Tank Girl became an overnight success after her first
appearance in the 80s. Review Graveyard catches up with
one of her creators and talks about the old days, the new
reprints launched by Titan Publishing and the dire film staring
Rea: How did you and Jamie Hewlett first get together? And
how did you come up with the bizarre creation that is Tank
Martin: During the mid-eighties I was in a band with the then
unknown Philip Bond. One of our favourite songs was a track
we had written called Rocket Girl. I was studying at
Worthing at this time, which is where we met up with Jamie.
He and Philip hit it off straight away. I was a little put
off by Jamie's habit of drawing huge penis's on any paper
that he came across.
three of us then worked together on the comic/fanzine Atomtan.
While working on this Jamie had drawn a grotty looking heffer
of a girl brandishing an unfeasible firearm. One of our friends
was working on a project to design a pair of headphones and
was basing his design on the type used by World War II tank
driver. His studio was littered with loads of photocopies
of combat vehicles. I pinched one of the images and gave it
to Jamie who then stuck it behind his grotty girl illustrations
and then added a logo which read 'Tank Girl'.
Where you surprised at how popular she became?
It didn't really come as a shock to us. All of our friends
liked it and that's all that mattered at the time. If no one
else liked it we didn't really care.
you planned how the story would progress from the start?
No. We had about a month to create each part, so of course
we'd leave it until five days until the deadline and then
we'd stay up all night. I'd be filling in the boxes as soon
as Jamie had completed the drawings. A lot of the time we
wouldn't know how it was going to end until Jamie started
drawing the final panel. A lot of the spelling mistakes were
his, if anyone asks [laughs].
Was writing comics an area which you had shown much interest
in before this?
Only vaguely. I met Philip at school and he is working for
DC Vertigo now and has just started a series called Angel
and the Ape [pictured right]. The two of us would get
picked on at school because we would spend most of our free
time reading or drawing comics. It was meeting Philip that
got me interested in going to Art College.
Do you think that comics are seen as a lot sexier now?
That's a difficult question. I don't know whether they are
to be honest. They are definitely more sophisticated and I
think that has lessened the market. If you go in to your average
British newsagents there are only one or two British comics
on display. There is only really Action Man comic and
2000AD is hanging in there, but apart from that there
aren't really any other comics to choose from. In the late
80's there were a lot more. Deadline was just one of
a few anthologies that were around at the time. I don't really
know whether the media has ever really broken the nerd aspect.
I remember 2000AD being seen as one of the first comics
that were aimed at the older generation, but still a lot of
people would think - and still do to some extent - that comics
Yeah, totally. I don't think we helped much with Tank Girl
[laughs]. I think a lot of people were striving to make comics
for adults. We made stuff that could only be sold to adults
but really it was very childish, I think.
Do you think Deadline was before it's time? How do
you think it would do if it was launched in the current climate?
Do you think it would be more successful?
No. I think it would still fall on its face. I don't really
think there has ever been a market for it. Maybe it would
have made it if it had been launched in the mid to late 60s.
It could have been sold alongside OZ or other extreme
attitude magazines. I think the late 80s was not a good time
to launch - it was a bad time to release anything. And I think
that the market is a lot smaller for comics at the present
With the current spate of comic book characters being made
into Hollywood movies do you think that Tank Girl would
fare better if a movie was made now?
[Laughs] The film's a bit of a sore point for us really because
we never really liked it. Again, I don't think the film would
have made it at any point in time because I just don't think
it has what it takes. So, no I don't think it would be more
How much involvement did you have with the movie?
We had hardly any involvement until the very last minute when
they realised that it really didn't look anything like the
original comic and then they pulled in Jamie and Philip to
pad it out with comic panels. Up until that point we'd kind
of hoped that they knew what they were doing. They made a
lot of noise as though they did know what they were doing,
but when it came down to it it didn't look that way.
be honest they'd offered to make a film and at that point
we were still a cult - Deadline was only selling 20
000 issues a month, which is just peanuts really - and the
character wasn't really well known in America. So for someone
to actually pick that up in the first place was a miracle
and for them to then say: "You guys can write the script
for us," knowing that we had no previous screenplay writing
experience was impossible.
sold them the rights thinking that the worse that could happen
was that they would make some duff 'made for television' adaptation
ALA The Incredible Hulk in the 70s or Wonder Woman.
For which we didn't care. We thought it would be ironic, there
would be some humour in it and everyone would appreciate it
unfortunately they tried to make it look cool. They argued
over what was cool and what wasn't cool. When you go to Hollywood
and you see a bunch of fat businessmen sitting in offices
arguing what's cool, you just think "No mate. Whatever
you are going to come up with you're wrong." The struggle
just ripped the heart out of the film and ending up not looking
like anything really.
That must be pretty soul destroying seeing your creation ripped
apart in front of you?
Yeah it is. I don't think me or Jamie have ever forgiven them
really [laughs]. You live and learn though, don't you. It
was as much our fault as it was theirs. But there seemed to
be a bit of craze that year for ruining British comic characters
- the Judge Dredd movie came out about a month before
Tank Girl has been given a new lease of life thanks
to the new Titan Publishing graphic novels. Are you pleased
with the way these have been produced?
Absolutely, they're really cool. They're very similar to the
issues that were out before, but we tried to put some new
little tidbits in here and there. The majority of the stuff
was released originally in Deadline and then Penguin
put together a compilation of the first 12 issues of material,
so there wasn't a lot more room for manoeuvre - they are very
similar to the originals, but Titan have done a very good
job on them.
What additional material is in these new books?
There are new introductions and I've also gone through my
archives and dug out images that have never been published
before of me, Jamie and anyone else who was hanging around
at the time. There are also text pieces in there - in the
first issue there is Tank Girl's story which is about five
pages long, which is just her background story. Then in the
second issue there is a 'How to write Tank Girl the
Has your sense of humour progressed much since the birth of
Tank Girl? Or is it still pretty sick?
[Laughs] I think it's pretty sick still. The fourth book in
the series was written by Pete Milligan and I've written an
introduction for that and a supposed script for a comic that
was never published. The material came out of me really easily.
I wrote it in about half an hour and when I looked at it I
thought: 'Yep. I am as sick as I was then [Laughs]. So I'd
say that yes I am still as sick now as I was then. And I'd
say that Jamie is even sicker now than he was back then.
What advice would you give to aspiring comic writers and artists?
Probably the best bet is to go to comic convention and hang
around and buy the right people a drink. I can't think of
a better way of getting into the industry. It's very difficult.
The market has shrunk quite drastically in recent years and
I haven't been anywhere near the industry for some years.
How long is it since you were involved with the industry?
Since the movie came out [Laughs]. The film sank, the comic
sank and I bailed out. I'm not that interested in going back
to it, but if someone made me the right offer you never know.
I still see Jamie. He's in his element doing his work with
Gorillaz. There is a lot of work in comics, the majority
of which means late nights pulling your hair out. I think
he was quite glad to get out of that. It doesn't really generate
a lot of cash, unless you can sell your rights and make a
hit movie and I think he's happier being at the helm of a
Do you have any plans to work with Jamie again in the future?
I don't know. He's so tied up with what he is doing at the
moment. Although it's a novelty item that he's working on
it could go on for some years, but who knows?
Thank you for your time.
thanks to Kate Jones at Titan Publishing
1-4 Tank Girl graphic novels are available to buy from Titan
priced £10.99 each.