This is a project in development that I’ve left on the back-burner for the time being.

            Bill Mauldin is, in many ways, the quintessential war cartoonist.  His frank depictions of the emotional and psychological toll wrought on the combatants of World War II made him the youngest at the time (?) Pulitzer Prize winner at 23 and endeared him to his fellow “dogfaces.”  And yet, Mauldin remains profoundly underrepresented in the field of comics scholarship.  This owes a lot to the fact of his wartime cartoons being seldom reprinted since the 1960s, with the notable exception of the splendidly produced two volume box set issued by Fantagraphics Willie and Joe: The War Years[1]. It is also, to some degree, a product of the fact that his post-war cartooning took on a far more editorial bent, lambasting contemporary political figures and movements, taking a staunch stance against segregation, racism, anti-Semitism, nationalism, and a host of other contemporary ills which the audience, eager to put the war behind them, may have found less apolitically agreeable than his wartime work. In this essay, I will close read some of [AG1] Mauldin’s most influential and dynamic cartoons, setting [AG2] his work within the context of WWII cartooning.  By examining Mauldin alongside his contemporaries Dave Breger (GI Joe) and Will Eisner (Army Motors, PS: Preventative Maintenance, and his more famous non-military work), I hope to refocus criticism on the novelty of Mauldin’s work and to encourage further critical attention to a woefully neglected body of work.

To this end, I gesture to the work of two contemporaries whose positions in WWII cartooning complement and highlight Mauldin’s unique input. Dave Breger, whose GI Joe strip eventually grew to inspire both the term for an army grunt, replacing the earlier “dogfaces” and a Hasbro toy line which continues to the present day.  Breger worked at much the same time as Mauldin and was published primarily in Yank another military publication, and one which famously printed only a handful of cartoons by Mauldin, and those in minuscule proportion.  Another contemporary whose career runs parallel to, but differs from, Mauldin’s is that of Will Eisner, a few years Mauldin’s senior.  His work in the period in the preventative maintenance publication Army Motors eventually led to his creation of PS: The Preventative Maintenance Monthly (still published as of this writing) in the 1950s, for which he continued editorial work and cartooning, for over a decade.  This triumvirate, while by no means the gamut of WWII cartooning, I argue represents the predominant modes of war cartooning in the 1940s, with Mauldin occupying the position of correspondent and satirist, in the vein of his contemporary and friend, Ernie Pyle, Eisner occupying the role of educator, and Breger resting somewhere in the middle, producing cartoons with a much more upbeat tone and conventional mien than Mauldin’s. [AG3] 

That Mauldin’s editorial work is neglected is, in large part, indicative of the two leading causes for the lack of critical attention to, particularly newspaper editorial cartooning.  The first lies in the fact of newspapers are, essentially, ephemera.  While the funny pages have a long history of being reprinted for later enjoyment in batch, editorial cartoons have historically been neglected for the reason that their appeal, unlike the timeless humor of gag strips[AG4] , is considered as ephemeral as the news items upon which they are based, and the newsprint on which they are printed.  Obviously, the case has changed much in recent years, owing quite a bit to the crossover appeal of Garry Trudeau’s Doonsbury, but the gap remains.

