One of the earliest American "Christian Comics Pioneers" was Ernest James Pace, who was born in Columbus, Ohio USA in 1880.
Pace's artistic talent was first "discovered" by a news reporter who saw him sketching during a church service and introduced him to the editor of the local paper.
His ambition to be a West Pointer never realized, he nonetheless received such encouragement for his newspaper cartooning that, at age nineteen, he moved to Chicago to illustrate for the daily Journal.
Pace later recalled, "But there in that great city I met Larsen, a Dane, whose beautiful Christian life and personal efforts won me to Christ. My conversion was of the revolutionary kind, positive and complete, like stepping out of a deep, dark cellar into the blazing light of the noonday. Naturally, I lost all interest in politics, and lost my job. At once I set about preparing for Christian work, and offered some drawings for Frank Beard, famous cartoonist of The Ram's Horn. He accepted one, but redrew it in colors and published it on the cover."
Pace's denominational affiliation was with the United Brethren, and he graduated from Otterbein University (Westerville, Ohio) in 1905. Afterwards, he and his wife Cornelia went to the Philippine Islands as missionaries. Pace contributed hundreds of cartoons to THE WATCHWORD, a weekly journal published by the United Brethren in Christ, from 1906-1917. On furlough, he attended Bonebrake Theological Seminary in 1910-11. In 1912 Pace was a member of the first graduating class of the Kennedy School of Missions, formerly a division of Hartford Theological Seminary (Connecticut). Then he returned with his wife and infant daughter Helen to the Philippines.
Exposed to the growing Modernism of his day through the popular media and perhaps even his Seminary, Pace had become unconsciously influenced by it. A "loving rebuke" from fellow missionary Julia Mott Hodge in February 1914 affected him profoundly and, after much personal misery, many tears, and fervent prayer, he rededicated himself and his work to the Lord. He wrote Miss Hodge later (in 1934) that, "the dear Lord took his erring child again into His bosom, and oh, what a transport of joy, what cleanness of soul was mine by the blessed effusion of His Spirit. It seemed I had had an inward bath; every nook and cranny of my being was every whit made clean. God turned my captivity, and springs of water made glad the desolate desert of my soul. That was March, 1914, and from that day to this, Modernism has had no more influence over me than to awaken a burning hatred of it."
To his surprise, suddenly Pace felt that the Lord was telling him that his work in the Philippines was done. He resisted until 1915, believing that he was now just finally fit for the work, and he begged the Lord to let him stay on.
"Then it was," Pace wrote, "that the doctors declared that I had 'tropical sprue,' and that I must return to the United States at once if I wished to avoid a trip to the cemetery. (Editor's Note: Tropical sprue is a digestive problem that occurs in the tropics and subtropics.)
"On returning to the States, I recovered my health on strawberries and milk as a diet, and plenty of rest and warm sunshine on the shores of beautiful Lake Chautauqua in New York.
Feeling strongly impressed that the Lord would have me devote the rest of my days to a Bible-teaching ministry, and feeling the need of further preparation, I moved my family to Princeton Seminary where I 'boned' hard on Hebrew, so that I might read the Old Testament in the original." Pace completed his studies there in early 1916, earning his Doctorate.
"During this time I spent a day in the woods in prayer, and it was a time of unspeakable blessing and nearness of approach to God. I was given boldness to make very definite requests, one of which was: 'I want, Lord, a world-wide ministry. I know I am far from worthy of it, but that makes no difference. Grace ignores both worthiness and unworthiness, and, please God, I'm "under grace".'"
It was only a month or two at most when He began to answer that prayer, first by Pace's meeting with Dr. C. G. Trumbull, editor of THE SUNDAY SCHOOL TIMES, a respected Christian journal whose weekly circulation was over 100,000 in the United States and abroad. It was then and there that Trumbull engaged Pace to produce cartoons to coincide with the Sunday School lessons printed on the same page. The first appeared on the 2nd of December, 1916, and the TIMES would run his cartoons weekly for the next thirty years.
Not long after that encounter, Dr. Pace was invited to become a member of the teaching staff of the Moody Bible Institute. Within a year, he was offered the post of Director of the Missionary Course. From 1917-1921 he held this position, and wrote the Missions Department feature in MOODY MONTHLY magazine where some of his TIMES cartoons (as well as a few originals) were reprinted. Pace's cartoons also appeared in THE LAYMAN'S LEAGUE, EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN, and other periodicals. In October, 1921 he transferred to the Institute's Field Extension Department, and relocated to Orlando, Florida. But God's calling for him to engage in an itinerant Bible-teaching ministry was so strong that he soon relinquished even that position. Over the next twenty-one years he would preach and lecture in churches of more than thirty-four denominations throughout the United States as well as Canada and the British Isles, his artwork often being in support through slide projections or on-the-spot drawings.
