuals. It was to see if you'd be fit to replace Tharg. The complaint was that they'd brought Ace Garp back from the dead; a move frowned upon in the quiz. Tharg's response was brilliant though. He pointed out that they'd originally dealt with Ace by introducing a new Ace from another dimension. He said that counted as 'create a fantastic new character' which earned 2 points. But then by finding 'a lazy and convoluted way of bringing (the original Ace) back from the dead' that got 2 points. Thus earning Tharg 7 points out of a possible 5.

    But this story is perfect. If I was that lass in Misery, John Wagner's ankle would remain unbroken. I'm not one for gatekeeping as you know, but I really do think it's like he's written this just for me. Presumably hes very in tune with what fans of a certain generation love. I'm even glad (sorry!) that he handwaved away the Feral stories then killed him. I hated them. They seemed to epitomise that time when the focus of the comic shifted to the sensibilities of angsty teenagers.

    All he needs to do now is find a way of bringing back Durham Red when she was just a Red Sonja expy rather than Queen of Goth (although a lot of my female friends loved that incarnation) and I'll be squeeing from here to the Milton Keynes ghetto.

    Also The Gronk.

  2. If Johnny was killed in 1990 I must have the story lurking in my pile, I assume I blanked it out because Carlos Ezquerra wasn't drawing in. I'll have to dig it out and give it a read.

    I must say staying "dead" for 20 years isn't bad going compared to US comics. And bringing him back works for me because as you say it isn't really the done thing in 2000AD and if anyone deserves to be resurrected it's Johnny ALpha.

    I really like McNulty in this story, there is a real tragic side to his self hatred and reasons he sacrifices himself. It's rare you get so much insight into someone who could just be written as a comedy drunk.

    As for Feral, I think even people like Garth Ennis who wrote a story with him complained he was a poor substitute for the real thing and he seems to sum up all that was wrong with "edgy" 90's characters.

  3. SD was great at creating side characters who had depth and complexity. Moreso than some other comics main characters. Archibald was a fan favourite, and one of mine too. He did start out a bit as comedy glaswegian. But he quickly developed.

    It's funny, but until this second I'd not realised that one of the main themes of SD was friendship!

    And it did it so wonderfully. First with Wulf (loved it when they figured out a way to make him an actual real Viking). Then with the Gronk. You could really believe they all loved each other. They weren't just sidekicks or secondary characters. Like with Middenface. A lot of times the 'willing to die for' trope is so hokey. You just end up thinking 'why would you do that? He wasn't that much of a mate'. It's just a Mary Sue type informed attribute that the lead character can inspire that level of deviotion (one of the few flaws in modern Dr Who). But here it's so understandable. Their relationship was that deep. And it's a nice contrast that Feral wasn't up for it (and again completely plausible). Whilst we're kicking Feral, I love that he's gone to seed a bit. Like 'ha, what have you got going for you now pretty boy?' It's like a commentary on the vacuousness and superficiality of those sorts of 90s characters.

    As to the story. Love that it's almost like an original from the 80s. With Ezquerra's art and even the colouring. It's a bit like Dr Who. I liked how the new series addressed some of the issues with the earlier stuff like plot holes and a one dimensional villains with no real motivations other than being the bad guys. But once the show had the confidence and success to just let writers like Gatiss write stuff that could be from that era with hissing baddies in rubber outfits it got perfect. Best of both worlds sort of thing. I'm all for innovation and experiment, but you don't always need to move with the times just for the sake of it. There's a reason the original worked and if it ain't broke...

    Just compare Sarah Jane Adventures with Class. We'll still be watching SJA in 50 years time, whereas Class will just be a forgotten rip off of shows (who's names I can't even remember) that,ironically, were themselves trying to jump on the Dr Who bandwagon.

    But this story wouldn't be out of place in Starlord. And that's a good thing.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Yeah, I like the fact the built up Johnny as the kind of mate you'd be willing to die for. Wagner and Ezquerra did several storylines set pre-death including one which showed how he lead an army barely out of his teens which helped build up to this one. I'll probably jump backwards at some point and cover them but I wanted to start with the storylines involved with Johnny's return first because they are just so good.

    As I put in a caption I think Feral ended up being the Scrappy of the Strontium Dog universe, a supposedly darker and more badass version of Johnny, yet he was just superficial and boring and didn't inspire the same loyalty that Johnny did.

    The colouring work on this story is gorgeous, compare and contrast with the rather half arsed colouring on the Zenith story, you can see how Hector's work enhances and compliments Carlos's beautifully.

    I haven't seen either the SJA adventures nor Class, due to the whole not having a TV service, but I only here good things about the SJA stories and think you are right about their longevity.

  6. SJA was brilliant (thanks IPlayer!) and so funny. Also got away with stuff that people would probably whinge about in the main series.

