Fiercely liberal

Bill Mauldin has passed away.

More about him here:

In 1945, he won his first Pulitzer Prize for newspaper cartooning, and published his first book — Up Front, which reprinted dozens of Willie & Joe cartoons, accompanied by Mauldin’s comments on the real-life situation his fictional characters were in. It has remained in print for decades, and even now stands as one of the most vivid and true-to-life accounts of the typical American soldier’s life during World War II.

More books followed — Back Home (1947), Bill Mauldin in Korea (1952), The Brass Ring (1971), and several others. He also wrote a few short stories, and appeared in the 1951 movie, The Red Badge of Courage. He won a second Pulitzer in 1959, so it was almost an anticlimax when, two years later, he took home The National Cartoonists’ Society’s Reuben Award, as Cartoonist of the Year.

By that time, he was working as editorial cartoonist for The St. Louis Post-Dispatch. United Feature had found his cartoons hard to sell in many markets, because of his tendency not to pull punches when cartooning about McCarthyism or The Ku Klux Klan; and he’d been so discouraged that for a few years during the ’50s, he’d actually given up cartooning altogether. It was a mistake he didn’t make again — but he did find larger urban areas, where a wider range of opinion has always flourished, more receptive to his viewpoints.

I don’t know if conservatives commentators will now retroactively claim him as one of their own, but I wouldn’t be surprised. Artists like Mauldin tend to get co-opted by all the wrong people. It’s important to remember what he actually stood for, I think:

I spent hours in the library looking for Mauldin’s 1975 cartoon on the ERA. What I discovered — before finally discovering the cartoon itself — was the biggest reason the Sun-Times of those days is remembered as fiercely liberal. In fact its editorial page was wishy-washy and insignificant. Mauldin, however, was an angry, ironic sharpshooter. The editorials endorsed Richard J. Daley and Richard Nixon, but nobody read the editorials. Mauldin savaged them both, and everybody read him.