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The history of PS: The Preventive Maintenance Monthly—
also known as PS Magazine
—begins with its creator, Will Eisner. If you’re a fan of sequential art (a term coined by Eisner)—otherwise known as graphic storytelling that is the lifeblood of comic strips, comic books and graphic novels
—then you’ve likely heard of Mr. Eisner. The equivalent of the Oscar
for the best in motion pictures is the Eisner
for sequential art.
Eisner was drafted into the Army in 1942. He was already an established comic writer and illustrator, having created Sheena, Queen of the Jungle
and The Spirit
. Initially assigned to Aberdeen Proving Ground, he wrote and illustrated for the installation’s military newspaper, The Flaming Bomb
. While there, he created a comic strip featuring Private Dogtag and also a series of posters dealing with preventive maintenance featuring a hapless character, named Joe Dope.
In 1944, now Warrant Officer Eisner was assigned to the newly created Army Motors
magazine, to which he brought Joe Dope. He also created new characters: Sgt. Half-Mast McCanick (the only Soldier in the Army to wear a name tape with his first rather than last name), who answered letters to the editor; and the vivacious mechanic, Connie Rodd.
Eisner tried multiple times during his service to be sent to the front, but his editing and artistic talents were deemed too important by his superiors, who could not afford to spare him by sending him into combat. He thus remained stationed in Washington, D.C. for the remainder of his service.
After the war, Eisner returned to writing and drawing The Spirit
, although he began delegating more and more of the production to his assistants, so he could focus on other endeavors. In 1948, aware of a possible business opportunity, Eisner created a company, American Visuals Corporation, which aimed to use comics, cartoons and illustrations for educational and commercial markets. One of the give-away comics he created in 1950 was for the Baltimore Colts, the local football team. Other clients eventually included the US Department of Labor, insurance companies, business chambers, or private corporations. This activity lasted, in various corporate constructs, until 1979.
In 1951, at the outbreak of the Korean War, Eisner's American Visuals was asked to produce a replacement magazine for Army Motors
called PS: The Preventive Maintenance Monthly
. Eisner created a new format and produced a test publication, which initially faced resistance from the Army brass. Whereas Army Motors had been a largely conventional text-heavy magazine with technical illustrations and photographs, supplemented with cartoons, PS Magazine
was a full-fledged comic book. Given his success using comics to enhance commercial and educational products and outcomes, the Army brass ultimately let Eisner do what he did best. Soldiers, of course, loved it from the get-go.
From its inception, the magazine has been written, researched, and edited by Department of the Army civilians and managed by various editors. The home office of PS was first located at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, from April 1951 through January 1955, when it was moved to Raritan Arsenal, New Jersey. It was moved again in October 1962 to Fort Knox, Kentucky. It remained there until July 1973, when it moved to the Lexington-Blue Grass Army Depot in Lexington, Kentucky. In June 1993, it moved to Redstone Arsenal, Alabama. In June 2017, the magazine published issue 775, its last paper issue.
When creating PS
, Eisner re-enlisted Joe Dope and brought along Connie Rodd and Sgt. Half-Mast McCanick from Army Motors
. Over its nearly 70-year history, other characters have populated its pages, some briefly, others for its entire run. Below is a list of the characters that have served the call of duty in PS Magazine
(those in red are still active today):
Master Sergeant Half-Mast McCanick
—Typically just called Master Sergeant Half-Mast. In Army Motors
Half-Mast was kind of a goofy-looking mechanic. Some say he started out as a sergeant (E5), but from the beginning his art shows three stripes up and three rockers down, a sure indication that he’s always been a master sergeant. Over the years, MSG Half-Mast has become the magazine’s most iconic character, most often its “face” and voice and always the one who responds to Soldier inquiries.
—Connie started as a corporal in Army Motors
and Eisner brought her along to PS Magazine. She was originally a brunette but became a blonde bombshell for PS. Eisner said he patterned her after the actress Laurel Bacall. In the 70's, congressional oversight changed her image from bombshell Soldier to extremely knowledgeable civil servant.
—Bonnie was added as an African-American companion to Connie Rodd in 1970. No one at PS
has ever heard her last name. Like Connie, she went from bombshell to civil servant in the 70’s.
Private Joe Dope
—Joe had an image to match that of another comic strip contemporary, Sad Sack. Dope was featured in many posters and the center-spread pages of PS
called "Joe's Dope." He was bumbling, clumsy, and often useless. He represented what not to do when it came to preventive maintenance. Over time, he faded from the magazine, replaced with more positive representations of Soldiers, though he's made a few nostalgic returns.
—Joe's pal appeared in Issue 3, August 1951. He finished his Army hitch in October 1955.
Master Sergeant "Bull" Dozer
—first appeared as the PS construction equipment expert in April 1955 but is now retired.
Sergeant First Class Macon Sparks
—The PS staff decided that if male Soldiers had bombshells like Connie and Bonnie, then female Soldiers deserved a good-looking hunk. So Sparks showed up with his Clark Gable good looks. He was a communications expert. He joined the team in 1978 but was transferred out in 1993.
Sergeant First Class Windy Windsock
—Windsock was an aircraft expert that served with the magazine from the 1950s through 2002.
Sergeant First Class Pablo Hablo
—Hablo was a nod to Hispanic Soldiers, but not as effective as originally hoped. He arrived in 1993 but his days at PS
The Online Warrior
—The O.W. arrived to help PS explain computers and logistics management. Like Max Headroom, he existed only in computer monitors. He retired in 2010.
Sergeant First Class Benjamin "Rotor" Blade
—Blade is another aviation expert. He joined the staff in September 2003 and still serves today. Like Bonnie, Blade is African-American.
’s latest character replaced Online Warrior and is a young, energetic expert in all things digital or related to Army automated logistics systems.