    Like when Clyde one of the, excellent, kid characters is transformed into 11's body and realises when he notices his hand.

    "Something's not right with my hand"

    "How can you tell?"

    "Well, *it should be black!*

  7. Heh, it's definitely something I need to catch up with at some point. I forsee watching it with nephew no.1. Kids TV is always most fun when you're actually watching it with a kid I think :)

  8. I love kids TV. There's a programme on CBeebies that teaches young children about medical issues. There's a real human doctor and like a muppet puppet kid. So funny the other day. She had a "weird noise" in her throat and was worried she might have swallowed a frog.

    "I don't think it's a frog"

    "It's something bigger!"

    "It's just a hiccup"

    "A hippo?"


    "You mean there's more than one of them!"

    I'm laughing now just thinking about that.

    Anyway I'll hit the hay and actually get back on topic with this rather excellent story tomorrow.

  9. Enjoy your sleep. My sleep patterns are abit disturbed right now, hence me up this late running around as a futuristic bionic cop.

  10. So... Just to be totally off-topic again, Marvel started to announce the comics in its new season / annual launch-relaunch wave thingy.

    They call it Marvel Legacy and... its seriously underwhelming.

    Lot less new series (maybe 4; Marvel NOWer had 20+), not enough info (like creative teams, why would those be important /s), a let's return to the status quo mentality, LEGACY FREAKING NUMBERING (why yes, making your comics even less followable will be just great for sales /s).

    But fortunately apparently Squirrel Girl will continue. As will Gwenpool. No sign of the Wasp though. Damn. :/

    It also teases the "Death of Thor" so the haters rejoiced... I've mixed feelings about the series but:
    1) Trolling was already employed by its marketing.
    2) It has three Thors.
    3) Since when is death a big thing for a main character in Thor? (Thor Odinson's latest death lasted less than a page.)

  11. Hmm one wonders if DC Rebirth has spooked them a bit. Unlike theNew 52 which saw initial high sales before they ended up tanking to levels below what they were at before the New 52 launched, Rebirth however seems to be doing better both commerically and critically. I admit I was all set to hate on they Rebirth stuff as several DCYou series I liked were cancelled or rebooted, but I've actually been pretty impressed by what little I've read so far. Also DC went back to legacy numbering with Detective Comics and Action comics, so there's this five year Dork Age stuck in there then back to business as usual.

    Good to know Squirrel Girl and Gwenpool have survived, but yes, Thor seems to spend the most time dead of any Marvel hero. Even Jean Grey didn't die as much as he does.

  12. Oh I did.

    Right, continuing my theme that this story deliberately sets out to be old school, I've noticed a few nods to the past.

    The story that really cemented SD for me was one where Johnny and Wulf ended up trapped in Hell. But Hell was just another dimension. It set the tone though for the sort of mixture of Sci Fi and mysticism that cropped up a lot in the series. Maybe magic, maybe mundane crossed with Clarke's third law. I see that reflected in this one.

    They were also good for truly bizarre aliens, but with a relatable culture. There might be some interdimensional tentacled hellbeast, but you could imagine them going to the shops and watching their equivalent of telly.

    The stone wizards remind be of a story where our heroes are searching for a bounty on a planet populated by living rock creatures. It appears that someone tries to kill them by lobbing a huge boulder at them. But when they turn round with guns drawn it's just a bunch of rock kids playing football.

    "Hey squishy, can we have our ball back please"

    The series managed to pull off weirdness as normal somewhat better than Dredd. Dredd is just an extrapolation of our world really. SD seemed truly unrelatable. I don't mean that in a bad way. It's like if I was transported into the future I could probably get by in Dredd's world after a few days brushing up on mega city one's version of Wikipedia. But I'd always be a fish out of water in SD. It's just such a different cultural paradigm.

    That's the case even when it's used as allegory for contemporary issues. Like racism and all the Kreeler arc. It's almost an uncanny valley effect. The similarities enhance the fundamental differences.

    The series was also darker and more cynical. But again in a good way. Dredd's universe is fundamentally a 'just world'. It flirts with cynicism but fundamentally it's classically heroic. In the SD world innocent bystanders get mowed down all the time and nobody cares. Certainly not our heroes (at least originally). Again, that hell story set the tone. The only way out is by way of some magic tickets. Wulf and Johnny are quite happy to do whatever it takes to get them, even if this entails tossing everyone else under a bus.

    I guess thats a reflection of his outcaster status. He can be very loyal to his mutant friends but fuck any members of normie society (hey, just realised that word). After all, they'd despise him.

    I am picking up vibes of all that in this story too.

    Coming up next: why the 'Quest' aspect is also so old school

  13. Spooked is probably an understatement. DC Rebirth caused their market share to fall considerably on the oh so important American comic store single issue ordering chart. How much? DC outsold Marvel for the first time in ages for several months. I think they're currently about equal.

