Syndicated comic strip artist Brian Crane started his strip, “Pickles,” when he was in his early 40s. His favorite comics are “Baby Blues,” “Zits,” “For Better Or For Worse” and “Peanuts.”
Why a strip about senior citizens?
When you do a comic strip, you have to do something that you can draw from for a long time, that really appeals to you on a very personal level. And so I just picked that because it really appealed to me, and I thought I could get years and years of humor out of it, and I wouldn’t get tired of it. And plus, there was no one else at the time doing a strip with older people as the main characters, so that was a reason as well.
Children are leading comic strip readers. How do they react to it?
Well, I’ve gotten quite a few letters from young people, and in surveys of readers of newspapers over the country, it does well in all ages. I don’t try to appeal just to older people in the humor. I have a younger person in the strip that’s prominent, and then I have the dog and the cat. So I’ve gotten quite positive reaction from younger readers, and I have seven kids of my own, so I’m particularly sensitive to children, and I like to think of myself as a child at heart, too.
Ever get any resentment from seniors?
Hardly ever. It’s overwhelmingly positive, the reaction I get from them. Once in a while, I get some disgruntled person that is ticked off at me for some reason, but you just can’t avoid that, no matter how innocuous you think you’re being. It’s going to tick off somebody somewhere.
At family Thanksgiving dinners, do you crack up the family?
No, I’m not at all the class clown or the life of the party. I’m kind of a quiet guy, and my humor just kind of comes out once in a while in snide comments or something, but overall, I’m pretty laid back.
Do you have much interaction with other cartoonists?
Living here in Nevada, there’s not a lot of cartoonists you can rub shoulders with. I belong to a national organization, the National Cartoonists Society, and they have a yearly gathering where they give out the awards and stuff, and I go to those every year or two years. Just this last weekend, I was in Santa Barbara with a little group, met with Berke Breathed, who does “Outland,” and went on his boat. But other than that, I don’t get too often with other cartoonists.
You started this fairly late in life.
I was around 40. Before that I was in advertising. I was an art director here in Reno at two different ad agencies. That was a career I had for about 20 years out of college. Eventually, I got tired of it and started thinking about my first love. My first dream as a child had been to do a comic strip so I started thinking back to that and decided to give it a try. I’m fortunate that it worked out for me.
Did you have trouble selling it?
Listening to other people’s stories of their attempts to get syndicated, I guess I had it pretty easy because most people get a lot more rejection than I did. I sent it in to three syndicates. All of them expressed some interest in it but eventually turned it down. And at that point, I thought, well, gee, I’m going to give up on this, it’s not going to work, and really had no intention of pursuing it any further. But my wife kept after me to try out one more time, and against my better judgment, I said, "OK, I’ll try it one more time." And so my fourth try I did get the Washington Post Writers Group to offer me a contract, and I’ve been with them ever since. Most cartoonists face more rejection than that in getting their strips syndicated, so I lucked out pretty well.