Sunday, April 22, 2018

Book-A-Day 2018 #112: Tank Girl, Vol. 1 by Jamie Hewlett and Alan Martin

Punk is one of the greatest impulses of humanity: that "oh, fuck it" sense of just getting out there and doing the thing even if you don't know how. Making noise or art or both, getting out there in public and maybe making a fool of yourself and definitely not caring.

(Maybe I admire it since it's so opposite to who I am, but that's a different point.)

Tank Girl is one of the great punk comics -- probably the greatest. (I'm trying to think of other examples -- early Flaming Carrot is the other major one for me, but Tank Girl mainlined punk attitude in the story as well as embodying it in the style.)

Jamie Hewlett wanted to make some comics. He had a chance to get them published. And he had a random character -- well, really, just a name -- that amused him. So he drew some damn comics, and dragged his friend in Alan Martin to do the lettering and (eventually) most of the writing. That is punk.

Tank Girl, Vol. 1 reprints that first burst of stories, which originally appeared mostly in Deadline magazine in the late '80s and turned into a book around 1990. This particular edition is from Titan Books, from 2002, so it has historical introductions from both Hewlett and Martin -- but it has been, in its turn, superseded by a newer "remastered" edition from 2009.

These stories have very little continuity: each one is what Hewlett (or, maybe, later on, Martin) wanted to do that particular month, and, from their accounts, the stories were mostly started and completed at great speed right at deadline time. So they start from the same point, with a heroine who is a loud, raucous, hard-drinking soldier (??) in a mildly apocalyptic version of the Australian outback, and then head off in whatever direction for the five or eight or twelve pages they had that issue at high speed, only to crash at the end. Details accumulate, like Tank Girl's sapient kangaroo boyfriend Booga and her counterparts/friends Jet Girl and Sub Girl, but stories don't lead from one to the next or connect directly.

Tank Girl is punk. Each story is a separate three-minute single. You're not getting some prog-rock arty-farty rock opera here. If you're not comfortable with that, Tank Girl is not the comic for you.

I love the energy and enthusiasm and raw power of these early stories, even if I have to squint to read some of the lettering before Martin took over. (And even if the first few stories tend to flail around semi-randomly before stopping at the end of their page count.) I see that various folks including either Hewlett or Martin kept doing Tank Girl stories after I stopped paying attention -- I think I drifted away around the time of the horrifically bad movie -- so I might have to catch up, to see what punk did when it grew up this time.

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