Alan Martin on ‘Everybody Loves Tank Girl,’ reteaming with Jamie Hewlett
This week, your favorite U.K. comic shops and online retailers should have received Everybody Loves Tank Girl, the latest volume in the ongoing saga of everyone’s favorite kangaroo-lovin’ chaos magnet (it will arrive in the United States next week). Since co-creator Alan Martin brought the character back in 2007, she’s been drawn by a succession of amazing artists: Ashley Wood, Rufus Dayglo and the elusive, legendary Mick McMahon. For this book, Martin has teamed with the great Jim Mahfood, marking the first time the U.K. comics icon has been drawn by an American.
Mahfood has made no secret of his love for Tank Girl, and he has clearly relished the opportunity to draw her and her extended cast of violence-loving misfits, producing some of the best work of his career. ROBOT 6 sat down with Martin to discuss this project and its unique origins, Tank Girl’s ongoing momentum, and the rumors that he is again working with the character’s co-creator Jamie Hewlett, still the only comic book artist in living memory to have ever quit the business to become a bona fide international pop star.
ROBOT 6: 2013 is shaping up to be quite The Year of Tank Girl, isn’t it?
Alan Martin: I dunno. It’s quite similar to last year, really. I’ve got the Solid State series with WJC, the hardback of Everybody Loves Tank Girl, and the continuation of my self-publishing empire. Actually, last year saw The Hole of Tank Girl published. So maybe 2012 was the year of Tank Girl? Maybe we missed it?
So, uh, maybe not the Year of Tank Girl, but a year of Tank Girl. Anyway, onto the French connection. This work was originally commissioned for French publisher Ankama’s hippest imprint, 619 Label. Did that Gallic influence affect how you approached writing the book at all?
If I’m being totally honest, I don’t really have an approach to writing. There’s no masses of note-making and sharpening of pencils. It’s more like a sucker punch: I hit it as hard as I can when it, and I, are least expecting. Is that a good analogy? Maybe it’s more like I get really hammered and fall over into it, on my way to the toilet.
Ah, so no getting into an especially French frame of mind by smoking Gitanes and drinking Kronenbourg 1664, then. About Jim Mahfood: I remember reading the Clerks book he did with Kevin Smith, back in whenevers, and my first impression was “now there is an artist I bet loved Deadline.” Who approached whom about working together?
It was the French publisher, Ankama, that played, erm … Cupid. A great guy there called Samsa was good friends with Jim, and he was the guy who came up with the idea of translating the whole Tank Girl back catalog into French. He and Jim got talking about influences, and yes, turns out that the young Mahfood was a big Deadline reader and Hewlett devotee.
What does Jim bring to these characters that we haven’t seen before?
I don’t know how to answer this sort of question!
You’re supposed to say he brings the FONK! Or a particular obsession with frilly underwear!
But the question was “What does Jim bring to these characters that we haven’t seen before?” If I’d said fonk, that would imply that it has lacked fonk up til now!
Robot 6: S o…
… I thought that was my funniest answer!
Your editor at Titan described your next TG collaborator, Warwick Johnson Cadwell, as bringing “street art energy” to that character. For all WJC’s strengths, I’d apply that comparison more to Mahfood. For you, is there a definitive philosophy as to who’ll make a potential new Tank Girl collaborator and who wouldn’t?
A beard always helps. And a good knowledge of your local region’s ales or lagers.
Well that certainly covers Warwick, too. He’s a beard-and-craft-ale kinda guy. Is musical taste ever a factor to who you’d work with? Drawing music references into the background of a Tanky strip is something of a tradition, and Jim Mahfood definitely throws himself into that. Is there a line in the sand for that stuff? Y’know, what if Brian Bolland said he wanted to draw an entire Tank Girl miniseries, but insisted on drawing Mumford & Sons into every other panel?
There aren’t any rigorous tests that artists have gone through, but taste in culture and fashion probably catches more in the filter than anything else. So, Bolland is a big Mumfords fan, eh? When I were a lad, Mumford was the guy who owned the shop on Rentaghost.
