Thursday, March 31, 2011

9 - Best 'PS' Work by the 'Eisner Alumni Group'

About two years ago, when the New Millennium staff of PS Magazine undertook the challenging task of identifying the best post-Eisner art in the publication, it was decided that, generally, they would select and rank four Front Covers and two Continuities. Once into the task, however, they made a change regarding relatively short-term art contractors, such as the Eisner Alumni Group (legally known as Graphic Spectrum Systems) and chose only one Front Cover and one Continuity.

Immediately following Eisner's departure, this group from Will's shop successfully bid the contract for PS creative art and pre-press production. It included Dan Zolnerowich, Mike Ploog, Chuck Kramer, Bob Sprinsky, and Ted Cabarga. Nearly all of them were competent, recognized artists whose direction and style had just been released from Will's parameters.

The Front Cover shown above, from PS 231 (February 1972), showing a Valley Forge scene with George Washington, was the fourth produced by the group. The fading of Eisner's influence is evident. It is signed by Chuck Kramer, whose signature disappeared a year later with PS 244 (March 1973). Considering the production time-line for the four-color elements, it probably was in the last two months of 1972, midway through the contract, that Kramer left the consortium and moved to Israel. Most of his associates sighed with relief. At that point, Kramer had started pushing anatomical excess to the edge of the cliff that spelled policy defiance, and, it turned out later, left a trail of tricky visual double entendre, and "after approval" changes that were designed to explode long after his departure.

The selected Continuity, from PS 234 (May 1972), Fantastic Journey, is a sci-fi, human-miniaturization tale addressing damage done to aircraft by foreign objects (F.O.D.). It is displayed below, with the mini-poster centerspread shown last.

For more details regarding this group, see our February 15, 2011 blogpost: 3 - PS Art Contractors—60 Years of Dedication.


There is no question but that every one of Will Eisner's "Alumni Group" were heavily influenced (or, perhaps, required) to follow Will's drawing style. I did not know Chuck Kramer, nor am I aware of his work prior to his relationship with Will. Murphy Anderson's inherent style is quite different from Will's, yet he was able to follow the Boss' work remarkably well. Ploog was a natural, in terms of picking up and following Will's lead.

Other than some of the PS characters' characteristics, I tend to deviate from Will's style, although I've been an admirer since the Spirit days. And things change. If we (my team and I) were to attempt to include some female poses (similar to the double-page poster on the Joe's Dope Sheet spread shown here), we'd be arrested, but only after being drawn and quartered.



¶ Will Eisner Self-Portraits in PS

¶ Best PS Front Covers by the Backes Group

¶ The Magic of Eisenshpritz in PS

¶ Early Covers Put Eisner, PS in Hot Water

¶ The Best of Zeke Zekely in PS

Friday, March 25, 2011

8 - Murphy Anderson's Best 'PS' Front Covers

Murphy Anderson's artistic-eye and fine hand were closely associated with PS Magazine for almost 14 years. His first contact with PS tasks was in Will Eisner's shop in the waning wind down to the end of the Eisnerian era with PS 227 (October 1971). Accompanied by Mike Ploog, Chuck Kramer, Dan Zolnerowich, Bob Sprinsky, and Ted Cabarga, he segued into the Eisner Alumni Group, legally known as Graphic Spectrum Systems, which held the PS contract and produced PS 228 (November 1971) to PS 251 (October 1973). He continued his commitment to PS by holding the art contract and producing PS 252 (November 1973) to PS 368 (July 1983)—with the exception of six issues, PS 309 (August 1978) to PS 314 (January 1979), which Zeke Zekely produced before relinquishing the contract for re-award to Murphy.

Murphy's artistic ranks included Zolnerowich, Frank Chiramonte, Augie Scotto, Creig Flessel, Craig Daniels, Howard Berman, and family backup by Murphy's son (Murphy III), wife Helen, and daughter Sophie.

PS staffers remember Murphy as a gifted and wildly imaginative artist leavened with enough businessman smarts to avoid the pitfalls that tripped several PS art contractors over the years. He also left a lasting impression as a straight-talking Appalachian mountaineer from western North Carolina who was ready to go nose-to-nose in backing his creative concepts. It occasionally drew flak for him (and PS staffers) from Army Brass.

We offer, as sort of a lagniappe offering, an example of that kind of problem with the Front Cover of PS 274 (September 1975) displayed at the bottom of this posting.


In the business of comic books, Murphy Anderson's professional attitude is surpassed only by his artistic ability. He is respected by any and all who have had the good fortune to know him, or to have worked with him. You always know when 'Murph' walks into the room because his deep bass voice tends to shake the walls. But he is a gentle man as well as a gentleman. His rendering with brush and pen has made him one of the most sought-after inkers in the business. His covers for PS were outstanding, rivaling those of his peer, Will Eisner.

