They say you should never meet your heroes for fear of being disappointed by what they’re really like. Perhaps it should also apply to re-reading the comic book heroes of your youth – I was an enormous schoolboy fan of Tank Girl. Now I’m struggling to find anything in this second volume of collected strips that’s worth clinging on to.
Perhaps that’s unfair. Jamie Hewlett’s anarchic artistic style is as bold and brassy as ever in this book. Although his colour work, of which there are a few examples here, was still emerging, the essential essence of his drawing skill and style is fully formed. His ability to create iconic imagery is extraordinary and we could pore over his cover art all day.
So it’s perhaps Alan Martin’s scripts that grate, twenty years later. For the time there’s a certain innovation going on, especially if you consider that most Tank Girl readers were probably teenage boys just growing out of 2000AD. To them, Martin’s loose, flabby, seemingly unedited stream-of-consciousness nonsense may have appeared dangerous and exciting.
He deliberately takes a hammer to the rules, breaking down the fourth wall to appear in the strip himself, regularly relieving Tank Girl of her top and making sex- and drug-fuelled pages on a range of subjects from psychedelic orgasms to Starsky & Hutch spoofs. It’s all very well but some of the magic has escaped in the intervening years, as other comic creators have taken the best elements of Tank Girl and used them as a springboard to create even more exciting comics.
So while it remains something of a master-class in hip, self-referential comics, the point of it all has disappeared into the mists of time. Perhaps there’s a new generation of readers who might find something worth savouring but nostalgists like me are almost certain to be disappointed.
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