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PAUL WHITE, JUNGLE DOCTOR, MISSIONARY: GRAHAM WADE & COMICS

This cover is unusual both for the name of the sending company (JUNGLE DOCTOR, 93 Bathurst Street, Sydney) as well as the printed graphics, with the small ‘stick’ men at top left which are most likely a black man and a white missionary, and the running animals at the bottom, which include a lion, zebra, gazelle, hippopotamus, monkey, giraffe and elephant. I was surprised how this cover quickly identified 2 men, the sender and the missionary that were linked in their Christian zeal. The addressed company, National Council of the Churches of Christ, Broadcasting & Film Commission in New York complemented the work of the two men. The red 4d Melbourne Olympics stamp issued on 31 October 1956 dates the cover accurately for the indistinct roller cancel can be confidently described as SYDNEY/ 2 PM/ 9 20 NOV 9/ 1956/ N.S.W AUST. The slogan reads SEND MONEY/ BY POSTAL NOTE/ OR MONEY ORDER (Figure 1).

Paul Hamilton Hume White (26 February 1910 – 1992) was an Australian doctor, missionary, evangelist, radio program host and author. White was born in Bowral, New South Wales and after studying medicine at the University of Sydney he married Mary Bellingham and they traveled to Tanganyika (now Tanzania) as Church Missionary Societies (CMS) missionaries in 1938 where he established a hospital at Myumi Mission which soon replaced at Kilimatinde as the main medical centre of CMS in Taganika. White succeeded Dr. Cyril Wallace as the medical secretary of the Diocese of Central Tanganika in 1939. He wrote the book ‘Doctor of Tanganika’ with many photographs to illustrate how medical missionary work is carried out in primitive settings. His style was very readable and readers could identify with his emotions.

In 1941 he had to return to Australia due to his wife’s illness and on the return voyage he started to write, and from this came ‘Jungle Doctor’, the first in a series. Back in Australia he went on to write the rest of the Jungle Book series (a total of 29, of which 4 were coauthored with David Britten), and they have been translated into more than 80 languages. At the same time he began his Jungle Doctor radio program, which continued for 25 years. Many of White’s stories included Christian moral teaching. Although seeming to be an account of his life, the books are mostly fictitious. They are a tribute to his skill as an author, and his memory of his actual experiences in the mission field, and the original editions were illustrated by Graham Wade, whose company sent the cover.

Paul White then authored four ‘Fable’ books, in the form of the traditional African round the fire storytelling. They are ‘Jungle Doctor’s Fables’, ‘Jungle Doctor’s Tug of War’, ‘ Jungle Doctor’s Monkey Tails’ and ‘Jungle Doctor’s Hippo Happenings’ which have a strong Christian message. The were entertaining for children and for adults, and they became staples for Sunday School prizes for many years. As well as pioneering Christian media in the form of both radio and television in Australia. White was active in student evangelism and is credited with revitalising Christian student groups after WWII. He also continued to practice medicine on a part-time basis right up to his death in 1992.

The OzComics-Jungle Doctor website makes a (surprising to me) statement: "Almost since the medium’s beginnings in the 1930s and 1940s, comic books have been used to promote Christianity and deliver Christian teachings worldwide. Although millions of readers have enjoyed his work, it is probably safe to say that few comic book collectors in this country have heard of Graham Wade, an Australian artist widely recognised as one of the pioneers of Christian comic books". In 1931, Wades early days were spent in Junee, N.S.W. and comic books were an integral part of his reading. The family moved to Sydney and he made a weekly pilgrimage to the local Ashfield store to buy comics. He ‘dabbled’ in creating his own comics and received early encouragement from the acclaimed Australian cartoonist, Syd Miller, who co-created the ‘Chesty Bond’ advertising character (well-remembered by me) as well as many classic comic book characters ‘Molo the Mighty’ and ‘Red Gregory’(totally unknown by me). Miller awarded Graham the first prize of £1 War Saving certificate for his entry in a comic strip competition!

It was while attending Sydney Technical High School in Paddington during the 1940s that Graham underwent a personal religious awakening. "Scripture was taught at Sydney ‘Tech’," explains Graham, "and when the minister one day asked those who wanted to find and follow Jesus, to talk to him afterwards." After completing his matriculation at high school, Graham secured a junior position with Fullarton Artists, an advertising art studio in Pitt Street, Sydney, in 1949. That same year marked his first involvement with a Christian organisation as an artist and designer. "I offered my services to the Church Missionary Society and designed their 150th anniversary exhibition, as well as providing supporting comic book material for kids." Graham’s next assignment would mark the beginning of a long and fruitful association with Paul White which would have a profound impact on his career as a comic artist.

"I was asked to turn some of these stories [from White’s book] into comic strips for a monthly children’s mission publication," says Graham. The first of these strips, Jungle Doctor Meets a Lion, appeared around 1950. Around this time, White had begun writing a new series of Jungle Doctor Fable Books geared to younger readers. Graham’s earliest known work on the series appears to be the 1953 adventure, Jungle Doctor Looks for Trouble. "Paul’s books were ‘under the radar’ as far as Australian publishing was concerned," Graham claims. "But they were translated into scores of languages and printed in amazing numbers around the world - mainly in Germany, Britain, the USA and many third-world countries."

Graham’s association with the Jungle Doctor books was to continue for several decades, but took a new twist in the 1970s, when the author’s new company, Paul White Productions (established in 1971), commissioned Graham to adapt several Jungle Doctor ‘fables’ into comic book format. Twelve separate Jungle Doctor comic books were produced, commencing in 1975. Initially printed in Australia, with colour covers and black & white interior pages, three issues were drawn by other artists, with the rest illustrated by Graham Wade. Example of Graham’s art work for White’s book and the comics are seen in Figures 2 & 3.

 

Research of an amusing cover produced surprising results!

 
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