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Comic Book Review

Book Cover

Tank Girl
Full Colour Classics #1


Writers: Jamie Hewlett and Alan Martin
Artist: Jamie Hewlett
Colourist: Tracy Bailey
Publisher: Titan Comics
RRP: UK £4.60, US $6.99
Age: 17+
64 pages
Publication Date: 02 May 2018

Thirty years ago, the dynamic partnership of Jamie Hewlett and Alan Martin created the first Tank Girl comics in glorious black and white. Now we present those punky, manic, seminal strips in full colour, just as Hewlett and Martin would’ve liked to have seen them three decades ago! Compiled into six indispensable collector’s comic books, these prestige editions come packed with contemporary covers, and rare and unseen artwork…

Thirty years… crikey! It’s hard to imagine it’s been that long. I remember those early days, when Tank Girl first appeared in the pages of Deadline magazine, a publication that was the brainchild of Brett Ewins and Steve Dillon. I came by the first issue courtesy of a friend (the editor of this very website, as it happens), who had bought it but didn’t much care for it. I loved it, though, and remained a dedicated follower for a good few years – not just of Tank Girl, but also of other strips, such as Hugo Tate, B-Bop and Lula and especially Wired World (go on, Titan, reprint that as well… please).

This miniseries collects all of Tank Girl’s Deadline appearances, with new colours by Tracy Bailey. This opening issue contains the first seven strips.

It is apparent in these initial episodes that artist Jamie Hewlett was inspired by the work of Brendan McCarthy, Brett Ewins (one villainous character on page 36 seems to be actually drawn by Ewins) and Kevin O’Neill (there are lots of wacky little creatures dotted around the panels), but his art quickly establishes an unmistakably zany style of its own.

The stories range from just plain odd to laugh-out-loud funny. They are loaded with comical sexuality, violence (several characters burst as Tank Girl’s vehicle trundles over them) and post-modern winks to the audience. “How come I can hear everything he’s saying?” wonders Tank Girl as she pursues a wanted criminal, “Must be something to do with comics and all that crap!” A joke involving Jimmy Savile has not aged so well (or has it? After all, he is linked with the Devil here), but for the most part the anarchic humour is timeless.

Many a male reader fell in love with the adventuress’s sexy yet grungy outfits – or the increasing lack thereof. There’s no denying the appeal of seeing our heroine ‘in the pink’ during her numerous nudes scenes in this colour edition – ideal for the “bathroom bashing” that Tank Girl accuses her creators and readers of indulging in! Meanwhile, women appreciated the character’s in-yer-face attitude, as she takes no crap from anyone, not even Satan, and ruthlessly dominates her marsupial boyfriend, Booga. Interestingly, Booga does not appear until the fifth episode, though the first adventure clearly establishes Tank Girl’s attraction towards kangaroos. The final instalment in this issue hints at a higher purpose behind the heroine’s existence (well, it couldn’t get any lower), presenting her as some kind of Aboriginal Earth mother.

One thing I’d forgotten is that Alan Martin did not write all the stories to begin with. Many of these episodes are written or co-written by Hewlett, with various others credited for supplying plot ideas. By way of balance, there’s a bonus one-page non-Tank Girl strip (which has not been coloured), entitled I am Beatnik, written by Martin without Hewlett – the art on this one is by Wired World’s Philip Bond.

It has to be said that neither Hewlett nor Martin is terribly good at spelling or punctuation, with textual howlers including words such as “wreckless” (in fact, Tank Girl’s antics result in plenty of wrecks!) and “Sidney” (meaning the Australian city), and countless unnecessary possessive esses. Still, flawless English is not why we are here, is it?

Bailey’s colour work is mostly very successful at bringing Tank Girl’s adventures to life, in a style that is appropriate to their vintage – the colours have hard edges, with no fancy vignettes. However, she is occasionally misled by the eccentricities of Hewlett’s art. For example, when a character leaps from a great height on page 13, the artist makes him stand out against the rocks in the background by surrounding him with a ‘halo’ of white space. Bailey colours this in the same blue as the sky, but it would have been preferable to instead extend the colour of the rocks, to maintain continuity with the previous frame, or keep the bright halo. On page 18 (the opener to the third episode), the colourist seems oblivious to a subtle lightning effect that Hewlett has radiating out from the figure of Tank Girl. It’s a tough gig, as Hewlett’s work often deliberately defies complete visual sense (for instance, eschewing background detail to emphasise foreground action), and for the most part Bailey does a good job of navigating his anarchic landscape.

This issue also includes colour photographs of the creators and their friends from the late 1980s, Deadline covers by Hewlett (as originally coloured by the artist), the aforementioned I am Beatnik strip, and a lovely promotional image of Tank Girl by Steve Dillon.

The strips in this issue have previously appeared in a number of anthologies, such as Tank Girl and Tank Girl One, so you might not want to buy the same content all over again if you already own it, colours or no colours. However, if you’ve never before had the chance to enjoy these classic adventures, or you’ve misplaced your previous collection, then load this comic book into your tank and trundle it home.


Richard McGinlay

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