[November 2009 Midwest Book Review]
One Model Nation
C. Allbritton Taylor, Jim Rugg (illustrator) and Cary Porter (supplemental illustrations), Donovan Letich (historian)
2134 Allston Way, 2nd Floor, Berkeley, CA 94704
9781607061571 $17.99 http://www.imagecomics.com
One Model Nation is a bold, new concept by C. Allbritton Taylor and Donovan Leitch. Taking on life as a graphic novel, the idea was originally a screenplay that Taylor and Leitch wrote about a fictitious band caught up in the squeeze between Communism and terrorist youth in 1977 Germany.
Leitch, who is the lead singer with the band Camp Freddie (and the son of Scottish folksinger Donovan and sister of actress Ione Skye), heavily researched the era because he was a fan of the art rock and early electronica that was coming out of Germany in the 70s that influenced David Bowie and Iggy Pop. Leitch and Taylor told a story of a band who just wanted to make music and was caught up in the very real political/terrorist upheaval of the Red Army Faction known as the Baader-Meinof Gang that advocated urban guerrilla terrorism against the fascist state. Their activities, led in the fall of 1977, became a national crisis that was known as the German Autumn. Even though they advocated violence, they weren’t as destructive as the Revolutionary Cells that were responsible for almost 300 bomb attacks in the 30 years they were in existence. Both movements were student led or backed.
As Leitch and Taylor shopped their screenplay around, it caught the eye of Image Comics that saw a way to visualize what the screenplay was intending. Image Comics brought in Afrodisiac and Street Angel illustrator Jim Rugg to do the drawings and inkwork and One Model Nation was born. The graphic novel begins and ends with an interview of two musicians, who are modeled after Taylor and Leitch. Through them, readers learn about One Model Nation, the band that became an underground sensation, but who disappeared mysteriously in 1977. Taylor and Leitch brought in historical characters such as Ulrike Meinhof, who was a television news journalist, Andreas Baader, and Horst Mahler – all early members of the Baader-Meinof Gang.
I really enjoyed reading and seeing illustrations about this era of music that I really didn’t know that much about – and I certainly wasn’t aware of what was happening in Germany during the 70s. Jim Rugg’s illustrations are edgy, not at all like many of the Superman or Batman (or even Watchman or The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) comics I’ve read. This is a sparser picture with less color, preferring black and white with lots of muddy reds. The dialogue is equally sparse, letting the mood of the illustrations carry the work. It is very effective.
Donovan Leitch announced recently that he is pulling together a band called One Model Nation to play at Comic-Con in California in July in 2010 to showcase the graphic novel. With the readership that this novel will surely generate, Leitch and Taylor may see their screenplay revisited by Hollywood, and in a more favorable light.