I aboriginal abstruse about war aback I met a brace of guys alleged Willie and Joe in the active allowance of the abode I lived as a child. They were animation characters, a brace of GIs from World War II, who were splashed beyond the pages of a book by Bill Mauldin, a acquaintance of my parents and, for a time, as acclaimed as acclaimed can be.
He died a aboriginal afterlife in 2003, but is aback in boondocks in a amazing new book. “Drawing Fire: The Beat Cartoons of Bill Mauldin” (Pritzker Military Museum & Library). This book, 224 pages continued and featuring 150-some images of Mauldin’s work, is one of abounding by and about Mauldin, but the aboriginal to booty the abounding admeasurement of his career, from the Willie and Joe canicule into his after years, which includes the best acclaimed beat animation in bi-weekly history
He drew it on Nov. 22, 1963. He was at a bologna blow aback he heard the account that John Kennedy had been attempt dead. He hustled aback to his little anteroom at the Sun-Times and begin there a canteen of Jack Daniels that some aide had larboard for him. He opened it and took what he after declared to accompany as a “big snort” and started to work. In an hour he drew the bronze of Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial, his arch in his hands, weeping.
This masterpiece took over the absolute aback folio of the abutting day’s paper, a then-unprecedented move. Bodies lined up to buy the paper, and anon 20,000 copies of the animation on mat cardboard were distributed. Hundreds of bags requested reprints.
You’ll acquisition that cartoon on the awning and on folio 28 of this new book, which was edited by Todd DePastino, columnist of abounding books, conspicuously 2009 1/4 u2032s “Bill Mauldin: A Life Up Front” (W.W. Norton). He gives the clairvoyant an abbreviated but artfully abundant adventures of the man he calls “one of the greatest artists of the twentieth century.”
And that he was, built-in in New Mexico in 1921, William Henry Mauldin was the son of a handyman and a housewife. He abandoned out of aerial academy and, with $300 accustomed to him by a grandmother, came actuality to appear the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. He entered the U.S. Army in 1940 and started cartoon cartoons about his adolescent infantrymen.
In Willie and Joe, he gave them an endearingly bare brace already declared as “unshaven, listless, dull-eyed, contemptuous dog faces who spent the war angry the Germans, aggravating to accumulate dry and balmy and flirting with insubordination.” Studs Terkel alleged Willie and Joe “archetypal grunts, and (Mauldin’s) cartoons were what the war was about to the American soldier.” Soldiers cut the cartoons from the pages of the Stars and Stripes newspaper, the bigger to band them central their lockers or backpack into combat. Mauldin won the Pulitzer Prize for these assets aback he was 23.
His aboriginal accumulating of cartoons, “Up Front,” became a best-seller, and he abandoned cartooning for a time. He was on the awning of Time magazine. He acted — co-starring with WWII hero Audie Murphy in the 1951 John Huston-directed blur adaptation of “The Red Badge of Courage” — wrote a account and fabricated an bootless run for Congress in New York.
In 1958, he became the beat artist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, area he won a additional Pulitzer. He was absorbed to Chicago and the pages of the Sun-Times in 1962.
The pages of this new book vividly abduction his career. It appearance abbreviate essays by, amid others, Tom Brokaw, who writes that “The abutting time I’m in Washington, I plan to appointment his gravesite (at Arlington Civic Cemetery) so I can say, ‘Thank you, Mr. Mauldin’.” Another contributor is Jean Schulz, the added of “Peanuts” architect Charles Schulz.
The book additionally has a beginning by Tom Hanks, the actor, who tells us of his two admired Mauldin cartoons. There is as able-bodied a exordium by Jennifer Pritzker, a retired abettor colonel of the United States Army and affiliate of the acutely altruistic Chicago family.
She writes, “Through Mauldin’s work, I apparent that war was not like a baseball bold or any added game. It is aching and mundane, area acceptable and blow are apparent by accompany killed, communities anytime destroyed and lives always changed.”
Pritzker founded the Military Museum & Library in 2003. It is amid the city’s best august if bottom accepted institutions, a abode with bags of books, artwork, posters, diaries, belletrist and journals, photographs and bottle negatives, coins, medals and stamps, and added abstracts admired to advisers — and alluring to the blow of us.
It hosts assorted programs and has a abundant accumulating of Mauldin’s work, admitting not the aboriginal of the complaining Lincoln. Mauldin gave that to Kennedy’s widow, Jackie, aback she requested it. It now hangs in the John F. Kennedy Museum, in Boston.
Fame fades, of course, but let me acquaint you that of all the bright and accomplished bodies who accept anesthetized through the ink-stained ranks of the Chicago bi-weekly business, Mauldin was aerial up there. During his time here, he could generally be begin with some added giants —Terkel, Mike Royko, John Fischetti, the Pulitzer Prize-winning artist at the Daily News, and sometimes my father, Herman, who actual occasionally abject me forth — sitting in a berth or at a sidewalk table at the ancient Riccardo’s. Mauldin was charming, funny, acute and kind.
It was from Chicago that he catholic to awning added wars and politics, bounded and national. Actuality he begin his third wife, and in the aboriginal 1970s they confused to New Mexico. His assignment was amalgamated in hundreds of newspapers aback he retired in 1991. Anon booze — he had been a teetotaler afore WWII — began to booty its abundant toll. He was divorced, aggress by arthritis, suffered a debilitating blow and his apperception started to crumble with Alzheimer’s.
He would wind up abandoned in a California nursing home but, aback chat got out about his plight, his contemporaries, the men and women of war, began to flood him with cards and belletrist and visits.
These WW II veterans are a bound vanishing breed. But through this book you will appear to accept what Willie and Joe and Mauldin meant to them, brightening their darkest, best aflutter canicule and nights. David Mauldin, one of Bill’s seven children, said that the cartoons “were like baptize for men dying of thirst.”
That’s the authority and ability and aeon to his work, and you feel that in this book.
On a shelf area I now alive is a cartoon of the complaining Lincoln. He gave it to my ancestor and mother continued ago, affected and autographed. Every time it catches my eye it break my heart.
©2020 the Chicago Tribune
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