One Model Nation by Courtney Taylor-Taylor and Jim Rugg. Comic Review

ONE MODEL NATION by Courtney Taylor-Taylor and Jim Rugg, Titan Books, h/b, £16.99

Reviewed by Jay Eales

Well, I’m sorry to say that I didn’t like that at all. A heavily fictionalised biography of a Kraftwerk-inspired German electro-pop/rock band during the height of Krautrock, against a backdrop of the Baader-Meinhof Gang’s terrorist activities. Definitely a promising and original scenario, and one I was interested in exploring. It’s an era I have some fondness for, but one I’ve always been meaning to investigate in more depth, so I was hoping that One Model Nation would fill in some of those blanks for me. Unfortunately, the script by Courtney Taylor-Taylor, better known as the lead singer of the Dandy Warhols, takes a lot of liberties with the facts in order to bolster the fiction, but doesn’t serve either well. I found the whole thing muddied and inconsistent, with the characterisation of the band members other than Sebastian as uniform as their stage costumes. I don’t have any clear idea as to what sort of band One Model Nation are. There’s the synthesisers and neat uniformity of Kraftwerk, but coupled with ponytails and shaggy hair, and a frontman who screams and throws himself around like a Damo Suzuki or Iggy Pop. Comics are already at a distinct disadvantage when depicting the music scene, but I have no idea what they sound like, even in my head. In a couple of scenes, just before gigs, they discuss whether one band member or another will show up, but there is not even a hint of panic that they won’t be able to go on with the show, so interchangeable are they! On one hand, Taylor-Taylor is to be applauded for not just trotting out the old tropes of a band biography, but in telling me his truth, I think he skipped a few too many details in the telling.

Taylor-Taylor seems in a rush to leap from event to event, skirting so lightly over everything that I did not feel the importance of anything that was going on, apart from a couple of stand-out scenes. One Model Nation appear on Top of the Pops, and are ushered into the presence of David Bowie, whose likeness is depicted by artist Jim Rugg as though channelling Madman and iZombie artist Mike Allred, who coincidentally wrote the foreword to the book. The other scene which stayed with me was the fictionalised escape of Baader.

This Titan Books edition is a revised new edition of a book previously published by Image. Tayor-Taylor has taken the opportunity to revise some parts of the strip, and there is a fair amount of back matter where he describes the genesis of the project, and we see cover designs, thumbnails and pages from Jim Rugg’s sketchbook. I have to say that I found more power in Rugg’s sketches than in many of the finished pages, but some of that may be down to the odd reproduction, with colouring that gives the impression that it has been photocopied a few times before going to print. This may have been a deliberate choice, to reflect the lo-fi retro zines of the period it depicts, but that may just be me reading too much into things. In the background notes, Taylor-Taylor says that the Image edition also featured a prologue and epilogue by another artist, which does not appear in this version. I wonder whether those scenes would have given me a better grip on the narrative.

Overall, I think that One Model Nation is an example of a celebrity from another medium whose talents do not translate well to comics. Compare and contrast with A Chemical Romance’s Gerard Way, with his Umbrella Academy series, for someone who, arguably, turns out to be a better writer than rock star.