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

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