Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons: Squids N’ Such (The Story Behind The Cartoon) by Rick London

Since the days of Gary Larson, and before him Robert Crumb, Gahan Wilson and others, I’ve been interested in “cartoons as entertainment”.  I tried to spread the word but usually it was a small group of friends who got as enthusiastic as I did.  Years passed and I got a little jaded regarding life and cartooning, and even surprised when on facebook, Twitter or Pinterest others would repost cartoons (whether from LTCartoons.com or others).  I do tend to post cartoons of others that have appealed to me.  I don’t look at them as competition, but as others working in a similar field, and the better their (and our) cartoons, the more people will look toward cartoons as an important part of entertainment.   Several years ago my beloved wife Lee suggested I blog about my cartoons and I kind of scrunched my mouth and came up with some smartass answer, “Why so I can go back, read it and stroke my ego every once in awhile”.  She assured me there were others interested in them and would stop by and read what I had to say (so if you don’t it’s her your letting down; I already expect it.  🙂  

I promoted my cartoons via this blog and where I could remember, I even posted a cartoon or two and what inspired that particular thought (if i could remember).   I keep a notepad and pen with me most of the time, especially on hikes.  This was suggested by one of my first writing teachers at USM who called it our “genius pad”.  I called it “Our excuse for never again functioning well in a 9-5 job again….but I digress.  

When I think of all my “original ideas”, I would be a total fraud if I didn’t credit Gary Larson’s Far Side for at least some of the credits.  That and horrendous reading skills (of mine) left over from years of UN or Misdiagnosed reading issues.  

One of my favorite Far Side cartoons was called “Squid B Gone” or something like that.  He (Or Universal Press Syndicate) chose it years later the Far Side 2002 wall calendar cover. The calendar was called “Last Impressions”. 

Fortunately (for my reading disorders), I read it to say something completely different.  I wrote it down to be sure to share it with a friend.  “No Squid Zone”, have you seen it?”, I asked to any friend who would listen.  “Yup…old Gary Larson cartoon…but you got it wrong Rick, It’s “Squid B Gone”.   

Bingo!   Within a year or two “No Squid Zone”, a completely different theme cartoon was born.  Though it dealt with a similar issue, “Squid Segregation”, it was far from a copycat.  I could rely on my bad reading, bad hearing, and horrible eye to hand motor skills to send me in the right direction every single time. 

I couldn’t plagiarize if I even wanted to.  Hell, I couldn’t even get right what I’d just read, nor remember or rewrite it if I could.   And finally Londons Times Cartoons was born (a year before The Far Side shut down in 1997).  

People sometimes ask if cartoonists have “favorite cartoons” of their own.  Many will tell you “No” but that’s not true.  Though surely as we look at our own inventory of likes vs dislikes, there are usually a lot more dislikes than favorites.  But we do privately have our favorites, even from our own minds.   More often than not they are not our most popular ones, and not on merchandise that sells the most, but our own faves of which we were “proud” we could “turn the mind muscle” to create something that absurd.  And “No Squid Zone” falls into that category, though it is not a huge seller in the marketplace.  Oh well.  There’s plenty that I “almost didn’t bring into fruition for thinking them ‘too silly'” that have turned out to be most popular.  No Squid Zone will probably remain one of my favorites.

Before you say, “Oh, you cheap little copycat”, please note that I had a shoe box full of ideas all the way back from 1973 when I was a student at a Dallas community college of about 2000 cartoon concepts that I’d written, more than 10 years before The Far Side was launched.  The sad part is I didn’t have the courage to launch my own, for fear people would fear “they were too strange” hence so was I.   Times have so changed. Now the goal is, “Oh man, I hope they think I’m strange enough”.  And sometimes they do, and that’s really enough. 

squid b gone

feb psquid credits

Rick London is a writer, cartoonist and designer.  He is best known for launching the number one offbeat cartoons and funny gifts “Londons Times Cartoons in 1997.  They have been Google’s #1 ranked offbeat cartoon since 2005 and Bing’s #1 since 2008. 