    Marvel seems to be pretty set on blaming everybody else except themselves though. (The incredibly shitty events/meta plot stuff, marketing fails etc. had nothing to do with this! Surely.)

    They will go back to legacy numbering on: Hulk, Spider-Gwen (why?), Venom, Ultimates 2 ("fun" fact, this isn't in the Legacy lineup so far, so 9 -> 100... and then nothing? O.o), Amazing Spider-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America, Iron Man, Iron Fist, Black Panther, Daredevil... I might missed some. ^^;
    I'm so glad the only thing I read from these was Ultimates (even if the shadow of the cancellation is dark on the horizon).

    Thor and deaths: :3

  14. Time to take a break from being a very angry demi-god beating up all his old mate who betrayed him. 'tis a very Japanese game.

    @Malitia: I did wonder if that was the reason. In someways I wish Marvel and DC would stop dick measuring over sales figures, too many risk taking titles that sell fine by the standards of the indies get shit-canned before the first trades are listed on Amazon (hello DCYOu again). Renumbering does make my eyes twitch, but it seems to be the way things are nowadays where the Big Two is involved.

    @Alan: I know what you mean. There's something almost cosmopolitan about Strontium Dog, he and Wulf, then McNulty would happily jaunt to all different alien cultures and learn to operate within their jurisdictions and of course Johnny wasn't just a Strontium Dog he'd help out if needed as well as also being very pragmatic too and I like how that gives Precious and McNulty a chance to question and trick Feral because Johnny is considered a hero by the Garners, even though he did have a nose.

    I know if I ended up in Dredd's world I'd be down in the Low Life. As for the Strontium Dog's world, I'd like to have a go being a S/D agent. I'm quite good at fitting in and it would beat rotting away in some mutie ghetto on Earth.

  15. What would your mutation be?

    It's an interesting contrast with, say, xmen that SD mutations tend to be purely negative rather than giving you superpowers. Johnny of course being one of the rare exceptions. I think that gives an additional layer to the racism allegory. It is based on pure prejudice against an oppressed and vulnerable group. Whereas I can see a point that people might legitimately be concerned about 15 year olds having access to the equivalent of nuclear weaponry.

    I like your 'cosmopolitan' thing. It was interesting how they fit in with the mores and laws of different jurisdictions.

    Which reminds me. Have you heard Wil Wheaton's days of futurecast podcasts? They're hilarious commentaries about the early TNG episodes. I was just thinking about the 'Justice' one.

    But back to the story. The quest was a common early SD theme. They were essentially detectives so travelling from place to place picking up clues along the way makes sense of course. Nice to see it here. Although if true to form then it'll turn out Charity will have some ulterior motive for helping them so she'll dissappear for a bit before returning as actually the villain and end up having to be killed in the climax.

  16. Hmmm what sort of mutation would I like? Well I quite fancy looking liking a human/animal crossbreed. I quite fancy having a goat's head and legs. I'd have the special power of being able to nibble anything that I fancied :D

    I have the first doorstop S/D collection with all the Starlord suff. Really holds up and I seriously need to pick up the other volumes as you get some serious value for money with them. Of all the characters, Johnny Alpha is the one I want to catch up with most. Not Dredd, not Slaine, but ol' mutie eyes himself.

    I don't think Precious will turn out to be the baddie. She's an established mate of Johnny's and also has three boobs. If you can't trust a woman with three boobs, who can you trust?

  17. If Theresa May had stuck with that slogan she might have done better in the election.

    I seem to recall there was a goaty chap in SD. Billy the Kid if I remember correctly. Although I might just be imagining that. Goats are amazing though. You seen that clip of them bouncing on the metal sheeting?

    Didn't know Precious was an old mate. I'll stop being so suspicious then.'s when you drop your guard that they get you.

    The two things that would make this story perfect for me would be the use of one of those 'time bombs' and an appearance by the Gronk. Those bombs were like the iconic weapon. We need a shot of some unfortunate baddie suddenly finding himself in space after the planet has moved on.

    And the Gronk. One of my favourite all time characters. My poor heartses. I love that all inhabitants of the planet Blas in the Gallego system (clever little shout out there) are called the Gronk. I still remember a rather cute scene where the postgronk shouts "Telegram for the Gronk" and everyone present puts their hand up.

    But back to the friendship motif. The relationship between the Gronk and Wulf was so sweet. I even had a little snuffles when he was dying and asked Wulf to wear his fur. It's back to that cosmopolitan thing. It's a pretty alien idea, but the series really sells it. So much Sci Fi has that planet of hats thing. The writers just think 'give them a strange characteristic just to show they're alien'. Like it's the characterisation equivalent of gluing a rubber prosthetic to their noses. But here it's totally believable. It's one of those 'the doors dilated' little world building things. You instantly understand the Gronks have a culture. It's also quite clever that later Gronks they encounter recognise the fur somehow. It's subtle but it explains why they don't need individual names amongst themselves.

