U.S. Army Preventive Maintenance Monthly

Be All You Can Be With The U.S. Army Preventive Maintenance Monthly Comic Book!

Did you know that the U.S. Army produces a monthly “comic book” and has been doing so for more than 65 years?
Kubert cover
And did you know that several of the artists responsible for creating the comic over the years are considered legends in the industry?
Rust = Bad
My first experience with “PS, The Preventive Maintenance Monthly” dates to 1977 while I was 8 years old and living at a military base in Schwäebisch Hall, Germany.

I loved comic books, but new issues cost money, and finding popular titles became hit-and-miss during the three years I spent as a guest of the German people. But this “graphic novel dry spell” ended during a spring break trip to visit my father at work.

Dad spent his military career either turning wrenches on various Army helicopters – or leading those who do. Growing up around those whirly-birds was an amazing experience, but the fear of me getting smashed or sliced by a spinning rotor blade usually kept me confined to the main office area.
The AH-1 Cobra helicopter. The bird I maintained while in the Army
I was stuck in that office for several hours before I started digging through the extensive technical manual library found on a large bookshelf behind his desk. These manuals were written so soldiers with varying degrees of reading skills could follow along and work on the equipment as needed.

In between a guide to replacing the transmission coupling on a CH-47 Chinook and a pamphlet explaining how to balance a rotor blade on a UH-1A Huey helicopter, I found “PS Magazine.” It was a full-color guide, about the size of an Archie Digest, and featured art by a comic artist I recognized, but couldn’t think of his name.

The comic format for PS Magazine was created in 1951 by the U.S. Army when it “enlisted” the help of a young soldier named Will Eisner to make a guide for preventative maintenance for soldiers in the field – and in the garrison environment. It used humor combined with life-like art to help the troops keep their equipment fighting-ready in a 25-65 page guide that could be taken anywhere. The going price for this artistic gem? It was free…!
Under the full moon
I was simply amazed. I read through the 6-months worth of back-issues on my father’s shelf and was hungry for more. A few days later, dad brought home boxes full of PS Magazine back issues for me to enjoy. It turns out that the Army suggested that offices only keep the last 12 issues or so on hand.

Each issue came with a central theme that resonated throughout that month’s offering. The best issues are the ones that incorporated current trends from the “outside world.” The creators of the magazine also borrow heavily from pop culture, and evidence of this practice can be found in many covers including a Spider-Man issue and issues with Star Trek themes. Yes, even Commander Montgomery Scott had to perform preventative maintenance on the 1701 Enterprise…!
Page from the Spider-Man issue


The art was amazing. After digesting about 200 issues of PS that next summer, I finally realized that the comic book artist who brought life to the its pages was Joe Kubert, who was responsible for two of my favorite comic books, “Haunted Tank” and “The Unknown Soldier.” Years later, while I was an editor for a military newspaper, I had a phone interview with Kubert about the time he spent on the maintenance guide for the army.

Each issue is full of anthropomorphism with M1-A1 Abrams tanks talking to an AH-1 helicopter at the motor pools with smiles on their faces if an oil change was performed correctly.

The artwork had been co-created over the years by students at his New York art school, but his influence can still be felt today – more than four years after Kubert’s death.

There is a core of characters in the magazine that have lasted – and not aged – for more than 50 years. However, hair styles, fashion and attitudes toward women and other minorities changed through the years in the U.S. military, and these updates can been seen throughout the run of the magazine.
The leader of the PS Magazine troops and my Facebook friend, Master Sergeant Half-Mast


If you want to take a peek at these gems for yourself, a nearly compete list of issues broken down by years and cover art is available at PS Magazine Archive.
There is also a free iTunes Store and Android app available to view new issues and an archive for a couple years back.

Download a few examples from each decade and imagine yourself being 8 years old and stepping into a whole new world…

Spider-Van, Spider-Van, does whatever a spider can!

