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Comic Book Review

Book Cover

Tank Girl
Full Colour Classics #3


Writer: Alan Martin
Artist: Jamie Hewlett
New colours by: Tracy Bailey and Sofie Dodgson
Publisher: Titan Comics
RRP: UK £4.60, US $6.99
Age: 17+
68 pages
Publication Date: 05 June 2019

Dive in to a full year of classic Tank Girl from co-creators Alan Martin and Jamie Hewlett of Gorillaz! Enjoy the wild adventures of the original punk icon, as they were always intended to be seen! This time Tank Girl is imprisoned in an insane asylum and a boarding school. Then she enjoys the liberation of summer holidays in the West Country and the Gold Coast – though she never quite makes it to Ringarooma Bay…

There is some evidence in this collection of comic strips (which were originally published in Deadline magazine between early 1990 and early 1991) to suggest that, by this time, Jamie Hewlett and Alan Martin were beginning to get bored with the original Tank Girl concept or were running out of ideas for it.

Indeed, when the start of the second episode, Force Ten to Ringarooma Bay, takes a hairpin change of direction, our heroine is forced to ask her creators, “What’s going on with this strip? What happened to all the violence and grog supping promised at the end of the last story? Are we gonna do this bloody comic or what?” In reply, Martin says that he is “a bit worried about us slipping down the comics lavatory. If we don’t keep a check on ourselves, our work will end up looking like a piece of proverbial ‘old dog poo’, just like every other comic on the market…”

Though they are still a lot of fun, the stories herein deviate considerably from what had gone before. Tank Girl herself spends relatively little time in her usual Australian Outback setting. She finds herself locked up in a Bedlam-style psychiatric institution in I’ve Got Friends at Bell’s End. The confinement theme continues when Force Ten to Ringarooma Bay segues into Half a Pound of Tuppenny Rice, an affectionate tribute to The Prisoner and, perhaps, Lindsay Anderson’s If… This itself briefly gives way to a Narnia-style trip through a wardrobe.

Much of this collection takes place in the UK. Tank Girl and her chums travel to London in Half a Pound of Tuppenny Rice and visit the quaint English village of Titting Coombesbury in the four-and-a-half-part Summer Love Sensation (the longest Tank Girl serial from her Deadline days). Our heroine interacts with her creators in both of these adventures, the plots of which ultimately depart on Pythonesque tangents. It’s hard to be sure whether H and M were being wacky and anarchic for the sake of it, or whether they just couldn’t think of ways to end the stories!

Titan’s synopses for this issue describe it as containing “a full year of classic Tank Girl”. This is made possible by the fact that the strip did not appear in every edition of Deadline at this point. Hewlett and Martin took a few months off between Parts 3 and 4 of Summer Love Sensation. The hiatus was partially plugged by the three-page Part 3½, which looks very nice but advances the plot not a jot. A text panel suggests that the boys went away on a “camping holiday turned sour”, which seems to have left them in some way worse for wear. However, the end of the tale drops a big hint that Martin could be a bit of a procrastinator. Having had a fortnight to write something, he says that he has “had a couple of ideas, but they haven’t really matured yet. But don’t worry, I’m working on them!” Also, Hewlett would have been busy drawing Hewligan’s Haircut for 2000 AD at around this time.

Some synopses claim that these strips are “coloured for the first time”, which is simply not true. Those pages that originally appeared in black and white were colourised for compilations published prior to Titan’s 2009 remastered editions. At this point in the Deadline series, several of the pages were being beautifully hand-coloured by Hewlett himself, including much of Summer Love Sensation and the whole of the final strip, Sunflower. As a result, colourist Tracy Bailey (now with help from Sofie Dodgson) seems to have raised her game in terms of the sophistication of the work being put into the newly coloured pages. This includes turning spurts of blood (when Tank Girl loses an arm towards the end of Summer Love Sensation) from black to red. And in case you were wondering why three panels have been left in black and white on a partially coloured page, well, that’s how Hewlett intended it.

There are a couple of surprising flashes forward. On the opening page of strip, a minor character says “Action Alley”, which was eventually used as the title of a 2018–19 story. In the same episode, Tank Girl’s friend Barney makes her debut. She appears in the first two strips and the final one, though she is not named until the second strip. When I reviewed Skidmarks in 2010, I mistakenly believed that Barney was a newly created character – though in my defence, she doesn’t do much here to make her memorable.

There are rather a lot of sunny vacations here, giving this compilation a slightly samey quality. From a chronological point of view, Booga’s Christmas Carol (from the December 1990 edition of Speakeasy) might have been better placed as the closing strip, with Sunflower shunted along to the next issue. Still, there’s no denying that this is the right time of year for a Summer Love Sensation!


Richard McGinlay

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