Foul mouthed chaos causer Tank Girl blasts and cusses her way across the comic landscape once again this March when writer Alan Martin and artist Rufus Dayglo release their latest one-shot from Image Comics “Tank Girl: Dirty Helmets.”
After being declared missing in action for over 10 years following the critically bombed Tank Girl film, the character created by Martin and Jamie Hewlett recently returned to comics with new stories and several collected editions. Publisher IDW released the limited series “Tank Girl: The Gifting” in 2007 and “Visions of Booga” in 2008, while “Tank Girl: Skidmarks” appeared episodically in the UK’s “Judd Dredd Megazine.” The saucy servicewoman even strutted her stuff on the gothic modeling site, SuicideGirls.
“Dirty Helmets” is the second in a series of one-shots by Martin and Dayglo set to be released by Image, following up on last year’s “Dark Nuggets.” As per usual with the character, readers should expect, well, pretty much anything and everything in the upcoming tale. “Every new story is a completely blank canvas,” Martin told CBR. “Because of the chaotic nature of Tank Girl, I never feel the need to restate the rules or physics of her universe, which means that I can take the story any wayÂ I choose. Of course, this isn’t always the best way to work, ‘loose briefs fall down,’ as my art teacher used to say.”
The one-shot features two main stories along with the usual set of bonus pages and pinups. Martin described the first tale as a “bad dream that sucks Tank Girl back into the world of the Australian Army where she started out all those years ago.” The second act also takes a trip to the past, but this time sees TG when she was a new army recruit. It also fills in some of the character’s mysterious backstory.
“It talks about her time in the military and about some of her training,” added Dayglo. “We’re setting some things up for the future, where there’s going to be some things that come back to haunt her. It fits in nicely with what’s happened in the old Tank Girl books that Alan and Jamie did.”
As for where these often divergent and psychedelic Tank Girl ideas come from, the two creators cite everything from films to fads to food. “There is never any set formula to writing a Tank Girl story,” explained Martin. “Ideas come from many disparate sources. For instance, one of theÂ stories in ‘Dirty Helmets’ was totally inspired by the war movie ‘Kelly’s Heroes,’ and another recent story idea came from the ingredients on a pack of instant noodles. UsuallyÂ I’ll start off withÂ nothing butÂ the title, which I know is tantamount to writers’ blasphemy, and somehow the story knows what it’s got to do to fulfill the promise of that title.”
“There’s really not one continuous thread,” Dayglo concurred. “It kind of goes off in whatever tangent that Alan wants to take it. We did the ‘Visions of Booga’ book with IDW, and it was kind of set in this 1960s hippy America because that’s what Alan’s into. Equally, in the stuff in the new Image book, it’s set in some kind of World War II movie on crack. They’re all running around in army outfits and tanks and there’s lots of explosions and machine gun fire. The nice thing is that because it’s fairly non-linear we can just twist it up and do whatever we want with it. We’re very lucky, really.”
Martin also said that Dayglo’s detailed artistic style lends itself perfectly to the nature of the Tank Girl universe, which “has always been about hidden depths behind its immediate superficial emptiness.” There’s so much going on that readers often find nuggets of artistic gold on future readings – a fact Dayglo readily admits that he strives to achieve.
“I like putting in lots of silly details,” said the artist. “I like comic stories where you can go back and you notice new things. I used to love ‘MAD Magazine.’ You’d read the story five years later and you suddenly notice a head sticking out of the corner you hadn’t noticed before, or a silly little sign. I really love little, silly details like that.”
Dayglo even developed a new style for the Image one-shots, one that features no inking whatsoever. “I was experimenting with different ways of doing things, because I get bored quite quickly. I’ve also got really tight deadlines,” he said. “I was trying to think of interesting ways to speed things up, but also, whenever I do pencils, I’m quite happy with the vitality in them. I started scanning some of my pencils and messed around in Photoshop to darken them up. I sent them to one of the publishers to see if they noticed I hadn’t inked them, and they didn’t.”
Despite her long absence from the front lines of the comic book world, the recent resurgence of the character has proved quite popular. Martin attributes this as the reason why he resurrected Tank Girl in the first place. “We’d written her off after the movie disaster, thinking that all our original fans had disowned her – and us,” admitted the writer. “But we were wrong. When we started publishing the original Tank Girl collections again in 2002, it was obvious that there was still a big audience there for her. So I guess she was brought back due to public demand.”
In regards to Tank Girl’s popularity, Dayglo said that he feels the aforementioned chaotic nature of the story is exactly what makes the character and the title so enduring among the fan community. “We tend to pull the rug out from under people a bit. A story will ramble on for a while, and then there’s no ending to it,” he said. “That bugs some people, but I think the people that do get Tank Girl understand what we’re doing. It’s more about the journey, and that’s what really interests us. It’s more about the getting there. It’s a bit like taking a road trip. It’s not about the destination. It’s about what you do on the road.”
And as this current road trip continues, Dayglo said he plans on riding shotgun for as long as he can and that he and Alan both have long-term plans for the character and the one-shots. “Each one will have a theme to it,” he said. “This one’s about her backstory and of her military past. The next one will have some more of her backstory as well, but more about young Tank Girl adventures. It’s given us an opportunity to explore bits that wouldn’t fit into a regular miniseries. It’s nice. It’s like doing a whole series of flashbacks. It’s like Image special, acid flashbacks.”
However, when it comes to this car ride, Tank Girl’s behind the wheel, and with five publishers at the moment and a number of books in the works, who knows where the character will be driving the two creators in the future. “Believe me, this was not a conscious decision, it’s all due to the random way I manage the business,” said Martin. “But hey, you’ve read my comics, what were you expecting?
“I think she’ll need reining in at some point,” he continued. “She seems to be running pretty wild at the moment, I have no idea what’s going on with her most of the time. Hopefully she’ll be driving me to a very expensive and exclusive retirement home, one day.”