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Banned Books Week Spotlight: Tank Girl is a celebration of going too far, destined to shock the easily upset

Jamie Hewlett and Alan Martin's Tank Girl was anarchic, violent, and sexy... No wonder some people complained

Tank Girl
Image credit: Jamie Hewlett/Titan Comics

For anyone familiar with Jamie Hewlett and Alan Martin’s Tank Girl, it’s clear that half of the appeal of the strip is its anarchic approach to… well, everything, really, from the setting of the strip — is it a post-apocalyptic Australia filled with mutant kangaroos, or simply whatever the creators want it to be for any given situation whether it’s referencing old 1960s TV show The Prisoner or whatever random piece of pop culture ephemera the two were influenced by at the time? — to the very conventions of what readers should be expecting from the strip as a whole. After all, why take a story from beginning to end if it’s funnier to abandon everything midway through and go off and do something else instead, ideally while making fun of both creators and readers for thinking anything else was ever going to happen in the first place.

Tank Girl, at its best, is a comic that very clearly doesn’t give a fuck what you think about it. It’s an unfiltered, unfocused joy that celebrates hedonism in multiple forms, not the least of which includes the pure pleasure of comics, and comic strip logic. The impossible happens on a regular basis, which means all the traditional rules are out the window. With excess being one the comic’s guiding principles — how big, how loud, how outrageous can things get and still be entertaining? — especially in its earliest incarnation, Tank Girl was almost guaranteed to upset those of the more delicate disposition.

No surprise, then, that a collection of the title was challenged at the Hammond Public Library in Hammond, Indiana in 2009. The book was, according to one library patron, too much in terms of its approach to both violence and nudity, and in their opinion should have been removed from the shelves. Such a complaint wasn’t just particularly prudish, it was also missing the point of the book, in which going too far was going just far enough. The complaint was overruled, and Tank Girl remained available for those it was intended for — an audience that would forever be grateful to see Madonna’s 1990s fashion sense parodied by a mouthy Australian using actual missiles as a bra. Sometimes, these stories have happy endings.

Tank Girl, co-created by Jamie Hewlett and Alan Martin, is currently available in a collected edition from Titan Comics.

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Graeme McMillan

Staff Writer

Popverse staff writer Graeme McMillan (he/him) has been writing about comics, culture, and comics culture on the internet for close to two decades at this point, which is terrifying to admit. He completely understands if you have problems understanding his accent.
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