Hello all. I’ve been a technical writer in manufacturing for 22 years, & it’s hard to find books related to the subject that are inspirational. (They’re either dry theory, or pertain to situations that aren’t applicable to me.)
Anyway, I happened to come across a book on the late Will Eisner, titled PS Magazine: The Best of Preventative Maintenance Monthly. Eisner is considered by many to be a founding father of the graphic novel, & was active for years on the staff of “Mad Magazine”, plus his own work in the comic book industry. A WWII veteran, Eisner & his team won a contract in 1951 with the US Army to make a comic-book version of its technical bulletins that were circulated to Army personnel. This often pertained to Motor Pool mechanics, but covered other technical topics related to everything from maintaining rifles to tanks. So Eisner had to develop not only the technical illustrations, but also translate military jargon and instructions into understandable material for troops in the Korean War.
The result, as this book shows, is a colorful, informative example of what can be tailored to an audience. Eisner’s wife recounts the frustrations of dealing with the Army approvers who had veto power over proposed strips for “Preventative Maintenance Monthly”, and the book gives an overview of his team’s work for the next 20 years (ending amid the Vietnam War in 1971). The illustrations often had to be drafter-quality, and the accompanying technical writing is brisk and to-the-point (one example is how to operate a torque wrench, step-by-step.) The content should be taken in the context of its era; Eisner injected sexy images of recurring female character used in the strips for explaining processes, and one strip’s depiction of an Asian combatant is not flattering by today’s politically-correct standards. There’s also Army-induced propaganda on doing more with less, and the constant message to not hoard or steal parts, as well as the need to convince troops that failing to maintain the Army’s equipment and tools could endanger soldiers’ lives. Eisner caught criticism in later years over assisting the US military during the Vietnam War, which he deflected–he understood the needs of soldiers in the field, and hoped that his work helped them to get through bad circumstances.
I have no military experience (although I work in the aerospace-defense industry), & these publications pre-date me by decades. Obviously, instructions such as how to shift the Hydramatic transmission on an early ’50s military truck won’t be applicable to everyone. But I think this book is a nice example for technical writers and graphic artists of what can be done under tight restrictions and a very select audience. I’d bought this book at a discounted price through Daedalus Books, but I’m sure it’s like available through other outlets. Recommended reading!