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September 13, 2010

Tanks, Beer, and Other Necessities Part 1: A Few Words with Rufus Dayglo

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Written by: Josh
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Tank Girl by Rufus Dayglo

By taking over the mantle as the official Tank Girl artist, Rufus Dayglo followed in the footsteps of an internationally renowned illustrator and animator (Jamie Hewlett). Simultaneously, he had put himself in the proverbial crosshairs of every die-hard fan of the Tank Girl property. And if you’re familiar with the backlash that followed the release of the 1995 Tank Girl movie, then you know that’s not a great place to be. It’s the type of pressure that would paralyze most mortal men, but not Dayglo. He entered the fray with the fervor of a drunken blood-thirsty warrior, and succeeded as such.

Rufus Dayglo’s artwork pays homage to the classic Martin/Hewlett strips, while unconsciously putting a unique twist on the characters and the Tank Girl mythos. Switching gears from the original Tank Girl strips is not a seamless transition, but a welcome one. If Alan Martin is the soul of Tank Girl (which I personally believe he is), then the artists that illustrate her are merely tools that incarnate her universe. Martin’s Tank Girl stories have been illustrated by at least four different artists: Jamie Hewlett (Co-Creator), Ashley Wood, Mike McMahon, and most recently Rufus Dayglo. Jamie’s artwork is in its own category. It’s unparalleled. With Tank Girl, he captured a time period and was never stale with his approach. In Tank Girl’s early strips, Hewlett was a young man with an eye for the aesthetics of subculture. That being said, the same can be spoken of Dayglo. His sharp and irreverent illustrations have breathed new life into a character whose fate could’ve rested in the limbo of reprints and back-issue bins. So, not only does he deserve much respect for resurrecting a beloved character, but he should also be recognized for his incredibly fresh style. Which is exactly what Tank Girl needs in order to survive.

At the end of last month, the four issue mini-series, Tank Girl: Skidmarks, was released as a graphic novel. As a result, the book’s publisher, Titan Books, helped schedule an interview with Rufus Dayglo. Below, he discusses censorship, his work in animation and subsequent departure, his first meetings with Ashley Wood and Alan Martin, and how being the new Tank Girl artist has changed his life. Also, the details of a mysterious package from Jamie Hewlett (containing a dog turd and bullet)! Some of the answers are a bit tongue-in-cheek, but it’s meant to be fun (much like the Tank Girl comics themselves). Which is yet another reason why Rufus Dayglo is perfect for the job, and he totally gets it. Enjoy!

Tank Girl: Skidmarks graphic novel

Comic Attack: What comics did you read when you were growing up, and how does that list differ from what you are reading now?

Rufus Dayglo: I grew up on war and western comics [like] Sgt.Rock, Unknown Soldier, GI Joe, Jonah Hex and 2000ad, the british sci fi comic…. And a healthy dose of Mad Magazine! So no change there then!

CA: Before your career in animation and comics, how would you describe your everyday life?

RD: Erm.. I moved a lot as a kid, so got to live on lots of interesting places.. the best being Tokyo..so I became immersed in Mecha culture.. particularly Mobile Suit Gundam, and Dougram, Fang of the Sun.

CA: Some of your early artwork appeared in various zines. What were the names of those publications and are they still available anywhere?

RD: Massive Flat Foot Beast Women from Debden: Volumes 1-3, Eat My Fuck, You Dirty Martian Scum Invaders (One off special), [and] Wampa  Breath Aftertaste (Mini series). Thankfully these are all out of print… the world needs them like it needs more pestilence.

CA: How did your career in animation begin?

RD: By accident really.. I needed a job, and wanted to draw for a living.. there was a lull in the comics industry in the 90s, so work was hard to find.. so animation seemed like a good idea.. It was great training. It taught me discipline, time keeping, deadlines, and how to work quickly.. all rather useful in comics.

CA: What led to your departure from the animation industry?

RD: I got sick of drawing the fucking Nesquik Bunny… seriously, Life’s too short. I met and worked with some great, talented people..but,  I just got sick of shitty ads, dumb ideas, and stupid advertising executives who were like twelve years old or something.

CA: When did you first meet Alan Martin face to face, and how would you describe that meeting?

RD: In a dark alley, behind Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club… he was taking a piss on the wall. I foolishly kicked off about him allegedly stepping on my foot while we were dancing inside, and he beat the shit out of me. After I dusted myself off and had stopped crying, he offered me a stick of kitkat, and we realized our shared love of water polo and fox hunting, and became fast friends.

Tank Girl: The Gifting #1

CA: How did you meet Ashley Wood, and what role did he play in your first gig as illustrator on Tank Girl?

RD: Ashley actually contacted me, as he’d seen my work in 2000ad, and we both collect original comic book art.. and asked me to do some work on Doomed, his horror anthology. I then worked on Metal Gear Solid, doing layouts for him at IDW. I then suggested to Alan that Ashley should draw the new Tank Girl relaunch, The Gifting. Alan wanted a high profile artist, with a unique style, and again, Ash asked me to pitch in and help after the first issue, and I took over the series.

CA: How has your life changed since you’ve become the official Tank Girl artist?

RD: I’ve got much better at drawing tanks and beer cans… and bald girls. I’ve also met some amazing fans, travelled to many great cons, and got drunk with many fabulous artists and writers! I also work insane working hours.. so my social skills have evaporated…

CA: Have you personally received any feedback from Jamie Hewlett on your current artwork in Tank Girl?

RD: I received a parcel with a single dum dum bullet with my initials scratched in it, embedded in a dried dog turd… Judging by the amount of penises drawn on the envelope..it must be the work of the Hewll.

CA: Tank Girl has been published by IDW, Image, and Titan. Have any of these publishers ever attempted to censor your artwork?

