Thursday, February 28, 2013

PS Magazine: The Best of The Preventive Maintenance Monthly

A little something out of the ordinary today.  Will Eisner, no fool he, didn't just do comics work.  Knowing the value of a steady stream of income Eisner, an Army veteran of WWII, obtained a contract with the Army that had him providing illustrations to help soldiers remember to maintain their equipment.  Eisner had the contract from 1951-1971, providing more than 20 years of his trademark style to help keep the troops informed on their responsibilities in not only keeping their gear in order but filing the proper paperwork about it.

To further his serious job Eisner used amusing examples of what could go wrong when the maintenance and its reporting weren't done properly.  He created several ongoing characters to do that, including Sgt Half-Mast McCanick and Pvt Joe Dope, both of whom pre-dated the start of PS and appeared in other Army publications Eisner did.  These were comedic characters, of course, who screwed up constantly.  The other major character he created for the work was Connie Rodd, the highly sexy woman who entreated the troops to correct their mistaken ways in maintaining the gear.

This hard bound book collects some of the best of the work.  It's not too many comics related publications that'll have an introduction from a retired general, but this one has General Peter J Schoomaker, USA (Ret.), as well as Ann Eisner and Eddie Campbell, the latter of whom provides a nice overview if the collection.

Truth of the matter is, I didn't finish this.  It's not a story.  It's a series of educational vignettes, and technical ones at that.  Eisner's art is great, as always, but it's a dry read if you're not looking to service 1950s and 1960s era Army equipment.  There is a nice bit where slip-up Joe Dope falls asleep on guard duty and dreams of all the mistakes he's made but is saved by various comic strip characters from a fatal, or even harmful, end.  Superman, Li'l Abner, Dick Tracy and several others all appear.

Eisner doesn't make it all fun and games, though.  Several of the examples do show how not maintaining equipment properly can lead to fatalities. 

If you like Eisner art, and I have since I was a kid, this is a nice little book to have.  If you want a story, this is a pass.  A little local angle for Marylanders, too.  The publication started in Aberdeen, MD before moving to other Army digs in 1955.  There's a nice photo of Eisner in Aberdeen consulting with some unnamed sergeants about one of his projects.

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