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Bill Mauldin: A Life Up Front Hardcover – February 17, 2008

4.5 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Historian DePastino (Citizen Hobo) eloquently memorializes cartoonist Bill Mauldin, who won fame as the leading spokesman for the American combat soldier during World War II, in this authoritative biography. Mauldin (1921–2003) grew up in Depression-era New Mexico in a dysfunctional family. After studying at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts for one year, he joined the newly mobilized 45th Infantry Division of the Arizona National Guard. Mauldin then became the 45th Division News's cartoonist. Deployed to North Africa in 1943, Mauldin participated in the invasions of Sicily and Italy. In 1944, while on staff at the GI newspaper Stars and Stripes, Mauldin created his signature characters, the weary and disheveled infantrymen Willie and Joe. Willie and Joe became soldiers' heroes and anathema to brass such as Gen. George Patton, who threatened to throw Mauldin in jail for his characters' indolence. After the war, Mauldin published bestselling cartoon collections, worked briefly as an actor, ran unsuccessfully for Congress and ended his career with two Pulitzer Prizes for editorial cartooning. Thoroughly researched and sprightly written, DePastino's balanced biography is a solid introduction to an American original. Classic Mauldin cartoons are an entertaining bonus. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Every critic who reviewed A Life Up Front welcomed this biography; apart from Mauldin’s own memoir, Back Home (1947), it is the first full-length biography of the man. Because DePastino was the first to provide such a work, critics were inclined to be forgiving even when they found failings, such as a focus on career over personal life. The book’s sympathetic subject and engaging illustrations couldn’t have hurt either. While a few reviewers suspected DePastino of hero worship, they also appreciated his thorough research and his candor in describing the difficult episodes of Mauldin’s later life. Given the usual glowing treatment of “The Greatest Generation” and “The Good War,” the overall assessment was that A Life Up Front is a respectful but balanced biography.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1St Edition edition (February 17, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393061833
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393061833
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #135,809 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Lee Bishop on February 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I have been truly blessed to have gotten an advanced copy of this work and have been more pleased with it than any other biography I have ever read. Having been a student of Bill Mauldin's life and work, I thought I would learn little new from this book. I'm humbled when I say I now know how little I really knew about the subject before I started reading this book.
Most people interested in WW2 have seen Bill Mauldin's work. Most have no idea of the truly American story that became William Mauldin's life. A sickly child of a family that was poor even by depression-era standards, he simply didn't take 'no' for an answer from anyone.
Todd DePastino set out to write the definitive work on Mauldin's life, a book which like most good histories, couldn't have been written until his passing. It pulls no punches with the reality. Mauldin was an driven man, almost to the point of madness, yet had to prove himself every moment of his life. Re-inventing himself over and over again, his life was a roller coaster of poverty and riches, fame and oblivion. At end of his life, ripped by the pain and the disease which had taken his mind, the GI's who loved his work rallied to his side. There could never have been a more fitting tribute than the hundreds of aging warriors who came to Mauldin in his final hours to pay their respects.
For those who are mostly interested in his wartime experiences, you must realize this is a work about his entire life. While WW2 factored into his life prominently, it wasn't all that Bill Maudlin did. It paints a sometimes humorous, often tragic, and in the end a warm story about a nation he'd thought had forgotten him but showed their love when he needed it most.
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Format: Hardcover
The most famous cartoonist of World War Two was Bill Mauldin. Everyone knew his cartoons of the disheveled, ill-shaven GIs Willie and Joe, but not everyone liked them. The GIs themselves were big fans. They knew that Mauldin, even in the simple medium of newspaper comics, was getting their story right. In _Bill Mauldin: A Life Up Front_ (Norton), Todd DePastino, who has previously edited a book of Willie and Joe cartoons, has given us what is, surprisingly, the first full length biography of the Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist. The book fittingly contains dozens of Mauldin's drawings, and not all from the war years. Like many veterans, Mauldin may have had the high point of his life during the war, but his second Pulitzer came in 1958, and it's not even for his most famous post-war cartoon. A distinctly American genius, Mauldin deserved a sympathetic and detailed biography, and that is just what DePastino has given us.

Mauldin really was a genius with a pencil or pen. He was making detailed drawings before he could talk. He got some formal training, but he could not make cartoons pay, and unemployment was bad enough in 1940 that he joined the Arizona National Guard's 45th Infantry Division. His cartoons, featured in the division newspaper, were humorous takes on the sort of things other soldier cartoonists were doing, showing dumb privates peeling potatoes and dumb officers mouthing off criticisms. After he went through battle in Sicily and Italy, however, the cartoons changed, showing generally competent soldiers, doing a bloody, muddy, dangerous, and unappreciated job. The sympathetic accuracy of the portraits was what made them beloved by the dogfaces that recognized themselves in the depictions and the situations.
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Format: Hardcover
Bill Maudlin achieved fame as the Army cartoonist who portrayed the privates with all the dirt and grit. He was young (early 20's) in World War II, a veteran of the fighting and a dragon-slayer of the Army hierarchy (which drew the ire of Patton). He won the first of two Pulitzer Prizes for his sympathtic drawings of Willie and Joe. It was a hell of a first act that he would never repeat. From a dysfuctional family, he would be a problem drinker with three marriages who would never found a stage as big as World War II again. The writing is good with ample samples of his cartoons. An interesting story of an interesting man.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
BILL MAULDIN: A LIFE UP FRONT begins with thousands of WWII veterans coming to see Bill at a nursing home in California where he is suffering from Alzheimer's. He stares off into space until one of them pins a medal on him; then his eyes light up.

Author DePastino then shows us how Bill moved from a hell-raising kid living on a mountain in New Mexico to STARS AND STRIPES cartoonist and premier morale booster of World War II. DePastino shows us Mauldin's undaunted will to succeed. Prior to WWII, he labored at his craft, sending out thousands of cartoons with little chance he would ever get anything published. He borrowed money from his grandmother to go to the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. We also see his mischievous side. He never did graduate from high school, thanks to a prank he pulled in a science class. He lit a cigarette and put it in the mouth of the class skeleton, too much for the teacher to overlook when he relit it and took a few drags.

Prior to WWII, Bill joined the Arizona National Guard. Four days later the guard was mobilized into the United States Army. He began his cartoonist career working part-time for the 45th Division News, going full-time when it was sent overseas. It was the hell-raiser kid who appealed to the soldiers. Bill was a sergeant in the Infantry before he was a cartoonist. There's a cartoon of Bill's characters Willie and Joe throwing tomatoes at the head of an officer as their unit enters a liberated city. This was one of the cartoons that would arouse the wrath of General George S. Patton, who wanted Bill fired. Thankfully other generals, Mark Clark among them, liked Bill's work enough to ask for signed originals.

When he returned from the war, Bill eventually went to work for the St.
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