Humor. Drama. Real-life stories. In his popular comic strip Crankshaft, cartoonist Tom Batiuk has created a cast of characters so real that fans are compelled to follow their adventures.
A former minor league baseball pitcher, the strip's namesake, Ed Crankshaft, was deeply disappointed when his major league aspirations fell by the wayside. Today, however, he can deal with life's curveballs, thanks to a loving family that stands by him. Crankshaft amuses comics fans with his no-holds-barred zingers and cantankerous disposition, an obvious outer crust for a school bus driver.
Since its debut in 1987, Crankshaft has engendered reader loyalty with its engaging storylines and Crankshaft's muddled aphorisms. Created by Batiuk and drawn by Chuck Ayers, the strip is a spin-off of Batiuk's immensely popular high school comic, Funky Winkerbean. Written in the same "narrative humor" vein as Funky, the strip offers plenty of humor, but it also tackles some tough issues like adult illiteracy, Alzheimer's disease and school violence.
Available daily and on Sundays, Crankshaft currently connects with readers in more than 300 newspapers worldwide. Given the strip's thoughtful approach in acknowledging the issues facing today's senior citizens, Crankshaft is particularly popular among older people and those who have parents at or beyond retirement age. Crankshaft really resonates with readers emotionally invested in the strong, identifiable characters and plot-driven storylines.
You never know which Ed Crankshaft you're going to get -- the irritable one, the angry one, the upset one, or the plain old garden-variety grumpy one. Regardless, they're all an act designed to cover up his soft, sweet side. Obviously, he's got an Oscar coming.
Ed's daughter, Pam Murdoch, and his son-in-law, Jeff Murdoch, are part of the Sandwich Generation, which means that they get stuck with all of the baloney.
Max and Mindy
Ed's generation has a lot in common with his grandkids, Max and Mindy. They both like to listen to the TV at 160 decibels and they never listen to a thing that Pam and Jeff say.
Rocky and Bill
Lillian and Lucy McKenzie are two spinster sisters who have lived in the neighborhood for ages.
Morgan and Chase Lambert
Morgan and Chase Lambert are a young couple who have just moved into the neighborhood. Despite their age differences, they have one thing in common Ed Crankshaft drives them crazy.
Ralph Meckler is Ed's best friend. Helen Meckler is Ralph's wife.
The Bus Garage Crew
Although on the surface their existence seems to be fun and games, the lives of the bus garage crew are fraught with peril, mainly from drinking Lena's coffee and trying to eat her brownies. They're a dedicated bunch who put in endless hours of practice, which is why their bowling team is in first place. Lena is the manager of the bus garage where Ed Crankshaft works. Andy is a bus driver and Crankshaft's co-worker.
Lois and Angel
Lois is Ed's girlfriend. Angel is a teenage, single mother and a Rough Rider.
The Roughriders -- Marcus, Shane, Cobey and Severo -- from Teddy Roosevelt High School are the toughest, most difficult kids in the district, which is why they've been assigned to Ed's bus and why you have to feel sorry for them.