Rupert Besley delivers part two of his article on the humble cartoon postcard. You can read part one here
Postcards and cartoons are the perfect marriage, the dream team, two forms of relative ephemera, each made for the other. Both are finding life tough at present, as old-style print gets edged out by new electronic media, and each has need of the other. Postcards must adapt to survive.
It has been done and can be again. In the 1980s, Scottish postcards were stuck in a rut of lurid images of heather, pipers and Highland cattle knee-deep in Loch Lomond (sometimes with faked sunset added on top). Along came Colin Baxter and Michael Macgregor, bringing misty, seductive, moody views of Real Scotland and whole new businesses were born.
Failure to change did for card-firms in the past. Dixon’s operated from an aircraft hangar of a factory, filled with huge presses that pumped out cards to fill every creaking carousel in the land. For a card to succeed, it had to sell in hundreds of thousands. But nobody wanted to see the same card year after year.
As with print-on-demand books, the technology is now here for small runs and rapid distribution. As papers and magazines cut back on cartoon “extras”, cartoonists need to explore new outlets for their work. Postcards need new life breathed into them; cartoons need more ways of being circulated and seen. The two should get together more often.
Postcards are effective carriers of simple messages. Mostly the messages are equally trite on front and back. But the space is there for other purposes, whether for promoting a place, a business, a particular event, or campaigning on a topical issue. Or maybe just to spread a joke. (And why not?)
Cartoons, too, are handy means of encapsulating difficult ideas and sending messages that are witty, memorable and quick to take in. Make a set, put them on cards and hey presto: collectibles.
To take off again, postcards need a novelty factor, some new twist on all that has been done before. Marketing and making money from cards is never easy; they are low-price items and fiddly to deal with. Those are the challenges – and the opportunities.
Just don’t write off the humble postcard. It may yet have a future.
Thanks very much to Procartoonists member Rupert Besley for writing for us and for the terrific sequence of cartoons.