  18. That clip of goats on a metal sheet is hypnotic. Now you mention Billy the Kid I have vague memories. I was thinking more of the footsoldiers of the Chaos armies in Warhammer 40K myself though.

    Without wanting to spoil too much, Johnny has some healing to do to get his head back in the game. He has some PTSD somewhat understandably, but it isn't long before he's neck deep in another conspiracy to wipe out the UK mutant population.

    The Gronk was sweet, like I say I only have the first S/D collection so I haven't got as far as his then Wulf's demise's but yes the strip had a pretty deft way of making aliens seem alien. Even something like what is shown in this story of the Garner's thinking noses are unclean, well I don't think you'd see odd stuff like that on Star Trek.

  19. The Gronk is so funny, especially when (spoilers!!!) he takes a lesson in badass as they say. There was also a cute story with the 'Gronkinator' (does what it says on the tin).

    Ah, so you've not got to the Max Bubba story yet. You're in for a treat. Looking back there were some great arcs. 'tne Schikelgruber Grab' is an interesting take on the Hitler time travel exemption act. Durham Red's introduction is also funny. It's a bit dated now as it features Ronald Reagan but it's got a bit of a spitting image vibe. Also some wonderfully bewildered but sympathetic aliens. Wulf's (sort of) origin story is good too. In fact thinking about it I'm now getting so nostalgic. Some great baddies too. Hiss, Cuss, and Silent: the Stix brothers. Ooh, it's like I'm 12 again. Although that's pretty much my constant state of being anyway.

    Now I'm inspired to get some Electronux for the Nazi punching. Johnny was a pretty cool character back then. And he got to cop off with Durham. Or at least he would have had not Reagan opted to join them in the shower. :-)

    "Don't mind me folks"

  20. Incidentally Durham Red is a breed of cow. I love the quirky humour of that series.

  21. lol, I didn't know that about Durham Red :D

    In the collection I took this arc from there is a b/w one off called "What if Max Bubba hadn't killed Wulf?" Wulf still dies thanks to a combo of age and infirmity but he takes out Bubba with a hammer to the face and expires from natural causes fighting with Johnny to the last. It's very sweet. I'd like to see more "What Ifs?" in 2000AD.

    I'm thinking that maybe this year I'll ask mum for the rest of the S/D collections. You get a nice chunk of reading for your cash and I have plenty to catch up with. When I started reading 2000AD in the mid-80's I gravitated towards the weirder and edgier stuff like Nemesis, Bad Company and the ABC Warriors. But now in my old age I really appreciate the space opera with humour and bite that Strontium Dog has (Rogue Trooper is still boring though).

    Ah Electronux. As I say, I was also well into Warhamer 40K at the time and well remember sculpting little electronux onto a squad of human troopers and making up new cards for them as CQC fighters. Me and my best mate used to like inventing new rules and stuff for the game (then arguing about them) and always incorporated stuff other sci-fi universes we liked. I always felt the V.C.s must have been a bit of an influence on the look of the Space Marines at the start as well.

  22. 'what if' stories didn't seem to be a Brit comics thing, although I know it's popular with US ones. I'm not sure how I feel about them. I love real world counterfactuals. Especially military stuff like what would have happened if the Germans had gone ahead with Sealion. But that's more a contingency planning thing. The fiction that arises can be good though, like Fatherland and SS-GB.

    With comics though I'm not so sure. They're a great way of letting your imagination run riot. But at the same time it gets a little close to it was all a dream and perhaps more importantly it removes some of that 'permanent consequences' aspect that you know I've got a bit of a bee in my bonnet about. I know they're out of continuity, but I still find it easier to invest in a series if whatever happens is final and 'real'. Of course there can be good ways round that. Alternative timelines and parallel universes etc. Although that too can jar a bit. It's like there's a deep space nine episode (I think) where obrien gets killed but is just replaced with an alternate timeline version. And everyone carries on as before. It seems to devalue the characters a bit if they're just frangible products. I'll ponder further.

    But in the same vein it's why I think the constant rebooting that seems so common in US comics would jar a bit for me. It's a meta example of the comic book death syndrome. I like the fact there's one Dredd and he's pushing 70, with all that that entails. (I'm even a bit wary of the waiting in the wings Dredd replacements, although that first one, who's name I can't remember Kraken or something, was handled very well. Mainly because within story it became clear that he wasn't just a copy of Dredd)

    Speaking of reboots, why is Rogue Trooper always getting them. You're right, he's rubbish. Well maybe thats a bit unfair. Some of the early stories were very good. But they did eventually run out of steam. They should have ended the story when he found the traitor general.

