He is one of Australia’s most successful novelists and comic book artists, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that Paul Wheelahan’s grandchildren really understood just how incredible their pop is.
Visiting their grandparents’ Emu Plains home, two of his granddaughters, Isabel and Jessica Wheelahan, said they had fond memories of watching him work in his study.
“He was always in his study whenever you went over and you’d go in and ask what he was doing and he’d hold up a finger like ‘give me a second’ and then type one last word,” Isabel said.
“I didn’t really realise until I did my major work of art on him for the HSC.”
Penning over 800 western novels and even opening his own publishing company, Dodge Publishing, in 1999, Mr Wheelahan would produce the 10-chapter novels in four or five days.
But the titles he is best known for are comics The Panther and The Raven, which he wrote and illustrated during the 1950s.
“My nan said when he would get these ideas he used to go straight to his study and she used to type everything for him while he dictated to her,” Jessica recalled.
Diagnosed with dementia six years ago, Mr Wheelahan is no longer able to write or draw, but Isabel said that the humorous and animated person that often mirrored characters in his novels hasn’t faltered.
“He would become animated and it would come out when he used to play with us, he always just had a creative mind and everything he said was funny, but even through the dementia, that’s the thing that has stuck,” she said.
60 years since the first The Panther edition, Mr Wheelahan’s work was recently re-published by Frew Publications in their Giantsize Phantom Issue No 5.
Writing his novels under several pen names that were a combination of his grandsons’ names, Jessica said he was never one to seek out fame but would be chuffed all the same knowing that people were still enjoying his work.
“He was just happy that he was getting to do his hobby and was happy enough to know that people were reading and enjoying his comics,” she said.
“He wasn’t all about the fame but that is why I think it’s so nice this edition has come out because he should be recognised for everything.”
Lauren Suttie is the Weekender’s General & Community News journalist.