Cartoonophobia by Jim Barker

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jimbarkercartoonI wanted to give this blog post over to a friend of mine who is a brilliant independent cartoonist; Jim Barker of Jim Barker Cartoons and Graphics. Having lived in Japan for ten years, I can entirely sympathise with this. For the Japanese, manga are a narrative art form to be taken as seriously as any other form of art. They are used not only for entertainment, but to educate as well. Similarly in France, Bande dessinée have reached astonishing levels of sophistication. Unfortunately in the UK, cultural snobbery has meant that the real potential of cartoons and comics as an art form and a medium for expression has yet to be fully realised. For those readers not familiar with the difference between UK comic traditions and those elsewhere I’ve added three examples from France, the UK and Japan so you can see the difference.

Over to Jim…

Cartoonophobia by Jim Barker

I blame The Beano.

In other parts of the world – Europe, America, Japan – cartoons and comic strips are regarded as a legitimate and serious art form. In the UK, however, thanks to generations of cheaply produced comics, they are still seen as simply ‘kids stuff’. It’s amazing how sniffy people can be about cartoons. I’ll meet a marketing’n’PR person at a networking event and the minute I say I draw cartoons, you can see the eyes glaze over, barriers going up and they’re looking over my shoulder searching for the next meeja person to talk to.

Japan - Tezuka Osama's wonderfully sophisticated Life of Buddha.

Japan – Tezuka Osama’s wonderfully sophisticated Life of Buddha.

Happily there ARE people who realize how useful cartoons and humour can be as communications tools. No one can deny that in presentations, pictures are much more efficient at telling a story than wodges and wodges of words. Equally, using humor, the points are easier to make, the message is better understood, and the audience will pay closer attention to details or points you want to get across.

The average person will remember about 70% of a verbal presentation three hours later and as little as 10% three days later. With a visual presentation 85% is remembered three hours later and up to 20% after three days.

But primarily the purpose of a cartoon to make people smile. And that’s something we all need these days. It is a fact that laughter releases endorphins that make people feel relaxed and overall happy. Visuals… humour… visual humour… not rocket science, is it?

Cartoon characters have been used for years to personify companies. Tony the Tiger, for example. Or the Tetley Tea Folk. The BBC used a cartoon animation to publicise their Olympic coverage. And there’s hardly a football team in the UK that doesn’t have their own cartoon mascot.

Cartoons are very effective in Health and Safety matters where they can easily depict subject matter impossible to do using other methods. I once had to draw a poster about diarrhoea and swimming pools which would have been very unpleasant using photographs. Or the brochure which featured several STDs as animated characters. Or the poster which showed the consequences of putting a hand too near a band saw…

France - Enki Bilal's Immortals.

France – Enki Bilal’s Immortals.

They are also very useful in training – showing the consequences of following/not following a procedure. Or dealing with sales and Customer relations. Or simply as a way of motivating a sales team.

UK - The Beano. Spot the difference?

UK – The Beano. Spot the difference?

Having been in the graphics and illustration business for … well, more years than I care to think about… I firmly believe that cartoons – whether it’s a single illustration to brighten up a newsletter, a presentation caricature as gift for a client or member of staff… or a full scale corporate strategy involving mascots, merchandising and promotional material – are a major weapon in anyone’s marketing, promotions and communications arsenal.

All I have to do now is convince everyone else.

Jim Barker – Jim Barker Cartoons and Graphics

Jim Barker

Jim Barker

3 Comments

  1. Lorijo Metz says:

    Hi Jim,

    I have to say, I love the Dr. Who comic, and to be honest, I subscribe to the daily paper just so I can read the cartoons every day. I recently wrote an angry note to our local paper because they replaced my favorite comic with one which isn’t funny at all. (First angry note I’ve ever written to a newspaper, by the way!) When it comes to drama, I’d rather see real live characters than cartoons. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Robert Day says:

    On the other hand, Jim, if people didn’t think your work was any good, then they wouldn’t keep ripping it off.

    And it’s not just the digital age, either. Remember back in the 1980s or early 1990s, I sent you copies of a Tory newsletter ripping off your work under the guise of a “review”? (Except that they kept running the “review” with different cartoons for about three months…)

  3. Having brought up children in France I can concur with your analysis of the difference in attitude Outre Manche to the Bande dessinée. It is considered normal, healthy reading for kids and adolescents, and the adult Bande dessinée section in the library probably gets more hits than any other. Some of them are beautifully illustrated, and the ‘real life’ dramas destined for adolescents are often very sensitive and accurately drawn.
    Personally, my favourite is the Thorgall series. I’m a sucker for Vikings, and Thorgall is a real hero. Makes Leo Di Caprio and Brad Pit look like right wimps.

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