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Review: Willie & Joe The World War II Years

Willie and Joe collection

Tom Spurgeon has posted a favorable review of Bill Mauldin’s Willie & Joe collection created by Fantagraphics.

Reading these comics it’s hard not to see Mauldin through them, the young, funny and ultimately sensitive young cartoonist following the carnage of Europe and piercing all the way to the heart and humanity of a group of young men asked to do very some awful things. You also get a real sense of two World War II narratives that have kind of been lost to history, at least the popular historical narratives — the effort to take Europe from Italy and on up into the nations conquered by Germany, and the occupation of the newly freed countries in the months after Normandy. Yet all of that pales next to Mauldin’s attractive, humorous cartooning. The sociological significance of Willie & Joe as grunt soldiers would be considerably if the cartoons themselves weren’t frequently smart and funny. Fantagraphics’ presentation of those cartoons, sometimes as rough as the best surviving copy allows, gives you a much better understanding of what made Mauldin great than any of the compilations or heavily illustrated books that have been released in the past. Not only do you get the best of the soldier cartoons, and the more iconic of the pre-war material, but you also see Mauldin jump from drawing style to drawing style in the early years as he found clients and his own voice.

I got excited to buy this volume when it was announced, and then got busy and forgot about it. It’s still in the pre-sale stage at Amazon.

Community Comments

#1 josh shalek
@ 10:15 am

Strange that Amazon isn’t shipping it yet as I saw it at a comic book shop last week.

It’s a good-looking book. I second the blurb above from Spurgeon.

#2 Mike
@ 7:46 pm

Yeah, it hit comics stores on yesterday. It’s a think of beauty although shipped shrinkwrapped so you’ll have to get a store to open it if you want to browse before committing.

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