PS Magazine, The Preventive Maintenance Monthly is a monthly magazine published by the United States Army revolving around preventive maintenance, the repair and maintenance of army equipment. It is an informative magazine issued for free to army units which perform said preventive maintenance regularly, such as engineering, motor pool, aviation and armorers. Each month, the magazine features articles on the maintenance and repair of myriads of army equipment, such as vehicles, communications equipment, weaponry, etc. It also features a small little story in the middle of each issue, entertainingly (and often humorously) spotlighting a particular topic of interest when it comes to preventive maintenance. Because of the magazine's useful information and supplemental nature, pretty much every Army workshop has a library of issues of it, sometimes going back decades, depending on the unit.
What makes this magazine worthy of interest for tropers is not only its narrative nature (which makes the technical information much easier to swallow), but also that, since the its inception, it has been drawn by a roster of comic book legends. The magazine itself was created in June 1951 when the Army approached a corporal serving them to draw it. The corporal's name? Will Eisner. Other famous artists to draw the magazine include Murphy Anderson (Curt Swan's inker, and the designer of the classic Silver Age looks of characters such as The Flash, Adam Strange, The Atom and, yes, Superman and Batman), Dan Spiegle (artist of classic comics like Blackhawk, The Brave and the Bold and Teen Titans) and Mike Ploog (artist of Ghost Rider, Man-Thing and Werewolf by Night). Since 2001, the art duties have been handled by Joe Kubert (a legend in his own right, having drawn Sgt. Rock, The Viking Prince, Tarzan and Blue Beetle). DC Comics, as shown in the image above, has even let Sergeant Rock appear as a guest character from time to time.
PS has a stable of recurring characters featured in their stories. The current characters are:
- Master Sergeant Half-Mast McCanick: Half-Mast is the face of PS, a gruff old sergeant always willing to give any careless technician a good talking-to when it comes to maintaining and repairing equipment.
- Connie and Bonnie: Connie and Bonnie are female army civilians who help Half-Mast inform the public about topics of interest. Connie is, along with Half-Mast, one of the original characters in the magazine, and was, for a long time, a pin-up girl◊, serving as a little Fanservice for those reading the magazine. When women started becoming an integral part of the US Army, Connie was retooled into a more conservative character, and Bonnie, an African-American, was also added to serve as a counterpart for her.
- Sergeant First Class Benjamin "Rotor" Blade: Blade is an African-American sergeant whose specialty is aviation. He is featured in articles about the preventive maintenance of vehicles such as helicopters and cargo planes.
- The Online Warrior: A Super Hero-looking character who is a pictorial representation of logistics management, the Online Warrior is featured in articles involving topics like inventory, book-keeping and ordering equipment.
Since it's been running since 1951, the series has run through some of America's biggest conflicts, including The Korean War, The Vietnam War, the Gulf War and the current conflicts in the Middle East, so they serve well as a time capsule to the technology of those eras. It also sometimes features stories chronicling other earlier American wars, like World War II, World War I, the American Civil War and even The American Revolution.
As of March 2011, PS has reached 700 issues and has been continuously running for 60 years, putting it in good company with comic books like Action Comics and Detective Comics as a long runner among illustrated magazines. If any troper has the chance to pick an issue up (just ask a soldier friend to get it for you), the magazine is a fun read. Even if you can't understand the technical information on the topics discussed, it is still gorgeously illustrated and entertaining.
Interested in some of the classic art? Here's an article spotlighting covers from the classic Will Eisner days!
PS Magazine provides examples of:
- The Ace: All the characters in the magazine are absolute experts in their fields.
- Animate Inanimate Object: The equipment featured in the articles (vehicles, weapons and whatnot) is sometimes illustrated talking to the technicians explaining the maintenance topics specific to it. This is especially prevalent since Joe Kubert became head illustrator.
- Artifact Title: PS stands for "postscript", since the magazine was initially issued as a supplement for training manuals. It has since expanded way beyond its initial scope, but the title was so traditional and synonymous with the magazine that it's never been changed.
- Do-Anything Soldier: Half-Mast knows everything about preventive maintenance. Everything. His knowledge of every single piece of equipment and maintenance procedure ever conceived should merit a commission, but he still remains a master sergeant. Although he did start as a regular sergeant, so his service was recognized and rewarded with promotion.
- During the War: The series has run during actual wars, so many articles will be featured on actual concerns and problems soldiers might face in the field. It also answers reader questions, so many articles are made from questions or tips by soldiers in the field with practical experience. This also makes older issues serve well as time capsules of the era they were published in.
- Fanservice: Connie WAS a Ms. Fanservice back in the day (dayumn!◊), but with the female gender becoming much more prominent and integrated into the armed services, this was scaled back and she is now a more conservative subject-matter expert. If you get your hands on old issues of the magazine, though, yowza! Oh, but the magazine still does serve as fan service for military equipment buffs, of course.
- The Engineer: Both the characters and the intended audience for the magazine are Army engineers and technicians.
- A Father to His Men: Half-Mast is a softie at heart, and he's tough on his soldiers because their safety and the safety of those who use the equipment they maintain is at stake.
- Long Runner: 700 issues and 60 years, and it'll probably keep going forever, considering the magazine's importance.
- The Men First: The entire purpose of the magazine is to promote safety and maintain standards of excellence amongst maintenance soldiers.
- Mildly Military: Averted. The magazine constantly points out that goofing off or playing around can be dangerous while inside an army workshop, and that professionalism is the way to go.
- Military Alphabet: Constantly used, obviously.
- Old Soldier: Well, Half-Mast has been in the service since 1951, so he's pretty much the longest-serving soldier ever.
- Understatement: "A slipping gear in your M203 grenade launcher can cause it to fire when you least expect it. This could make you very unpopular with what is left of your unit."
- Veteran Instructor: Half-Mast, obviously.
- Wartime Cartoon: Very common in the early days of the magazine(as can be seen here, for example◊), but obviously with the passage of time it's been pretty much eliminated for the sake of political correctness.