- Janie Jungle Nurse – Emma: #24 (05 August 1978) – #29 (09 September 1978)
Jane Morrison is a newly qualified nurse and is set to join her Uncle Harry’s practice located in the African bush. When she arrives it is not quite what she expected, instead of a fine clinic, Harry runs his practice from a leaky old boat “The Flying Queen” and accepts whatever payment he can including chickens! It seems Janie read more into his letters then was actually there. The only staff he has is a young girl Kari, who would like to be a nurse and her parents. Janie wants to go home the next day but as there are no buses she is stuck for the meantime. When a fire breaks out a nearby village, Janie saves a young child and Harry is impressed by her work and quick thinking. Janie is still ready to leave as soon as possible. Her plans are blocked when Harry falls ill and despite her best efforts, he passes away after making her promise to carry on his work.
With the help of Kari, Janie sets out to live up to her promise. She feels she has to earn the villagers trust and prove to them (and herself) that she can take Harry’s place. So when there is a mad bull on the loose, Janie tackles the problem herself by spearing it with a sleeping dose. The next episode is even more dramatic as a helicopter lands and men grab Janie and Kari. They tell her they are freedom fighters and they need medical treatment for a hostage as he is no good to them dead. He then threatens her, if the hostage dies then she will die too. The hostage is the son of British Consulate, and Janie quickly comes up with a plan. She says she needs a particular medicine which she uses an opportunity to slip out a secret message. When the group are distracted by arrival of government helicopters, Janie takes out their guard with chloroform and uses his gun to hold off the others. As thanks, for saving his son’s life the Consulate sends Janie a load of medical supplies.
Next a couple, Mr and Mrs Farr arrive claiming Harry had invited them to spend some time on The Flying Queen. Janie agrees to host them but think there is something off about them. When a local tribe offer to share a feast she is not happy to hear they are eating elephant meat, but they claim they didn’t kill it, they found it dead without tusks. Everyone starts feeling drowsy and on the way back to the boat, Mrs Farr falls into the water. Janie fights off her own drowsiness to jump in at save her, under the water she also see the tusks tied under the boat. She confronts Mr Farr, and gets him to confess to what drug he shot the elephant with (which was still in the meat they ate), Soon after the district officer takes the Farrs away.
Janie’s not the only one that can be quick thinking. Kari proves her worth when they need money for oranges, (for patients lacking vitamin C), Kari shows Janie how to barter and exchange things at the market. When thieves run by, Kari trips them with a spear she just got and then pins thief with spear when he grabs Janie. The next episode sees more thieves as Janie is picking up medical supplies at the supply post. Janie tries to stop the men and in the struggle some bottles get broken. When they go to leave in their truck, Janie still won’t give up smashing a glass bottle in front of the tyres. They then say they will use her boat to carry the supplies. Then one of the men comes out in red spots, Janie says he is highly contagious and deadly and both men need injections immediately. Obviously not the smartest of men they agree to this and Janie sends them to sleep. It was just an allergic reaction to the smashed bottles earlier but Janie has used it to her advantage. This is the last episode but still left the possibility of further adventures as Janie says life as a Jungle nurse is never boring!
This is quite a short story and the pacing isn’t great it feels rushed in places. Considering that issue #30 of Emma introduced 6 new stories, it seems likely that there was pressure to shorten the story, to make way for these new stories. The new line up was a stronger set of stories and included a new nurse story Holly of Hazard Unit that ran for 19 issues.
The premise of Janie Jungle Nurse, seems solid enough the character of Janie is not happy to find that the great clinic she imagined is actually an old boat and she wants to leave as soon as she can. In the first episode she comes across as a bit bratty and as she is stuck there for the time being it would be a good point to let the character grow and slowly overcome her reluctance. Instead it’s very jarring to start the next episode with Uncle Harry on his death bed, with no build up to an illness and Janie promising to continue his work. She does briefly mention she would rather go back to England but won’t break her promise. But then the rest of the episodes she’s fully involved in helping and wanting to prove herself, a complete turnaround.
Also quite underdeveloped is some other characters, Kari’s parents, usually just hang around in the background, her mother is never even named and doesn’t even get a line to speak. Her father does a bit better, he is named as Zake but only gets some input in episode 2. It would also have been nice to see Janie help more with Kari’s nursing ambitions, but this isn’t mentioned after the first episode again. Overall there isn’t much time spent on actual nursing, as the focus is usually on more extreme situations, namely defeating kidnappers, thieves and poachers!
Of course there is no rule that says the story should focus on her profession more, it works fine as a more action orientated story. The artwork certainly helps capture the action scenes and interesting surroundings. Each episode was quite action packed and Janie is very proactive and capable. There is a lot to admire about Janie and she is very brave and adept at action. Actually a lot of the Emma stories had capable fighters as protagonists, whether it be because of the situation they found themselves in (e.g. Angie) or because they trained themselves (e.g. Yang Ling). The ending does seem to leave it open for a return of more adventures, if it was popular enough. But being so short it didn’t seem to catch the same attention that other stories did and as well there were more deserving stories that I would pick first for follow ups. Of course the Emma comic itself was also short lived, lessening the chance of Janie to return.