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Stars of Political Cartooning – Bill Mauldin

Each day this month I will be profiling a notable political cartoonist. Since the choices are vast, I’ve decided to slim the numbers down a bit and eliminate living cartoonists. Perhaps I will do a current political cartoon stars in the future.

Here‘s an archive of the artists mentioned already.

Today we look at the youngest winner of the Pulitzer Prize (at the time) in the award’s history!


Bill Mauldin entered the United States Army in 1940, at the age of 19, via the Arizona National Guard.

Even before heading overseas, Mauldin was entertaining his fellow soldiers with cartoons about their time in camp.

Mauldin was part of the 45th Invantry Division, and he volunteered to draw comics for the unit’s newspaper, soon creating his most famous characters (well, more or less, the only characters he would create – as his other work was topical stuff), Willie and Joe, the “everymen” infantry soldiers who Mauldin would use to demonstrate the daily difficulties of war.

Here are a bunch of them…

“Why ya lookin’ so sad? I got out of it okay.”

“It will comfort my ol’ woman to know I have gave up rye whiskey and ten-cent seegars.”

“I guess it’s okay. The replacement center says he comes from a long line of infantrymen.”

“Hell! Just when I git me practice built up they transfer me to another regiment.”

“He thinks the food over there was swell. He’s glad to be home, but he misses the excitement of battle. You may quote him.”

“I feel like a fugitive from the law of averages”

Willie and Joe were massively popular among the troops, and eventually Mauldin was given a position drawing for the Stars and Stripes, and in 1944 he was given his own jeep where he would travel around the front for material and produce up to six cartoons a week.

However, Mauldin’s realistic look at the life of troops did not sit well with the famous General George Patton, who felt that Mauldin’s critical cartoons were nothing short of spreading dissent and that Mauldin ought to be locked up. Luckily for Mauldin, Dwight D. Eisenhower knew how bad it would look to shut up such a popular cartoonist, so Eisenhower ran interference (Patton went to the grave very critical of Mauldin).

Willie even made the cover of Time Magazine!

Mauldin’s comics won him the 1945 Pulitzer Prize at the age of 23, the youngest person ever to win a Pulitizer at the time (maybe still, someone fact check that for me!).

After the war, Mauldin was a celebrity, but his war comics really did not translate so well to the home front, although they tried…

Ultimately, Mauldin began trying his hand at editorial cartoons, espousing a leftist approach, including his views on the government investigating its own citizens…

However, these cartoons were not particularly popular, so for the rest of the 40s and most of the 1950s, Mauldin only dabbled in comics, pursuing many different avenues, including running for the US Congress!

In 1958, Mauldin returned to the world of cartooning at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and quickly established himself as one of the country’s top political cartoonists, winning the 1958 Pulitzer Prize for his cartoon about the Soviet Union’s unwillingness to let Boris Pasternak to travel to accept his Nobel Prize.

“I won the Nobel Prize for literature. What was your crime?”

In 1962, Mauldin moved to the Chicago Sun-Times, where he remained until his retirement in 1991.

Here are some of his cartoons from this point in his career (St. Louis and Chicago), where he was quite the advocate for social change and he was a great critic of those opposing civil rights change in America…

In the following strip, he even takes on fellow liberals….

His most famous cartoon from this time period was his cartoon following JFK’s assassination…

Earlier this year, Fantagraphics put out a great collection of Mauldin’s World War II comics, edited by Todd DePastino…

From 1969 to 1999, Charles Schulz would pay tribute to Mauldin each Veteran’s Day.

Bill Mauldin passed away in 2003.

Thanks to the Library of Congress and PBS for the images used!


Tom Fitzpatrick

October 4, 2008 at 5:41 am

I liked the one with the soldier weeping as he prepares to shoot his jeep.

BUT, the one with Abe Lincoln weeping over JFK assassination was probably the best of the lot.

"O" the Humanatee!

October 4, 2008 at 6:15 am

Mauldin was indeed one of the greats: a skilled humorist, strong political commentator, and fine draftsman. I first saw his work as a child through a collection owned by my WWII vet father. He recently bought the new collection – I never thought I’d see the day that my father (who’s always had problems with my comics habit) would buy a Fantagraphics product!

I think I’m missing some context for the cartoon you say “takes on [Mauldin’s] fellow liberals,” Brian. Unless it was specifically liberals who were saying, “Not so fast,” the cartoon seems like a rejoinder to anyone who was opposing the advance of civil rights with the excuse that “Sure, maybe you deserve it, but America’s not ready yet.” Can you clarify?

A bit of amusing Mauldin-related trivia: In National Lampoon’s Very Large Book of Comical Funnies, there’s a take-off on Mauldin’s Willy and Joe comics – “Bill Maudlin’s” Billie and Moe, written by Dean Latimer and drawn in a solid imitation of Maudlin’s style by Charlton artist Warren Sattler. This “Maudlin” was apparently actually a Nazi sympathizer, using his cartoons to undermine morale by mocking not only the upper ranks but also our “weird foreigner” allies and to supply the enemy with technical specs about military hardware and intelligence about troop movements. To quote from a caption of a cartoon showing Billie and Moe talking as a gas mask hangs off a bayonet at the end of one of their rifles: “Hell of a note! They spend four million to design a new gas mask, and all the Krauts have to do is reduce their gas emulsion ratio to 1:10000 at sea-level pressure, and it seeps right past the filter!”