Though Mauldin’s wartime work  attracted far greater fanfare in the 40s and remains his trademark contributio[AG5] n, its lack of representation on the shelves of comics historians remains telling.  One reason for this is that it, much like Eisner’s wartime work, was never really intended for civilian audiences.  Though Mauldin’s cartoons were frequently reprinted in contemporary newspapers, and his first non-military published collection Up Front was a runaway best-seller, and Willie made the cover of the June 19, 1945 issue of Time Magazine, later years have not been as conducive to non-scholarly, or even scholarly, attention (Florida State 37).  Mauldin released a number of book length collections of cartoons and commentary in his lifetime, though all are now out of print[2]. [AG6] Such generational hurdles are not unique to Mauldin, as both Breger and Eisner’s work of the period have attracted only scant attention[3] with Eisner’s also being eclipsed by his narrative work prior to and after the war, and by its technical nature[AG7] .  Breger’s work has also been largely out of print since the mid 1960s though his reputation is bolstered by the fact of his popularization of the term “GI Joe” which has been the title of numerous loosely related comic strips, films, toys, and tv series since 1942.  As this paper elaborates, however, where Eisner’s work in the period (for the military) has limited appeal to those who aren’t scholars of his oeuvre or enthusiasts attempting to repair and maintain vintage military vehicles, and where Breger’s cartoons are, though accomplished, largely the kind of gag-a-day strips common to the day, albeit with military dressing, Mauldin’s work, particularly that of the war years, is ripe for further critical attention and close reading.[AG8] 

As early as June 19, 1941, Mauldin displays a knack for the brand of light satire which would become a staple of Eisner’s Joe Dope and preventative maintenance schtick, and which would fit well within the tradition of Beetle Bailey and Breger’s G.I. Joe. In his strip for the Oklahoma City Times while Mauldin was undergoing training with his 45th Infantry division of the mobilized National Guard, the reader is confronted with the nonplussed face of one of the many anonymous grunts [AG9] Mauldin employed before codifying the looks of Willie and Joe, who appeared in numerous early cartoons, though their characters would not be definitively outlined until about 1944.  The private is being gently admonished by a superior, hands in pockets and be-slippered as are the privates, the other of whom, back to the reader, is doing laundry.  [AG10] This private, Sneed, is in the process of washing his gun with a lathered brush and the caption below, spoken by the bemused superior, reads “You have the right spirit, Private Sneed.  The technical details of cleaning a rifle, of course, can come later.” (Mauldin 54). 

The situation of this cartoon is garden variety [AG11] and Private Sneed would recur sporadically in these early cartoons, often with differing appearances.  Mauldin seems to have had a catalogue of names he employed for any number of otherwise dissimilar characters in the early years, Joe included, who in his earliest appearances is a Native American whose appearance, particularly when he dons his civilian garb (loin cloth and head-dress) along with his folksy mannerisms are the source of a few of the early cartoons’ punchlines.  [AG12] Even at this early date, however, the reader sees the artistry which Mauldin is capable of when deadline and materials permit.  The perspective is characteristically perfect, the product of a classical arts education, and the values in the cartoon are defined with zip-a-tone, the edges of which are clear in the later reproduction this writer has to hand.  The expressivity of the faces on the figures’ faces are what, in many ways, distinguish Mauldin’s best work, and they are present here, such that the reader can clearly ascertain that Mauldin is a master both of “realism” in style and rendering, and also of caricature as a means of forwarding the “gag.”

In his first (of only six) contributions to the weekly Yank Mauldin works in a square, a format he would seldom employ in other publications. The subject, far from many of his Daily Oklahoman outings where he organically combines multiple cartoons with nebulous panel borders into a single rectangular page for his Star Spangled Banter, is firmly grounded in home-front drama.  Two soldiers, both heavily bandaged, one with his arm in a cast and the other in a sling, are surrounded by civilians in eveningwear who seem to be celebrating the soldiers’ heroism.  The soldiers look unnerved, and the one turns to the other as a waiter pours a bubbling glass of laudatory champagne, saying “I haven’t the heart to tell ‘em we got this way at the roller rink.” (Mauldin 189).  Signed, Pvt Bill Mauldin, this cartoon was his first accepted to Yank and its success, as Mauldin attests, contributed to a “penchant for dumb gags” which would recur in his early career before his deployment and development of the more somber tone of the Willie and Joe years in Up Front (Mauldin 189).

