Tank Girl, Then and Now

That was the Tank Girl of the 90s, the one I fell in love with. We didn’t hear from her for over a decade, but this year she re-emerged in The Gifting, a new series by Alan Martin (the original creator) and illustrator Ashley Wood. What does the Tank Girl of 2007 look like? Alan Martin had the following to say:

Here’s the emerging new look for Tank Girl. We were concerned that she didn’t make her re-appearance in the same, tired old clothes that she bowed out in some twelve years ago. What was alternative, upsetting, anarchic, and just plain odd-ball back then has since become common place. Mainstream media smothers us daily with punky chic, and modern day babies can be seen sporting spikey hairdos and Travis Bickle T-shirts. The uniform of the cultural revolutionary has been sold to The Man. So how to rebel? How give the finger to the fashion fascists? Normal is the only way ahead. Dress like a high school teacher from the mid-eighties, or pick clothes from your boring aunty’s wardrobe. The only way left to rebel is to dress like you’re not rebelling. We hope to bring a whole different flavour to Tank Girl, as she borrows ideas from past cultural reference points (Fay Dunaway in Bonnie & Clyde, anyone?).

I completely feel what Alan Martin is saying. I like the look of the new Tank Girl drawings. However, the old-school, combat-boot-wearing, band-aid-covered, baseball-bat-wielding, kinda-dykey Tank Girl of yore will always hold a very dear place in my heart.

I’ll come out and say it: I love Ashley Wood’s amazing drawing style, but the new Tank Girl look doesn’t really do it for me. Maybe I’m being way too nostalgic, but it’s also possible that what I’m reacting to is the idea that so many people have decided to rebel by not-trying-to-look-rebellious that it’s starting to look like an easy way out of any real effort. I’m not saying that to undermine Martin’s very important message (see our Hot Topic Rebranding post), but it may be possible that so many people have caught onto the “rebel by looking normal” notion, and so many are using it to lazily avoid any attempts at interesting self-expression through clothing, that I’m just hoping that the pendulum swings back to the other side. You know, the side with the band-aids and corrugated tubing and knee pads.

But I guess I should get over it and enjoy the story. Comic book characters change, if it’s a good comic. When Maggie from Love and Rockets gained weight and creator Jaime Hernandez insisted that this was the way that Maggie was meant to be, I thought that was incredibly touching and honest. It’s impossible to keep up a certain look forever, and the story can be just as interesting once that look is gone.

21 Responses to “Tank Girl, Then and Now”

  1. lucylle Says:

    When I first saw the Tank Girl redesign, I must admit I was really disappointed… I fail to see the spirit of the original comic in this new form.

    First of all, while I like the illustration style, I don’t think it’s really suitable of carrying the type of story that Tank Girl was known for. Granted, I only saw bits and pieces online so maybe I’m just making assumptions, but it sorely lacks the “pop quality” of the older illustrations… where’s the eyecandy? Losing the maniacal detailing in clothing, accessories, props means that for me most of the Tank Girl persona (if not her personality) is gone.
    Which brings me to the other point: the whole “I’m rebelling by not showing rebellion” is far too conceptual for a character like Tank Girl, who basically did whatever she wanted, acted on whims and dressed like a five year old in a skip because that was basically her nature. Again, maybe in reading the whole story I’ll find a valid explanation on this 180° change but at present, it just reminds me of the closing monologue of SLC punk, where the main character decides to conform to visual codes in order to mess up the system from the inside. A bit too easy (not to mention corny), for my tastes as an excuse for a radical style change.

  2. thekamisama Says:

    I barely noticed that they changed the look of Tank Girl, other than Wood doing the art instead of Hewlett. She’s running around half naked or in underoos most of the time

  3. Fritz Bogott Says:

    As a pathetic Tank Girl fanboy, I’m inclined to think Martin is misunderstanding and disrespecting his own creation. If I saw the original Tank Girl walking down the street, I would not think: “There goes another 2007 suburban fashion victim.” If anyone out there is able successfully to bite her style, I’m all for it, but I’ve never seen it. Unsuccessful biting doesn’t do her any damage.

