The Story Behind Salad Bar Exam Cartoon & Gifts by Londons Times Cartoons

salad bar

When I launched LTCartoons.com in 1997, everything we did was in black and white. We felt newspapers would “make or break us”, and for many years that was true in cartooning. We heard every excuse from “Your cartoons simply are not family-oriented enough” to “Nobody really would understand them…they’re kind of ‘out there’.” Yada yada. I worked with an artist named Richard Larson (no relation to Gary).  Newspapers just wouldn’t touch us. We didn’t take it personally. On any given day there were approximately 100,000 cartoons competing with us (and still are).

On the other hand we were getting amazingly positive feedback from families (even kids of all ages), and on the Internet within a year they were relatively well-known. We finally decided to do color and a t-shirt manufacturer in San Diego paid us $10,000 for the rights to 12 images (by then we were doing color); convinced newspapers were not going to be our bread and butter.

Peanuts creator Charles “Sparky” Schulz advised me that if I was ever to make any money in cartooning, it would not be from newspapers; they merely paid peanuts (no pun intended). He said the real money was in licensed goods, such as Tshirts, mugs, lunch boxes etc.  So that became my focus.  When someone finally created digital design a few years after I launched the cartoon, I spent 15 hours a day learning how to design products digitally.  I have designed about 160.000 products with my mouse and keyboard.  Though it’s not rocket science, it does take a few minor skills to learn. And I’m grateful for those who helped me along with learning that process.

Still curious why so much rejection from newspapers, and downright hostile rejection letters from literary agents.  Though most of those rejection letters were “form letters”, a few added personal comments.  One of my favorite was, “That’s all I need is another failed cartoonist”.  (That came from one of New York’s biggest literary agents who has been defunct for about 8 years). 🙂

I started researching a bit, and talked to some mentors (other cartoonists who had made it) only to discover newspapers no longer were the holy grail.  The Internet, somehow was going to be the place to showcase ones work.  One simply had to be creative and figure out a way to do so (attractively) and market them properly.

I returned to school at age 47 to learn Internet Technology and Business. This helped a great deal; though most of what I learned is now outdated.  However many of the business principles remain the same and I believe always will.

I started selling signed limited edition prints on Ebay and at the time they did fairly well.  I noticed some of my most popular ones had to do with either a particular animal (such as dogs, cats, mice, chipmunks, snakes, etc). Everybody had a favorite.

Also professions were popular, and, believe it or not, nobody liked lawyer jokes (as much as lawyers).  Well most of them anyway.  They loved to laugh at themselves and many bought their fair share of legal-related cartoons.

So I decided to “outdo” myself with one called “Salad Bar Exam” which is now 14 years old. It remains our trademark cartoon and people seem to like it no matter what their profession (or lack therof).  Also many vegans and vegetarians like it too, as well as dieters who love restaurants with salad bars.  And of course just regular people like you and me who like to laugh.

Many collect my licensed items of “Salad Bar Exam” since they tend to go up in value.  They enjoy items such as Tshirts, mugs, caps, eco-friendly bags, aprons, etc.

To view entire Salad Bar Exam line of Collectibles…
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LTCartoons.com Was & Still Is The Only One To Do This by Rick London

What makes Londons Times Cartoons different than others?

We like to think it is a lot of things; as, a lot of elements go into the cartoon and subsequent gift items on the marketplace (from concept to end user).

In a nutshell (in hopes of not getting too grandiose), we like to be the cartoon that is different in more than just one way than all the others.

For instance, we were/are the first and only offbeat property that is 99% in color, featuring 4000+ images. Though several other offbeat cartoons can boast beyond the 4000 mark, none of them (except us), most are in black and white with a few color offerings.

zazzle orgnanic tern

In addition, we take great care in how we have our products manufactured, and what we have manufactured.

We are the only “green” offbeat cartoon on the planet (to our knowledge); that is “cruelty free” in the making of our products. For instance, we have a line of ties, which we only make using polyester. There is silk available, but we’ve opted out of using it. The ties appear to be silk in texture, are much more affordable, and no animal loses its home.

Admittedly we have about .07% of gift items (on Amazon) that contain leather, and that is beyond our control (though we are working on finding alternative manufacturers who make the same products in pleather or some comparable material).   This is found on products such as ceramic framed tiles; not on the majority of our items.

zazzle organic columbus

We were/and are the first and only offbeat cartoon to dedicate an entire shop to 100% organic No-GMO tees RickLondonOrganics.com.
We’re very proud of that shop. It is not yet a profitable store, but we feel it is worth it, to have clean materials available to our more health-conscious customers. process.

Yes, we still have tees that are not organic and are made with mainstream dyes, but the largest scope of our following demands that, and we cater to them too.

However, our goal is one day to be able to sell nothing but 100% organic gmo-free tees.

Of course tees are not our only product. We were the first (and still the only) cartoon to offer a line of offbeat cartoon real USPS postage.

zazzle stamps saladbar
We’re very proud of our stamps. Philatelists love them and collect them. Non-collectors often buy them with matching greeting cards or postcards from our RickLondonGifts.com shop.

zazzle postage squid

Finally, we invented the offbeat cartoon gourmet coffee gift basket which has been available on Amazon since 2006. Though I call it “Ruth London’s Exquisite Coffees”, each basket contains 5 imported delicious whole coffee beans, a jumbo cartoon mug, four matching coasters and the gratuitous gourmet biscotti. Can’t beat that as a gift and it’s exclusively at Amazon. We offer about 1000 different cartoon baskets. It’s a gift that is always remembered (and enjoyed). http://bit.ly/LTGftBskt.

This coming march it will be 18 years since my favorite dog “Thor” and I launched LTCartoons.com in that little abandoned Ms. warehouse. I’ve worked with some of the world’s most talented people who helped make this happen, and learned a great deal. The learning process never ends.

amazon coffee gift basket

Maybe that’s the reason I love doing what I do. Every day is a new challenge and opportunity to create something that makes someone smile or laugh. And though, yes, I do look at it as a business, no amount of money in the world can replace the fact that products that I create make people happy. As corny as that sounds, it’s important.

Thank you and have the happiest of holidays this season.

Sincerely,

Rick

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Rick London is a writer, cartoonist, and designer.  He is best-known for his founding of Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons & Funny Gifts.  He also founded several Great Quotes Shops which feature famous faces from the past and some of their most famous quotes on gifts, cards and tees.  His main offbeat cartoon site is Londons Times Cartoons.  He is married to nature and wildlife photographer Lee Hiller-London (Lee Hiller) who is best known for her designer gifts, Lee Hiller Designs.