In 1922 highlights from the first six years of his cartoons for THE SUNDAY SCHOOL TIMES were reprinted as a book entitled, aptly, CHRISTIAN CARTOONS. This 96 page volume was published simultaneously by the Bible Institute Colportage Association (later Moody Press) in Chicago and by the Sunday School Times Co. in Philadelphia. The introduction to this book states that the cartoons emphasize "...first the supreme value of God's Word and the importance of Bible study, the simple truths of the Gospel are then introduced, showing that there is salvation through Christ only, and that neither character nor education, feelings nor fitness, Christian Science, civilization, nor even prohibition, are in any way sufficient. All men are sinners, but there is salvation for all through the shed blood of Christ and that alone.
"In contrast there follow pictures for leaders who do not teach this, warnings concerning worldliness, and the mirror is held up to the various faults of men. But there is forgiveness, and there follow the precious lessons of faith, prayer, and obedience. Powerful messages on soul-winning, the call of missions, the Victorious Life, and the Second Coming of Christ complete the series..."
Also in 1922 the Bible Institute Colportage Association published Dr. Pace's volume, THE LAW OF THE OCTAVE IN THE WORLD AND IN THE WORD which was originally run in serialized form in MOODY MONTHLY magazine in April and May, 1922. He employed this material, with the support of slide projection and a piano, in lectures throughout many parts of the United States, sharing that "...not only does the Bible explicitly reveal the Trinity of the Godhead, but saturating its literary structure are innumerable trinity-in-unities, arranged in complementary relations analogous to the law of the octave, the law that underlies all the harmonies in the realms of both music and color; yes, and the very elements of chemistry, which make up the material universe, are found to fall into the same law of harmonious relations. Underlying this law, as its irreducible minimum, is the idea of a trinity in a unity. Thus the God who has revealed Himself so gloriously in creation, and so compassionately in redemption, has left His 'watermark', so to speak, upon the pages of both His world and His word, attesting the fact of His triune nature..."
His cartoons also appeared in the book SEVEN QUESTIONS IN DISPUTE by the famous Christian orator and 3-time Presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan in 1924, just a year before Bryan represented the Biblical Creationist view in the famous 'Scopes Monkey Trial.'
In the mid- to late-1920s Dr. Pace and a dozen or more Christian ministers vigorously sought to establish a rest home for missionaries on furlough which could also be used as a Bible conference centre. Though a location near Pace's Orlando, Florida residence was selected, a board of directors put in place, the property purchased, and significant financial backing acquired, it was not to be, due to circumstances which are not entirely clear. It's possible that the 1926 hurricane, which destroyed Miami and brought about the end of the Florida Land Boom, was part of the cause. Whatever the reason, the conference center's failure may have been a blessing in disguise, considering the approaching stock market crash of 1929 and ensuing Depression which gripped the United States until its entry into World War II.
The Bible Institute Colportage Association published "Settling the Big Question" in 1926, a small tract booklet illustrated by Dr. Pace, which was reprinted even into the 1930s (when the publisher's name was changed to Moody Press). They also released PICTURES THAT TALK Vol. 1 and 2, as a follow-up to CHRISTIAN CARTOONS, in 1929.
In February, 1933 The Gospel Truth Poster Service of Van Wert, Ohio began to release E. J. Pace cartoons in poster form, with the words being translated into Spanish. They were already "...in use by missionaries among the Spanish-speaking people. This work has been made possible by the gifts of those who are interested in spreading the Gospel among these people."
In 1936 Fundamental Truth Publishers in Findlay, Ohio published LIFE BEGINS AT...? Pace's art at this time had become more polished and refined, his pen-and-ink rendering and calligraphy resembling the 'engraved' style of his secular counterpart Franklin Booth, or Winsor McCay who illustrated for the Hearst Syndicate. In the introduction of LIFE BEGINS AT...? (full title: LIFE BEGINS AT THE MOMENT YOU RECEIVE THE LORD JESUS CHRIST AS YOUR SAVIOUR AND YOUR SOVEREIGN) editor Trumbull writes that Pace's drawings have been distributed "...to every state and province of North America and more than one hundred foreign countries and mission fields. These cartoons have been published also as tracts, posters, lantern slides, and in book form, and have been eagerly welcomed and widely used. ...(Dr. Pace) has been offered strong inducements to draw cartoons for the most widely circulated newspapers in America. But with his genius for true artistry he is also absolutely true to the Word of God. His pictures throw a flood of light on the Scriptures, because they are illuminated by the Book and its Author..."
Exemplifying the widespread effect of Pace's cartoons are the following two (of innumerable) cases. Pace himself shared the first: "I encountered a man in London, just over from France, who had 121 of my cartoons greatly enlarged, done in colors and rendered into French. And he has, for years, been travelling up and down France, holding meetings on street corners of French villages, displaying the pictures and preaching the Gospel." The second was from a missionary to the Belgian Congo, Africa in 1935: "My personal boy has a burning desire to beautify his house by papering it with such pictures... one had a cartoon of Dr. Pace representing the cigarette as walking off with a man chained up by the nose... 'Yes, mama,' he replied, 'I look at that picture all the time, and every day it puts the fear into my heart against those cigarettes and against all tobacco. It says we are the temple of the Holy Spirit...' Our mission is not yet troubled by our native Christians smoking and drinking... We do want to teach our own boys the ill effect of tobacco and drink, and give them a desire to try to be as strong and healthy and clean for the Lord as is possible..."
