Cartoonist and writer Will Eisner (1917-2005) was one of the most significant pioneers and innovators within the 20th-century comic book industry. Eisner’s contributions are reflected in its annual awards for creative achievement that bear his name — the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards. Though his career spanned over half of the century, Eisner is perhaps best known for one of his earliest works — his comic strip The Spirit, which debuted in newspapers in 1940.
Soon after The Spirit began its run, Will Eisner was drafted into the Army during World War II. During his service, he created a series of illustrations to provide soldiers with helpful information about safety and preventive maintenance. Illustrating for Army publications and maintenance manuals, Eisner created the character “Joe Dope” who, through his misadventures, reminded soldiers of the importance of maintaining their equipment properly.
Joe Dope features in several posters depicting Eisner’s “what not to do” illustrations within the World War II Posters 1942-1945 series (44-PA) which is digitized in its entirety and maintained by the Still Picture Branch. Here is a sample:
Please note that there are posters within this series (44-PA) that may have copyright restrictions. Refer to our copyright and publications statement below. And for more information on World War II posters from this and other series, check out the Unwritten Record blog post titled We Can Do It!: World War II Posters at the Still Picture Branch.
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2 thoughts on ““Don’t Be a Dope”: Will Eisner’s World War II Posters”
Born William Erwin Eisner on March 6, 1917, was one of the legendary pioneers in the comic book industry and was the creator of The Spirit. He had a long career as a creator, studio owner, and publisher.
The longest work Eisner produced was for the Department of Army, P.S. Magazine: The Preventive Maintenance Monthly, a magazine to help teach in comic and cartoon format the care and maintenance of equipment for the soldier. P.S., starting in 1951, also included Joe Dope as a recurring character.
An index of Eisner’s comic book works can be found here:
https://www.comics.org/creator/1/. The Grand Comics Database includes links to his work, his Wikipedia entry, and Jerry Bails’ Who’s Who in American Comic Books.
Eisner passed away on January 3, 2005.
This was a great post. I love Eisner’s work and after looking at these posters I can see a physical progression of his work I had not noticed before. VERY cool NA Staff!
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