FCBD INTERVIEW: Alec Worley on 'Strontium Dog'

Writer of 'young Alpha' for 2000 AD's all-ages title discusses the 'Strontium Pup'

1 year ago

When you head into your local comic shop this Saturday 5th May for the fabulous Free Comic Book Day, be on the lookout for the most zarjaz thing on the racks: 2000AD REGENED!

The FCBD issue of 2000 AD this year takes the great characters you know and love and delivers them in all-ages style. And one of the classic characters is Johnny Alpha, the Strontium Dog.

The mutant bounty hunter with the X-Ray eyes is on a mission to capture Carrion Jones ('The Zombie Master') and earn his place amongst the Strontium Dogs. All he has to do is convince an uptight robo-examiner he’s up to scratch..

Richard Bruton sat down with writer Alec Worley to talk Strontium Dog and REGENED...

What were the special challenges for you in transforming the hard-bitten world of the Strontium Dogs for an all-ages audience?

Alec Worley: No challenges at all, if I’m honest! The original strip was written for little boys in the ‘70s. It was just a case of going back, re-reading the originals, defining their core appeal and reframing that for modern ‘middle-graders’. Sticking to the original premise, the emphasis had to be action, humour, awesome gadgets, and mutant craziness. It’s really not a million miles away from the tone of modern children’s TV like TMNT, Ninjago and the new Dangermouse.

You have a lot of fun with the characters around Johnny; the pompous Carrion Jones, his cybernetic slime sidekick Blobba "Sicknote" Jobson, and, best of all, Johnny’s cyber-examiner. Compared to this, Johnny himself is the archetypal serious hero, desperate to get the job done and earn his SD tags. He really does strike a perfect pose as the Saturday morning kids' TV show hero here. Is this something that you were aiming for?

AW: I was definitely trying to posit Johnny in that Saturday Morning Cartoon mode. In this regard, bringing his age down – from adult to teen – was crucial. Child readers have changed since the ‘70s, and modern children find it much easier to relate to people their own age or slightly older. Culturally, there’s perhaps a British post-war thing going on there. Look at how children brought up in the ‘50s were happy to identify with the adult Dan Dare – in a way that I simply cannot imagine now.

Now that we've seen Johnny earn his SD tags, can you see yourself pitching for more all-ages Strontium Dog tales?

AW: With Strontium Dog, I honestly think there’s bags of potential there to carry on the property for younger readers. Unlike Dredd, who’s all about the law and conformity, Johnny is all about being different, the outsider, the chosen one with special powers. It’s absolutely tailor-made for younger readers’ comics or animation. I haven’t been asked to develop anything yet, but the premise of Strontium Dog is so strong, it’s one of those ‘plug-in’ premises: the world is all there, just plug the character into an interesting situation or give him a cool adversary and you’re away!

If it were up to me, he’d definitely need a Wulf as a sidekick. If you’re going by the archetypal triumvirate you see in things like Harry Potter, Trollhunters and wotnot: it needs to be: 1.) the hero [Johnny], 2.) his dorky mate [Wulf], and 3.) the girl [Durham Red...?].

Seriously, Strontium Dog is tailor made for this sort of thing. There’s so much you could do with it; so many places you could go. It’s a prime property for Rebellion and it really was an honour to be asked to work on it!

If I'm right about this, we haven't seen tales of Johnny Alpha's life pre-Strontium Dog. A little research tells me that Johnny was part of the mutant uprising aged 17 in 2167.
So although this might be WAY too continuity focused, where do you slot this young Johnny story?

AW: I’ll be honest, I ignored all that! Older readers have got the Wagner/Ezquerra strip in the Prog. This is for a brand-new readership and I feel it needs to be all theirs! So – beyond what’s laid down in the premise – this had to be blissfully continuity-free. The show Star Wars Rebels was a big influence here. What’s so amazing about that show is that it’s so light on its feet. The only baggage it carries is its own. It cuts to the heart of what gave the original trilogy its vigour, but built upon it with such amazing emotional intensity that really made you care. (More so than any of the new movies.) It’s about recognising the archetypal appeal of the original and making it feel brand new again. Ben’s art helped a LOT in that respect!