Comic Strip: Willie And Joe

Originally written for the 45th Infantry Division's paper, the comic was eventually picked up by Stars and Stripes after the division was sent to Europe to fight in World War II. Mauldin was eventually moved to full-time staff at the magazine, and was given a Jeep to tour the front and make comics about his experiences.

After the end of the war, the comics were collected in the best-selling Up Front, and Mauldin became the youngest man in history to be awarded a Pulitzer Prize. He turned to political cartoons, but was forced by popular demand to return to the Willie and Joe characters, placing them back home trying to readjust to civilian life. From then on, the characters were occasionally revisited during the Korean and Vietnam war, with the final comic coming in 1998 at the request of Charles Schultz, published in Peanuts for Veteran's Day.

Willie and Joe contains examples of:

  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: Military regulations were often parodied, particularly the insistence on spit-shine uniform cleanliness for soldiers fighting in the trenches.
    • Mauldin was called on the carpet by General Patton because soldiers were imitating his characters' undisciplined appearance. This was right after a strip that openly mocked Patton's strict dress code. He was rescued by Dwight D. Eisenhower, who felt that the comics' effect on morale - that it gave the troops a means to vent - was more important.
  • Black Comedy: Some of the more insane realities of surviving on a battlefield come up often.
  • Boot Camp Episode: The first three years of the strip, which Mauldin started in 1940.
  • Combat Medic: Mauldin depicted the hardships of their work, especially in the rugged terrain of Italy, and brought attention to their low salaries:
    Ya don't git combat pay 'cos ya don't fight!
  • Crowning Moment of Funny: Any time an officer does something ridiculous.
    • One of the more famous panels: A Calvary sergeant wordlessly putting his pistol to the hood of a Jeep with a broken axle and tearfully looking away.
    • "I feel like a fugitive from th' law of averages!"
    • "Now that you mention it, it does sound like th' patter of rain on a tin roof." (the eponymous characters on the sound of rain on their helmets)
    • "My future is sealed, Willie. I'm gonna be a perfessor on types o' European soil."
    • (Willie and Joe's foxhole has been accidentally covered up by a Panzer tank)"Able Fox Five to Able Fox. I got a target but ya gotta be patient..."
  • Deadpan Snarker: The only way Willie and Joe can even survive out there.
  • The Engineer: "Yessir, B Comp'ny broke another bridge-buildin' record. A kraut company is retreating across it!"
  • Friendly Enemy: German soldiers occasionally show up being good-natured about not getting shot at.
  • Hypocritical Humor: The caption to one comic describes the "fresh, spirited troops bringing in ragged, battle-weary prisoners". Both groups look equally tired and about to pass out on their feet.
  • Lethal Chef: Army rations take a lot of flak in the strip.
  • Mildly Military: Essentially a real-life example. The front-line troops often became very lax about cleanliness/grooming regulations, as well as discipline. The classic (though slightly subtle) example is Willie and Joe playing cards with their CO, who looks as rough as they do, asking him "By the way sir, what wuz them changes you wuz going to make when you took over last month?"
  • Military Moonshiner: A soldier busily adjusts a still, as an officer looks on. The officer comments:
    Hell of a way to waste time. *beat* Does it work?
  • Mook: The comics focus squarely on the "dogfaces" of the army.
  • Refuge in Audacity
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: Underplayed, but it's there.
  • True Companions: The dogfaces are always depicted as this.
    Willie: ''Joe, yesterday ya saved my life and I swore, I'd pay ya back. Here's my last pair of dry socks."
  • Values Dissonance: Some might question the need to make jokes about war...
  • War Is Hell: It's also drudgery, mud, foraging for food and wine, mud, surviving an artillery barrage from time to time, and mud.
  • What Could Have Been: Mauldin considered his final "Willie and Joe" strip ending with both guys getting killed on the final day of the war. He realized that would have been too horrific, even after a real-life bloody war. Instead he ended it with Willie and Joe fainting when told they're shipping out for home.
  • World War II: The comic strip.