Willie & Joe: The WWII Years

Willie and Joe collection

Back in July I told you about Fantagraphic Books’ plans to release a collection of Bill Mauldin’s Willie and Joe cartoons from the World War II years. The book is now available for pre-order. You can pre-order it at Amazon for only $40.95 (regularly $65) and has a price guarantee that if they ever drop the price between now and when it starts shipping, you’ll only be charged the lowest price.

Bill Mauldin entered World War II at age 18 in the 45th Infantry Division. It was then when he created two characters Willie and Joe who became the faces of American infantry men fighting overseas. According to Wikipedia, Bill even managed to tick off General Patton who summoned Bill to his office and threatened to throw him in jail for “spreading dissent” with his cartoons. Bill won the Pulitzer Prize at age 23 in 1945. He won his second Pulitzer in 1959 as an editorial cartoonist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He moved to the Chicago Sun Times in 1962 and drew the iconic cartoon of the statue of Abraham Lincoln weeping into his hands when President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. He retired from the Sun Times in 1991.

This is a very cool book collection and I’m glad Fantgraphic Books has put it together. I can’t wait to get it.

The book description over on Amazon:

“The real war,” said Walt Whitman, “will never get in the books.” During WW II, the closest most Americans ever came to the “real war” was through the cartoons of Bill Mauldin, the most beloved enlisted man in the U.S. Army. Here, for the first time, Fantagraphics Books brings together Mauldin’s complete works from 1940 through the end of the war. This collection of over 600 cartoons, most never before reprinted, is more than the record of a great artist: it is an essential chronicle of America’s citizen-soldiers from peace through war to victory.

Bill Mauldin knew war because he was in it. He had created his characters, Willie and Joe, at age 18, before Pearl Harbor, while training with the 45th Infantry Division and cartooning part-time for the camp newspaper. His brilliant send-ups of officers were pure infantry, and the men loved it.

After wading ashore with his division on the first of its four beach invasions in July 1943, Mauldin and his men changed – and Mauldin’s cartoons changed accordingly. Months of miserable weather, bad food, and tedium interrupted by the terror of intense bombing and artillery fire took its toll. By the year’s end, virtually every man in Mauldin’s original rifle company was killed, wounded, or captured.

Order it up now as that consolation gift to yourself for the not getting everything that you wanted.

Hat tip: Drawn!

15 thoughts on “Willie & Joe: The WWII Years

  1. What a gorgeous box set. I love how they gave it the look and feel of an army field manual. Just beautiful.

    I’ll definitely be grabbing one of these when it’s available.

  2. I’ll buy a copy, too. I just can’t believe they didn’t get it out in time for Christmas! What the heck were they thinking?? TONS of lost sales there. I’m sure it would have been a hit with people trying to find a good gift for the older folks in their lives.

  3. Yeah, but what I mean is that there is a much broader market here than cartoon lovers. People who were most affected by WWII, our parents and grandparents who lived through it and most likely had at least one loved one in the war, if they weren’t in it themselves, are a natural audience for this book.

    Comic lovers will buy it any time of year. They missed there opportunity to get tons of other sales, IMO.

  4. “I just canâ??t believe they didnâ??t get it out in time for Christmas!”
    Dealing regularly with Fantagraphics publishing schedule, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it (appropriately) released closer to Memorial Day than the Easter release currently projected.
    [In the meantime their E. C. Segar-Popeye Volume 2 is out now!]

  5. I’ll be ordering one, too. Looks great…

    …and I forgot that the second volume of Popeye was out. The first one is great. I wasn’t much of a Popeye fan before Vol.1, now I’d say it’s one of my favorite strips! Great stuff…

  6. What a shame that they didn’t put this collection out when Bill could have benefited from the income. Well, you know what they say, an artist doesn’t truly get the attention he deserves until after he’s dead.

  7. “What a shame that they didnâ??t put this collection out when Bill could have benefited from the income.”

    Actually, Bill Mauldin didn’t allow for his cartoons to be reprinted for several years before his death. That’s what makes something like this that much more special, as the work hasn’t been seen for a couple of decades.

  8. I helped out a tiny bit on this project. The problem with it was that the cartoons had to come from all over. They used the original cartoon printing, not Mauldin’s reprints which had textual changes, and had a hard time tracking down some of these. The last cartoon was from the Library of Congress’s microfilm in October, provided by librarian Martha Kennedy, when I went down and couldn’t find it after 3 hours. Each edition of Stars and Stripes varied and I looked at the wrong Italian one.

    Also, getting images was difficult – the Stars and Stripes not on microfilm are bound – when I tried using a hand scanner, I couldn’t get the image bending towards the gutter; when using a camera, it was all warped.

  9. I can hardly wait to see it, although the title is sorta silly. I mean, did Willie and Joe experience anything other than the WWII years? Will there be a followup “Willie and Joe, The GI Bill Years?”

    Picky, picky, picky.

    Anyway, this looks like a must-have, along with the upcoming Pogo compilations.

  10. As Norm observes, the compilation looks absolutely beautiful. I love special collections such as this where so much time and care is put into presenting the material, not just to bolster sales, but also out of reverence and respect for the work.

  11. Heh. Responding to John Cole, I think they mean to reprint ALL of Mauldin’s work. I don’t know if W&J resurfaced in anything he did after the war.

  12. Yeah, Willie and Joe continued after the war.
    Bill Mauldin and United Feature Syndicate hooked up and started distributing “Up Front with Mauldin” in the Spring of 1944 (Maybe starting April 24, 1944?).
    After V-E Day (May 1945) Willie and Joe fairly quickly were sent home. The daily panel was retitled “Sweatin’ It Out” on June 11, 1945 and was mostly about their transition from GIs to civilians.
    Civilian life (the GI Bill Years would be a good subtitle) saw the panel retitled “Willie and Joe” as of July 30, 1945 (maybe). Mauldin slowly started throwing in ed-op pieces about things other than army and veteran affairs, and by the Spring of 1946 Willie and Joe had disappeared from the panel.
    Willie and Joe occasionally made an appearances after that, I guess.
    The last time Mauldin drew one was as a tribute to Milton Caniff in the last “Steve Canyon” strip on June 5, 1988; I THINK.
    Their last appearance on the comics page may have been the 1998 Veteran’s Day “Peanuts” strip. That backstory can be read here:
    The Library of Congress has a bit about their post-WWII year:

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