I've had the good fortune of knowing and working with Murph over the years, and the experience has always been a happy and gratifying one. His honors are well-earned.


In making a selection of "the best post-Eisner art" in PS in 2009, the PS staff included four Front Covers by Murphy Anderson. Shown above and below in ascending ratings, left to right and top to bottom, they are:

Fourth—PS 323 (October 1979), soldiers facing the onslaught of the Winter Hawk.

Third-—PS 364 (March 1983), alien invaders talking to soldiers.

Second—PS 305 (April 1978), Roman soldier requesting spear shaft replacement part.

First—PS 326 (January 1980), Old Man 1970 turning over things to Baby 1980.

The art above is a Murphy Anderson riff on a Fisk Tire Company advertising campaign and iconic illustration. Burr Giffen did the image for the ad campaign starting in 1907. Norman Rockwell took over the Fisk art duties in 1917 and did at least two sequences. He frequently commented that he enjoyed the whimsy of the concept.


¶ Best PS Front Covers by the Eisner Alumni Group

¶ Will Eisner Self-Portraits in PS

¶ Best PS Front Covers by the Backes Group

¶ The Magic of Eisenshpritz in PS

¶ Early Covers Got Eisner, PS in Hot Water

Friday, March 18, 2011

7 - 105 Artists Identified with 'PS' Over 60 Years

We're running a little late, folks! A funny thing happened on the way to pulling the trigger on this blogpost. In a period of three days (and right on deadline, of course), the number of persons identified as PS Magazine art contractors and their personnel grew from 33 to 55 to 105!

Combined searches by the New Millennium staff at PS, the Joe Kubert shop, and Yours Truly in research for three books, have now identified 105 individuals as having been involved with PS over 703 issues and 60 years in some aspect: creative art, technical art, incidental art, layout and design, and other pre-press production steps.

They are listed here in alphabetical order. There is no connection between their location on these blog pages and any adjacent art. All the art presented in this posting is from the early Will Eisner era of PS production. The Front Cover and Back Cover immediately below are from PS 26 (November 1954). The two-color (black-plus-blue) art in this posting is a selection of some of the incidental "scatter" art in PS 100 (March 1961). The two four-color grabs at the end of this blog are from the Continuity in PS 115 (June 1962)

If you wish a more definitive chronological fix regarding a specific individual, you may wish to cross-reference our earlier BlogPost-3 regarding the eight art contractors who have provided creative and production services for PS since its beginning, or, consult Will Eisner and PS Magazine.

If you feel that you should have been included in this list, please shoot us an email (see Contact Us in this blog's Sidebar), giving the dates and nature of your PS services. We'll endeavor to make amends in successive addenda.

The 105 confirmed to date are displayed below.