    You share my tastes about nemesis etc. Those tales were very influential on me growing up. Although I did get into 'for gods sake pat give it a rest' when abc warriors went all chaos magic(k). Also they should have had more ro-jaws in it. He's a proper working class hero.

    (notwithstanding he hates actually doing any work)

  23. *nerd mode* Strictly speaking O'Brien was replaced by himself from a few hours in the future. What your describing is what happened in the Voyager episode "Deadlock" where a parallel ship gets stuck to the main series one and their Ensing Kim dies to be replaced by his parallel universe version. Voyager wasn't very good at examining the consequences of things like that. *nerd mode off*

    The US model of comics at least from the Big Two is so alien to how the UK model works I can see how hard it would be to adjust if it's not something you grew up with. The indies seem to be a bit better about it but then I found out Clean Room is restarting at issue one in the same seasonal model as Marvel and so that's thrown a spanner in that theory. Ah well, gonna be fun figuring out how to title all these rebooted trades for the blog >_<

    I wish I'd brought the Nemesis collection one when it was still in print, it gone out of print and now goes for silly money. I think I have most of what it covers in my Best Ofs but they tended to jump about a bit. Ah well, they should come back into print sometime again I hope.

  24. Hi. Sorry for the tardy response. Been snoozing and playing with that little bundle of fur and psychopathy I told you about previously. He's such a cheat. Just been lolling with my arm dangling so he could rub up and down it. Then *he* walks too far so my hand goes near his tail and I get bitten. Talk about a set up.

    Anyway yeah vaguely remember both of those episodes. Thanks for the correction. It's funny cos TNG did sort of understanding the psychological consequences thing with Picard and his Locutus based PTSD. But apparently voyager and ds9 crews weren't such a bunch of snowflakes. There's a novella called something like deathship that goes into the whole 'identity' thing when there ends up being more than one of you and other you dies. In that it's based on how long range teleportation works. Essentially original you stays put and an identical copy is created at the other end. It's very good in exploring the implications. Basically people who will have to experience that go through a load of psychological training and screening first. They're encouraged to give themselves unique middle names and never communicate with each other so they can all legitimately claim to be the 'real' one.

    Nemesis was one of the stories where I'd be really excited when a new installment came around. You may know it started out as tne pilot for something called 'Comic Rock' where stories were inspired by pop songs. Hence the original being 'going underground'. You never actually saw nemesis in that. Just tne blitzspear. And Torquey was just the head of the traffic police. Loved how it developed though. So wonderfully gothic. Especially the gothic empire arc. Perhaps unsurprisingly. But O'Neilll at his grotesque best. Grobbendonk was a great little character too. Purity Brown was interesting. It's not so much she was a comic crush for me. But, a bit like Halo, a sort of role model in terms of girls I'd grow up to like. As a snot nosed middle teenager I was both a little overawed by the thought that girls only a few years older than me could be so cool and together, but also inspired. Hmm, as mentioned these nostalgia trips are good for a bit of self analysis.

    I wonder also how much the series influenced my world view? I'd like to think I'd find fascism abhorrent anyway, but there's also that thing that you want to be on the 'good' (or at least 'cool') guys' side. Makes me wonder what the alt-right lot are reading. Any thoughts on that?

  25. That's OK, cats need their petting and savaging times. Not seeing much of my grouchy one, wait until he has to spend a week shut in mum's house again with two incumbents who HATE him. Mwhaaahaha!

    Later DS9 when it got into the Dominion War arc did do some better exploration of PTSD. I'm thinking of Nog who loses an arm and comes back to the station very messed up. Considering all the shit that Picard went through though, well me and my sister had this theory that contrary to what you see on screen, Troi must have been a shit hot counsellor to keep Picard in the Captains chair all that time without Starfleet forcing him out due to mental health concerns.

    Nemesis was great. You have to remember I started reading in 1986 so that was the period that the late John Hicklenton was drawing it and Torquemada was teaming up with actual skinheads, I have such vivid memories of Nemesis taking out a gang of "Oy Boys" and thought that yeah, Nemesis was something of a dick but he was on the right side. Ah, I need to sort out the massive pile of issues at the foot of the bed and reread those stories. Oddly I had a hard time at first taking to O'Neill's depiction of Nemesis and his world, it was so... weird and ugly. Now of course I love it because it's weird and ugly, but yeah still kicking myself over waiting too long to grab collection one.

  26. That's an interesting theory. Personally though I think it's just cos Picard is from Yorkshire, so he's just that hard. "Turned into a zombie robot; I've 'ad worse." What I want to know though is why in the series Troi is from Betazed but in the films she's from Tottenham?