In his autobiography Just As I Am, Billy Graham remembered his days at the Florida Bible Institute in the late 1930s. The visiting faculty included E. J. Pace, and of them Graham wrote: "They were not names in the headlines, but in conservative Christian circles they were the Who's Who of evangelicals; they exerted a lot of influence. And they were colorful personalities with a highly individual flair in their public speaking."
On 6 July, 1940 the TIMES reported that E. J. Pace suffered from what was most likely a stroke, and almost died. Though his eyesight and physical strength did eventually return, it became necessary for him to draw his TIMES cartoons at a much larger size. From April till September, 1940 Pace's cartoon ideas were drawn by Vaughn R. Shoemaker, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Chicago Daily News cartoonist and "...a consecrated Christian, much in demand for meetings in which he gives his personal testimony."
At this time Dr. Pace had been an instructor at the Hampden DuBose Academy, a Christian school in Orlando, Florida. Author/lecturer Elisabeth Elliot, best known for her pioneering missionary work amongst the Auca Indians in South America, wrote: "When I was a high school student in Orlando, Florida, Dr. E. J. Pace would sometimes visit the school, to our great delight, sketching pictures which depicted Gospel truths. He was a friend not only of my Uncle Charley (C.G. Trumbull) but of my father, Philip E. Howard Jr. ... It was mesmerizing to watch him draw a cartoon in a few minutes, then he would explain what he had drawn, always referring to the Scriptures..."
Then in November, 1942 Pace again suffered from a stroke which left him partially paralyzed, but with a perfectly clear mind. He had finished all but a handful of his TIMES cartoons for the year 1943, and for the next three years reprints were utilized. Financial gifts and letters poured in from all over the United States to Dr. Pace and his wife who were overwhelmed with medical expenses. He remained at the Florida Sanitarium in Orlando for a time, where he was confined to a wheelchair, then in August, 1944 he went to Columbus, Ohio for the purpose of undergoing special medical treatment. Pace wrote: "Nineteen months last Monday I was stricken. God has faithfully kept His promise all these months. I have deflated the Devil's lie that it isn't safe to trust God. Miss Havergal was right when she sang: 'They who trust Him fully, Find Him wholly true.'
I have come up here to Columbus to get treatments from my brother-in-law who has had great success with stroke cases. Although we've been here but two weeks, there are already indications of improvement. So I am abounding in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost."
His booklet FROM DEATH UNTO LIFE, with cartoons compiled by T. Richard Dunham, D.D., was published in February, 1943.
In June, 1946 Dr. Pace and his wife had gone to Hendersonville, North Carolina where they had planned to spend the summer. On early Wednesday, the 19th of June, Dr. Pace went to be with the Lord. He was sixty-six years old.
A book called HOW TO BE FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT, written by James W. Elliott, with Pace cartoons from THE SUNDAY SCHOOL TIMES, was published after Dr. Pace's death, in 1946.
In writing to a missionary to the Philippines a decade earlier, Pace said, "It is my purpose, besides performing a ministry of helpfulness in Bible teaching, to study with the missionaries the problem of getting the Gospel into picture form, cast in molds of native thought and garbed in all the local coloring of costume and native traits."
In his obituary, THE SUNDAY SCHOOL TIMES reported: "...More than fifteen hundred of Dr. Pace's cartoons have appeared in the TIMES since the first one was published December 2, 1916. Many hundreds, perhaps thousands, were reproduced in tract and poster form, and they have become known throughout the world. Missionaries have redrawn them for their people, translating Dr. Pace's explanations into the native languages. They have doubtless been the means of leading multitudes to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, bringing backsliders into renewed fellowship with God, and building up Christians in the faith. The blessings of these cartoons are incalculable.
"...The TIMES has lost a valuable and talented member of its able staff of writers, and doubtless many readers will share in the feeling of personal loss, and their sympathy will go out to Mrs. Pace. But Dr. Pace's Home-going was for him a release from a long period of inactivity and illness, and one can scarcely imagine the joy with which he entered the presence of the Saviour who loved him and gave Himself for him. He looked for the coming of the Lord, and it may be that when next we see him he will rise first, 'for the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first.'"
Many thanks to Christian comics writer/artist/publisher Alec Stevens for his re-discovery of Dr. Pace, as well as for his tireless research efforts in uncovering the vast majority of the information detailed here, for scanning a number of the images, and for writing the first (very complete and detailed) draft of this biography of an early and largely-forgotten "Christian Comics Pioneer." ("It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honor of kings is to search out a matter." - Proverbs 25:2 )
The biography and cartoon collection E. J. Pace: Christian Cartoonist by Alec Stevens is available through the Calvary Comics web site.
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