Each morning, Crane grabs the day’s newspaper from his porch and reads it with his daily breakfast of oatmeal and raisins, blueberries, apples and brown sugar. After a short nap and some miscellaneous work, Crane then begins brainstorming ideas for his comic strip, Pickles, which for the past 23 years has been brightening the day for readers each morning.
While Crane is now living his childhood dream, it took him a while to fulfill it.
After graduating from Brigham Young University in 1973 with an art degree, Crane worked at various advertising agencies before taking a job as an art director at an ad agency in Reno, making Sparks his home. It was around this time in 1987 that Crane began to get the urge to chase his dream.
“I started thinking about how I wished I had tried to get a comic strip going,” Crane said. “It had been a childhood dream that I had neglected all my life. I was nearing my forties and thinking it’s now or never, so I just started sketching different characters in a sketch book. I was trying to think of something that would appeal to me and find a place in the market place of comic strips. That’s how I started developing those characters.”
Once Crane had created the Pickles characters and created about 24 sample strips, he sent them to three syndicates. Pleased with the comic strips, the syndicates asked Crane for more samples before inevitably rejecting the strip. Facing the fact that perhaps his dream wasn’t meant to be, Crane was ready to give up. However, Crane’s wife, Diana, refused to let him quit on his dream.
“At that point I pretty much figured it was a lost cause. Fortunately I was married to someone who believed in my talent more than I did, so my wife kept nagging me to send it in again to another syndicate,” Crane said. “I thought it was a hopeless cause, but eventually she wore me down and I agreed to send it in one more time just to prove she was wrong, and of course wives are always right.”
The Washington Post Writers Group picked up the Pickles comic strip and on April 2, 1990 it debuted in 24 newspapers. Crane remembers the feeling of seeing his work finally in print.
“It was amazing,” he said. “It was like winning the lottery. It was my dream come true.”
Over the years, readers have fallen in love with Crane’s comic strip and its endearing elderly couple, Earl and Opal Pickles. What started with a small chance in 24 newspapers has now grown to over 800 newspapers worldwide. Crane himself has received recognition for his work from peers, being awarded the ‘Best Comic Strip’ by the National Cartoonist Society in 2001. Now, Crane is nominated for the profession’s highest honor, the Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year, his third nomination. Win or lose, the next morning will start just as it always has for Crane, with the comics.
All-time Comic: Li’l Abner
TV Show: Jeopardy
Movies: To Kill A Mockingbird; High Noon
Food: His daily oatmeal breakfast