By late 1943, Mauldin had more or less codified the single panel splash[AG13]  with lower caption layout which would define his style.  Mauldin’s cartoon, issued in the December 25, 1943, issue of the 45th Division News was printed in full color, courtesy of a Neapolitan engraver who worked laboriously from one of Mauldin’s watercolors. It is among the last of his conglomerate cartoons which proliferated from 1942[AG14] .  It is interesting to note that the style Mauldin had adopted, with multiple distinct cartoons occupying the same space, had earlier characterized Breger’s G.I. Joe, and by the time this Christmas issue came out, Mauldin had begun to adhere more closely to Breger’s style with the stark intra-panel borders which separated the instances, a digression from his earlier experiments with the style where borders were more liminal[4] (Arden 26-7).

Mauldin’s genius is more fully revealed in his Up Front which introduced the running characters of Willie and Joe, the latter of whom, refined from an earlier, explicitly Native American, character of the same name, would sport a rounded nose, as compared to the aquiline-nosed Willie from whom he would be inextricable for the remainder of Mauldin’s career.  In the May 5, 1944 Stars and Stripes Joe kvetches to Willie as bullets wing the barren tree outside their fox hole saying, “Wish to hell I wuzn’t housebroke.” A sentiment which Todd DePastino notes alludes to the reality of soldiers using their foxholes as outhouses, while also acknowledging the dehumanizing and simultaneously humorous reality of humans being reduced to the status of pets or animals by wartime necessity, which also casts light on the darker nuances of the term “dogface” for an infantry trooper (Mauldin 116).  Three days later, Mauldin’s heroes, looking more tired than ever and with Joe looking particularly beleaguered, cigarette hanging with dismay from his lower lip, while being dressed down by a clipboard wielding and immaculately dressed superior before a series of signs signifying the overtaking of conquered territory by brass and military police including “Red Cross Officer’s Club” and “Ping Pong Tourney,” suggesting the privileges of noncommissioned officers and officers, over the infantrymen who did the legwork of claiming territory in combat.  The officer in question is gesturing to Willie’s slovenly dress with a pencil, to Willie’s rebuff that “Them buttons wuz shot off when I took dis town.” (Mauldin 118).  Two days later, Willie has his helmet pressed down over his eyes by a fallen brick and Joe is splayed with his helmet askew beneath the rubble of a bombed-out town and Willie admonishes his compatriot that “It ain’t right to go around leanin’ on churches Joe.” (Mauldin 119). This cartoon is one of many which emblematize Mauldin’s capacity for dark commentary, with the largest fallen beam of the church bifurcating the heroes from one another and the bricks disguising their limbs, suggesting the possibility that the bombs have not only levelled the buildings (leaving a house of worship indistinguishable from any other structure) but also left our heroes amputees. The devastation of a villa with walls missing and shutters hanging is juxtaposed with the classically cartoonish image of a man with his hat pulled over his eyes in Chaplin-esque discombobulation.  Two days later, Mauldin reworked an earlier cartoon, one of the six published in Yank, depicting an infantry officer, portly and disheveled despite this, hand before his eyes, with a gun to the bonnet of his incapacitated Jeep (wheel bent inward) (Mauldin 120).  The label on the number plate which reads cavalry is hardly necessary to the meaning, implying the progression from the cavalry (horse driven) of the prior world war.  As DePastino notes, this was one of a number of cartoons Mauldin worked on around the same premise, revising it as he grew more proficient in his craft, to the end of his chief goal as a cartoonist, that a good cartoon should require no caption to convey its meaning. 

It is suggestive of Mauldin as a visionary cartoonist, that so much of his philosophy, conveyed through his many interviews, most cited by DePastino in the collection or in his excellent biography of Mauldin, subtitled A Life Up Front,[AG15] predict later movements in comics art towards a move away from the dependence upon captions to convey meaning.  Taking only a brief look at contemporary cartoonists’ and comics writers’ comments, one quickly finds that most, if not all, see the object of cartooning to be picture making with the least amount of narrative and dialogue captions required to convey the story.  When one reads much of the work produced not only in the 40s, but up to the close of the Silver Age, wherein dialogue and captions often eclipse the art on the page, often contrasting inorganically, or worse, simply reiterating[AG16] , the meaning of the images, Mauldin starts to look more like the genius he undoubtedly was.

