In the world of comics, Peanuts is the gold standard – the bar of humor and longevity that every comic hopes to reach. But even a super like Peanuts designer Charles M. Schultz has his heroes. Schultz entered the military during World War II, and while his service wasn’t glamorous, he toiled in the mud like every other GI.
Schultz was no war correspondent, but his hero, Bill Mauldin, was. Because many World War II troops in Europe experienced hardships similar to Schultz’s – mud and deprivation among others – it was no surprise that Mauldin’s comedic brocade about the situation (and not the war) has spread to the guys in the field.
Mauldin became the hero of many GIs like Schultz fighting in Europe, but it was Schultz who honored Mauldin every Veterans Day by dressing Snoopy in his service blues to drink some root beers at Bill Mauldin’s.
William Henry “Bill” Mauldin was a draftsman and the creator of willie-joe, the most beloved comic to ever come out of the war. It was featured in stars and stripes and read by just about every GI in the European theater. willie-joe was a single panel comic (think The dark side and Ziggy) featuring two everyday Joes living the daily life of troops fighting the Nazis. Before going to stars and stripes Mauldin, “the fighting cartoonist”, was on the ground in Europe. He landed on the beaches of Sicily in 1943. This concern for authenticity gives his work the realism with which any American soldier can identify.
His sketches appeared in his division journal before he became a full-fledged combat correspondent. He preferred to draw ideas from experience and stayed close to the front, the Willies and the Joes fighting the war. He was even the target of German mortars, wounded at Monte Cassino in 1943, which only gave more authenticity to Willie Joe.
There was one soldier who was less than a Mauldin fan (to put it mildly). General George S. Patton frequently complained to Supreme Headquarters Allied Cartoon and Cartoonist Forces. He thought Willie and Joe’s sloppy appearances were a disgrace to the Army and subverted discipline. Patton repeatedly called for Mauldin’s dismissal, but luckily for Mauldin and the troops in Europe (and anyone who appreciates humor), the fighting cartoonist was protected from above by General Dwight D. Eisenhower himself. same. Mauldin c to skewer everything and anything in his cartoons.
Ultimately, willie-joe became so popular that American newspapers began to feature the duo in regular publications. Not only did civilians love the comic, but it helped them understand the daily struggles faced by troops fighting war (at least those in Europe).
In 1945, Mauldin’s work earned him a Legion of Merit and the Pulitzer Prize. willie-joe adorn the cover of Time magazine like Mauldin published a collection of 600 comics in a book called “Up Front”. The book was an instant bestseller. He continued to write comics until VE Day.
After the war, Mauldin continued his work as a writer and cartoonist, before going to the Chicago Sun-Times as a staff member. He won another Pulitzer in 1961 and wrote more than one cartoon, including one on November 22, 1963. When he heard of Kennedy’s death, he rushed back to work and drew this iconic panel, depicting President Lincoln (with hair like Kennedy’s) mourning the loss.
Mauldin only drew Willie and Joe a few times after the war. His work influenced many famous 20th-century designers, including Charles M. Schultz, who always called Mauldin a hero. In fact, the last time Mauldin drew the dogface duo, they appeared in a Peanuts band with Snoopy.
Bill Mauldin passed away in 2003 and the loss was felt (and depicted) by cartoonists across the United States, a testament to the lasting memory of the intrepid “Fighting Cartoonist”.