If you didn’t have the pleasure of getting enraptured by the sexy, sassy, Doc Martin-stomping antics of Tank Girl the first time around – the age of post-punk, birth of Brit-pop, and dying days of Thatcher, when comedy was surreal and even light entertainment breakfast shows were a dizzying montage of non-sequiturs and shouting – then The Hole Of Tank Girl will definitely be a somewhat baffling and frustrating projection from lurid pink ether of the nonsense dimension.
It’s all in the context – not that any passing comic-buyers would ever be scooping up this expensive, beautifully put together prestige format hardcover on a whim – as an anarchic back-up strip in comic/music and culture magazine Deadline (created in 1988 by future Punisher, Preacher and Hellblazer artist Steve Dillon and iconic 2000 AD artist Brett Ewins), Tank Girl is perhaps best consumed in three page instalments after reading an interview with Courtney Love. Proudly anarchistic and irreverant – the fourth wall is eternally being broken – Tank Girl was barely a character, and her adventures barely had narratives – they’re more like little essays on wearing tight shorts and not giving a fuck.
Tank Girl drinks, swears, has sex with mutant kangaroos, references late-Eighties, early Nineties popular culture, and always gets the last word, never gets outsmarted or caused lasting damage or real consequence in her romps across the blasted outback of a future Australia. In the introduction co-creator Alan Martin proudly declares that as soon as she got co-opted by various political or social causes, they’d change her behaviour and look radically to “smash the pigeon-hole with a baseball bat”, doing wonders for her status as a punk rock counter-culture icon, but not doing much good to any sense of narrative or drama, not that this was particularly high on the agenda in the first place.
Collecting all of the original Deadline run by Alan Martin and Jamie Hewlett (who’d famously go onto co-create Gorillaz and Monkey: Journey To The West), plus a few odds and ends, including fanzine interviews, and both four-issue Dark Horse mini-series – there’s no doubting the wealth of material or the artistic quality of each page, even in the early days of the strip Hewlett was a master of his craft, his style so fresh and brash that it’s impossible to imagine anyone else so neatly capturing the spirit of the age that conceived Tank Girl. But again, the ever-present issue of context makes itself felt with pages lovingly retouched and cleaned up and then dumped into The Hole Of Tank Girl without explanation, making it difficult to tell, at a glance, the significance of what you’re reading, where it falls in the chronology, or even what the point of it is – really hamstringing the experience when suddenly you’re plunged into an illustrated spoof biography of The Smiths, or a script for ‘Episode One’ (of what, Tank Girl: The Phantom Menace?).
A fantastic artefact dripping with passion and attitude, the art and dialogue still as infectiously energetic decades on, but surely not even the diehard Tankies in their over-bleached Bikini Kill t-shirts would be able to recall the story behind some of the more obscure material collected herein, and that seems a terrible waste.