I started college in 1990, which makes me officially middle-aged, but also means that I encountered a magazine called Deadline soon after it launched. Deadline was home to many awesome things (Milk & Cheese, Wired World, Hugo Tate, etc.) but one of those things grabbed my teenage heart by the left ventricle and never let go: Tank Girl, the foul-mouthed, post-apocalyptic creation of Jamie Hewlett and Alan Martin.
It’s hard to put into words what Tank Girl means to me, but I will try anyway, because this is happening and I am so freaking excited I had to post about it.
In 1990, I was an awkward, gawky, pudgy lass (not much has changed), bespectacled and uncool in the extreme. I had bad hair, worse dress sense and an over-riding fear of being disliked.Then, there was this chick in a comic book; bald, obnoxious, quick to anger, smelly and snarky as fuck. She got pissed off at people and shot them, ran them over, dropped them off cliffs. She was fiercely loyal to and protective of her friends and didn’t give a flying fuck about anyone else. And she was hilarious to boot. I loved her.
Over the course of a couple of years in college, I came out of my shell a bit – mostly through actually coming out. I gave up on trying to be what anyone else wanted me to be and just was myself instead. I wasn’t butch or femme enough to be easily categorized on the scene in Dublin, which was somewhat of a problem at the time. I flat-out refused to go to women-only events and was mostly to be found hanging out club kid style at the more mixed clubs that existed at the time. I got aggro from gay women for having gay men and drag queens as friends, I got aggro for going to mixed clubs instead of “supporting women-only spaces” (It feels weird to go places I can’t bring all my friends?), I got aggro all round for having a shaved head and not “dressing the part” (What about my Katherine Hamnett moleskin jeans offends you, exactly, sweetie?). Through all of the lectures directed at me by complete strangers I would imagine Tank Girl standing behind them, making rude gestures and feeding me put-downs. Eventually the lectures stopped and I was left alone, finally “allowed” to just be me.
I was the most “me” of all at a club night on Sundays called the Horny Organ Tribe (H.O.T) and at the monthly events they ran for a while (Elevator). Hanging out with a boho mix of art students, DJs and sundry other clubtastic types. For Elevator, someone hit on the idea of having me work security on the door. As Tank Girl. Needless to say, I jumped at the chance. Got the hair, got the outfit, did the makeup, applied the band aid and showed up brandishing a bright pink water pistol. Custodian of the guest list, I spent the first couple of hours pointing the (filled) water pistol at the crotches of blokes who were not on the guest list and offering them the option to “Pay or pee-stain?”.
A couple of the guys had built a throne for me in the chill-out room, somewhere I could flop when I’d had enough dancing. It had an electric fire beside it, and a kettle that I could use to make coffee or tea. Once people got wind of the kettle they inevitably wanted a cuppa, so a weird barter system was born. A story, a present or a joke scored you a cuppa. I would wind up surrounded by a bunch of people sipping from Styrofoam cups and swapping tales while bathed in the glow of a three-bar electric fire. Those were some of the best nights of my life, and they would never have happened (at least not in that way) if it wasn’t for Alan and Jamie and the awesomeness that is Tank Girl.
Today, most people know Tank Girl because of the 1995 movie starring Lori Petty (Emily Lloyd dropped out, possibly because she didn’t want to shave her head, which…just…boo!), Naomi Watts, Malcolm McDowell and Ice T, among others. There were two great things about the movie: the comic book art sequences (drawn by the Hewll) and the soundtrack. The rest of it (and this is not a diss on the director Rachel Talalay, who did her best up against a studio that freaked out when test audiences didn’t “get it”) was meh at best and bowdlerized as feck at worst. Was the Rain Lady supposed to be Sub Girl? Why was Jet Girl clever all of a sudden (forgivable since Naomi Watts was great)? I would dearly love to see a director’s cut of it someday because there were hints of greatness there, gleaming amid the good-natured shambles it ended up being after all the re-cuts.
I own the movie, I own the soundtrack, I bought the spin-off merch (Red or Dead Booga boots FTW!) trading cards and comics, but I still felt a little sad that my beloved Tanky had been done wrong by Hollywood, and doubly so for Alan and Jamie who had been so excited about the whole thing in all of the interviews I’d read. If simple little fangirl me was sad, they must have been gutted.
Over the past decades I’ve kept up with Tank Girl in all her incarnations, I’ve bought books and poster magazines and t-shirts, but even though some of the recent artists have been outstanding (and Alan is as funny a writer as ever), a part of me has wondered about what the Hewll would bring to TG now, after all his work with Gorrilaz. I was beyond stoked when Alan posted a new image of TG drawn by Jamie on Facebook last year, and hoped against hope that it meant a new old-school Tanky adventure could be in the offing…and eventually, it was, it is. Oh happy day!
The Kickstarter has raised so much money so damn quickly that it has de-atrophied my cynical old heart. I pledged as much as I could (goddamn unemployment) and am as excited as teenage me was about a new issue of Deadline, except I’ll have to wait a bit longer for it. I can do patient when the rewards are as awesome as these, and when the postie finally arrives (sometime in November, probably) with my Jambag and my book I will squeeee loudly enough to be heard from space and wear a hole in the carpet doing a happy jig.
Tl;dr: Alan Martin and Jamie Hewlett made a thing that changed my life, and I still love them for it.