Mauldin, who had a long and fruitful career as a political cartoonist (If it’s big, he used to say, hit it.), collecting two Pulitzer Prizes along the way, was well accounted for in Todd DePastino’s biography Bill Mauldin: A Life Up Front. Beginning his life’s work for the Army and some civilian publications, he created the characters Willie and Joe to portray what seemingly no other medium was able to capture: the daily lives of infantry grunts in combat zones. DePastino has now edited a wonderful two-volume slipcased anthology of more than 600 of those cartoons in Willie & Joe: The WWII Years.
None other than venerable caricaturist David Levine has lavished this praise on Mauldin: I think of Mauldin as one of the great anti-war artists, much like Goya. He took drawing up to a communicative level that I think is extraordinary. Another of Mauldin’s peers, Jules Feiffer recalls:
He was a master of what The New Yorker helped invent, which was that one line that said everything. But where The New Yorker gave it to us in terms of humor, rather gentrified humor, Mauldin was giving it from the working class, from the laboring man, and here he was the grunt, that was the laboring man of the war He was a beloved figure, and more than that, he connected. He connected in a way that few do in their times, and he connected to a sensibility that was pure and whole He told the truth to a lot of people.