Though Tank Girl first appeared as a comic strip in Deadline magazine in 1988, I got to the party kind of late. In fact, though it’s uncool to say, I had no idea who she was until Hollywood made a movie about her in 1995 – a film the comic’s co-creator Alan Martin apparently called a “shit sandwich” (though I have that quote third-hand). Shit sandwich or no, and even after years of consuming fashion images in art, films, and magazines, Lori Petty’s often-maligned representation of the indie comic icon stopped me in my tracks.
Originally written by Alan Martin and illustrated by Jamie Hewlett, Tank Girl (TG) was described by her creators as “Mad Max designed by Vivienne Westwood; Action Man designed by Jean Paul Gaulthier.”* An ass-kicking, gun-toting, tank-driving anti-hero with a smart mouth and a punk-rock haircut, TG was , to me, a model of perfectly unselfconscious rebellion. She didn’t give a damn and, furthermore, she didn’t give a damn that she didn’t give damn – if you follow.
I was 23 when the movie came out, and TG was was the toughest girl I’d ever seen – but it was her aesthetic that made me a fan for life. A brilliant mix of push-up bras and motorcycle boots, wrecked tee shirts, military goggles, sweat-sock-armbands and vampy 50s makeup, her style was fierce and joyful and utterly unapologetic.