Thursday, December 25, 2014

1943 : War Movie vs Film Noir , Captain America comics vs Joe & Willy comics

I would argue - I do argue - that the most Noirish 'gotcha' of all WWII was the simple one panel Bill Mauldin cartoon that won him a Pulitzer prize in 1945.

That cartoon's title is a quote from an actual news report, repeated at the top verbatim :

"Fresh, spirited American troops, flushed with victory, are bringing in thousands of hungry, ragged, battle-weary prisoners"

Just one sentence from hundreds of thousands of similarly morale-uplifting sentences published on all sides of that six long years of the war.

But below it was Mauldin's simple pencil strokes depicting weary despondent Allied troops (infantry riflemen like his famous Joe and Willy) escorting equally weary despondent Axis infantry POWs to the rear , all engulfed in a cold driving rain.

At second and third glance the cartoon is actually quite hard to read - both sets of infantrymen look so much alike in their miserable state.

Eventually you figure out that the American GIs have their distinctive steel helmets while the Axis have forage caps.

Professor and author Paul Fussell also served in the the infantry in WWII - as a very junior officer- and he knew full well what this cartoon captured.

In one of his best books, entitled Wartime , he zeroed in on petty chickenshit , as he and millions of other front line troops called it.

That constant modern need to plenticide the complexities of a global war into a simple black and white parable between the always good guys in white hats and the always bad guys in black.

As a Modernity-destroying rebuttal, this masterwork of art, this simple cartoon, was right up there with books like Catch 22 or films like Double Indemnity ...

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