    The only reason I’d be against a verbatim recapitulation is because it would be a needless gift to the Dr. Martens marketing machine, which seems to be overflowing with naff.

  4. Chesney Says:

    I keep trying to comment, but I’m flabbergasted! I can’t figure what to think of it. My instinct is to agree with the majority of critiques, but I fear that may just be my nostalgia acting up again. I’ll withhold judgment until I read it, which I haven’t done in some time now! I do like Woods style, but it looks like fashion illustrations. Which you’d think I ‘d like also, but its so weird to see Tank Girl so polished. I don’t know!

  5. EPtrauma Says:

    I hate the redesign. I HATE the “rebelling by not rebelling” thing, it’s always been a lazy cop-out since day one. I want visual interest and inspiration, and i so rarely see it these days. Way to kill one more great alternative visual icon. I feel like this is saying people have to “nicen” their appearence up if they want to be taken seriously these days, and that’s bunk.

  6. Ashbet Says:

    *utterly boggled*

    I’d have to see the actual comic to make a judgment, but I’m currently recoiling in shock and horror!

    — A :/

  7. Tequila Says:

    I’m a big fan of Ashley Wood’s work…but it does not fit all the projects he’s done. His digital Metal Gear Solid graphic novel for example (available on the PSP…) was MILES ahead better than the traditional print comic it was based on. In this case…Tank Girl is Tank Girl because of the original creators and in this case artist involved…so while doing a re-design is nothing new to comics one needs only see the abysmal 90’s redesigns of many traditional heroes to see how in the end it adds nothing. This is not such an extreme case but something of what made people love the character is clearly lost…again…nothing new to comics and it has zero to do with nostalgia and more to do with creators no longer being in the “same place” they were back when they first worked on the characters. Some characters should not age as much as their creators do…and lets face it Tank Girl as she was cannot exist today…in anyones hands.

  8. Mer Says:

    Picked up the first issue a while ago, and went “OOF!” Same cheeky writing, same gonzo black humor, only now, for some inexplicable reason, our beloved missile-titted missy looks like an ad for a decaffeinated Starbucks latte. All those muted colors… no big crackle and spark. They took a huge, calculated risk. Of course Hewlett wouldn’t be available anymore, thanks to Gorillaz. I’m not saying they should have tried to replace his with an identical style, or that Wood isn’t talented, but… if ever there was a comic book that benefited from visual POWS and BLAMS, it was Tank Girl! Embrace the nostalgia!
    This reminds me… does anyone know what Paul Pope is doing with THB these days, if anything? If you need a fix of beautifully surreal cutie pie savagery, that series is definitely the way to go.

  9. Colin Says:

    I’ve been a fan of Tank Girl and Ashley Wood both for a while. I assumed I wouldn’t jive with the comic so much as enjoy the artwork, but was very pleasantly surprised. They very much have the flavor of the old work. Lots of bare-assed fart jokes.
    I miss the helmet, but it doesn’t need to be there.

  10. Shay Says:

    You can add me to the list of Tank Girl and Ashley Wood fans who just don’t feel the two loves mesh well together.

    To me, Tank Girl will always be Jamie Hewlett’s art.

  11. Tequila Says:

    @Mer…THB continues on its erratic and beautiful course. Though I wouldn’t expect another dip in that world any time soon Paul Pope continues to keep going with it…it’s always been a series that pops up either as a handful of issues then a giant special…or as part of something experimental like his BUZZ BUZZ magazine.

    Any Tank Girl fan would dig it but it’s less a dystopian nightmare world and more a balanced and well executed society that I think most of us would dig living in…if only for the cool Mars Mek’s.

    Love his work…one of the most original voices comics has ever had.

