Tank Girl made her debut in the first issue of British magazine Deadline. According to the magazine’s co-publisher Tom Aster, the publication aimed to be “a forum for the wild, wacky and hitherto unpublishable.”
There couldn’t be a more perfect fit for this description than Tank Girl herself. Her lewd and crude attitude with a predilection for intimacy and violence made her the perfect flagship character for the alternative comic showcase.
Outside of the comics, many people will only be familiar with the character from the flop mid nineties movie starring Lori Petty. Whilst the film has its fans and an undeniable cult following, it’s generally agreed that it was an inferior take on what made the title so popular.
Tank Girl is a controversial character and both the comics and the movie have a bunch of things people may find surprising and amazing.
Here are the 15 Mind-Blowing Things You Didn’t Know About Tank Girl.
15. She may be the reincarnation of an ancient Aborgine spirit
Tank Girl goes by many aliases. For many years, her given name was Rebecca Buck. However, in the more recent 21st Century Tank Girl comics, her birth name has been slightly retconned to be Fonzie Rebecca Buckler. Considering her love for both herself and pop culture, you’d think she’d be proud to tell people her original moniker.
However, perhaps her most important other identity comes from the post-apocalyptic Aborigines who call her “Tanicha”. Tanicha was the spirit of unbridled youth, life and wisdom. Sounds nice, right?
Well, Tanicha could be also summoned to wreak bloody vengeance on the people trying to take their land away. In one flashback, the spirit appears and literally tears her way through a would-be colonialist with her bare hands.
As with many Tank Girl stories, this isn’t to be looked at with too much scrutiny, but it serves as an interesting element to the character nonetheless.
14. She became an outlaw after failing to deliver colostomy bags
Tank Girl’s origins can be traced back to one big moment in her life. Her downfall came when she was tasked with time-sensitive mission to prevent the public embarrassment of the President.
In the very first issue of Tank Girl, we see TG rolling across the wasteland in her tank. She’s suddenly accosted by a wildman without clothing. The man seizes control of the tank and flips it, leaving it stuck with no hope of rescue.
President Hogan is due to give a speech at a big trade conference, but the Prez has notorious digestive issues. Without TG’s shipment of face-saving colostomy bags, the inevitable happens and Hogan is left humiliated in front of the assembled press and dignitaries.
In response, he puts a multi-million dollar bounty on Tank Girl’s head, meaning she has to live the rest of her days on the run.
13. She has one strange “power”
Tank Girl isn’t superpowered. She’s got artillery training, a honking great tank and a lifetime of crazy. This serves her well in the unforgiving post-apocalyptic outback, but according to her, she does have one unique ability.
She can outrun any ice-cream van. Apparently, even a “Mr. Whippy”. This doesn’t get tested much out in the desert, but there’s something great about a character that has a burst of manic energy everytime a frozen treat is nearby. Ice cream is a strangely prevalent and recurring theme in Tank Girl’s life.
Her mutated kangaroo boyfriend Booga used to have an ice cream business which he called “Nice Cream” before he met her. In 21st Century Tank Girl #3, she takes her obsession to the next level and gets her Evel Knievel on, attempting to jump 37 ice cream vans in her tank. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t go according to plan and features some choice swearing from the foul-mouthed TG.
12. She had an unconventional childhood
For someone as off-the-wall as Tank Girl, an unusual upbringing makes all kinds of sense. Her very first words were a combination of “cauliflower” and a specific male body part.
We know that she has a good relationship with her mother, as she regularly writes letters home, but her dad is a different story. Actions speak louder than words and as she killed a man she thought was her father, we need say no more.
At age 7, she started a collection of novelty pencil sharpeners. Over the years, the collection grew so large and varied that it was of special cultural importance.
It’s said that young Rebecca’s sharpener collection now resides at Sydney’s National Museum of Modern Pencil Sharpeners, which sounds like a wonderful family day out if you hate your children.
11. She found the Fountain of Youth
In Tank Girl 2 #3, TG has a family dilemma. Her grandmother’s sick with some kind of tropical disease, the same one that was “in that old Tarzan film”. The only hope to save Tank Girl’s grandma is to seek out the fabled Fountain of Youth.