            On May 17 of 1944 Mauldin scores value lines in a circle around the sleeping bag ensconced figures of Willie and Joe, that latter of whom is training his service pistol on a gigantic white rate [AG17] while the former has a gun shaped flashlight shone on the same, and with a second rat, head elongated to suggest intention and malice, at the base of his sleeping bag, ready to pounce (Mauldin 123).  Of course, both soldiers, as is characteristic in these comparatively bleak depictions of wartime service, bear dispassionate, even ambivalent expressions while the caption, spoken by Willie, proclaims “Aim between th’eyes, Joe–sometimes they charge when they’re wounded.” Naturally this warning calls to mind the reality of hunting larger game like elk and bears who actually pose such a threat, while also suggesting the wartime reality that rats and the enemy are largely interchangeable and equally dangerous in like circumstances, carrying diseases, perhaps, rather than incoming bullets or mortar shells.

            It should be noted, too, that where Eisner and Breger relied upon the caricature of the dopey enlistee haplessly bungling the best laid plans of superiors (for the purposes of humor or instruction to would-be imitators of such behavior) Mauldin’s military men are hardscrabble but humorous and disaffected everymen.  Indeed, his Joe is more indicative of the standard issue infantryman than Breger’s, if only because Mauldin interacted with, indeed, was one of, the dogfaces.  Breger, as Arden suggests, renders his GI Joe as a stereotypical college educated intellectual whose fallen on the luck of the draft as a 4F enlistee (46).  Mauldin’s heroes also fall shy of the cartoonishly idealized brawn of Hasbro’s war fantasies, but they certainly aren’t incompetents, nor are they, despite representing everyone, simply anyone.  Through the years of Up Front and earlier continuity, Mauldin layered many characters into his heroes, including, despite the evident racial insensitivity of Joe’s earlier portrayals as a Native American, the baggage attendant upon being a member of a marginalized group in American society forced, or otherwise compelled, to fight for truth, justice, and the American way[AG18] , which has never lived up to the equality ideal enshrined in the constitution.

            In this way, Mauldin, perhaps unintentionally allies himself, not only politically, as he would in his post-war cartoons, but certainly thematically and ideologically with the wartime cartoonists in majority black periodicals, the most prominent and studied of whom, is Oliver Harrington.  Harrington’s Dark Laughter follows African American soldiers in the war, enduring not only the harshest combat situations, but also the indignity of segregation and the inherent stratification of military hierarchy which in many ways accords exactly to socioeconomic and, de-facto racial hierarchies back home (Hopkins 14).  Bootsie, the hero of Harrington’s strips shares an animus with Mauldin’s Willie and Joe in that he presents a wry, even subtly anti-authoritarian commentary on the ironies and injustices of military service.  Israel Knox, in harmony with this sentiment, characterizes Mauldin’s satire by saying

Mauldin’s delight in the deflation of the ‘top brass’ stemmed from the deeper dissatisfaction with authority as such–with authority as divorced from the democratic sanction of consent, and with its inevitable stratification of men into castes (123).

Just as Mauldin was combatting the injustices of the military system as such, Harrington, and the real people whose struggles he depicted, were battling against the same forces and greater, as they had also to contend with segregation and racial inequality at home and abroad.  It is no secret that, as in the civil war, African American prisoners of war were treated to firing squads rather than POW camps.[AG19] 

