I recently came across an interview I carried out with Tank Girl creator Alan Martin that never saw the light of day. The years was 2007. I was writing for a magazine we were producing for the comic book shop that I helped run, and I was convinced that this would lead to a life-long friendship with Alan.
For reasons I can’t remember, the project went nowhere and the interview was shelved. Maybe that’s why Alan never asked me to collaborate with him on the new Tank Girl material? Anyway, I hung on to the transcript for 13 years, and only recently remembered that I still had it saved in a folder in my e-mails. I’m not really sure why I kept it, maybe I thought I’d be able to use it someday. Some day like today, perhaps?
And so, better late than never, I present to you an interview with comic book creator extraordinaire, Alan C. Martin. May he stumble upon this, wherever he is, and remember that we have a lot of catching up to do!
Interview dated: August 8th, 2007
It’s been 12 years since we last heard from Tank Girl. Why did you decide to bring her back?
I’d kind of written her off after the movie, but when the Titan re-prints started to sell so well they suggested that we generate new material. I slowly started to put together some bits of stories, and these became the Armadillo! novel.
Is this the same Tank Girl we grew up with? Or have you aimed this at a new generation who may not have read the original books?
Change always seemed to be the nature of Tank Girl, so I would have to say a bit of both. Although, from the first issue of The Gifting, it’ll probably be quite difficult for a new reader to know what the Hell is going on. That series will come into its own once it’s collected as a trade paperback.
What made you go with IDW for The Gifting?
Once I’d got Ashley Wood (Judge Dredd, 30 Days of Night), onboard as artist, it soon became obvious that IDW were the only publishers that he was prepared to work with. And that was fine by me, they do put out particularly fine-looking products.
You’ve said that Jamie (Hewlett, co-creator) has given his full support to the new project. Was he ever going to be on board with the project?
Yes. I wrote The Gifting about three years ago, when Jamie was between Gorillaz albums, and he was originally pencilled-in to do covers and a few strips. I also had Philip Bond (Deadpool) and Glyn Dillon (2000 AD) doing stuff too, but schedules ran over and the whole thing went belly-up.
Were you familiar with Ashley’s other work before you two got together? Is there a whole new creative process involved that you and Jamie didn’t have?
I’d never heard of Ashley until a friend recommended and introduced him to me. With this project, because I had the whole thing already written, and because Ash lives on the other side of the planet, there really was no creative process between us at all.
Can you tell us a little about how yourself and Jamie worked in the early days? How did the whole Deadline thing come about?
Jamie was always an extremely hard worker and I was always a completely lazy sod. Somehow this combination equalled a fine dynamic for producing a radically different comic style. The ingredients that went into making Tank Girl in the first place were all very throw-away. I mean neither of us were schooled in the classics or Latin or the art of modern storytelling.
Everything we put in there was straight off of a Pop Will Eat Itself record or had been recycled from an episode of The Young Ones. So our working process was very organic, very instinctive, and the ideas just fell out of our subconscious.
[For a full run-down of the start of Deadline and how Tank Girl originated, read Alan’s introduction to the 2002 Tank Girl Book 1 reprint from Titan.]
Titan Books were responsible for many of the reprints of your early work. Did this influence your decision to work with them for your next project, Carioca?
Yeah, we’re trying to keep all the Tank Girl titles under one roof. The Gifting went a bit astray because of Ashley’s preferences, but Titan are doing the UK collections of that in October anyway.
You’ve said on several occasions that you didn’t like the Tank Girl movie. Whose idea was it to adapt her for the big screen in the first place and would you have chosen Lori Petty for the title role?
The idea had been around for a few years. Finally, Rachel Talalay (director) was given a copy of the Penguin compilation by her teenage daughter one Christmas and she instantly fell in love it. She shopped it around for another year or so and it got picked up, just as the late 80’s/early 90’s comic wave was cresting.
I had lots of ideas for who could play the lead, but most of them were B-list Brit TV stars, rather than Hollywood A-list, so there wasn’t much hope. I had no idea who Lori Petty was. And no, I wouldn’t have picked her.
Rachel Talalay has since said that the film was taken out of her hands by studio execs and watered down, pardon the pun. We hear this so much from filmmakers. Was this your understanding of why it was so poorly received?
To a certain extent yes, but I still think that the script sucked from the very beginning, so there wasn’t much of a chance for it to work out well. It was all American locker-room humour, there was nothing surreal or alternative about the jokes, I find it very painful to watch because the dialogue is so bad. It looks great though!
Will there ever be another movie? Have you ever been tempted to go with an animated series like HBO did with Spawn?
Show me the money and I’ll write it myself!
Is it true you destroyed a lot of the Tank Girl material after the movie came out?
Yeah, a couple of years down the line, after having moved around quite a bit, I took what was to have been the second series in the Manga/Vertigo comics (instead they used Apocalypse, which I was never consulted about) and threw it all on the fire. It was a story based on Heart Of Darkness which I’d called ‘The Soul of the Ape’. That and a bunch of shorts and Booga solo stories. That stuff was to much of a weight to carry around with me for the rest of my life.
I bought two of your Tank Girl novellas from your online store. Can you tell us how these came about and why you decided to self-publish them?
I just had to get something out there. Things were really dragging with publishers and I was writing and writing and not getting any feedback from anywhere. So in the end I just printed them myself, which was how Tank Girl kind of started in the first place, and sold them on eBay, which is a great place for such ventures. Doing that, in a round-about way, brought about the resurrection of the character. Titan will be releasing a much-expanded version of Armadillo! next March (2008).
I read somewhere that you were into The Freak Brothers and Daniel Clowes’ work. Do comics feature much in your life outside of the day job?
I don’t own a TV, but I do have a video projector and a portable DVD player. I just don’t watch broadcast television, I like to have complete control over what I watch and when I watch it. TV is horribly hypnotic.
Tank Girl has always been yours and Jamie’s baby. Will you ever allow someone else to tell her story?
As far as I’m concerned, the only two people who can write Tank Girl authentically are Jamie and myself. The rest of it has never rung true. Pete Milligan did some funny stuff, but he’s too well informed and too well educated to relax into the low-brow potty-humour that makes Tank Girl tick. A lot of people have said the same about the artwork – that it only works for them when Jamie is drawing it – which I completely understand. but Jamie isn’t gonna be drawing it, and I’m doing my best to bring an exciting mixed bag of artists to the Tank Girl party.
I’ve just been looking at some previews of (artist) Mike McMahon’s pages for “Carioca”, and I’ve got to say that he’s doing an incredible job, really intricate, stunningly beautiful, like no other Tank Girl you’ve seen before. This is the longest Tank Girl story I’ve ever written, so expect another complete departure from what has gone before.
The Gifting was released on November 23, 2007. It was the first new collection of Tank Girl material since 1995. Since then, Alan has gone on to work with various artists to create dozens of new titles, with a whole new series due out later this year. Tank Girl the movie has gone on to have a huge cult following.