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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Salad Bar Exam: The Story Behind The Cartoon by Rick London – Londons Times Cartoons

 

     If I had to pick salad bar examany one cartoon that is our “trademark image” it would have to be “Salad Bar Exam”.  Even though the cartoon is about 12 years old, it remains our most popular. We even put it for sale on all types of odd products, and some not so odd like tees and mugs and such. 

      The story behind the cartoon, truly is nothing that dramatic about “the story behind the cartoon”; at least the story does not seem that dramatic to me.

      I actually wrote the concept around 1974.  I was in college (my first time around) and had switched to about 3 different majors; one of them being political science, which seemed to be a great pre-law major at the state university I attended. 

     As a vegan now, I look back at some of the “things” I ingested and wonder how I ever survived that time.  Some of my staples included peanut butter, sardines, ramen noodles, Gatorade, more ramen noodles and white bread.  No wonder I was sick all the time with the flue one week, strep throat the next week, etc. 

     It was about that time salad bars became popular at restaurants and Shoney’s, an establishment near USM had a huge salad bar.   My friends and I would go in and just order the salad which was super healthy, but then load it with blue cheese dressing, making it as fatal as any ramen noodle could be even if it didn’t try (to be fatal).

       By the same token I was losing interested in the law, and getting pulled over and warned by it (the law) more than I was learning the logistics of the Constitution.  Besides, my shoulder length hair got in the way of my eyes when I was trying to study, and to me, that was “a good thing”.

       My friends started losing interest in school, and the law generally about the same time I did.  Maybe 80% of them ended up in liberal arts like me.  I was liberal and an artist so why not?

        I can remember many a night debating staying in college and maybe pursuing the law, or maybe becoming a chef, a salad chef at that.  The two sort of melded together and this is the image that evolved.  It didn’t mean a lot at the time. I rough-sketched it with the caption “Salad Bar Exam” and it sat in a shoebox  with several other strange concepts and rough sketches for nearly 35 years.  At the time, I felt one day I would dispose of the entire box of silliness.  I felt that many times since too.  Funny how some of the most mundane things can become a major part of ones life. 

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Rick London is an author, songwriter, cartoonist and designer.  He is probably best known for his Google #1 ranked offbeat cartoons and funny gifts “Londons Times Cartoons” or “LTCartoons.com”.  London is an avid hiker, a vegan and lives with his wife Lee Hiller-London in the Ouachata Mountains of Arkansas where they hike often and commune with nature, only to go home and eat soy n’ stuff. London adds, “Hey, its better than ramen noodles, eh?”   London offers a variety of products bearing his award-winning cartoon “Salad Bar Exam” on funny tshirts, aprons, mouse pads, and much more.