2000 AD Prog Slog

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Prog 465

There’s no way I can continue to deny it to myself; Wulf Sternhammer is dead. Johnny Alpha’s loyal partner from Strontium Dog after being staked out onto the ground twenty weeks ago has, this prog, broken free only to get shot dead by Max Bubba and his mutie henchmen. That bastard! I suppose someone else reading this story for the first time at this point might say, “he could still be alive. Maybe something we haven’t thought of has happened enabling him to survive” but I remember encountering this tale twenty two years ago. Wulf is definitely dead; for at least fourteen years, anyway.

I loved Wulf. Wulf was funny and, more importantly, very loyal to Johnny. This was an important relationship in 2000 AD. Other major character relationships contain a heavy dose of cynicism (ACE and the rest of the crew of the Speedo Ghost, for example), a resentful dependability (Rogue Trooper and his bio-chip buddies) or were non existent altogether (Judge Dredd). 2000 AD readers deserved a friendship between characters that was genuine and sincere.

Why Wagner, Grant and Ezquerra decided to do away with Wulf, I can only speculate. Were the writers one-upping each other? Were they daring each other to kill Wulf but never really believing that the other would do it? Maybe they did it to engage more cynical readers with the thrills in 2000 AD. No one really believed that a character as liked as Wulf would actually be written out. If they could do it to Wulf then they could do it to anyone. Perhaps they did it because Wulf’s role as a partner to the otherwise silent Johnny was becoming redundant since the introduction of characters such as Middenface McNulty.

I can’t help but find myself drawing comparisons between the events in this story and those in mainstream American comics during 2008 where the killing off of previously untouchable characters is becoming a trend. The twenty part flash back recounting the story of Johnny and Wulf’s first meeting is a good example of comic strip decompressed story telling except done well. Every action has been choreographed, every line of dialogue considered, every moment savoured. You can see that Wulf’s killing, as senseless as it might be (which could be the point) came about not in an attempt to generate publicity for Strontium Dog and 2000 AD but to engage the reader.

Wulf Sternhammer; may Valhalla welcome you, old cucumber.

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  • *Sniff*

    By Blogger Mark, at 9:13 pm  

  • *sniff* So long, Wulf. Johnny will get them.

    By Blogger Drhoz, at 3:13 am  

  • Sorry Guys, I didn't mean to open old wounds.

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 6:05 pm  

  • I really like your analysis of the Wulf-Johnny friendship versus the other 2000 AD relationships. The No-Go Job and The Final Solution, when Wulf was already dead, were my introduction to the Strontium Dog series, and I still mourned Wulf when I went further back into the series, got to know the character, and caught up with his death. Unfortunately, in comics, real affection all too often is introduced merely to be turned into sacrifice for "character building". That there was a genuine, existing friendship that was also turned into sacrifice just to "deepen" the surviving character is very disappointing.

    By Blogger Sheryl, at 12:52 am  

  • It was a brave move but, in hindsight, I think Strontium Dog was a lesser story once Wulf went - and this from a big Middenface McNulty fan! Johnny, certainly initially, became very morose, very like Dirty Harry and the fun went out of the strip.

    By Blogger dmstarz, at 4:52 pm  

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