Alfredo Alcala

Helen Anderson

Murphy Anderson

Sophie Anderson

Murphy Anderson III

John Atherton

Allison Backes

Diane Backes

Jack Backes

Charlie Bast

Michelle Beauchamp

Michael Bonner

Gabe Bridwell

Howard Be


Brian Buniak

Ted Cabarga

Carole Callicoat

Pete Carlsson

Jack Carter

Frank Chiramonte

Robert Clark, Jr

John Coleman

Steward Dahlberg

Ben Dale

Craig Daniels

Mark "Sparky" Dobrowolski

Simon Drohen

Teresa Ehbinger

Kevin English

Renee Fahri

Steve Finley

Creig Flessel

Michelle Fleury

John Florio

Gayle Fountain

Gary Fresno

John Galvin

Don Gidley

Ted Hall

Bob Hardin

Stuart Henderson

Rey Hernandez

J. Steven High

Daryl Issacs

George Johnson

Greg Johnson

Kris Johnson

Peggy Johnson

Jeff Jonas

Rosie Jones

Bonnie Kaley

Bonnie Kaley

Joe Ketterer

Jeff Kidd

Chuck Kramer

Joe Kubert

Camilla Lase

Mike Leone

Charlotte Little

Scott Madsen

Glen Malecki

Karen Mamo

Maurie Manning

Brian McMurdo

Sherry Melville

Dave Miley

Rob Miskovic

Tom Moon

Malane Newman

Ken Nishiye

Chee Yang Ong

Brian Orlowski

Joe Panico

J.P. Pennyman

Sind Piantek

Mike Ploog

Marie Popovitch

Chris Prievo

Cliff Rathburn

Fabio Redivo

Tom Redmon

Ismael Sanchez

Adrianne Sardella

Mark Sasway

Steve Sawyer

Vic Scarpelli

Augie Scotto

Jan Sims

Jerry Smith

Dan Speigle

Bob Sprinsky

Saronda Stevens

Brett Uher

Giovanni Valletta

Robert VanHook

Gus Velez

James Watson

Jim Webb

Sonya Wheelwright

Charles Wilson III

Luis Wong

Tom Wyskloski

Emi Yonemura

Zeke Zekely

Dan Zolnerowich


¶ Murphy Anderson's Best PS Front Covers

¶ Best PS Front Covers by the "Eisner Alumni" Group

¶ Will Eisner Self-Portraits in PS

¶ Best PS Front Covers by the Backes Group

¶ The Magic of Eisenshpritz in PS

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

6 - The Essence of 'PS' in One Cover

Of course, we're talking here about opinions—and we all know what they say about opinions. However, if tasked to select one drawing to convey the essence of PS Magazine, from the 703 issues and their thousands upon thousands of illustrations that will have been presented when the Sixtieth Anniversary is marked in June of 2011, my opinion would reach unhesitatingly for the Front Cover of PS 29, which saw the light of print in February of 1955.

It was the fourteenth in the longest unbroken string of monthly publication that PS had managed in the forty-five months that had ticked by since the first issue in June of 1951. That string, incidentally, continues to today with only two interruptions, both of which were attributable to factors outside the PS operation.

This Will Eisner piece has everything, but especially those aspects of sequential art that are so intimately entwined with the PS mission and the magazine's enduring success in fulfilling that mission. There is no doubt about the hour. It is well after full darkness. Not only is there rain, but also the sense is conveyed at a glance that it has been raining for a long time and it is a cold rain.

The location is an isolated one and the situation carries a degree of urgency, else Our Hero, Joe Dope, would be inside the vehicle's cab, waiting things out.

What else do we need? Scent? Any person who has ever been near a high-voltage arc can tell you that the acrid, searing smell is wafting from this scene.

The true essence, however, is that a single, valid technological message is immediately and effectively conveyed, wrapped neatly in a motivational capsule of self-preservation.

The secret ingredient here is Eisenshpritz. That is the term that Will's good friend, Harvey Kurtzman, coined for Eisner's singular inclination and ability to use precipitation in a constrained yet atmospheric manner as a key element in setting a stage. Considering that bad weather and field soldiers' problems go hand in hand, it is not surprising that the presence of Eisenshpritz in Eisner's PS creativity was frequent and natural. That was why I devoted a chapter to it in my history and commentary, Will Eisner and PS Magazine.

We plan a posting totally dedicated to Eisenshpritz in our scheduled subsequent blog presentations.


A good artist (or cartoonist) creates his panel composition to direct the attention of the reader where he wants him to look first, second and third, and so on.

Will's cover (PS 29) does just that. By designing the greatest contrast, both color and in black and white, around the GI's pants' seat, he's directing our attention there first. Then to the lightning bolt and to the soldier's facial expression. And the drawing is so good, yes—you can almost smell it.


This triptych reflecting the Eisenspritz tradition is from the Continuity in PS 120 (November 1962).


¶ Artists Mentioned in Connection with PS

¶ Murphy Anderson's Best PS Front Covers

¶ Best PS Front Covers by the "Eisner Alumni" Group

¶ Will Eisner Self-Portraits in PS

¶ Best PS Front Covers by the Backes Group

Thursday, March 3, 2011

5 - Eisner Stuffs 17 Comics Character Cameos in 'PS' Sequence

By the time Will Eisner had finished the Continuity for PS 128 (July 1963), he had used the artifice of a dream sequence to flash a cameo parade of 17 comics characters in the eight pages involved.

In their order of appearance—as posted here, not as printed—they are: Pogo and Owl (above), Superman, Mandrake the Magician, Dick Tracy with Junior and Tess Truehart, Daisy Mae, Li'l Abner, Maggie, Jiggs, Donald Duck, Popeye, Dagwood, Blondie, Mutt, and Jeff.

His opening page (above) consists primarily of his trademark masses of solid black, with single pinpoint light sources and stark shadowing. Eisner said frequently that he was influenced greatly in this regard by the works of three woodcut masters: Otto Nuckel, a German; Frans Masereel, a Belgian; and Lynd Ward, an American.


Because of Will's relationship with the artists who created those wonderful newspaper strips, he felt absolutely comfortable in using them for this purpose. I think it also reflects Will's belief that these characters add interest and generate the powerful effectiveness to communicate ideas, which was what Will was all about. He had great respect for his fellow "workers in the mines" of ideas.



¶ The One Piece of Art that Delivers the Essence of PS

¶ Artists Mentioned in Connection with PS

¶ Murphy Anderson's Best PS Front Covers

¶ Best PS Front Covers by the "Eisner Alumni" Group

¶ Will Eisner Self-Portraits in PS