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An Army publication on preventive maintenance would hardly be a common choice when deciding what materials to digitize and make available to a wider audience. But publications aren't filled with the incomparable art work of the late Will Eisner (1917-2005).
Will Eisner was already famous for his work on The Spirit when he was drafted for duty during World War II. While in the service, Eisner put his artistic talents to work in army publications, creating a character named Joe Dope. After the war, the army wanted to design a publication dedicated to preventive maintenance that soldiers would actually want to read, and turned to Eisner's young company, American Visuals Corporation. Eisner was the artistic director for PS Magazine from its inception in 1951 through 1972.
Eisner began a 24 year absence from the comic book world when he founded the American Visuals Corporation in the late 1940s to produce commercial work. As one of the biggest names in the industry, Eisner attracted some of the best aspiring comic artists. Artists you will find in PS Magazine include: Murphy Anderson (Strange Adventures, Mystery in Space, Adam Strange, The Flash, Green Lantern); Mike Ploog (Creepy, Planet of the Apes, Werewolf by Night, Man-Thing); Don Perlin (Werewolf by Night, Ghost Riders, The Defenders); Dan Spiegle (Space Family Robinson, Mangus, Robot Fighter, Korak); and comic strip artist/writer Andre LeBlanc ("The Phantom," "Flash Gordon," "Rex Gordon, MD").
Each issue of PS Magazine consisted of a color comic book style cover, often designed and drawn by Eisner; eight full pages of four color comic continuity story in the middle; and the rest was filled with technical, safety, and policy information printed in two color to save money. The continuity story starred his earlier character and was called "Joe's Dope Sheet." Each episode offers the same cautionary tale: a soldier who ignores preventive maintenance learns of its importance in the end. Eisner commanded a high level of freedom to create the continuity section and he used his colorful comic style to draw the reader in.
Eisner had always believed that the comics medium had teaching potential and the work of American Visuals Corporation helped confirm this for him. The company produced educational cartoons and illustrations and giveaway comics for a variety of clients and industries. Eisner took on a number of roles within the company. In the case of PS Magazine, he created the continuity section and the art of each issue based upon the technical manuscripts provided to him by the Army's PS staff. As part of his contract with the magazine, Eisner was sent on location to places like Japan, Korea, and Vietnam in order to meet soldiers and better understand the situations they and their equipment experienced.
Will Eisner revolutionized the world of comic books twice. First with the 1939 comic The Spirit, a gritty urban crime fighter tale written for adult readers and distributed as a newspaper insert. Then with his 1978 , A Contract with God and Other Tenement Stories, one of the first modern graphic novels. In between, he and his company showed how comics could be used as popular educational tools.
We are pleased to offer a complete run of all Eisner issues, issues 1-229, as well as 3 special issues and 22 index issues, primarily digitized from the print copies held by James Branch Cabell Library Special Collections and Archives. Special thanks go to the PS Magazine Division of the U.S. Army for generously donating 92 issues for scanning to help us fill in the gaps.
This material is in the public domain in the United States and thus is free of any copyright restriction. Acknowledgement of Virginia Commonwealth University Libraries as a source is requested.
Additional research information
For more on Will Eisner, see Will Eisner: A Spirited Life by Bob Andelman. PN6727. E4Z55 2005
For more on PS Magazine or to view current issues, visit: https://www.logsa.army.mil/#/psmag