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Eisner in the Army

By the time Will Eisner was inducted into the Army in May 1942, The Spirit sections had started a series called "Army Operas". The first story, published at the end of 1941, featured a character called Chuck Magoo - a take-off on cartoonist Chuck Mazoujian (who drew the first Lady Luck story), who had been drafted.

Splash page from the first Army Opera

This story told of a small time crook who was persuaded by The Spirit to join the Army - at first causing trouble he overhears a plan to sabotage a training mission and saves his battallion and the mission.

Eisner wrote two further Army Operas: these two featuring a character named Titmouse O'Toole, whom Eisner would later redevelop into Private Dogtag and then Joe Dope. The finished art for these two stories was by Lou Fine, as by this time Eisner was stationed at Camp Dix in New Jersey.

Whilst Eisner was stationed at the Aberdeen Proving Ground, he produced a strip for The Flaming Bomb, the camp's newspaper. Entitled Private Dogtag, the single tier strip told of Dogtag's misadventures on the camp.

An early Pvt Dogtag strip

Eisner also drew editorial cartoons for the newspaper and created a gag panel called Bunk Fatigue, which he continued when he made the rank of Chief Warrant Officer and was transferred to the Pentagon.

An example of the Bunk Fatigue panel

It was also during this time that Joe Dope first appeared on a series of posters before getting his own two page comic strip in the magazine Army Motors in 1944.

A Joe Dope poster

Two other characters appeared in the magazine at this time which were drawn by Eisner: Connie Rodd (a female mechanic who hosted a column called Connie's Briefs); and Sgt Half-Mast McCannick, who strongly resembled Police Commissioner Dolan. In 1945 Eisner was asked by a syndicate to develop a daily strip along the same lines: the result was General Poop, but the idea was not developed further.

After the war, Eisner concentrated on The Spirit sections, which he continued until the outbreak of the Korean War in 1951. By this time Eisner's American Visuals production company was well established and the Army asked Eisner to produce a replacement magazine for Army Motors called P*S The Preventive Maintenance Monthly.

Eisner re-enlisted Joe Dope as an 8 page story in each issue, this time joined by both Connie Rodd and Sgt Half-Mast McCannick.

Joe Dope's strip in P*S

Eisner did most of the artwork and script for the first year on the magazine (to the detriment of The Spirit sections), but was later assisted by Dan Zolnerowich (former artist on Sheena) and Klaus Nordling among others. By the late 1960s artists such as Murphy Anderson and Mike Ploog were working on the features. Eisner dropped the P*S contract in 1972 - the magazine is still being published today and has it's own website.

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