I believe the point Maudlin is trying to make is that liberals tend to nearly always side with whomever is raging against authority at that moment… to the point of being absurd.

Hmmm I was looking at the cartoon above the one you’re refering too.

I own two books about/by Bill Mauldin. UP FRONT (the W.W. Norton & Co. 2000 reissue of the 1945 classic with a new foreword by historian Stephen E. Ambrose) is all about his war years. THE BRASS RING (1971) which is an autobiography. I was not aware of the Fantagraphics 2-books set and will certainly look out for it.

Is it just me or are Bill Mauldin’s and Will Eisner’s styles very close?

Not just a great cartoonist, but a great American. I lift a mug of root beer in his honor.

FYI…the new Fantagraphics release was going for only $26 on Amazon a couple weeks ago….picked up my copy then….less than 1/2 price and worth 3 x’s as much…

I absolutely love the one where the depressed soldier’s superior is giving a positive quote to the press on the kid’s behalf.

I should read that collection.

Can you clarify?

Sure, people against it would not be telling them “not so fast,” they’d be telling them not to do it at all.

It is the supporters who were saying stuff like, “I totally agree with you, but things are going too fast, we should slow down a bit.”

Mauldin, of course, found such a position foolish – but it was a common position amongst many civil rights supporters of the early 60s.

Good stuff. Made me chuckle.

At some point you should do an all-time best New Yorker cartoonists page, showcasing guys like Price, Adams and my absolute favorite cartoonist EVER, George Booth.

Wow, fantastic stuff! I was familiar with Maudlin’s WWII strips, but didn’t know about his later political cartooning. Now I’m off to Amazon to check out more of his work…

Really, this is a great feature, and one more good reason to come to CSBG every day. Thanks for doing it.

Huh. Interesting stuff. I read a lot of Peanuts growing up so it’s finally nice to know who Snoopy was always quaffing those root beers with.

Have a good day.
John Cage

Great stuff. The literacy test one is particularly cutting and the press quote one is very funny. Thank God they had the sense to promote Eisenhower over Patton’s head.

[…] Brian Cronin looks at the work of editorial cartoonists Bill Mauldin and David […]

“I believe the point Maudlin is trying to make is that liberals tend to nearly always side with whomever is raging against authority at that moment… to the point of being absurd.”

I don’t think he was trying to make a point about a generalized group of people, actually. I think he was making a point about the complications involved in that kind of activism.

Complexity, not name-calling simplicity.

I’ve been a ‘Maudlin Fan’ for over two years now, and I’ve read most of his WWII strips, but I never heard of the later ones. My favorite is the old officer shooting his broken jeep, in one of his books he said no-one appreciated that particular comic. I thought that was strange since it was such a great comic.


[…] Stars of Political Cartooning – Bill Mauldin Uma boa amostra do trabalho do cartunista político Bill Mauldin. […]

I don’t know what that means, but it sure sounds cool.

Dane, age 12

Joanie Kleckner

November 6, 2008 at 7:23 am

Tues. night, I was struck by the number of times ABC showed Obama on a split screen with theLincoln Memorial. I wish Bill Mauldin was still with to draw a companion cartoon to the “Weeping Lincoln”–one with of victory!

The Mauldin cartoon of the officer shooting his “dead” jeep (based on a cavalryman putting down his injured horse) even made it to TV. In an episode of MASH, Col. Potter pulls out his pistol and shoots his jeep, which has just been run over by a tank driven by Frank Burns.

I’ve been a Mauldin fan all my life, the first hardcover book I ever bought was “The Brass Ring” back in the early 70’s.

[…] featured Bill Mauldin (1921-2003) in the Month of Political Cartooning Stars, and I’ve already shown you […]

I have a recording I made when I was 13 years old listening to a Connecticut FM radio station in the summer of 1973. If I can remember, this was W104 FM.

A commercial came on during the recording (Betty Blue Reports) and only a very short part of it at that…

I think this was “Lancer’s Cafe.” The advertisement says, Rt 57 Forestville.

Is this the same Warren Sattler, “Warren Sattler and the Travelers?”


Daniel Euergetes

[…] cartoon in the wake of JFK’s murder is one of the most famous. It and others are part of a profile of Mauldin and his work at Comic Book Resources. For a video of the announcement of Kennedy’s death, please see my […]

Nobody mentioned his postwar book of cartoons about veterans trying to fit into civilian society, “Back Home.” It’s not quite up to “Up Front” standards, but very good nevertheless.

Christy Hamilton

December 9, 2012 at 7:12 am

I have a signed copy of Lincoln weeping. Do you have any idea where to find a value for it?

[…] was assassinated,” the veteran cartoonist says today, “and I remember seeing Bill Mauldin’s cartoon on the cover of the Chicago Sun-Times. It didn’t have any labels, didn’t have any […]

[…] Stars of Political Cartooning – Bill Mauldin Comic Book Resources […]

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