She travels to Stonehenge (where the demons dwell), and is thrown into the air. She’s hit by Booga’s plane and they plummet down into a trippy whirlpool. They crash and when TG wakes up, she’s in front of the Fountain, missing an arm and bleeding out.
She stumbles to the pool to find none other than comic creators Alan and Jamie enjoying the water. She’s told the Fountain only has one charge left and has to choose between saving her or her grandmother’s life.
Tank Girl refuses to accept this and literally writes the script so that she’s fully healed and her grandma lives. And you thought Deadpool was meta.
10. She’s fought in World War II
Most comic heroes worth their salt have travelled back in time at some point. It’s a genre staple. This applies to Tank Girl too, who found herself at the mercy of a time-twisty adventure.
At the end of Tank Girl: Gold, Sub Girl and Jet Girl have been somehow lost in the past. Thanks to some ancient mushrooms and a “sensory saturation tank”, TG and Booga travel back to 1944.
This is picked up in World War Tank Girl where TG gorily cuts down hordes of Nazis to get her friends back. Booga, on the other hand, was imprisoned and had to engineer a classic prison break to bust out.
In a Great Escape/ Happy Days reference twofer, he finally breaks free by commandeering a motorbike and literally jumping a shark in his bid for freedom over the prison walls.
9. The comic creators admit that the movie is “a sore point”
When the 1995 movie was released, it was a critical and commercial dud. In the years since, we’ve learned that a ton of things went wrong behind the scenes that led to a heavily compromised final product. Comic co-creators Alan Martin and Jamie Hewlett were involved in the production of the movie, but much of their input was ignored by the studio.
By all accounts, the production was a mess. Martin says they were only brought in last minute when the studio realized that what they’d done bore little resemblance to the comic.
Hewlett called the script “lousy” and stated that they’d try to inject some classic TG humor and obscure pop culture jokes into proceedings but it became apparent that the people in charge didn’t “get” it.
Worse still, Deadline magazine, home of Tank Girl, put a lot of money into promoting the movie and went bust at the end of 1995 after the movie sank at the box office.
8. The filmmakers forgot to film important scenes
Filmmaking is a complicated ordeal. There are mountains of things both big and seemingly insignificant to consider on even the humblest of movies. No matter how inexperienced you are, you’d think that making sure that you have all the scenes required would be Filmmaking 101.
Well, thanks to a combination of emotions running high and constant studio pressure, the makers of the Tank Girl movie found themselves in the unenviable position of not having all the necessary footage needed to tell their story and no time or money to go back and reshoot.
Co-creator Jamie Hewlett was hurriedly brought in to draw and animate the missing scenes, some of which were integral to the plot. To be fair to the movie, the jarring comic book transitions do add some authenticity to the piece.
Having said that, the fact that they had to resort to such a patchwork solution for something so simple speaks volumes about the troubled production.
7. James Cameron and Steven Spielberg were interested in directing the movie
In terms of movie industry giants, you can’t get much bigger than James Cameron or Steven Spielberg. The story goes that at one time in the early nineties, many years before the eventual movie, they were both expressed an interest in taking Tank Girl from the page to the big screen.
As the comic wasn’t particularly mainstream at the time, either of the legendary directors could have been a huge get for the property. Who knows what kind of version we’d have got if either had stuck around, but unfortunately it has to be tossed onto the pile of awesome things that cruelly never happened.
One thing is for sure, we’re betting neither Cameron nor Spielberg would have forgotten to film scenes or had the studio breathing down their necks quite so hard.
6. The movie was heavily cut due to test screenings
Screening a rough cut of a movie for a selected public audience to get their feedback is nothing new. Test screenings have been around for decades and are still used today. There have been numerous studies into the actual usefulness of the process, but studios have sworn by them. When a rough version of Tank Girl was shown to a focus group, the reaction wasn’t very positive.
Fearing a flop, MGM then decided to chop and change huge sections of the movie to help it appeal to general audiences. Director Rachel Talalay talks of how she was locked out of the editing room and basically had the movie taken off her.
Many scenes that fleshed out characters and story points were unceremoniously dropped from the final cut. The biggest casualty was the character of Sub Girl, who originally played an important role in the story. Poor Ann Cusack saw her once meaty part cut down into a one-scene cameo.
