The Chadbourne Dossier: “Eisner’s P*S” (Seventh in a Series)

Bill Chadbourne, that longtime friend of LOAC, provided us with material from his personal collection that we began sharing with you last year. Amongst these articles was a single issue, from April, 1971, of P*S, The Preventive Maintenance Monthly.

As comics fans, the odds are good you know why Chad would have kept this digest-size Department of Defense publication for over five decades: it’s a representative sample of the magazine that contained Will (The Spirit) Eisner’s artwork from 1951 through 1971.

While P*S launched almost a year after the start of the Korean War, its roots extended back to World War II, when then-Corporal Eisner was given the assignment to create an instructional series known as Army Motors. As a civilian, Eisner formed American Visual Corporation and contracted with the Government to deliver P*S, which he and his staff of artists would produce for twenty-one years. The value of using text and illustrations to teach or reinforce preventive maintenance to the military rank-and-file was recognized by Pentagon officials; Eisner elevated that vision by using recurring characters from issue to issue (some of them originally created and used years before in Army Motors). After Eisner left the project in 1971 a line of other comics notables took over production of P*S: perhaps best known among them are Murphy Anderson, Joe Kubert, Dan Spiegle, and Mike Ploog. Yet it’s Eisner’s lengthy tenure that is most widely remembered and canonized, to the point where a Baltimore museum display of selections of his P*S artwork was featured during 2017, as shown here. Goat Getters impresario Eddie Campbell also assembled a 2011 hardcover collection, P*S Magazine: The Best of the Preventive Maintenance Monthly, which is still available today from all quality booksellers.

Chad’s copy of P*S comes from near the end of Eisner’s run on the project, but serves as an excellent example of the series. “Joe’s Dope Sheet” is a full-color section devoted to a specific subject. It was named after one of Eisner’s recurring characters, Joe Dope, who as his name suggests often had a lot to learn about protecting the equipment with which he was entrusted.

Eisner knew that sex sells, and Connie Rodd is another recurring role player who helped Will and his artists fill that bill. Connie is prominently displayed throughout this issue, offering a hint of Little Annie Fanny suggestiveness.

Not all of the features in P*S are as illustration-heavy as these examples: here is a taste of other content from this 1971 issue:

Issues of this magazine continued to be produced in print form through 2017, at which time (as the earlier DoD article about the museum display mentions in passing) P*S shifted to an online-only product, viewable here. A recent announcement surfaced that P*S will suspend publication in the third quarter of 2024, however, the combination of Will Eisner’s notoriety and talent and scholarly interest will keep his output available to interested fans and scholars. Virginia Commonwealth University has an extensive digital collection of full P*S issues, as well as indexes of the series available at this site.

Back cover to the April, 1971 issue

Finally, should you wish to catch up on the rest of the interesting materials in The Chadbourne Dossier, please visit here, here, here, here, here, and yes, here, too for all our previous installments.

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