marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,
marycatelli
marycatelli

Willie & Joe

Willie & Joe: The War Years by Bill Mauldin edited by Todd DePastino

A two-volume collection of Mauldin's comics from his days in the Army, before and during World War II, and even before he was in the army.

He had a lot of trouble selling comics when war broke out, even though soldier-based comics were very popular; all the popular ones were of civilians precipitated into Army life and their humor lay in the clash between it and their old lives.  Mauldin drew Army life as a man to whom it was normal.

When Ernie Pyle praised him, he got syndicated.  The War Department appreciated it, particularly the grimmer ones -- he didn't show carnage, but he conveyed nonetheless the difficulty and weariness of war -- because it helped the public see that victory would be hard.

And then there's a whole collection.  His very early ones tended to be of Indians -- dressed in a loincloth and with feathers in the hair, and solemnly telling two whites whose car broke down, "I think it's the distributor" and the like -- but then he joined the National Guard.  After foundering as a quartermaster and being unable to get a job on the paper, he volunteered for infantry.  And we start to get the comics about camp life and training and maneuvers.  (There's notes in back to explain some obscure references.)

And then we had war.  Mud and foxholes.  A Santa Claus who insisted on his sergeant's stripes being added to the jacket.  Sick call and how the doctors, unlike civilian life, want to convince them that they are well, not ill.  British comments on how messy their battlefields were (Americans salvaged a lot less of their equipment.)  Yugoslavians that Mauldin met in Italian -- they had been used as slave labor there.  Willie observing that when the Germans run away, they chase after to catch them, and when they catch them, they try to make them run away.  A first aid station with a civilian sitting between two soldiers -- and a corpsman looking out to announce it's twins.  A chaplain with one hand to his ear saying, "Forever and ever, Amen.  Hit the dirt."

Lots of interesting cartoons.
Tags: fiction reviews: military, history reviews: world war ii era, military fiction, primary source review
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