Tank Girl: The Royal Escape #4

RD: IDW wouldn’t allow Barney’s ‘You’re a cunt’ shirt on the cover of Issue four of The Royal Escape. Paradoxically the exploding heads were fine…otherwise..no, thankfully. I managed to sneak ‘Get Fucky’ onto the back cover of Tank Girl: Bad Wind Rising on Jet Girl’s hat logo though.

CA: Has your recent success in comics opened doors for other projects?

RD: It’s enabled me to travel a lot more… meet ad work with many of my heroes like Gerry Talaoc, the great Filipino artist who drew my childhood favorite, The Unknown Soldier, and to work with Ashley Wood’s 3A Toy company.. designing toys. I’m stupendously fortunate.

CA: How has your environment affected your illustration style? Are you still based in London?

RD: I am indeed..In dear ol’ Fish Island. [It’s a] real place. I live in an old warehouse, and all my neighbours are artists, so they pop up as background characters, or just as inspiration for various characters. Where I live is pretty industrial, but we have a beautiful canal to fall into.

CA: Your illustrations appear to have a manga influence. If this is the case, what manga artists have most influenced your work? Also, who are your biggest influences from America and England?

RD: I lived in Japan as a kid.. but I’ve never read a lot of Manga.. I find it kinda boring. I like the pictures, but the stories just never grabbed me. I read Mad Magazine. So, it’s more the influence of the great Jack Davis and Mort Drucker, both pretty cartoony artists! The US.. again MAD artists Davis and Drucker, The bestest of the best! Joe Kubert (Sgt Rock), Guy Davis (BPRD, Baker Street), and the Filipino artists Tony DeZuniga (Jonah Hex), Gerry Talaoc (Unkown Soldier) and Alex Nino (All sorts of cool shit!). From the UK.. Mick McMahon (2000ad), Breandan McCarthy (2000ad), Jamie Hewlett (Well..obviously..), Ronald Searle (St Trinians etc…sic), and the Spanish artist carlos Ezquerra (Judge Dredd), Ramon Sola (Flesh, and Shako in 2000ad). And my old friends Simon Morse, and Garry Leach.

One of Tank Girl's Lists

CA: If the characters in Tank Girl are aspects of Alan’s psyche, then how much of your physical world is interpreted into the aesthetics of the characters and backgrounds? Do you make lots of lists?

RD: Yeah..I love lists..so you probably notice I write lists on TG’s gear, hands, etc..I do that..it’s a habit from childhood. Gotta have a list! I like ephemera..so there’s always too much crap on her belt, or helmet… I like stuff. Bits of junk..Pez dispensers, broken toys, sweet wrappers, etc. Physically the characters have a lot to do with my friends..I base their body language on my mates… and some of their dress sense..or lack of.

CA: Does Alan offer a soundtrack for his Tank Girl scripts? If not, do you create your own?

RD: No… but we love a lot of similar music though. I listen to all sorts while working..from HC punk, electronica, through to Dolly Parton. I often incorporate song titles into the art…or what I’m eating while working , usually chocolate.

CA: How would you describe your artistic method, and what habits do you keep that help you produce consistent work? I always think of Tank Girl as being illustrated in a pub, half-drunk while listening to blaring music. How far is that from the truth?

RD: Umm..err…. I may have been known to draw while blind drunk..you can probably spot the pages. [I’m] trained in animation, so I am reasonably disciplined. I get the script, make thumbnails, then make a work plan on my calendar, so I can check it off as it gets done. It’s a really good idea to have a calendar.. or I’d have no idea how much I had to do..or when! I live and work on my own…so my cat Ripley does most of the talking… but my neighbours (It’s a warehouse) pop over a lot, so we drink, listen to loud music, play with toys, chase each other around, and occasionally work.

CA: You mentioned Mad Magazine artists such as Mort Drucker and Jack Davis as influences. What are your thoughts on the current format of Mad Magazine? Do you still read it?

RD: I haven’t picked it up in years..I still buy old ones.. they produced sooo many! I prefer the late sixties to early eighties..they had the best illustrators in the US working for them, and it showed..and the writing was so sharp. I’ll have to pick up a new issue and check it out!

CA: What advice would you give to a struggling illustrator who wishes to pursue a career in comics?

Tank Girl: Bad Wind Rising

RD: Ninety-nine percent of succeeding is determination. If someone can put you off in any way, i.e– saying you’re not good enough, or you can’t take criticism, you’re in the wrong industry…become a car thief instead.You have to be mentally tough to survive comics..it’s anti social working hours, little feedback, and constant deadlines. The most important thing is to get books out..learn to draw quickly. Practice all the time. Draw everything, your toaster, your foot, your tea cup.

CA: What’s next for Tank Girl?

RD: We’ve just started Tank Girl: Bad Wind Rising, a 4 issue mini series for Titan Books, the first issue will hopefully be out for NYCC in October! We’ve also got our trade paper back, Tank Girl: The Royal Escape ,out next month from IDW Comics, and in December our TPB from Image Comics, We Hate Tank Girl.. so lots on!

CA: Is there anything that you would like to add that hasn’t been covered in the previous questions?

RD: Thanks to all our readers for their fabulous support.. and come along to NYCC, I’ll be signing at a bunch of different Publishers booths (IDW, Image, Titan, etc).. come say hello, and get a sketch!

CA: Thanks for your time, Rufus!

RD: My pleasure!

Josh Jones



  1. Kristin

    Ah, he’s pretty entertaining. Seems just write for a comic like Tank Girl.

  2. […] momentum. Thanks to Titan Books, I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Rufus and Alan. The former of which was published in September, and the latter of which you’re reading now. In this […]

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