    DS9 could be brilliant. Again I think it's that classic ST 3/3/3 rule. (Although voyager didn't seem to get the memo). They were lucky to have Avery Brooks though. Like Patrick Stewart he dragged what could just be schlocky escapism (not that there's anything wrong with that) into proper drama. Support cast was great too. I still love that bit with Troi's mum taking her wig off to cheer Odo up. And the running gag with Morn's off screen antics. I found the only relatable characters in voyager were the doctor and seven. Might be the actors as much as the writing but they seemed to be in a different league to everyone else.

    It seemed a bit odd when nemesis went down the time travel route. Similar problem to Slaine really. It's not that the stories were bad. Far from it. But they just paled a bit compared to the original setting. And the racism allegory lost a bit of impact when it became literal. Torquemada as space Hitler was one thing, as actual Hitler it became a bit obvious. The baroque weirdness was just such a good background. I loved it when they ran out of people to hate, so they targeted people with freckles. And the classic "You're all white men now!"

    There's a nice bit in a Robert Silverberg book. It's set in the far future with lots of aliens. Turns out racists just gave up because it got so complicated they had to use computers to work out who to be racist against.

    My favourite nemesis story was in a summer special. Remember reading it in Scarborough on holiday. Think it may have been his first actual appearance (outside the blitzspear). Some humans hang him. Then it's a real hammer house of horror style mysterious karmic deaths of the perpetrators. Was properly creepy, in a good EC comics way. But had that wonderful sense of the alien. O'Neilll at his grotesque best.

  27. I'm very fond of Voyager but only season five onwards because I fancy the arse of Seven of Nine and thought she brought with her a host of interesting story ideas. As for TNG, Picard was French (lol, he obviously wasn't, but it's canon). I admit the writing for Voyager was a total crapshoot but when it was good, it was very, very good and it's a shame it was so uneven because it had so much damn potential. I also liked it from a feminist perspective. A woman as Captain, a woman as Chief engineer, a woman in charge of her own special department (despite her catsuits!) so I get protective of Voyager in that respect as well.

    I guess with Nemesis it was the first time I had seen the ugliness of human prejudice confronted in the media I was consuming, and it sort of buttered me up for CRISIS a couple of years later. Of course I was being brought up as a proper lefty sort, but it helps to see your views valiadated in print especially when there was so much ugliness around in the 80's.

    My favourite Nemesis moment is actually a computer game my best mate had on his Amiga. I don't remember very much about it except it was very gory and we used to play it long into the wee small hours when I was staying over.

  28. "A woman as Captain, a woman as Chief engineer, a woman in charge of her own special department"

    No wonder they got lost. *ducks*. There were some very good episodes, especially for me, the ones with the doc and 7. I think the themes were very good. Basically, what is it to be human? ST really excelled when it went down the philosophical route. The actors helped so much to what that though. Not only was there a real chemistry between them, individually they had such a range of emotions. Jeri Ryan as Anneka was such a contrast to seven. She managed to portray two very different characters but you could also see the underlying commonality of person. It was a lovely balance. And Robert Picardo managed to find his own way. It would have been so easy just to riff off Spock or Data. It's perhaps ironic that the two least 'human' characters were also the most relatable and sympathetic. I did feel sorry for Kate Mulgrew. She's a great actress and did get occasional chances to shine.. But she was so let down by the writing. It was all over the place. And sometimes she was portrayed as borderline incompetent. It's the most blaring example of "Phh, women eh?"in start trek. And I'm including the TOS episode where the lass goes mad because women can't be captains. It was almost like some MRAs got to write a sequel to that to prove the point.

    2000AD eventually got great at exploring social justice issues. I think it did it even better than Crisis (which could get a bit in your face and worthy at times). I remember as far back as the cursed earth saga when dress showed he was actually human and decent with Tweak the alien. That was a proper 'humans are the real bastards' story. Even the original Robot Wars started out as a great allegory for slavery. Of course then it just got into chainsaw battles with Call-Me-Kenneth. But not bad for a 1977 kids comic.

    In fact I think if 2000AD has an underlying philosophy it's that it's always been on the side of the outsider and non conforming (as opposed to non conformist). It's the comic of the underdog. Quite literally in the case of Strontium Dogs (I like how I managed to segway back to that). Perhaps that's it's legacy from Action and even Jinty. A lot of the other comics at the time may have been aspirational, but in an escapist way. The characters were always elite in some way. The only pre Action working class hero I can think of was Alf Tupper ("the tough of the track"). But action really changed that. Roy of the Rovers played top level football and lived in an appropriate leafy subnet be mansion. Lefty (Action's footballing hero) played in a bottom of the league team and had a full time job. Both comics I think played into that 70s almost class war vibe. Bit like punk and ska. Stop dividing on tribal lines. The message was always 'remember who the real enemy is'. I'm not surprised then that it had such a strong anti racist vibe.

