Tank Girl: The R-Rated Harley Quinn We (Still) Need

As the world goes crazy for DC's Harley Quinn, Tank Girl is back reminding fans of her rougher, crazier, but just as smart style.

Tank Girl Gold New Comics

[WARNING: Contains SPOILERS for Tank Girl: Gold and Tank Girl: Two Girls One Tank.]

Tank Girl’s career of tomfoolery and hyper-violent antics now spans nearly three decades. Despite hitting her apex and then nadir of popularity in the mid-90s - following the release and subsequent bomb of the Lori Petty-fronted Rachel Talalay film adaptation, Tank Girl (1995) - the career of a young army deserter turned punk rock outcast (who is preternaturally fond of tanks) rolls on.

Sure, there have been a few gaps between her comic book outings, much like her slightly cleaner DC counterpart, Harley Quinn. But just like the Joker's girlfriend, Tanky has managed to extend her fan-base to a new generation by retaining her ovaries-to-the-wall insanity and, to a lesser degree, maturing a bit. It also helps that co-creator Alan Martin (and, occasionally, Jamie Hewlett) has been there to continue her absurd exploits as well as her evolution throughout the years.

Though she’s faced off against all manner of madness in her time, nothing could prepare Tank Girl for the  shocking return of Sub Girl in the previous Titan storyline, “Two Girls One Tank.” Tragically, no sooner had Sub Girl returned from her 20-year literal and literary absence, than she was taken from the merry band once again – thanks to the contraptions of her former captor. On the plus side, Tank Girl and crew managed to make off with a crate of Nazi gold.

Be warned any who enter into the domain of Tank Girl, though: her comics carry a robust R Rating – although this article is rated PG for euphemisms and sarcasm.

Sub Girl Returns (Again)

Tank Girl Sub Girl Tank Girl Jet Girl Titan Comics

The follow up to her recent misadventures, “Gold” kicks off moments after the crew – made up of “super marsupial spouse” Booga, stalwart companion Jet Girl, and more recent pal, flighty skater chick Barney – flee the house of the mad Doctor Dick. He happens to be the surgeon who found Sub Girl near death 20 years ago after a shootout and nursed her back to health, only to warp her amnesiac mind into a clone of his deceased, octogenarian movie star wife (phew!). Anyway, the team battles it out with the Australian Army under the direction of General Fletcher, who’s been in hot pursuit of Tank Girl ever since her defection.

As Jet and Tank Girl try to escape in the Sub Girl’s sub, they discover the strafing runs have severed the ballast pumps from the controls. Trying to repair them by reconnecting two live wires, Jet Girl stumbles into Sub Girl’s corpse, jolting her back to life. After yet another narrow escape, the posse regroups on the beach with a now-revived Sub Girl. After her near-death experience, Sub Girl now can’t remember a damn thing from her horrific time trapped with the doctor and as an art gallery owner (*shudder*). However, she completely recalls her old life as a barmy outlaw 20 years prior.

Booga Faces Down Mad Max: ‘Furry Road’

Tank Girl Booga Furry Road Titan Comics

Sub Girl may be a blank slate about her missing 20 years, but she does discover a bombshell of her own: it seems that all this recent tank-on-tank trouble was the result of a certain furry brown kangaroo-mutant and his gambling habit. Apparently, Booga lost Tank Girl’s signature craft (and home, no less) during a card game.

In order to teach Booga a lesson, they decide to send him on a forced march down the Furry Road (wink wink nudge nudge). A very special village resides along said path, one where all the inhabitants are female and cursed with a genetically inherited... ‘social condition,’ let's call it. The reunited trio also seeks retribution against Barney for her complicity in the plot. Rather than making her to face the ‘restless’ locals, though, the gals force her to write a 2000 word apology note – something nearly torturous for the space-cadet – and at which she utterly fails. Booga survives his torment, but not without some bruises (and much, much worse).

Crennis Takes the World by Storm

Tank Girl New Sport Crennis rules Titan Comics

With their need for vengeance satisfied and a crate of illicit gold at their fingertips, the gals (and Booga) find themselves living not out of a tank but in the lap of luxury. Like being trapped inside a keg of beer, though, the fun quickly wears thin (something about money and the inability to legally tender certain emotional states with it). In any case, the filthy-rich desperadoes decide to put together an epic caper, one which will land them in the history books. They create a new national sport: Australian-Rules Crennis.

