English comic book artist, designer, and director Jamie Hewlett was born 3 April 1968. He is best known for being the co-creator of the comic Tank Girl and the virtual band Gorillaz. He was Brought up in Horsham, West Sussex, and was a pupil at Tanbridge House School. He contributed to the art work of a road safety campaign that ended up runner-up in a national television competition. He then attended Northbrook College, Worthing. Where alongside Alan Martin and fellow student Philip Bond he created a fanzine called Atomtan. This brought him to the attention of Brett Ewins. After leaving college Hewlett and Martin were invited by Ewins to create material for a new magazine he was setting up with Steve Dillon in 1988.
The magazine was called Deadline and featured a mixture of comic strips produced by British creators, and articles on music and culture. Martin and Hewlett created Tank Girl, an anarchic strip about a teenage punk girl who drove a tank and had a mutant kangaroo for a boyfriend. The strip proved instantly popular and quickly became the most talked about part of Deadline. Hewlett’s eccentric style proved popular and he started to work with bands such as Senseless Things and Cud providing covers for record releases; he also contributed artwork sporadically to Commodore User magazine. He also designed decor for a nightclub called The Factory in Chatsworth Road, Worthing, this features red and green stripes, a wall of blown-up panels from Tank Girl set against 1970s wallpaper, a Ford Escort hung from the ceiling and toilets pasted with pages from old comic book annuals. The Factory has since been refurbished and renamed several times.
By 1992, Hewlett had become a major creator in the comics industry, and one of the few to break into mainstream media. He had worked with writer Peter Milligan on Hewligan’s Haircut in 2000 AD issues 700 to 707. He provided covers and art for Shade, the Changing Man, also written by Milligan for DC Comics. Tank Girl was made into a film in 1995 by MGM featuring Lori Petty as Tank Girl. He also drew a Tank Girl mini-series for the Vertigo imprint of DC Comics written by Peter Milligan.
He also opened a secondhand clothing store, 49. The shop, at 49 Rowlands Road, Worthing, was managed by girlfriend Jane Oliver, originally a member of Elastica, Hewlett is also involved with British bands and illustrated a comic strip version of Pulp’s song “Common People”. Deadline was eventually cancelled in 1996 due to falling sales in a changed market and Hewlett concentrated on working in advertising and designs for television, most notably the children’s series SMTV Live, featuring Ant & Dec. He also created the strip ‘Get The Freebies’ published monthly in British fashion magazine The Face. The stories, followed the exploits of Terry Phoo, a gay, Buddhist kung-fu law enforcement officer and his sidekick Whitey Action, an enigmatic young anarchist with a bad attitude, as they tackle their primary adversaries The Freebies Gang of the title.
Musician Damon Albarn and comic book artist Jamie Hewlett met in 1990 when guitarist Graham Coxon, a fan of Hewlett’s work, asked him to interview Blur, a band Albarn and Coxon had recently formed. The interview was published in Deadline magazine, home of Hewlett’s comic strip, Tank Girl. Albarn and Hewlett started sharing a flat on Westbourne Grove in London in 1997. Hewlett had recently broken up with Olliver and Albarn was at the end of his highly publicised relationship with Justine Frischmann of Elastica.
The idea to create Gorillaz came about when Albarn and Hewlett were watching MTV. Hewlett said, “If you watch MTV for too long, it’s a bit like hell – there’s nothing of substance there. So we got this idea for a cartoon band, something that would be a comment on that.” The band originally identified themselves as “Gorilla” and the first song they recorded was “Ghost Train” which was later released as a B-side on their single “Rock the House” and the B-side compilation G Sides. The musicians behind Gorillaz’ first incarnation included Albarn, Del the Funky Homosapien, Dan the Automator and Kid Koala, who had previously worked together on the track “Time Keeps on Slipping” for Deltron 3030’s eponymous debut album. Although not released under the Gorillaz name, Albarn has said that ‘one of the first ever Gorillaz tunes’ was Blur’s 1997 single “On Your Own”, which was released for their self-titled studio album Blur. Albarn worked on the music, while Hewlett came up with character designs, and both came up with ideas for the members of the band.
The first Gorillaz EP was released in 2000 followed by the first album, Gorillaz in 2001. In 2005, their second full studio album, Demon Days was released. In January 2006, Hewlett’s artwork for Gorillaz was shortlisted for the Design Museum’s ‘Designer of the Year’ award. In May 2006, Jamie Hewlett was named the Designer of the Year 2006. On 25 May 2006, both Hewlett and Albarn won the joint award for “Songwriters of the Year” at the Ivor Novello Awards. In 2007, Hewlett and Albarn premiered their first major work since Gorillaz. Entitled Monkey: Journey to the West, a re-working of the ancient Chinese legend Journey to the West. Albarn wrote the score whilst Hewlett designed the set, animations and costumes. Written and adapted by Chen Shi-zheng, the show featured 45 Chinese circus acrobats, Shaolin monks and Chinese vocalists. The ‘Get the Freebies’ strip was also adapted by BBC Three for a pilot entitled Phoo Action, broadcast in February 2008. Hewlett and Albarn also created the animation sequence the BBC used to introduce coverage of the Beijing 2008 Olympics. The sequence titled Journey to the East uses the Monkey character from Monkey: Journey to the West.
In 2011 Hewlett married French presenter and actress Emma de Caunes at St Paul de Vence and a new Tank Girl book 21st Century Tank Girl was released, featuring co-creators Hewlett, and Martin as well as other artists including Brett Parson, Warwick Johnson-Cadwell, Philip Bond, Jim Mahfood, Craig Knowles, and Jonathan Edwards. In 2015, Hewlett debuted his first art exhibition called ‘The Suggestionists’ at the Saatchi Gallery in London. The exhibition then made its American debut at the Woodward Gallery in Manhattan in May 2016.
The Gorillaz latest album Humanz, was released in 2017 Featuring the songs “Saturnz Barz”, with vocals from Jamaican dancehall artist Popcaan, “Andromeda”, featuring American rapper D.R.A.M, “Ascension” (featuring American rapper Vince Staples) and “We’ve Got the Power” (featuring Jehnny Beth of the English rock band Savages and Noel Gallagher of Oasis).