Since the partial or full retirement of the author-illustrators of Foxtrot, For Better or For Worse, and Cathy (not to mention Calvin & Hobbes), there now appears to me a dearth of daily comics which is not entirely filled by the blogger extraordinaire, Hyperbole and a Half.  To be a true daily comic, entrenched in the dying tradition of print journalism, one needs to have reassuring cycles that ebb and flow with the seasons and holidays like the storefront windows of Anthropologie. 

This is your chance, this is your opportunity.  Step up, step into the void.  All you need to be a successful daily comic strip writer-illustrator is a few random, endearing characters (and a few annoying ones, for conflict), a setting half a dozen readers can identify with, and the same hackneyed content that has sufficed since ye olde comics of the 1680s.  Only the technology and pop culture references have changed.  Behold: follow these themes, and you will not be led astray. 

January:  Talk about New Year’s resolutions, specifically about losing weight.  Have your characters make half-assed attempts to join a gym, with hilarious results, or have them impulsively buy a parody of the year’s hottest piece of fitness equipment (see: Ab Roller, Shake Weights, NordicTrak, ThighMaster, BoFlex, the Gazelle).  Jokes about snow and shoveling also work here.  In summary, kids like snow, adults don’t.

February: Include plot lines of women having unrequited crushes on men of unattainable hotness.  They will defensively decide they don’t need men anyway to be a liberated feminist, then predictably break down on Valentine’s Day when no man validates their post-feminist femininity.  For jokes about snow and shoveling, see January. 

March: This is a slow season for weather-related or holiday-related jokes, so you can take this opportunity to delve into some character development or plot advancement.  Or not.  You can just spin around the usual themes of men’s incompetency in the home and women’s feelings of being overworked.

April: Mandatory will be an April Fool’s Day strip.  Start thinking of it now.  Much like the pranks your characters play, your strip will have to be more foolish than the one above or below it on the page. Feel free to make jokes about kids and Easter Bunnies and chocolate eggs and mishaps that may occur when kids find Mommy hiding eggs. 

May: You may begin wrapping up the school year.  Your characters who are of age to have finals will want to start complaining about studying, and their parents will get to harp on them for not studying.  As characters rarely age in strips, you can reuse these frames year after year.  Just make sure to change the children’s procrastination box from Sega Genesis to Wii.  Don’t forget Mother’s Day, you’ll get a lawsuit from Hallmark.

June: Began berating women for not having bikini-ready bodies in time for summer.  Begin culminating events such as graduations, recitals, etc.  with appropriate homage to Father’s Day (see note from May re: Hallmark). 

July: Now is an ideal time to take your family on a trip.  This will have to include unplanned stops, forgotten animals, kids having to pee at inconvenient times, and missed air planes.  This adds to intrigue, and will have your reader tuning in tomorrow to see what other hilarity they can relate to.  Camping also works, if you’re outdoorsy, and know how to draw such things as Sterno, a tent, and hip-waders. 

August: Your strips’ children will have to make the back-to-school bitching session.  The parents will always declare how relieved they are to do back-to-school shopping, and that they are counting down the days until school starts.  People who hate their kids will be able to relate.  You will receive fan mail: “This is SO my house! I can’t wait until Johnny goes back to school each fall!!!”

September: Kids will come home from the first day of school with mountains of homework.  This is a mandate.  You may wax nostalgic about the autumn coming, and start to age your older characters, as it will be the “autumn” of their lives, so to speak.  Don’t kill them yet.  It’s better to do this around the holidays, which will be harder for years to come as a result.  Go for maximum effect. 

October: Make full use of Jack O’Lantern frames, full of fantastic faces your readers will try, but fail, to emulate.  Dress your characters up in costumes way better than anything available in real life.  Include joke about out-of-touch adult mistaking child’s “obvious” costume for something else.  Leaf-raking themes are also acceptable.  Characters will claim to be waiting for neighbors to rake their leaves first.

November: See October’s note about leaves.  This can also tie into a theme about getting teenagers to do chores.  Teenagers hate to do chores, so they will identify themselves in these frames, and will use your strips to roll their joints, which will be ironic.  Somehow.  Begin sappy strips about family.  Alternate with humorous strips about family.  Mothers-in-law are excellent targets.  Mothers, too, as their children will never be able to measure up to their expectations. 

December: Continue with previous themes of family visits and general saccharine feel-good strips.  Alternate with cultural commentary about tacky Christmas sweaters, overeating, gift exchanges at work, the must-have toy of the moment (see: Tamagotchi, Tickle-Me-Elmo, Zu Zu pets, and Cabbage Patch Kids).  You are now perfectly positioned to begin January’s strips all over again with weight loss struggles, gaffs about toys not having batteries, kids playing with boxes and wrapping paper instead of aforementioned must-have toys, and snow shoveling. 

Well, there you have it.  Twelve months of fresh, novel content for your new comic strip.  It makes me all the more thankful for the unpaid, underappreciated online comic strip artists who dare deviate from the formula.  Keep up the good work, guys.  It’s a shame your strips will never be used to wrap gifts.

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