A hodgepodge blend of Cricket, Tennis, and Field Hockey, among others, the appropriately chaotic sport, which has rules almost as grandiloquent as Major League Baseball – which cannot be printed in whole without a NSFW declaration – takes off like wildfire. The only problem is, as Tank Girl and her crew battle their opponents on national TV during the Crennis Super-Duperbowl, General Fletcher’s men recognize her, forcing them to flee the arena.

Their brief, illustrious athletic career at an end, Tank Girl, and the gaggle are still left with a remarkable amount of liquid assets. So what are the wealthy dilettantes to do? Why, make a movie, of course.

Tank Girl Joins the Space Race

Tank Girl Gold 2 movie scene Titan Comics

If you’ve seen one 70s race car movie, you’ve seen them all, right? Perhaps not in Tank Girl’s world. Writer Alan Martin’s clever concept is a mash-up of at least half a dozen fan-favorite (and not-so-favorite) 1970s and 80s era car chase and race-related movies. With a premise similar to Corvette Summer – one of Mark Hamill’s lesser films – Tank Girl’s film “Safe in Your Spiral Arms” spoofs everything from Smokey and the Bandit to Cherry 2000 and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Martin even meta-winks at the audience by basing the plot off the ‘true story’ from “Two Girls One Tank.”

Suffice to say, their pastiche to end all space-race pastiches climaxes with a bang-up race that borrows beats from American Graffiti and The Empire Strikes Back. Taking it to the full measure, the gals and Booga wrap the film, enjoying the glitz and glamor of a red carpet premiere. However, they forgot one important thing: the Australian Army is still out to wipe them off the planet.

So Long and Tanks for all the Wit?

Tank Girl Two Girls One Tank trouble Titan Comics

Fans of Tank Girl or those who once knew her zany ways, but fell off in recent year may wonder whether she’s still relevant for the modern era. Sure, her punk rock ethos and wantonly destructive attitude were great for the materialistic 80s of Bret Easton Ellis and the existentialist 90s of Ethan Hawke, but the times have changed. Yet, in this politically divisive era, where everyone is uptight about everything... it seems the world needs Tank Girl more than ever.

Thanks to Alan Martin’s contrary blend of arrested development and refined storytelling, his tank-driving agent of change is still able to stir the cultural pot. He’s maintained Tank Girl's devotion to coarse language, pop-culture reflexiveness, and snide, anti-authority mission statement - all of which made Tank Girl great in the first place - while adding more subtle, mature satire into mix.

Tank Girl’s latest iteration, though missing Jamie Hewlett’s distinctive hand, relies on Brett Parson’s sure pen, which creates a vibrant world that honors Hewlett without mimicking it (for the most part). Martin's ability to update the anarchic lass is proof of his maturity as an author. Much like DC’s “Rebirth” and their work with Harley Quinn, He's able to retain the hyper-kinetic action and senseless violence, but present a sharper, emotionally-driven plot.

Ideas are Tank-proof

Tank Girl Two Girls One Tank 4 variant Titan Comics

Tank Girl has emerged from the shadow of her own novelty, much like Harley did from the Joker’s heavy hand. She’s strong, sexy, nuttier than a fruitcake, and loyal to a fault. Despite occasional gratuitous nudity, she always comes across as in-charge, and plays by her own rules. Despite a slight nudge towards respectability, Tank Girl has avoided becoming a dull sot in sensible hipster garb (see the Sub Girl-transformation subplot for additional parody).

While some old school fans may see this as selling out, at least compared to her rawer earlier comics – this old school fan does not. In the same fashion that DC may brand Harley (thanks to Suicide Squad), whoever owns the movie rights to Tank Girl may try to rebuild her troubled cinematic legacy, assuming that her popularity continues to climb. However, they both retain a certain wildness of spirit, an insanity which only makes them more subversive on a broader scale.

Sure, the middle-finger punk-rock style which bred Fonzie Rebecca Buckler (Tank Girl’s real name), and Harley Quinn to a lesser extent, may have been watered down and sold en masse, but the concepts – thinking for one's own self, questioning everything, and deconstructing every old idea – are more relevant than ever in an era where unfiltered rumors masquerade as truth which then floats around our mass-media-saturated collective consciousness.

And thanks to swell gals like Tank Girl, those ideas are still ricocheting around the world like stray 155 mm shells in the Australian Outback.

Next: Harley Quinn Goes PUNK in DC's Rebirth

Source: Titan Comics

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