It’s A Beautiful Day But My Back Hurts By Rick London

mar waldo finds self   

 

 I love days like today.  When we awakened it was cold outside; and even though the heat was on and our walls are thick, somehow it sends a signal to our feet from the window so we know and turn up the heater in the morning.   My wife Lee, from Oregon, likes a cooler temperature inside than me, a southern wuss-hick from Mississippi who calls the EMT unit when the weather reaches as low as 80 to check for signs for pneumonia and or hypothermia.

mar stupid

     But as Kroger organic coffee (blog product placement) left the pot into my large red cup and into my large (who knows, probably very dark brown by now) inside of my belly from years of Kroger organic coffee, I started to warm up.  Lee drank a few swigs of hers and she was fine. I don’t think she even notices cold weather.  Sometimes when we hike I’ve got on 3-5 layers and she’s got on this stretchy tee looking shirt that she swears keeps her warm.  And when we reach the mountain-top and the wind blows the cold northern air (and a few ducks and turkey vultures) towards us, she just shakes it off.  She looks behind her and I’m semi-hidden in the roots of a large oak tree hoping it will offer a bit of warmth.

    Ok, I’m exaggerating a bit but winter and I are not best friends. 

     I love our office.  Lee and I share one and I have the corner window.  I always wanted a corner window office when I worked in corporate America for a long time and my superiors, all of whom had corner window offices would give me a snicker and a look like “Are you serious”?  Of course I was serious.  Do you know who I am?”  And they’d have a look on their face that said, “Yes, and that’s probably why you’ll never get a corner office working here”.  Don’t you just  love the end of innocence?

     Twenty years later I finally have my corner office but it’s not quite as plush and roomy as the potential office in my Washington, D.C. job could have possibly offered me if I could have just hung in there about 5000 years.  But I’m here and they’ve been out of business for about a decade. Nah nah nah poo poo. 

      Anyway, today I woke up to my vulnerable office chair that has been my constant companion for about three years.  It was a good chair and fit my desk perfectly and positioned me just high enough to where I could see over my monitor out onto Hot Springs Mountain.  I could even see hawks, crows, and numerous other birds fly in and out of the lower foothills.  This always satisfied my connection with nature when I could not get out in it.  Due to numerous other health issues, there were times I could not get out in it (other than my stubborn back).

new book lost goose

     But today was nice because I worked for about an hour, designed a few products and turned off the computer.  Lee was about to work out, and I went back to bed.  She asked, “Are you okay, Baby?” I always appreciated that.  “Yes, thank you for asking.   But my back feels like it fell out of my body so I’m going to take a nap”.  She said, “That’s nice, so you may feel my feet at the end of the bed ‘cause when I do my sit-ups I use the bed for traction”.  “Ok, that’s nice”, I replied.

     So my point was, growing up, being sick or injured was much more difficult than today and required a small jury of my parents to whom I had to prove it was so.  “I’m running a temperature, and my throat hurts”.    My worried looking mom would feel my head and put the thermometer into my mouth. 98.6.  She would give me the bad news.  Well it must be the pollen in the air because there’s no temperature, no infection. Get ready for school.

    NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!   I’ve got a big day planned in bed.  What in the world big day could I have planned in bed at age 13 and in 8th grade?  Oh, pull out the transistor radio and turn on WXXX and hear Jimmy Rabbit spin the top 30…and if I could pull it off, late that night, KAAY with Clyde Clifford in Little Rock (100,000 Watts mind you).

       But nooooooo. It was off to school.  And since I “was sick; that is suffering from allergies of some sort” mom decided I couldn’t even ride my bike. Mom felt it was better to drive me.   I so wanted to invent a device you could put in your mouth that would trick the thermometer into believing you had a temperature.  I finally figured it out, but it would never work.  Putting a penny or nickel on a stove would indeed make it very hot, but it would also burn a large hole in my tongue…..the size of a penny or nickel.  I nixed that brilliant idea.

july black white

   I gave myself permission today to feel okay that I knew my back really hurt and I would not be making the 400 ft commute again to my desk to create more gifts for all the world to see.  Surely my customers would understand that I had a bad back today.

   And given all my other health issues that was actually pretty good news.  And even better news is the fact that I have no coin-size holes in my tongue….after all these years.

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    Rick London is a freelance writer, cartoonist and writer, songwriter/musician, avid hiker and nature lover.  He founded Londons Times Cartoons LTCartoons.com, Google’s #1 ranked Offbeat Cartoons & Funny Gifts since 2005.  He is married to popular nature/wildlife photographer and online shopping gift designer Lee Hiller.  You can follow Rick on Twitter @RickLondon and Lee @LeeHillerLondon.