  29. Boooo! Throws rotten vegetables at Alan :D

    Kate Mulgrew had a theory that Janeway basically had a nervous breakdown in private not long after they got catapaulted in the Delta Quadrant and the rest of the series was her suffering from severe mood swings, to explain the schizophrenic writing. I really like Janeway for all her flaws, but was saddened to find out she LOATHED Jeri Ryan absolutely loathed her. Which I find amazing because they had so much chemistry together on screen they were the most shipped couple in the series by miles when I was hanging out on the Trek Smut fan-fiction site during the series (and also, may I fess up to writing some J/7 fanfic myself? Fortunately I managed to take it down sometime later and no one has to know about my embarassing fiction skills). Anyway, if you're interested I've covered three TNG miniseries on this blog, which are all uniformly terrible. They're under the Star Trek Next Generation tag if you have a boring half hour to fill.

    You're right I think in retrospect that 2000AD handled social issues a bit more gracefully than CRISIS, although it was CRISIS that got me to join Amnesty which I am still a member of today. I guess it was because it used fantasy and allegory to make its points rather than just baldly stating things, although I still think CRISIS deserves much credit for having a black woman protagonist in one story and dealt with gay man, bisexual man, hetro black woman love triangle in a way that would have US comic fans taking to their fainting couches.

  30. Ooh, didn't know that about Kate and Jeri (hmm, now I'm envisaging them chasing each other round with brooms and frying pans). Am a bit surprised. Like you say they did have good onscreen chemistry. Mind you, it's not uncommon for some of the best creative collaborators to hate each other, in any field. Sometimes that tension can even add to the energy. The Police used to kick the shit out of each other all the time. (Andy Summers says if he had his time in the Police again he wouldn't change a thing, "except the drummer and the bass player")

    But ST backstage shenanigans are always interesting. I'll plug Wil Wheaton's podcasts again. But also recommend Bill Shatner's books. They're hilarious but also incredibly candid. He's so honest about being a twat and not realising it. There's a very touching bit where nichelle nichols opens up her heart about how much she hated him. He's obviously hurt but totally sees her point. And of course George is fantastic "Bill, it's pronounced Takei. Rhymes with toupee."

    Shame you've removed your fiction. I'd love to read it. I've never read any slash fic. Unless you count the official novelisation of star trek the motion picture. (That really flirts with the idea). That's actually a clever book all round. It explains away some of the odder TOS stuff by just assuming Kirk made stuff up in the log "First officer's brain stolen? Had you been on the Romulan ale again?"

    Yeah Crisis could get a bit student union at times. I think there's maybe a class thing going on. Like crisis was middle class kids being all earnest and 2000AD was street kids getting into fights with Nazis but then having a laugh about it over some glue sniffing.

  31. I can't find the bloody link where I read it, but it was a very candid interview with Ryan. She also has a good lol over the fact she was pretty much shat on by the whole cast until she started dating one of the producers (Brannon Braga) and after that all bar Mulgrew were a bit nicer to her.

    Also this Trek talk has inspired me to binge watch SF Debris Star Trek reviews. I really love his characterisation of Janeway as a tyrant who trolls and tortures the crew for the epic lulz and has an invisible spider in a cowboy hat sitting on her shoulder who gives her advice. And his characterisation of Worf in TNG as somewhat obsessed with people filling out accident forms.

    You really wouldn't like to have read my fic, about the only bad fic mistake it didn't make was a self insert character. I honestly think my first HDD combusted in shame to fully erase it from this Earth. There's plenty of places to read fanfic, the Trek Smut archive is still up but hasn't been updated in about a decade. The best place for fanfiction of any show is That's my usual go to place. You can sort via age ratings so if you just want some non sexual storytelling you can get that, if you want hardcore full on banging you just sort by Mature, pick your preferred pairing and go nuts!

    CRISIS came along at just the right time for me, I was a bit more politically active than your average 13 year old, and I think it had some good stuff, Troubled Souls and True Faith are my favourites but c'mon, that was obvious. Say we haven't had any Garth Ennis for a while, must rectify that next month.

  32. I wonder why they didn't like her? Was that just newcomer stealing all the limelight? Surprised dating one of the producers helped there. No matter how much they pretended to like her to her face.

    You ever seen the Frasier spoof of Voyager. Very funny. Especially Martin's chair on the bridge. I also recommend 'cockney star trek'. 'avin' a bit of a tear up with the klingons. They're proper naughty.

    You have got me thinking now about the difference in politics (or perhaps more accurately the expression of political ideology) between Crisis, 2000AD and Action. I'll ponder that further. I think it's an interesting subject.

    I do remember someone complaining about the portrayal of an Irish character in Crisis. They thought it was an offensive stereotype. Then loads of actual Irish people responding.

    "Have you even been to Kilburn High Road. You can't move for people like that."


