We were chatting about the instructional comics Will Eisner drew for the US Army, when one of the guys at Forbidden Planet in Newcastle told me that Eisner’s booklet on maintaining the M16 rifle was still available in the UK from Soldier of Fortune. So I ordered a copy, thus, no doubt, ensuring my place on MI5’s database of potentially dangerous nutters.
It’s a little thing, 32 pages, about 7 inches by 5. It was one of the last bits of work Will Eisner did himself for the US Army, though other hands are apparent in the art throughout, and the cover is recyled from a 1966 edition of PS: The Preventive Maintenance Monthly.
I’m sure it’s an efficient piece of instructional literature, but, though interesting as a curio, it is disappointing for anyone hoping for sequential art (to use the Eisnerism). For the most part, we just get individual gag drawings, and some close up, diagrammatic sequences, like those on the left of the sample pages below.
Rather more satisfactory, from the point of view of comics fans, are the posters and comic strips that Eisner did for Army Motors in the Second World War and for PS Magazine after he left The Spirit in the 1950s.
There are some good examples at Mike Lynch’s blog and at Comicartville. Savour them. We are unlikely to get a series of reprint volumes.
Pictures, pages and panels
The M16A1 Rifle: Operation and Preventive Maintenance, US Department of the Army, July 1969
Joe Dope “How Free-Turn-In Works/Hairnet” by Will Eisner. PS: The Preventive Maintenance Monthly, US Department of Defense, date unknown, reprinted in Will Eisner’s The Spirit issue 33, Kitchen Sink Comix, February 1982