            To look at Mauldin, in this way, as a political cartoonist, a conclusion which seems only fair, considering his post-war editorializing and run for office, casts a new light on the significance of his commentary during the war[AG20] . Mauldin understood, or at least intimated, the injustices which his comrades in arms of other races faced, and reading his commentary in this light draws a starker picture of his dissatisfaction with the power structure at work.  Famously, Mauldin had run ins, including a face-to-face dressing down with General George S. Patton, whose inclination, responding to two of Mauldin’s cartoons in particular, was to court martial and imprison him for insubordination and incitement to mutiny.  Commentary abounds on the exact events surrounding the meeting, but, in brief, Mauldin defended his work by saying he felt his tweaking of brass and military hierarchy allowed men to blow off steam that might otherwise build up and result in genuine insubordination.  Patton, by his own accounts in later interviews, including repeated threats, bought approximately none of this, but apparently conceded at the meeting’s close that “I guess we understand each other now.” (Mauldin Brass Ring 264).  Mauldin would often defend his work this way, and DePastino notes that, at the time of the meeting, the precarious “blow off steam” excuse was all that had protected the sergeant for four and a half years (DePastino 194). 

            Black cartoonists on the home-front had the insulation of their papers’ limited circulation, a far cry from the affront which Mauldin’s cartoons presented as they were published in the military press[AG21] , but the affinity of the messages is undeniable.  Mauldin reiterated, often, his convictions, which were ultimately affirmed by the Supreme Allied Commander himself, Dwight D Eisenhower, who wrote a letter to “Old Blood and Guts” and all other top brass ordering them not to concern themselves with the military press, effectively, as Harry Butcher, naval captain and aide to Eisenhower, leaving Patton having lost “the battle of Mauldin”[AG22]  (DePastino 194).  Mauldin elucidated his views in a number of ways over the years, but most effectively as quoted in Knox

Ours are not professional soldiers.  They have recently come from a life where they could cuss and criticize their bosses and politicians at will.  They realize that an army is held together with discipline, and they know they must have authority.  They accept orders and restrictions, but because they are fundamentally democratic the insignia on the shoulders of their officers sometimes look a hell of a lot like chips. (122)

Mauldin’s gripe is one undoubtedly shared by black soldiers[AG23]  and civilians in a number of ways, and it is telling that Harrington was effectively forced into exile in Europe after the war during the Red Scare while Mauldin’s criticism of the institution of HUAC and McCarthyite paranoia ultimately derailed his political ambitions.  Chris Lamb uses Mauldin to illustrate the lenience afforded which was not extended to cartoonists the Harrington, though his work, in exile, was still circulated in majority black papers like The Chicago Defender and The Pittsburgh Courier (724-25).

At heart, however, some truth undoubtedly lies in the paranoia, not only of Patton (at least about Mauldin’s intentions) but of McCarthyism[AG24]  and its intrinsic notice of the disparities which inflamed class and racial tensions and which its unconstitutional actions only exacerbated as those it persecuted (whether Communists or not and whether loyal to Stalin or not) rhetorically threw them for loops at the dawn of the age of mass-media circulation.  The lesson, as in the case of the Hollywood Ten, was that attempts to censor the most erudite portion of society inevitably left the censors’ faces looking eggier than Easter Sunday.  Perhaps the most telling suggestion that, at least Patton had got Bill’s number correct, is in the forward to Bill’s final book, What’s Got Your Back Up? where he muses wryly, “as for my wartime work, one of the few men in the Army with the perspicacity to see what I was really up to was General George Patton. When he tried to put a stop to me, somebody (I can’t imagine who) hollered ‘Free Press!’ and I was allowed to go on inciting mutiny under the guise of simple soldier jokes.”

Lucy Shelton Caswell talks more broadly about wartime editorial cartooning in America.  While she reiterates Mauldin’s self-defenses, she minimizes the complexity of his work, writing that

The fact that Mauldin’s work was published in Stars and Stripes, a military publication (as well as being reprinted in civilian papers) makes it even more remarkable as a turning point in the content of mainstream American war cartoons.  Mauldin editorializes about ordinary soldiers as they do their duty.  His patriotism is unquestionable, but his cartoons do not glorify war or dehumanize the enemy.  Far from stirring up wrath or hatred, the gentle[AG25] , ironic humor of these cartoons humanized battle and personalized the experience of war, and the ultimately had the effect of building support for the war, despite Patton’s fears

