One Model Nation is the brain child of The Dandy Warhols’ Courtney Taylor-Taylor with artwrok supplied by Jim Rugg. After being released in 2009 it has now been released on hardcover by Ttian Books.
A work of historical fiction set in Germany in 1977, it follows four young men who were to become the voice of their generation. This is the epic journey of art noise band One Model Nation, the final dark days of the Baader-Meinhof Gang, and the band’s mysterious disappearance only months later. Features a host of bonus extras: sketches, director’s commentary, deleted scenes and more.
Now before I begin I should maybe point out that I’m not really that into music and so only know some of The Dandy Warhols’ songs (and even those I only found out I liked by looking them up and thinking, “Oh, I’ve heard that”). However I also have no idea about the music scene in Berlin during the volatile late seventies. On top of that I also had no idea who the Baader-Meinhof gang were?
That’s were this story goes wrong from the beginning. Knowledge of the latter two seem like necessities to understand the story. I thought about looking into the two things when I was about halfway through the comic and really had no idea what was happening, but surely that’s not the way it should be? My enjoyment of something shouldn’t hinge on knowledge I have to acquire whilst reading a book that uses that subject matter. If anything, shouldn’t what I’m reading enlighten me on the subjects?
The next sticking point is the story itself. It follows an Art Rock Noise band (whatever that is) who get caught up in the troubled time by being a focusing point for young people rebelling against the system/machine/The Man. They don’t want to be part of the revolution and only want to make music, but those damn dirty media are against them at every turn. They somehow get involved in a conspiracy involving the Baader-Meinhof gang, though not really, they sort of just stumble into it along the way and really contribute nothing towards that side story except at the end.
Though there’s a pretty stupid love triangle between one of the gang and one of the musicians but it’ doesn’t make any sense that I can see. Firstly he goes to see her and she pretends to be having sex with someone else to drive him away, then they meet later and she tells him she loves him before leaving to interview Baader. She then she busts Baader out of a library (I’m not too sure why she interviews him in a library in the first place and also, this whole sequence was so badly drawn and laid out that I had trouble figuring out who was where and what was happening) and runs off into the night. It was pointless in the extreme, the whole romantic sub-plot seems to be there so there’s a link between the band and the criminal. Though there’s already a link as their roadie is a also a stone cold cop killer and terrorist bomber…..for some reason that’s never explored.
The whole thing just doesn’t gel. Apparently the story started life as a screenplay and that’s fair enough but surely in adapting it to comic they could have made it a bit more coherent. One scene involves the criminals stopping their car at a stop sign during their escape and getting worried because the car in the lane in front of them should be moving. The fact that the artwork doesn’t convey this means one of the gang has to explain the situation through shoddy exposition that still left me a bit confused as to why they were scared at all.
That brings me to the artwork. Though some people may enjoy the minimalist style I just thought it was rubbish and didn’t help the story at all. Sure, it did kind of remind me of the art in things like “Roy of the Rovers” so did have a nostalgic appeal, but the fact that the band all look the same bugged me as unless it was a close up, they all just looked like the same person (possible this could have been a statement on conformity and individualism. If that’s the case, it worked well, it just also meant my investment in the characters was non-existent because I couldn’t tell who was who and therefore didn’t care about them).
Though the fact that they were pretty much just a tortured band who couldn’t cope with the recognition they got because they just wanted to play their music (man) meant I didn’t really care for them anyway. One character, Sebastian, stands out (even art-wise as he has a bigger nose than the others) and got the most story time but he was such a prick (who quit and rejoined the band like he was Kyle from Tenacious D) that I really didn’t care for him. In fact, I had a problem with the whole band. It was all about the music and no-one understood them and really, that got boring well before the end. In fact, whilst they would later become lauded as the greatest band of the generation in the story, I really thought one character had it right when he pointed out “They’re nobody”.
Also, for some reason the media get a hard time in this comic. They are nothing but a bunch of monsters who only want to demonise the band, to the point where one journalist gets a close up of his sinister face that demands you make a “Dun Dun DUNNNNN” sound effect. I can only imagine this is based on Taylor’s (I refuse to say that twice) own personal experiences because otherwise it’s just a bad depiction of an entire group of people who seemingly only want to hurt bands and are probably trying to take over the world (Note: that would have been more interesting).
Overall I found it hard to get through to the end and even when the story was over, I still got to read Taylor’s self congratulatory final words about this masterpiece that made me cringe in sympathy towards a man who was obviously told he’d done something great rather than be told it’s rubbish, which just rubbed salt into the wounds. Look, I’m obviously not the comics intended audience.
People who like “The Dandy Warhols”, that time period and it’s music, and minimalist art would probably love it. Honestly, I could see this becoming a cult hit due to these factors because this comic will be enjoyed by people who like these three things probably to the same degree that people who aren’t in the know will be put off by them. In fact, there’s maybe even a few hipsters reading this now thinking “He so didn’t get why this was the best thing ever” whilst pushing up their lenses-less glasses and fixing their fedoras.
I’m just not that guy and not that audience so I can’t pretend I liked it. I like a good story, that is self contained and if it brings in outside elements, like real world events, gives me some, if not a lot, of details explaining what is happening (Whilst the music scene holds no appeal to me, the Baader-Meinhof story is actually pretty interesting).
I like artwork that I can appreciate on the merit that it’s appealing to look at and not struggle to find anything worth talking about in it (There’s a difference between subtle artwork and not even showing up). I like characters who aren’t perhaps the comic alter-ego of the writer, though the fact that the bland and boring Sebastian jumps off not one but two ledges (once with a gun for reasons too stupid to go into) make me think this is Taylor’s own personal wish fulfilment right here.
The one good thing I can say is that David Bowie appears for some reason. However I only enjoyed this because I read his lines using a voice like “Flight of the Conhords’” Jermaine when he played David Bowie in Bret’s “Freaky Dream”.
“Am I Freaking You Out, Man? Is This A Freaky Dream?”
Also, in case you want more from One Model Nation, Taylor is releasing an album for the fictional band. I listened to one song called “Animatic”. It was terrible too. Sorry.Tags: Baader-Meinhof Gang, courtney taylor-taylor, david bowie, flight of the conhords, jermaine, jim rugg, one model nation, the dandy warhols