"Willie & Joe: The WWII Years" will immensely enhance readers' enjoyment of DePastino's biography of Mauldin. It is a complete collection of Mauldin's cartoons and sketches from 1940 to 1945 -- well, as complete as the publishers could make it, culling from widely scattered newspapers, magazines and books.

Strictly speaking, the title could be considered slightly inapt in that Willie and Joe, Mauldin's famous "dogface" soldiers, scarcely existed outside the World War II years. As a duo they first appeared in March 1944 in Stars & Stripes. After the war, they made only brief appearances as veterans in cartoons.

But enough nitpicking. Much of the work here was done for Mauldin's own division newspaper, the 45th Division News. These hundreds of cartoons show his talent maturing from simple outline figures and objects (accompanied by lame captions), into "Out Our Way"-style panels crowded with figures and speech balloons and finally into the bold, black brush-and-pen technique that we associate with Willie and Joe.

In his introduction, DePastino provides sharp insight into how Mauldin differed from other military cartoonists' portrayals of the citizen-soldier -- dewy-eyed innocents ripped from the comforts of home to endure the rough, impersonal life of a recruit.

Mauldin's dogfaces, by contrast, were already in the Army. For the most part, they, like Mauldin, had grown up poor and hard; the Army was not the toughest life they had known. Infantrymen, with whom Mauldin clearly identified, saw that the cartoonist's soldiers were just like them.