For one, she misses the parallel which was drawn by Patton himself, to WWI era cartoonist, Bruce Bairnsfather “whose ‘Old Bill’ cartoons revealed the absurdities of war a generation earlier” (Ribera 152-53).  For another, she provides little evidence beyond the anecdotal to support the assertion that Mauldin’s cartoons supported the war effort.  If anything, the human face Mauldin put to battle worked against the patriotic urge to commit firepower where diplomacy could possibly be availed of, and the depictions of war-torn Italy and Germany, in particular the cartoon, often discussed in critical approaches to Mauldin’s oeuvre, showing a soldier marching past a scowling woman within the smoldering remains of her home, with the caption “Don’t look at me, lady. I didn’t do it.” suggests the human cost of not just the second, but the first World War as well, and the punitive economic hardships which ultimately paved the way for the dawn of the Third Reich (225).  Perhaps Mauldin’s cartoons humanized the combatants in the war, and perhaps his depictions helped to ease stateside uneasiness by painting a realistic but nonetheless gently[AG26]  humorous vision of the combat zones their loved ones were fighting in, but Mauldin was far from a hawk, as his many cartoons lampooning the point value system of honorable discharge in the waning days of the European campaign attest to (326).  This was a man who understood what he was fighting for, but quite evidently doubted the means by which it was being fought for.

            In one of his intermittent non-Willie-and-Joe cartoons, Mauldin depicts a quarter of officers seated around battle plans which are being gesticulated to by a sour-faced three-star general in a non-regulation shirt, beer belly straining the confines of his hiked-up trousers (265).  The caption reads “Hope I meet that guy in civilian life…” pointing to what DePastino calls a common military fantasy wherein the situational hierarchy of the military is again given away to democratic equality and the right to royally object, even violently, to the moronic demands of one’s would-be superiors.  Not only does Mauldin foreground the minuscule differential in the power of the one three-star general as opposed to the three two-star generals, he also deliberately depicts the more powerful man, not only standing to create an artificial height differential with the sitting inferiors, but also rather inelegantly depicts the superior as the most slovenly, and most portly (and therefore farthest from combat ready) soldier in the bunch, a fact only highlighted by the screwed up features and eyebrow obscuring oversized helmet atop his head.  He also has a sharply pointed nose, echoing the features of several of Mauldin’s depictions of Nazi commanders (205 and 322).

            In this sense, Mauldin is unique, for, as he attests, Patton was onto something in his assessment of Mauldin’s motives.  Unlike his contemporaries in the mainstream military press, Mauldin really did have legitimate questions about the way in which the war was fought, which, while they fell short of mutinous and certainly weren’t anti-war in the sense of arguing against the European campaign, were certainly tinged with his deep seated resentments not only of the class and social castes which military ranks imitated and reified, but also his deep unease with American society in general, a fact which, as Ribera alludes to in his dissertation, may have impacted the comparatively poor reception of his more overtly political post-war work (154).  Like the black cartoonists publishing in black newspapers who were attuned to the war on two fronts which civil rights leaders were pushing and which The Courier, one of the leading black newspapers of the era termed its “Double V” campaign to topple fascism abroad and racism at home, Mauldin couched his deep unease in superficially anodyne humor (Hopkins 7).  Comparatively, Eisner’s work of the period never approaches those questions of morality in war, though, in his own way, he would become an ally to the causes of civil rights and social and economic justice, and depict them favorably in his later work.  Breger operated much more within the realm of humor strips of the time, scarcely straying into territory which might land him in hot water.

Mauldin’s “combat men did not fight the Germans by the Marquis of Queensbury’s rules; they shot the enemy in the back, blew him up with mines, and killed him in the quickest and most effective way.” (Mander 18)

Ribera 148 “Mauldin’s act of ‘resocializing’ the common soldier may be regarded as a fight against a larger enemy–the alienating and dehumanizing forces of society itself, exemplified by war, military and civilian bureaucracy, as well as mass media, whose representations of the war, while reaching all the way into foxholes, were not necessarily for common soldiers, not even about them.”

