Stars of Political Cartooning – Bill Mauldin

by  in Comic News Comment
Stars of Political Cartooning – Bill Mauldin

Each day this month I will be profiling a notable political cartoonist. Since the choices are vast, I’ve decided to slim the numbers down a bit and eliminate living cartoonists. Perhaps I will do a current political cartoon stars in the future.

Here‘s an archive of the artists mentioned already.

Today we look at the youngest winner of the Pulitzer Prize (at the time) in the award’s history!


Bill Mauldin entered the United States Army in 1940, at the age of 19, via the Arizona National Guard.

Even before heading overseas, Mauldin was entertaining his fellow soldiers with cartoons about their time in camp.

Mauldin was part of the 45th Invantry Division, and he volunteered to draw comics for the unit’s newspaper, soon creating his most famous characters (well, more or less, the only characters he would create – as his other work was topical stuff), Willie and Joe, the “everymen” infantry soldiers who Mauldin would use to demonstrate the daily difficulties of war.

Here are a bunch of them…

“Why ya lookin’ so sad? I got out of it okay.”

“It will comfort my ol’ woman to know I have gave up rye whiskey and ten-cent seegars.”

“I guess it’s okay. The replacement center says he comes from a long line of infantrymen.”

“Hell! Just when I git me practice built up they transfer me to another regiment.”

“He thinks the food over there was swell. He’s glad to be home, but he misses the excitement of battle. You may quote him.”

“I feel like a fugitive from the law of averages”

Willie and Joe were massively popular among the troops, and eventually Mauldin was given a position drawing for the Stars and Stripes, and in 1944 he was given his own jeep where he would travel around the front for material and produce up to six cartoons a week.

However, Mauldin’s realistic look at the life of troops did not sit well with the famous General George Patton, who felt that Mauldin’s critical cartoons were nothing short of spreading dissent and that Mauldin ought to be locked up. Luckily for Mauldin, Dwight D. Eisenhower knew how bad it would look to shut up such a popular cartoonist, so Eisenhower ran interference (Patton went to the grave very critical of Mauldin).

Willie even made the cover of Time Magazine!

Mauldin’s comics won him the 1945 Pulitzer Prize at the age of 23, the youngest person ever to win a Pulitizer at the time (maybe still, someone fact check that for me!).

After the war, Mauldin was a celebrity, but his war comics really did not translate so well to the home front, although they tried…

Ultimately, Mauldin began trying his hand at editorial cartoons, espousing a leftist approach, including his views on the government investigating its own citizens…

However, these cartoons were not particularly popular, so for the rest of the 40s and most of the 1950s, Mauldin only dabbled in comics, pursuing many different avenues, including running for the US Congress!

In 1958, Mauldin returned to the world of cartooning at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and quickly established himself as one of the country’s top political cartoonists, winning the 1958 Pulitzer Prize for his cartoon about the Soviet Union’s unwillingness to let Boris Pasternak to travel to accept his Nobel Prize.

“I won the Nobel Prize for literature. What was your crime?”

In 1962, Mauldin moved to the Chicago Sun-Times, where he remained until his retirement in 1991.

Here are some of his cartoons from this point in his career (St. Louis and Chicago), where he was quite the advocate for social change and he was a great critic of those opposing civil rights change in America…

In the following strip, he even takes on fellow liberals….

His most famous cartoon from this time period was his cartoon following JFK’s assassination…

Earlier this year, Fantagraphics put out a great collection of Mauldin’s World War II comics, edited by Todd DePastino…

From 1969 to 1999, Charles Schulz would pay tribute to Mauldin each Veteran’s Day.

Bill Mauldin passed away in 2003.

Thanks to the Library of Congress and PBS for the images used!