5. Naomi Watts is apparently “ashamed” of the movie
We’ve all got to start somewhere and for Naomi Watts that start was Tank Girl. The English actress reportedly auditioned 9 times before landing her first Hollywood role as Jet Girl.
According to several sources, Naomi is now “ashamed” of the movie and her role in it. Granted, the film’s commercial failure didn’t really do anything for her career, but it’s a pity that she’d look back on her experiences with embarrassment.
Having said that, the actress did share a throwback picture on her official Instagram in 2016 that suggests things weren’t all bad. The picture shows her with Jet Girl’s brunette locks next to Lori Petty sporting a completely shaved head.
By contrast, Petty has embraced the film wholeheartedly saying “It was unique, it was new, it was fresh, it was way ahead of its time, and I’m happy that I got to do it and that I’ll always have her”
4. Stan Winston’s effects team took a huge pay cut to work on the movie
If you don’t know the name Stan Winston, you’ll almost certainly be familiar with his work. With the aid of his talented team, he worked on Aliens, Predator, Terminator 2 and Jurassic Park as well as a long list of incredibly famous movies.
Considering he was a multiple Oscar winner, the Tank Girl movie team decided to throw a Hail Mary and ask the man and his crew to work on their low budget film.
Not only did Stan Winston surprisingly say “yes” but his company agreed to work at much less than their usual rate. They cut their pay in half to work on Tank Girl, saying that the Rippers would be “the best characters we’ve had the opportunity to do.”
If you ever needed proof that Stan Winston and his effects crew were legit, there you have it.
3. Several Spice Girls auditioned to be Tank Girl
In a weird way, Tank Girl is semi-responsible for the mega-huge nineties band The Spice Girls. When it came time to cast the movie, the net was spread wide to ensure they’d have the best possible lead.
A pre-fame Victoria Adams (now Beckham) and Geri Halliwell both showed up for the casting calls. The filmmakers obviously ended up going for Lori Petty, so the pre-Girl Power duo were turned away.
Victoria and Geri met at another audition and recognized each other from the Tank Girl casting. They struck up a conversation that led to a friendship, establishing the kernel for the eventual Spice Girls.
There are even reports that Baby Spice Emma Bunton also tried out for Tank Girl, but unlike Geri and Victoria, there’s no gloriously cringey video footage.
If that wasn’t enough, Gwen Stefani also apparently auditioned to be TG, and whilst unsuccessful, clearly took some inspiration from the character into her music career.
2. Her image was used to protest the UK government’s homophobic laws
The Tank Girl comics were a huge hit with the UK’s LGBTQ scene when they were released. Tank Girl’s alternative look, unabashed hedonism and her empowered attitude made her a popular gay icon and soon her face was on a bunch of t-shirts as a symbol of her punk-rock counter-culture status.
When the UK government introduced some homophobic legislation in 1988 in the form of Clause 28. It was basically a loosely worded rule that local authorities couldn’t “promote” homosexuality. There was a ton of confusion over whether this applied to schools too, and many LGBTQ support groups and organisations shut down over fear of breaching the new law.
There was understandably a lot of anger from the LGBTQ community and huge protests happened up and down the country. A huge march in London against Margaret Thatcher’s government took place and specially made anti Clause 28 Tank Girl t-shirts, posters and underpants were sold.
1. The studio hated the love scene between Tank Girl and Booga
Tank Girl’s sort-of interspecies romance with Booga was always going to be a tough sell. Apparently, their relationship was only brought in for the final versions of the script because the writers felt that they had established him as a proper character rather than “just a kangaroo”.
Their sneakiness came to an end when MGM higher ups saw some rough footage and demanded that a supposedly raunchy scene in bed between Booga and Tank Girl be cut entirely from the film. This was at a late stage and despite the set and certain props having been made for the scene, it hit the cutting room floor.
Whilst a similar watered-down scene did appear in the movie, MGM still weren’t happy and fought with director Rachel Talalay to remove it from the VHS, despite it having been in the theatrical release.
Can you think of any other crazy facts about Tank Girl? Sound off in the comment section!
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