A new book of Bill Mauldin’s cartoons, Drawing Fire: The Editorial Cartoons of Bill Mauldin, has just been published by the Pritzker Military Museum & Library. Mauldin’s cartoons offer a wonderful and pointed commentary on war and politics—from the 1940s to the Gulf War.
As the Peanuts characters are mentioned in the book, I was asked to write something of Bill and Sparky’s friendship, which I did. However, rather than repeating what I wrote there, I will simply tell you about Sparky reaching out to artists he admired.
Although he was basically reserved, Sparky was not afraid to publicly declare his admiration for fellow cartoonists and authors. I remember once, when we were in England, Sparky thought he would see if Margaret Drabble was listed in the phonebook. He found her number, dialed it, announced himself, and asked if he could speak with Margaret Drabble—if she were home. He then heard a child’s voice shouting something like, “Mummy! Mummy! Charles Schulz is on the phone!” which was very gratifying.
I am not sure how Sparky and Bill first became acquainted, but I think it is likely that Sparky contacted an editor at United Features Syndicate, which then handled both Peanuts and Mauldin’s cartoons, and asked that an introduction be made.
At any rate, Sparky and Bill had a telephone relationship for a number of years, and what I remember most are the times he would come home and share with me the war stories that Bill had regaled him with over the phone earlier that day.
One of Mauldin’s best-known cartoons is of the soldier shooting his Jeep. Sparky has a bronze sculpture of that scene in his studio.
Sparky admired Bill’s ability to be “in the face” of the officers, always sticking up for the little guy.
I know that Sparky would love this beautiful book. Bill Mauldin’s penetrating humor and beautiful draftsmanship and shading make this book a delightful look back at his artistic legacy and the history central to his work.