Eisner’s concept for the Front Cover beautifully invoked the classic Gunsmoke opening-shot.
At one point when Joe Kubert and I were at Redstone Arsenal recently for the official U. S. Army celebration of the PS Magazine Sixtieth Anniversary, we found ourselves in the neighborhood of a giant blow-up of that cover. I was engaged in a conversation with several people, but I could hear Joe, behind me, delivering to another small group a precise analysis of what Eisner had done—and why. I hope he will append those remarks to this blogpost.
For me, the Gunsmoke Front Cover and Continuity of PS 81 present a precisely perfect melding of an essential technical message with the communication potential of imaginative sequential art.
[The cover for] PS 81 is a perfect example of the cartoonist's use of composition and color to tell his story clearly with impact. A complex illustration that Will simplified by the use of orange and red, except for the foreground gunbelt and gunbutt and the background figure—where contrasting blues and whites were applied. In this way, Will accomplished two things: he created an additional depth to the illustration and caused the reader/viewer to focus on the cover's point. The gun in the holster (handle falling apart because of lack of maintenance) and the spider-web connected to the handle (again showing lack of current maintenance). It is abundantly clear that the man in the background is about to do away with the foreground character for those obvious reasons.
The cover also contains a building, horses tied to a hitching post, a deep background with two men running, a couple of guys peeking out of the saloon door and two more guys hiding under the porch and one more behind the horses. With all this stuff to flesh out an interesting drawing, Will knew that the main point should be noticed first, and that's the way he designed the cover. Good compositions and proper graphic communication is no accident. Like Will always said, "The best cartoonist is the thinking cartoonist
¶ A Covey of Connies: World War II to Today
¶ Best of Zeke Zekely in PS
¶ PS Characters in Animation
¶ Early Covers Put Eisner, PS in Hot Water