Spider-Van

I’ve written previously about a set of MPC ‘Snap-Together’ Star Wars vehicle model kits that captured my imagination. I took a look last night at other items in the range and discovered to my delight that they also made a Spider-Van! As I wanted to see pictures, I did what anyone would do – I typed ‘Spider-Van’ into a search engine and found myself staring at all manner of other Spider-Man transport too.

It seems MPC were not the first to have the idea for a Spider-Van, this Buddy van got there first:

Buddy Spider-Van

If you want something a little less “van”-like, you could opt for the Spider-Man VW Beetle from the Polar Lights Racing Dreams series:

Spider-VW Beetle

That VW Beetle above looks a little old-fashioned, so why not have the new Beetle instead, and let’s have that in bright green shall we:

New Spider-Man Beetle

You can also find this very nice ’97 Mustang:

Spider-Mustang

For a few more designs, including a Dodge Charger, Chevy Bus, Lincoln Futura and a Hummer, check out Loose Cars which has a great selection.

Festival Fantástico

Festival Fantástico

I recently stumbled upon these interesting comic covers whilst browsing around the internet. It’s hard to find information about them but I believe them to be Mexican of origin, printed during the late 80’s. The artwork isn’t original, the first issue for example is the 1985 Care Bears #1 Comic from Star (Marvel) and I recognize several of the others shown here.

Festival Fantástico

Festival Fantástico

Do we have any Mexican readers who can provide more information? Did the series feature characters other than the Ewoks, Spider-Man, Heathcliff, Thundercats, Muppet Babies and Care Bears?

Lee & Ditko Created A Classic

A couple of days ago, Vic Sage blessed all of us who said “Make Mine Marvel” with a short BBC documentary on Steve Ditko. Besides being a great review of Ditko’s career, including his early Marvel days, the doc touched on the subject of who created Spider-Man. Apparently, there was great animosity about this on Ditko’s side. The doc showed a drawing he had done in which he argued that he was more the creator than Lee. When Lee was asked if Ditko was the “co-creator” of Spider-Man, he said he was, but when further asked if he really believed that, he said that he was the creator because it was his idea. The point was also stressed that, this answer notwithstanding, Lee always gave credit to Ditko as co-creator, including in the 2002 movie.

spiderman-opening-credits

Tonight, I embarked on a quest to read all the Amazing Spider-Man issues from the 1980s via my Amazing Spider-Man Complete Collection CD. The first issue just happened to be issue #200, and at the top of the first page of this issue, I found this statement:

Lee & Ditko

By virtue of that statement, which appears in a Marvel comic and which Lee could have omitted if he wanted to, we can at least conclude that Lee, as stated in the doc, gave Ditko a lot of credit in this area, credit he no doubt deserved.

In honesty, I can understand both sides of the argument. It just depends on what you mean by “create”. If you mean, “Who created the idea of Spider-Man?”, then the answer is undeniably Lee. He came up with the concept of a person with spider superpowers. But if you mean, “Who created the character of Spider-Man?”, then the answer is “Both.” Lee still came up with the idea, but Ditko added the look that communicates that idea. It is the same with any collaborative medium, such as a movie. In one way, the screenwriter is the creator; he came up with the idea. In other, the moviemakers are the creators; they added flesh to the idea. You can make the case that either is really the creator (is it the idea or the character you think of? Probably the character. But would there be a character without an idea?). In truth, though, it is really both.

Terry Ververgaert’s “Everything Is Comin Up Millhouse!”

Image courtesy of Terry Ververgaert at deviantART

Image courtesy of Terry Ververgaert at deviantART


No fooling. I would totally buy an issue of Spider-Man off the comic stands if Marvel Comics would allow Terry Ververgaert to illustrate it using only Simpson characters.

A big thanks to Comics Alliance for the heads up on this wonderful artwork, make sure to follow the link provided up top to see the illustration in full size.

Can you name all of the Simpson characters and who they are portraying?