Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Reader's Diary #891- Jamie Hewlett and Alan Martin: Tank Girl One

Way back in my university days, we were all given university email addresses. It was then I first dabbled in spamming. Well, not spamming exactly because I didn't send to large numbers by true spamming standards, but I did send out a lot of unsolicited emails. I wasn't selling something or trying to start a chain letter, I was sending out random pieces of my writing. It predated blogs so I guess I just wanted to have a way to be published without going through the real channels.

All of the stories revolved around a fictional character named King Smo. (The name having come from someone's clever rearrangement of letters in a "No Smoking" sign posted in the chemistry building cafeteria, where I usually ate lunch.) They were nonsensical, often offensive, filled with plagiarized bits of pop culture, self-aware, self-deprecating, and juvenile. I, of course, thought they were hilarious.

I was reminded of these while reading Jamie Hewlett and Alan Martin's Tank Girl 1, a collection of comics about a beer-swilling, hyperactive, unclassy, cool, confident, Australian girl who— you guessed it— drives a tank. About halfway in I was growing bored and confused so I decided to see if the internet might explain what all the hype was about. It had popped up in a lot of "best graphic novels" lists, so I figured people must have had their reasons. On Wikipedia it was this sentence that had me harkening back to the mid 90s adventures of King Smo:
The strip features [...] stream of consciousness, and metafiction, with very little regard or interest for conventional plot or committed narrative.
Given that frame of mind, I thought I'd be able to enjoy it more. It was exactly like my old King Smo stories. If I could just get my head back in my late teenage years, surely this would be more enjoyable.

Alas, that's easier said than done. I've no doubt that the John of '96 would of thought Tank Girl hysterical and the best thing since ever, but the 2012 John finds it all a little self-indulgent; filled with in jokes and trying too hard to define cool for everyone else.

However, what King Smo didn't have was kick-ass cartooning backing him up. The art-work in Tank Girl is very punk and every frame meticulously and stylistically drawn down to the finest detail. '96 John would have recreated it on his wall, coloured it neon and lit it with black lights. 2012 John isn't going to do that, but unlike the writing, he can at least still appreciate it.

(On an interesting side note, artist Jamie Hewlett went on to co-found Gorillaz with Damon Albarn.)


ChristasBooks said...

I've always wanted to read Tank Girl, it just something I've been curious about for as long as I can remember. I'm sad to hear it's very stream of consciousness style (as that's not my favourite) but I might still check it out for the artwork

John Mutford said...

Christa: That Wikipedia description is somewhat misleading. There are mini-stories scattered throughout. It's all just loose and often incoherent.