From the Vaults: Will Eisner’s Rifle Manual

In 1968, the United States Army decided to try and different tack for its largely conscripted force: instead of relying solely on telephone book-thick manuals and the barking of staff sergeants, the Army would pass on policies and training by utilizing a then still-disreputable art form: the comics.

At the same time, Will Eisner, one of the cornerstones of the American comics industry (also credited, incidentally, with essentially creating the graphic novel: 1978’s autobiographical  A Contract with God), was doing a lot of industrial work. One of the assignments he took on was the creation of one of these comic training manuals, which had the less than illustrious title of: “US Army Preventive Maintenance Manual for the M161A Rifle.”

While the subject might have been prosaic, the treatment was certainly not. As  you can see, Eisner doesn’t just slap images into a traditional A-B-C kind of manual, he breaks up the narrative into a visual and dynamic flow, spiked with jaunty dialogue rippled with colloquial language. It’s a wonderful piece of work.

You can see it displayed in full by Retronaut.

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