Whatever happened to Tank Girl? Back in the late 1980s she captured the Zeitgeist of disenfranchised British youth. The anarchic, sexy, beer-swilling maniac caused havoc wherever she went, in a world where shooting guns and brandishing knives seemed like a delirious fantasy.
That her creators, Alan Martin and Jamie Hewlett, sold her soul to Hollywood is ancient history. As readers we didn’t realise at the time that making a film of her was automatically going to turn her to shit, but it did. And Hewlett and Martin pretty much put a lid on it and came home.
Jamie Hewlett took up with Blur’s Damon Albarn to create Gorillaz, continuing to create magic with his extraordinary ability to make ultra-cool, eye-popping cartoons.
Alan Martin has been quieter, at least until now. His new project? Bring back Tank Girl, sadly without the input of Hewlett. Instead, Ashley Wood takes the artistic reigns, but with such a heritage of style, it ends up looking more like a seance, with Martin and Wood attempting to channel the spirit of someone long dead. The realisation is a shadow of its former self.
Our times have moved on too. The cultural landscape has changed. Kids aren’t lapping up the fantasy of running around the desert in a tank, shooting big guns and binge drinking. Because this is barely a fantasy any more. There are knives in the playgrounds, guns on the streets and less irony in the violent cultural references that reflect our society. If you want to indiscriminately drive a tank through the desert you don’t need to be an anarchist, there are government-sponsored opportunities for young people available in the Middle East. As life moves on, for better or worse, so must our fantasies.
Perhaps it’s me, maybe I’ve changed, become the establishment grown-up that Tank Girl rallies against. Perhaps the young teens of today will lap this up as readily as I did 20 years ago. But it seems unlikely. The vitality is gone, half the classic creative team is missing (presumed doing something more interesting) and the world has turned. Maybe, Tank Girl, they should have left you in peace.
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