Thursday, August 18, 2011

PS Magazine: The Best of Preventive Maintenance Monthly

Words: Christopher Irving
     The truth is, that Will Eisner never really took a break from comics after The Spirit and before A Contract with God. Abrams’ PS Magazine compilation is not only a reminder of that, but a firm kick in the posterior quarters for those of us who forget about the twenty years he spent refining the sequential craft in this preventive maintenance magazine for the Army.
            Reprinted between snazzy cloth covers, with an embossed title, PS is packaged unlike any previous printings of Eisner’s graphic novels or Spirit works, but alludes to them on the endpapers—a photo of Eisner’s own bound PS Magazine volumes sandwiched between print editions of the Spirit Archives and his several graphic novels. The illusion of this being an old edition is betrayed by printing it on glossy, rather than matte, paper.
            All the Eisner-isms are there in his stories, written to educate Army men and motorists in keeping their equipment up to snuff, from basic engine repair to worst-case scenarios involving neglected carbine rifles. It’s not the educational aspect alone that makes PS interesting (and, in some places, the instructional aspect can get downright boring), it’s Joe Dope, the bumbling but well-meaning G.I., or the heated General Halftrack and, especially, pin-up girl extraordinaire Connie Rodd. Blonde, long-legged, and hour-glass shaped, Connie embodies the Eisner dame to perfection, letting slip with double entendres while leaning over an engine block or unwittingly sending her supporting cast into love struck hysterics.
            As a sidenote, my alma mater Virginia Commonwealth University’s Special Collections has acquired a full collection of PS, and have put the entire Eisner run online. If this volume only whets your appetite, they’re the perfect location to track down more from Eisner’s “lost” period.