If I Had A Hammerhead Shark The Story Behind This Londons Times Cartoons

By Rick London

 

Though I launched Londons Times Cartoons in 1997, most of the first two years of it was practice or trial and error.  It was also mostly in black and white, though, by the end of 1998, we had a few hundred color black and white ones under our belt. 

Even though Gary Larson had, with his “Far Side” paved the way, was the trailblazer “off all things absurd” in cartooning, for many of us, we were still taking baby steps regarding subject matter and “just how absurd we could actually be.  After all, many of us, though all black sheep of families, lived in town where our “normal” family members lived, and was sure to tread carefully so as not to embarrass them. 

As word had gotten back to me from mutual friends I’d embarrassed them from the start, all I could think was, “What the hell. Go for broke. Who cares what they think anyway.  They probably don’t *get* them anyway.  I tested that theory once and gave one of my married relatives a Seinfeld parody cartoon including Kramer with both of them in divorce court. It was a play on the words “Kramer Vs Kramer” being “the ugliest divorce imaginable. 

I was quite proud of the cartoon.  The last thing on my mind was “how my kinfolk’s marriage was doing.  I had the cartoon framed and gave it to them for a holiday or birthday, I forget which one now.  Word got back to me they were “livid”. And “how dare me play with something so sensitive as their marriage”.  

Well that was the first I’d known that “things were shaky on that side of the family, but I had to shake my head, just because they didn’t get that it was a “play on words” and had nothing to do with their marriage.  I thought it was a most thoughtful and creative gift.  They didn’t agree.    I learned at that moment, “You cannot please everybody”. 

So the year 1999 came around and everyone’s mind was on Prince’s ability to party and the following New Years when every computer in the world would break. Not too many were thinking of my cartoons and their themes.

And since they weren’t looking that closely, I decided to try some “Larsonesque” ideas, such as bringing fish and other animals to life and putting them in settings they might not otherwise be; such as sharks in a nightclub…..playing folk music.  

I held my breath and asked Rich (our manager at the time) to upload it and waited for feedback.  There was no Google yet (though word was out that this really neat search engine called “Google” was about to launch and it did that same year. Of course there was no Twitter or any social media for that matter.  Hence there was no instant gratification.   I had to send the cartoon out in emails (that I had captured on my website from writing a newsletter). 

I also sent this one and about 10 others out to “name-brand” celebrities and asked for feedback; reviews of sorts that I could upload to my site.  Oddly enough, several celebs wrote back.  There was not one bad review and all allowed me to include them on my site. Some of them I still display. 

I grew up not far from the Gulf Of Mexico (or “The Gulf” as we called it in south Mississippi).  We spent a lot of time swimming, skiing and fishing so we certainly saw our share of sharks.  Luckily, the merely swam with us and none of us were ever attacked (though we would occasionally read or see on the news of such attacks).  

Another common love that I had with my friends was the love of music.  Folk and protest songs were some of our favorites; Dylan, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Pete Seeger, Peter Paul and Mary and you name it, we loved them. 

Suddenly (again thanks to Gary Larson), I realized it was okay to combine some of the most unexpected things and turn them into cartoons.

This is but one of them; “Shark Folk Singers” or “If I Had A Hammerhead” by Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons.  I hope you enjoy it. 

Though we’ve been selling them for about 16 years, they continue to be one of the most popular of all our images. 

If you feel like seeing them on Tshirts, mugs, aprons, posters, greeting cards, gifts, etc……

Check out RickLondonGifts.com

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

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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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Recalculating – Fighting Rebellion To Grow Up by Rick London

I used to write “the story behind the cartoon” and some friends seemed to enjoy it. I got busy doing other things, and never found time for it.

About a year ago I wrote a cartoon that (I had a feeling) not many would “get”, and I don’t say that condescendingly. I would not have gotten it if someone else had written it.

I realized after publishing it on my website, unless someone knew me growing up, they might not have a clue.  Even my wife Lee, who I’d not met until adulthood sort of scratched her head.

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Every now and then someone looks at it, and moves on to another less complicated one.

The story behind this cartoon that I titled “Recalculating” is more of a self-serving lump of nothing than anything with a moral or lesson.  (Not that cartoons have to have morals or lessons).

Growing up, I was what one might call rebellious; but only symbolically.  Yes, I went through some of the same things that others did, but my parents always had that “invisible leash” and I knew it.

So my rebellion manifested into hair down to the shoulders, bell bottom jeans, black lights and posters, smoking pot (and inhaling) etc.

I had no idea why that was my what my life had become, or even why it seemed attractive.  I imagine peer pressure had a great deal to do with it, and that was that.  I have to admit, at age 15 or 16 or so, shocking ones parents (in the late 60s-early 70s brought great pleasure to a “rebel without a clue” like me.

In my twenties (at some point) I realized I was going to have to learn to make a living.   I was terrible at real estate (which was the family business), due to undiagnosed and misdiagnosed learning disorders, most of which were not even addressed until my 40s.

I learned that I could write, which was odd (given that I’d not read an entire book cover to cover until I was 28 (“Being There” by Jerzy Kazinsky). I later met Jerzy and got some “insider information” into the book and film.   That was fun.

In my 30s I lucked into a cushy Washington, D.C.  job and the world was rapidly going from 60s (hippie) to 80s yuppie, and I had to make a choice.  Suddenly I was editor-in chief at a major radio network.  I hesitantly chose yuppie as “that was the Washington way”, but never really gave up my 60s rebelliousness.  I kept it in the back of my mind as I got up and made it to work early in the morning and left late in the afternoon.  I jogged later and played Trivial Pursuit with my morphing yuppie neighbors on Capitol Hill.

I later opened a bus tour business that did well and sold it.  I moved to California, mainly because I was burning out from the speed-of-light “Washington ways”. I figured L.A. would help me “chill” and get back to my hippie roots.  That’s what I figured.  I had failed at many more businesses and projects than those that succeeded.

By then there was no looking back.  The days of “hippiedom” were gone, even in L.A.  I had a friend who owned a car lot and he talked me into going to the auction with him and made a bid for a used Mercedes in very good shape, at the price I used to buy my junker muscle cars in high school.  It was official. I was a yuppie, but still with the resentment of having to be one, as I’d invested so much into that long hair and so many nice tie-dyed shirts.  Sniff.

The years went by, and suddenly my home in the burbs was swallowed by the Northridge Earthquake.

I realized at that moment I had made “so many plans” and the universe had other plans for me.  If there is a God (and I believe there is) He must have been watching out, as the life I live now, is quite nice, I couldn’t have dreamed it, frankly….but it is nothing like “what I planned”.  It’s healthy.  I love my wife, Lee.  We have similar interests.  And like any couple, we don’t agree on every topic but that’s okay.

We both decided to get healthy (rather than give into being sickly, which would have been an easier route, we decided to expose ourselves to healthy things, people,  get to know nature, and love life just as it is.  That’s not easy (in the start) when one has been “chasing some unknown” for many years, but it makes a lot of sense now.

And every single screeching on of breaks, from as far back as I can remember in my life, and restarting, was nothing more than “Recalculating”; just like the robot-woman in our GPS.

Hence my best explanation for this cartoon…..”Recalculating”.