“If a political cartoon has the goal of influencing its audience with a glimpse of reason and insight, what Gombrich calls ‘momentary focus,’ Mauldin’s work aimed for something different, as his audience needed no convincing about their situation.” (Ribera 151)

[1] See also their collection of Mauldin’s post-war cartoons, Willie and Joe: Back Home.

[2] Up Front, from what this writer can discern, is the only one of Mauldin’s books which has seen multiple editions in its original form.

[3] Eisner’s Army Motors work has never, to my knowledge, been reprinted except in part in various biographies and retrospective volumes, while his 1950s work on PS has been the subject of one best-of collection and one self-published volume written by a colleague and friend and enlarged with retrospective celebrations by fellow comics professionals.

[4] See Arden, pgs. 26-7 for a description and analysis of Breger’s use of this style.

 [AG1]Be more concise and active in your language

 [AG2]Word choice. They’re already set there. Maybe “situate”?

 [AG3]This is good information but was too much detail about Eisner and Breger for the introductory paragraph. I’ve done a little re-organization here to emphasize the stakes of your argument and your primary claim (lack of attention/Mauldin’s work is in its own way quite revolutionary)

The information in this paragraph shouldn’t stay here; it should probably be adjusted a tad and put before the P starting “As early as June 19th”

 [AG4]Hmm, I’m not sure about this claim? There are certain types of humor that translate well but that might not mean they are “timeless.” Otherwise, wouldn’t things like Mutt and Jeff still be popular?

 [AG5]To what? The wording is a bit odd.

 [AG6]This bit could be more clearly structured

 [AG7]Dangling participle

 [AG8]Too much for one sentence

 [AG9]But he gets a name here—not Willie or Joe but not quite anonymous.

 [AG10]This is difficult to follow. Who is in slippers, who is standing, who is sitting, etc.

 [AG11]Well; not quite. It is patently absurd. Is the absurdity garden variety for Mauldin’s strips?

 [AG12]This note that his “civilian garb” is racist caricature seems like a dangerous thing to skip over so quickly.

 [AG13]Is this term normally used when referring to single panel cartoons?

 [AG14]I’m not sure what this means—what conglomerate from 1942?

 [AG15]Again, this gets wordy and tough to follow

 [AG16]“Contrasting inorganically” and “simply reiterating” seem like opposite to me, not levels on the same scale—as your sentence seems to treat them here.

 [AG17]? misspelling? Word drop?

 [AG18]Again, be careful with too many clauses. Don’t be afraid to break up sentences

 [AG19]I’m willing and even want to go with you on this section, but considering you kind of skipped past a racist caricature earlier (though you mentioned it just above), it seems like a bit of a stretch to say that Mauldin is more aligned with black cartoonists simply because he was concerned about the injustices in the system. Perhaps a direct comparison of a Bootsie strip to Willie and Joe to provide further evidence would be more convincing that using a quote.

 [AG20]THERE. That is a good way to state your thesis, I think. He can be considered a political, editorial cartoonist, even in the war papers while being a soldier. That’s an intriguing idea, because what does a political cartoonist in a military publication look like? Especially as you spell out that he is critical of the brass.

The idea of criticism/satire/editorializing + military publication is intriguing enough; add during WW2, then I go, “Oh really?”

 [AG21]This could be stated more clearly.

 [AG22]Another sentence that gets lost in the comma-clauses

 [AG23]Again, with this thread you need to make the Bootsie connection stronger.

 [AG24]I’m not sure how well I follow the McCarthy connection, especially considering Free Speech technically won here?

 [AG25]This is perhaps the term you want to take down, yes?

 [AG26]What is “gentle” about it? If he is, indeed, trying to incite mutiny…what would be an “ungentle” version of this joke?