Oh, no, I was only kidding. I’d never defame Mr. Bolland by accusing him of listening to those posh banjo-botherers. I seem to remember Brian as advocating only the freakiest acts of the psychedelic era. Y’know, Zappa, the Fugs, Beefheart.
Yeah, I’m friends with Brian on Facebook. Any time I mention anything musically obscure he’s right there. The other day I posted the Burundi Black single that Adam Ant got his sound from, and Brian was straight in there saying, “I bought that when it came out!”
Legend. This is the book where you finally got to vent at the Tank Girl movie. You really lay into it. Did it feel good to get that off your chest?
I’ve been a Tank Girl movie bore since it came out in 1995. Or before that, even. I’ve probably been moaning about how crap it was since I first read the script. It ain’t over yet. I want those rights back, MGM. As I said last year, “If you ain’t gonna play with it, CAN WE HAVE OUR BALL BACK, PLEASE?”
Without spoiling things, there’s a new breakout character introduced to the TG cast in this book, and he’s called “Alan.” How hard was it to come up with his name?
I’m still not 100 percent sure what I was trying to do there. In the old days, we were always getting our faces in the comic as much as possible, but this is more subtle, I guess. He isn’t me, he’s just a guy called Alan. I was probably taking the piss out of my own name – I’m very aware that it has a certain amount of comedic value – the first time I realized this was during an episode of Blackadder Goes Forth, where one of the Generals is said to have a pet tortoise called “Alan.”
Jimmy Savile as a recurring visual motif in Tank Girl comics: Well, that’s banjaxed now, isn’t it?
Did you see the original comic book version of Everybody Loves Tank Girl?!!!!! By Christ that was close! In the story “Introducing Tank Girl,” she shows us her most prized possession, the original chair from the BBC’s Jim’ll Fix It show. Then the news about Savile broke just as the hardback collection was going to print, and I had to make several fevered phone calls to try and get the page changed before it was set in print forever. So I quickly had it swapped for “Jock’ll Sort It,” which was a Caledonian version of the show. I could not fecking believe it! Savile’s first appearance in a Tank Girl comic, where he was an alter ego of the Devil, turned out to be rather prophetic. I wholeheartedly agree with Graham Linehan when he said that all of the Jim’ll Fix It badges that were ever handed out should be collected up, melted down into a huge metal spike, and driven through Savile’s grave.
I like to read a new Tank Girl comic with a nice cup of tea and a Garibaldi or two. Which biscuit do you recommend for Everybody Loves Tank Girl? And which for the upcoming Solid State Tank Girl?
I’m more concerned with the tea than the biscuit these days. I am a keen champion of the teapot and loose-leaf tea. The invasion of High Street coffee chains has almost destroyed our beloved tea culture. You can’t buy a decent cup of char anywhere these days, the teabags are rubbish, and the water isn’t hot enough. Our country used to run on tea. Watch Brief Encounter for a good example, a great film, but it would be nothing without the tea. Tea drinkers of the world rise up! Put your tea cosies on your heads, throw out the evil teabag, and brandish your strainers and your pots. Let’s drive Starbucks and their tasteless, expensive brown water back into the ocean!
Preach on, brother Alan! I’d probably be remiss as a comics journalist *lengthy coughing fit* if I didn’t press you on those rumors about you working with Tank Girl’s co-creator-turned-international pop star Jamie Hewlett again. I think some hints started leaking out the day after Titan announced Solid State Tank Girl, causing an upstaged WJC to joke “I’ll get me coat” on Twitter.
Yeah, no problem. Jamie let slip a month or so ago that we would be working on a new Tank Girl book, but that was before we’d really talked about it. I am planning something with Jamie soon, but it will be a brand-new, non-Tank Girl project. Anyway, nothing solid, nothing guaranteed, but we will be applying ourselves quite soon, and maybe leading the project with some merchandise starting later this year.
Woah! Hewlett returning to comics in any form is big news indeed. This is the comic book equivalent of the Stone Roses reforming! Cheers, Alan.
The collected edition of Everybody Loves Tank Girl is a beautiful book, and should be available from your favorite retailer right now. Issues one and two of Solid State Tank Girl are available for pre-order from your local comic shop.