  12. M1K3¥’s Blog » Blog Archive » links for 2007-12-20 Says:

    […] Coilhouse » Blog Archive » Tank Girl then and now interesting discussion with Tank Girl as signifier.. what is alternative when “alternative” is “normal” ??! (tags: tankgirl 21C normal) […]

  13. catwalk_ghost Says:

    OMG! It’s so lame! Must say I’m also quite irritated by the whole “look normal – they shouldn’t suspect anything” logic, being pretty much promoted by media, “alternative” (if the word is appropriate celebrities) and the problem of unemployment (definitely in Europe). The sad thing that so much creative and alternative people are buying into this shit. Look at all this new music-related scenes, that are developing their own normalized looks, like “hardcore” kids (who look like in between chavs and skaters – literally like the new everymen) or say “mods” (I mean the new trendy variation of the style – not the original 60’s – 70’s look) who tend to look like yuppies… Some people are also buying into that, cos they believe into idea of “performativity” (as in Judith Butler), when it doesn’t matter how you look but what you do! But the problem is most of them don’t do a shit, apart from socializing and being snobbish! Its a shame that alternative culture seems to be losing one of the most important achievement – sense of ownership of your body and the control of the style. Alternative culture unfortunately is getting more influenced by codes and mechanisms of fashion, rather than the idea of embodied individualism! :(

  14. Emilia Jane Mazza Says:

    Bollocks to conservatism as the new punk. I mean seriously who buys that idea for one second? I hate the idea that conservatism is the final frontier of fashion and I feel deeply distressed that not taking any risks is considered risky. Tank Girl still inspires me on a daily basis and I could care less that her look is considered tired and old. Hell at least its a look, and one that isn’t afraid to kick it with the best of them.

  15. Megz Says:

    I think this new design is such bullshit.
    How could anyone want her changed this much???
    It comepletly goes against what she embodies
    and stands for.

    I couldn’t be more upset
    about this debacleous rebirth of tank girl.
    People love her for her unique, crazy outfits.
    I don’t think her look has become mainstream
    at all.

    I don’t like her new look in the least. I think
    it’s plain, dated, boring, and safe. There’s
    nothing tank girl about it and that makes me very
    sad. I don’t even want to see the comic.

    Tank Girl is my favurite lady of all time and it
    distresses me a great deal that this is being done
    to her. I hope this change is not permenant.

    Horrid horrid mistake to make.
    Leave her be,
    everyone loves her the way she is.

  16. draquinzel Says:

    Well I love tank girl mainly because she is a dick and a douche bag XD

    and for some reason I can´t imagine a girl with that attitude dressing like that… any way Ill wait to see the comic to make a bigger judgment but to me the cloths don’t go with the attitude of tankie…
    mainly she looks like some sort of intelectual rebellios girl wich is not the type of tank girl

  17. Sam Ramirez Says:

    I myself am not too fond of the new look. For me, Tank Girl was basically heroin-shic (heroin via the drug). Now they have tried to make her just shic. Her new look, basically takes all the spunk outa her now.

    On that note, walking through Border’s bookshop and looking at the mags I saw a comic that looked like Tank Girl. Since it was in a Teenage Girl magazine, I wondered why it was there. Pivking it up I realized it wasn’t Tank Girl. The point of that ever-so-wonderful story was that Tank Girl’s signature styles are inspiration for even today’s comics. Now with her new look she basically looks like a businesswoman or a working mom compared to her old style.

    In conclusion I am very disappointed with the new look. However! I do agree that the new way of rebelling is to dress normal or take old things. But, come on! They could have done way better than that. Look at our very own Zo, she takes vintage pieces a lot and looks like a bad-ass rebel…or a cupcake depending which ones you look at. Anyways they could have done a WHOLE lot better with their concept.

  18. Nicole Powers Says:

    Tank Girl’s hanging out with the Suicide Girls.

    Check out the new page at the link below:


  19. HellForLeather Says:

    No, no, nonononononononono
    Tank Girl is all about attitude, hers, and lots of it.
    Rebelling by not rebelling is already soooooo old.

  20. cockpo Says:

    This is a joke right? NO WAY. It’s not about rebel/rebel. THAT is not Tank Girl. She is who she is. They shall lose all fan base. she is a rebel. That’s why she is the way she is. That doesn’t even make sense. Must be a joke. Must be.

  21. Veronika Says:

    COP OUT!
    I HATE the “new Look” – and tank girl would rather gouge her own eyeballs out with a rusty dick than be seen dead in this drab, dreary crap.
    SHOCKED and totally APAUED!!!!!
    Another great character and Icon RUINED!!!!!!!!!!
    Excuse me whilst i vomit!