Michael Allred’s previous work on “Madman,” “Red Rocket 7” and his very own rock band “The Gear” clearly demonstrates the comic book creator’s strong interest in music and its history, but with “One Model Nation” – the upcoming Image Comics graphic novel written by C. Allbritton Taylor and illustrated by Jim Rugg – the world of music looks entirely different from what Allred has rendered in the past. The distinction can be attributed to a number of factors, from Taylor’s status as a comic book newcomer to the visual differences between Allred and Rugg, but one all-important feature that can’t be neglected is “One Model Nation’s” adherence to history.
Allred, alongside “Popgun” Executive Editor and Image’s PR and Marketing Manager Joe Keatinge, edited “One Model Nation,” which focuses on a rarely discussed but apparently true period in Germany’s post-World War II history. The editors spoke exclusively with CBR News about the story of “One Model Nation,” the book’s historically accurate setting and how Taylor’s original screenplay evolved into an epic graphic novel.
“‘One Model Nation’ takes place during a very real period of time in Germany, 1977, when they’re still coming out of the effects of World War II,” Keatinge described of the premise. “The country is kind of a mess even all that time later. The story focuses on this very real youth revolution and this one band that became the unwitting figurehead, One Model Nation. It’s the story of becoming this figurehead and how they’re dealing with it. It’s awesome, because it has all the aspects of an action movie, but most of it actually really happened.”
Even though searching the pages of history for any record of One Model Nation proves easier said than done, the editors insist that the book’s events are mostly accurate. “This is fact-based, beyond the fantasy alternate history of ‘Red Rocket 7,'” explained Allred. “Part of the power and amazement of ‘One Model Nation’ is that these events actually took place and until now have been widely unknown. You read this baby and just think, ‘Unbelievable – that really happened?!’ It makes you want to hit the history books as well as the record bins.”
Still, some of the details behind “One Model Nation” were harder to come by than others, which Keatinge suggested could be due to the titular band’s lack of detailed record keeping. “Some aspects are fictionalized, but a lot of it actually happened,” he insisted. “It’s interesting, because [the band] disappears after 1977. A lot of the details you’d like to find out about them – what their names are, things like that – that’s one of the things that Taylor is doing, he’s kind of cobbling it all together.”
Given the shared name between the title and the band, One Model Nation is unsurprisingly at the epicenter of the graphic novel, even if some details had to be fudged for the sake of the story. “They’re a band much in the school of [German electronic band] Kraftwerk, really experimental. Defining their sound is kind of hard to do; it’s uniquely theirs,” Keatinge said of the musicians. “They happen to be at the right place at the right time – or, if you look at it, it’s the wrong place at the wrong time – when the Red Army Faction is rising up in Germany. One Model Nation really happens to become the figurehead for that, and it’s a pretty dangerous situation, because wherever the RAF goes, so do the police and so do bullets. People are getting killed. It’s a pretty dangerous period of time.”
“It’s one of the most exciting and most unexplored eras in history – the art noise music movement which kicked up in Germany, paralleling punk rock in the late ’70s, and the political/terrorist events which coincided,” Allred said of the book’s setting. “It’s just so insanely unique – pure, exciting, electric. The combination of elements coupled with this unexplored era makes it a true ground-breaker.”
Originally conceived of as a screenplay, “One Model Nation” became a graphic novel when writer Taylor, a longtime friend of Allred’s, traveled to San Francisco where the “Madman” creator was hosting a comic book signing. There, Allred introduced Taylor to Keatinge. “[Taylor] mentioned that he had this screenplay idea, but Allred was really telling him that it’d be a much better comic,” Keatinge recalled. “Taylor had been reading comics growing up, and Mike really thought he had that creative drive for comics. The three of us talked about it and by the end of the conversation, he was convinced that it would make for a better comic.”
Or, as Allred remembered it: “Boy meets script. Boy loves script. Boy pushes for it to be a graphic novel. Boy and graphic novel are in love and live happily ever after in the end.”
Regardless of how it came about, Keatinge insisted that the story’s original status as a screenplay shouldn’t be seen as a strike against “One Model Nation.” “I always feel kind of worried when you say it like that,” he said. “You always hear people say, ‘Well, I want to do a movie, so let’s do a comic first.’ That’s really not the case here – it was really just that it’d be better in this medium and it became something wholly its own. That was our involvement as editors: helping it become something that’s wholly its own.”
Of course, Allred and Keatinge aren’t the only ones who helped shape Taylor’s Germany-set epic into a graphic novel. Jim Rugg provided the art on “One Model Nation,” something that Allred himself wasn’t able to pursue due to a wealth of reasons. “Time, current commitments – it just wasn’t possible schedule-wise,” he said. “It was eating me up to find another artist, but no one could have rocked it the way Jim has. His work on ‘Afrodisiac’ nails the era. It was a leap of faith that he could work the Europe vibe and he was pure magic. Both Joe and I are big fans of all his stuff and he jumped at it when asked.”
Keatinge admitted that he wasn’t entirely convinced that Rugg would be interested in “One Model Nation” at the outset. “I figured Jim, as a guy who is doing a lot of work, is probably pretty busy. He’s one of those pie-in-the-sky artists where it’d be great, but it’s not going to happen. It didn’t seem realistic to me because he’s always putting out work. But I figured it couldn’t hurt to ask, so I did, and we got the perfect artist right off the bat,” he laughed. “I think Jim is one of the top new cartoonists in comics and could pretty much draw anything you’d possibly want. At the same time, the work he’s done on his own had a quality to it that I was seeing in ‘One Model Nation.’ It needed someone who had a classic eye in cartooning but at the same time has a certain edginess that Jim definitely has.”
Still, the very inception of “One Model Nation” owes thanks to Taylor himself. Even though it’s Taylor’s first effort as a comic book author, both Keatinge and Allred said you’d be hard-pressed to notice. “He’s a natural storyteller,” Allred said of the writer. “He could take any medium and launch it into orbit. Once he does his homework, it just flows. [Joe and I] put him on a crash course of who did what [in comics] and why and when. He just ate it all up.”
“He’s really turned it into its own thing, where it’s changed from what the screenplay was going for,” said Keatinge. “It took about a year [to finish], which is kind of an abnormal amount of time. If you think about it, it’s around 140 pages – that’s an insanely fast turnaround. At the same time, it looks like something that’s taken several years to do. It was just in Taylor’s head for so long, and once it got to a point where it’s like, ‘Let’s turn this into a comic,’ it’s real now. Jim’s on board, Mike and I are ready to plunge Taylor full on into the world of comics. Keeping up an interest level was not hard whatsoever.”
The result, Keatinge said, is a distinctly unique comic book product thanks to the combined efforts of all involved. “There’s nothing like [‘One Model Nation’] on the stands, period,” he said. “I just can’t see anything else like it out there whatsoever. That’s what really gets me stoked – that there’s a new voice in Taylor who hasn’t done anything in comics before, coming into his own and doing an amazing job. And, it’s a stupid cliche, but I really think Jim is doing the best work of his career. If there’s one thing I can guarantee about this book, it’s that it’ll be fucking awesome.”
Stay tuned to Comic Book Resources for our very own exclusive interview with C. Allbritton Taylor and Jim Rugg, the creative team behind “One Model Nation.”
“One Model Nation” hits stores on October 28, 2009, courtesy of Image Comics.