Thursday 11 August 2011

I recently bought the Fantagraphics complete Mauldin's Willie and Joe in soft cover. Bill Mauldin is one of the indisputable geniuses in the history of cartooning and I consider it an obligation to have the best available collection of his work on my shelf. From the photo you can see that this has meant periodic updating.

The attraction of the Fantagraphics collection is that it is the first to date everything and put it all in chronological order. (In the intro to one of the earlier collections Mauldin confessed some regret at having removed the dates in an earlier edition for the sake of grouping the cartoons thematically, and allowed that putting them back on would now require a great deal of research). I expected this to bring about one or two observations that I could not have made before. The first is that I am surprised to find that there is no break between the war cartoons and the post-war cartoons. They are continuous. the second is that in the middle of 1944 Mauldin appears to have decided to stretch the proportions of his figures from a normal height of seven or eight 'heads' to as many as ten heads (previously I presumed variotions might be explained by pressing circumstances). These are two from before this apparent decision:



And these are two from after it:


This reminded me of the big pictorial book on World War 2 (1975) by James Jones (of From Here to Eternity). I haven't seen it in years, but I recall that there was a section on War Artists, in which he discussed the art of a particular artist who intentionally used stretched 'heroic' proportions in his figures. I realize that most of this kind of thing will not look strange to the modern reader accustomed to looking at comic books, in which Rob Liefeld once notoriously stretched a figure to as many as fourteen heads (I think Gibbons used the heroic ten heads in Watchmen). Anyway, I forget the name of the artist Jones was talking about, but the strongest candidate is Howard Brodie:

So I'm wondering if Mauldin came into contact with Brodie and or his work in the middle of 1944. Or maybe there's another explanation.

Update. PS- You can see how the heroic proportion brings a gravitas to the drawing that won Maudin the Pulitzer.


earlier post on Mauldin.

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Blogger Rob Stolzer said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12 August 2011 at 16:34:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Rob Stolzer said...


Thanks for the post on Mauldin. I consider him one of the truly great wartime artists. The Fantagraphic books are fantastic, as is Todd DePastino's biography of Mauldin. Reading through the Fantagraphics set, it struck me how Mauldin's work must have had an impact on both the EC war artists, many of whom served during WWII, and the TV show M*A*S*H. Some of the TV show's writing has a definite Mauldin flavor.

In case you're interested, I have a couple of Mauldin WWII originals, that are quite beautiful in person:

I also wrote an article about Gregor Duncan, who was friends with Mauldin during WWII, but was killed in Italy. Duncan was a real up-and-comer, one who Mauldin wrote about.

12 August 2011 at 16:36:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

thanks, Rob.
the originals look great. Mauldin's ink is something you can yearn to get closer to, and It must be said that Fanta made a good decision to print the images larger than we've ever seen them in print before.

12 August 2011 at 16:41:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anthony Thorne said...

Both the Fanta books are on my list to get, and I think I prefer the look of that big softcover to the 2 volume hardcover set that was out before. It'll also be nice to begin and complete my Maudlin collection in one hit. Interesting post Eddie.

12 August 2011 at 21:15:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Rob Stolzer said...


The two-volume slip-cased set is very sweet! I'm glad I sprung for it when I did. I've seen it around at pretty cheap prices, too.

13 August 2011 at 07:45:00 GMT-5  

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