By Jeremy Meltingtallow

This year, the deadline to submit tax returns for most Americans is Monday, April 15. Millions of taxpayers will undoubtedly be scrambling frantically over the weekend to finish filling out their forms.  This annual event always presents a challenge for many of us in the funnies business – how to find humor in an obligatory task that the majority of our readers regard as tedious and unrewarding.

Here is a Hi and Lois Sunday page that we did for a similar tax weekend in 2001.

One question that syndicated cartoonists are often asked is, “How far ahead do you work?”  The deadline that syndicates set to receive finished strips is about four to six weeks ahead of publication date, but many cartoonists work closer than that.  Garry Trudeau often finishes a week of Doonesbury strips five days before the first episode appears in newspapers on Mondays.  Most cartoonists do not work on that short a lead-time because the subject matter in their strips is not as dependent on current events.

I write my ideas for Hi and Lois even further ahead, often a few months before the finished art is done and sent to King Features.  A tax-related gag that appears around the April 15 deadline was probably written shortly before or after the Christmas holidays.

Here are two Hi and Lois daily strips that ran at tax time in 2009.

The other question that readers often ask cartoonists is, “Where do you get your ideas?” “Schenectady” is one answer I have heard. The truth is there are many different ways cartoonists come up with ideas.  There is no magical formula or method.  It’s mostly hard work.

I try to project my thoughts ahead to different times and seasons by letting my mind wander and free-associate about what activities our characters might be engaged in.  It’s like a form of controlled daydreaming.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

Another cartoonist once said, “It’s easy to come up with ideas.  It’s much harder to come up with good ideas.”

– Brian Walker