  34. Well the reason Mulgrew objected was actually a feminist one. She'd been sold this series as having strong female characters and thought having someone with a nice rack in catsuits cheapened that. As for the others, lack of characterisation prior to her coming aboard and then her being a) an amazing actress and b) a very compelling one to write about lead to really the show ending up focusing on just her, Janeway and the Doctor. Robert Beltram was particularly vocal about his lack of decent episodes, so to spite him that's why the randomly shipped him and Seven together about eight episodes prior to the end of the series. Unlike TNG it really wasn't a happy set at all. Sad really.

    I reckon the portrayal of the Irish character complained about was Ennis's for A Few Troubles More, that really plays up the comedy Irishman stereotypes.

  35. Yeah he was the guy in the green suit with the red hair. It's almost impossible to stereotype the Irish though. They (we?) love all that. It's like Yorkshire people.

    Seven was obviously a bit eye candy, but she was also (moreso) a genuinely interesting character. Pity they didn't get on. Notwithstanding my comments about how tension can often produce brilliant results, I love how the TNG cast all still get on. I'm not usually one for conferences but there are some great YouTube vids of that lot. Very funny. And it's nice how they all take the piss out of each other. I do like Mariana Sirtis though when she gets hammered and just acts like your drunk mate in the pub. I'm just amazed she hasn't started a fight yet. I'm glad Wil Wheaton's back on board with them now too. He does seem like a genuine bloke.

    Ooh, I'm a proper weeaboo now btw. Had some of those pocky things. Fucking horrible. And I'll happily eat dog chocolate.

  36. Marina Sirtis is great. I know she's officially American now, but she still sounds like a cockerney in interviews. You know why she was saddled with that daft accent in TNG? She was told they couldn't have two Brits on the Bridge. Her protestations that Picard was French didn't fly. Of course neither her mum or dad in the show spoke anything other than standard USian, leading me to conclude she went to some awful Betazoid boarding school and had an aristocratic accent beaten into her which she decided to keep to annoy her mum. You may have noticed I theorise a lot about Star Trek characters, I AM NERD.

    I've never taken to Pocky myself. I do like all the gel sweets Japan churns out though, mind you I am eating a low sugar diet right now which sucks because I have an incredible sweet tooth and Macclesfield has a Proper Sweetie Shop that sells all the stuff you remember being in corner shops as a kid tempting me.

  37. I like a bit of fan theorising. You know I do that a bit with sherlock holmes. As for Troi I'm just going to assume she picked up that Israeli accent because her mum packed her off to the Betazed equivalent of a kibbutz for a few years.

    Speaking of Japan though...

    BBC4 is having a mini Japanese season. Some great stuff on IPlayer. The art documentaries are fascinating. I'm not a big fan of figurative art, but I can appreciate the technical analysis. It's like how I love David Hockney's commentaries on western art. He's actually in one of the Japanese documentaries as it happens.

    One thing you might find interesting is that the original Disney artists were heavily influenced by a particular Japanese style of art. So I guess it's gone full circle now. But it's funny how some expert explanation can put a whole new slant on things. There's a famous painting called The Wave. You've almost certainly seen it (there were 8,000 copies of it made even originally!). I've always thought it was a bit meh. But when someone points out that in Japan you read from right to left...Wow! It's like a totally different painting. Culture eh?

    Also just been watching a doc called Tokyo Girls. It's about that otaku culture. Manages to make Tokyo look like the most depressing place on the planet. It's like a combination of weaponised paedophilia and desperation. You don't know whether to feel sorry for these guys or start some sort of register. The girls are interesting too. You could get diabetes just looking at them. It's almost a parody of that Japanese cuteness thing. Although in real life some of them really have their heads screwed on and are pretty funny. They're very self aware with completely normal mum and dads who are just having a bit of fun and earning a bit of cash (singing nauseatingly twee pop songs) before finishing university. I have now though learned the Japanese word for 'encore'.

    It's 'encore'.

    (Also I'd quite like a pachinko machine. They look fun)

  38. Funny you should mention Japan, I've just uploaded my final post of the month, a Dirty Frank tale with a distictly Nipponese flavour.

    I have no allusions about Tokyo ever since I watched an anime called Welcome To The NHK which is all about what hikkikomori life is like in the city. It's a satire but the main character is just so unhappy that it's considered a happy ending when he manages to get a menial job at the end. Has an interesting deconstruction of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl Archetype and the extreme Otaku as well.

    Also you might want to check out an anime film made in the mid-nineties about a saccharine pop starlet who starts trying to make it as a serious artist. Predicted all sorts of things about how the internet could be used as a persecution tool as well as having an obssessed incel as one of the villains.

    I am going to watch those programmes on Japanese art as I'll be over at mum's for a few days cat sitting and she has iplayer. She said they were well worth a watch too, so you're in good company (I've forced her to watch an awful lot of anime).

  39. The film is called Perfect Blue, dunno how I managed to miss typing that.