Tank Girl rose like a Phoenix from the ashes in 2007, and Alan Martin is the name of the fire from whence she was reborn. Shortly after her resurgence, Rufus Dayglo took over artistic duties for The Gifting. The result was a new Tank Girl creative team that remains in full stride, and still continues to gain 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 brief interview, Alan discusses Camp Koala’s immortality, Tank Girl’s first appearance in 1988, and the paradox of the 1995 film.
Comic Attack: Your first big break into the comic industry was also the official debut of the Tank Girl comic strip when it was featured in the first issue of Deadline Magazine. How did you originally become involved with that publication? Also, how did you and Jamie land the cover for that first issue?
Alan Martin: 2000AD artist Brett Ewins, who was a co-creator of Deadline along with Steve Dillon, came and did a lecture on comics at the art college in Worthing where Jamie and I were studying. We had a home made fanzine called AtomTan which we foisted on him. It had a one page poster of a character called Tank Girl in it, but that was all there was of her at that point. A year later, after we’d left college, Brett asked us to flesh it out into a whole comic strip. Originally Brett’s own character Johnny Nemo was gonna be the lead strip and it headed up the first poster campaign for Deadline, but when Jamie submitted his Tank Girl cover the editors went crazy for it, so the plan quickly shifted and she became the figurehead.
CA: What’s the most recent feedback that you’ve received from Jamie Hewlett concerning the subsequent titles that have been released since his departure from the comic?
AM: When I show him the new stuff, he sniggers under his breath, kind of like a dirty old man.
CA: How would you compare your current process of writing a Tank Girl script as opposed to your first strips in Deadline?
AM: The biggest difference is now I write solid scripts, whereas back in the day I’d do a couple of pages of extremely rough notes and the rest would be written as the comic was constructed, with me filling in word balloons as Jamie drew the action. I expect that Rufus and I would probably work that way now, if there wasn’t four hundred miles between our houses.
CA: What most influences your writing style now, as opposed to then?
AM: Actually reading books. Back then , the most I would read in the course of a day be the back of a cereal box. Probably a Variety pack too.
CA: Following Jamie Hewlett, Tank Girl has been drawn by Ashley Wood, Mick McMahon, and most recently Rufus Dayglo. Did your approach to story-telling change to fit each artist’s style?
AM: The stuff I’ve written for Rufus and Ashley is very similar to the old stories I did with Jamie. I made a big conscious effort to try something different with Mick on Carioca, as his style is such a departure from what people are used to seeing in a Tank Girl comic. I’m really excited to see that story in print, it’s something very special.
CA: Tank Girl comics went on a hiatus after the film was released. Was there any debate among Jamie and yourself before putting a halt on any new Tank Girl comics? If so, how would you describe the dialog between the two of you during that period?
AM: No dialogue, it was one hell of a car crash, with both of us holding the steering wheel. All we could do was walk away from it.
CA: Currently, do you feel there is anything positive or beneficial that came about from the production and release of the 1995 Tank Girl film?
AM: Paradoxically, it has brought a whole new readership to the comics. I’d say that more than fifty percent of our readers now weren’t even born when Jamie and I were putting AtomTan together at college. However, I do get a lot of people saying stuff to me like , “Hey, great comic, but why did you make it so different from the movie?” The idea that the comic came first seems to be totally beyond some peoples comprehension.
CA: Did the original Tank Girl movie contract with MGM prevent you from making any future animated Tank Girl movies or TV shows? Do they still own the rights?
AM: Yep, all media rights were sold “in perpetuity” to MGM. [They] still own the rights, but right now, as all 007 fans know, they are bankrupt and not making any movies.
CA: In your own words, please explain Camp Koala. Also, where is he now, and will he return?
AM: Camp Koala was originally just a bit-part actor in our film spoof “The Australian Job”. In the original Italian Job movie there is a character called Camp Charlie, so we just gave him some (rather low-brow) Antipodean spin. He was blown to pieces in the first book, so God knows where he is. But, just like in Eastenders, when we kill a character, he’s never really totally dead until we’ve shot, exploded, drown, hung, drawn and quartered him. And even then he might turn up someplace with nothing more than a mild headache.
CA: I really like the paper stock and color used for the Tank Girl: Skidmarks comics. Was this a creative decision or an economical one?
AM: We hated it, I don’t know where that stuff came from, but we compared it with Razzle stock (a very cheap and nasty UK porn mag). The stock on the graphic novel collection is much nicer.
CA: How would you describe the Skidmarks graphic novel to those who haven’t read it?
AM: You get one really long, totally ridiculous story, and a bunch of shorter ones, and lots of lovely poster pages and covers and a board game spread. I’m a lot happier with the book, there were so many cock-ups with the series, but we’ve managed to iron out all the rough stuff. I think the story actually works a lot better in one big, fat chunk, rather than spread out over four month’s worth of comics.
CA: Now that you’re writing comics again, have you been offered any other comic writing gigs? Have you searched any out?
AM: I’m pretty unemployable as a jobbing writer. My style is very, erm, idiosyncratic. I can’t see it working well with anything other than my own creations.
CA: As of now, Rufus Dayglo is the Tank Girl artist. Since you’ve been working together, have you two talked about creating any comics other than Tank Girl?
AM: We’re working on something right now. Hopefully it’ll debut as a web comic and then form into some kind of cohesive mush that we can present as a saleable product. Our aim is to present a comic that looks like nothing you’ve ever seen before.
CA: Thanks for your time, Alan!! It’s greatly appreciated!
Tank Girl: Skidmarks has been collected as a graphic novel. Pick it up, or hunt the original issues of the mini-series down in the back issue bin of your favorite comic shop (that is, if you prefer the swanky porno paper like I do). Tank Girl: Bad Wind Rising #1 will be available for order from Image Comics in mid-December.