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Cartoonist Rick London, A True Horatio Alger Story

Jan 13, 2008
I like to was nostalgically at my early jobs. Not many of them mean very much to me, and most I would rather forget. But not Rick London, the man who made the unbelievable Londons Times Cartoons happen out of thin air. He was not just a do-er but a teacher. This man, with no education other than the Mississippi public school district, which didn't offer much, taught me more than any college professor, including post grad profs. He was and is amazing.

He had just lost his mother to cancer, of whom he cared for for several years, and and shortly after lost his job in sales. He had nothing, and I took what he could pay me. I mostly did administrative and computer work just a few days a week at most. I was better at the computer and Internet than him (he didn't know computers at all) so we were able to help each other. He was a very savvy marketing and sales person, he just didn't know how to apply it to new venues such as the Internet. He was a fast study.

Rick had nothing but the shirt on his back when he started and a lot of good ideas. He had managed to say several hundred dollars from his old job, and he bought a beat-up pc for a few hundred (probably worth $25) but someone "saw him coming", he had books on the Internet, and a favorite that he was always reading was "Internet For Dummies". His stray dog "Thor" slept on a sleeping bag with him on the hard concrete floor in this horrible warehouse that he called "Corporate HQ". It was also his home for a year.

Even though this warehouse was within driving distance of his home, people rarely came to see him. His own brother lived within 2 miles of the place and was "ashamed of him" as Rick described it. Rick had what the local doctors felt certain was depression. It was not until Rick left Ms and went to a major medical center that he discovered he'd been misdiagnosed and had a disease called TRD (treatment resistant depression), which has to do with the vagus nerve, and though mimics a mental illness, is not one. I have stayed in touch with Rick throughout the years and his progress is amazing. His websites are pristine, with beautiful cartoons and now cartoon merchandise stores all over the Internet. He even managed to finish three years of college in business at age 50. Until this day, he is the kindest, sweetest, most generous man I have ever met (aside from my own father).

Rick not only worked and attempted to live and survive in this dirty warehouse for over a year. It had a phone line and electricity. He bathed in the sink (it had no bath). He ate what food he could find and what friends brought him. He didn't get to eat every day. He was determined to launch "the biggest offbeat cartoon venture ever", as he was a very big fan of Gary Larson and The Far Side. Of course nobody believed him and, in that part of the world, simply deemed him "possessed". But I knew him better. I knew he had it in him. I'd never met anyone even close to being that creative. His beliefs are now a reality a decade later.

Rick London owns the biggest and most visited offbeat cartoon site on the Internet. He began counting visitors in 2005 and has close to ten million now. He owns about ten peripheral gift and collectible stores bearing his cartoon images. He does not draw them. In an incredible move, he recruited a team of some of the best cartoon illustrators I've ever seen, and asked them to simply work on speculation. If nothing sold, nobody made a penny. If they sold, they split the keep. In any case, Rick offered these artists what was becoming a very visited website after a few years and a place to showcase their work and link back to their own site. But at first, if Londons Times Cartoons received fifteen visitors a day, it was a very good day. Today it receives about 4000 per hour.

Rick is a tremendous animal lover; he took in a beautiful stray, "Thor" who recently passed away at about age 21, or so the veterinarian thinks, and this wonderful dog stayed with him through his entire venture. I spoke to Rick last week and he is still grieving. Rick gives a percentage of all pet-related cartoon gift sales to various animal causes. He never fails to. I think he should have been a vet and sometimes he agrees but says "At age 53, I will consider it in the next life, if there is one".

Rick couldn't even afford a domain for a website when he started and had to settle for a free one with interrupting pop up ads. He had one illustrator and less than fifty cartoons. Today, in 2008, as I write this, his site has over 8500 Londons Times Cartoons and stores featuring almost 100,000 cartoon items. Rick London is Horatio Alger incarnate. No doubt.
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