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'Pickles' cartoonist Brian Crane uses Facebook for inspiration

Most of us use Facebook to blab to friends or to see what our friends are blabbing about.

Brian Crane uses it to eavesdrop on those conversations to get ideas for his Pickles comic strip.

He doesn't have a staff of ghost writers like James Patterson or even a staff of researchers like Elmore Leonard. It's just him — and Opal and Earl.

Crane, 63, has been a one-man writer and illustrator of the strip since 1990. That's 22 years; multiply it by 365 days a year and you get 8,030 comic strips. That's a lot of ideas to generate.

Enter social networking.

He has learned to be careful about relating his friends' life stories in the strip, especially when those stories are about animals — dead animals, to be specific — because that's the source of the few complaints he gets.

For instance, when a neighbor's cat died and the neighbor was saving up to get it stuffed and mounted, Earl suggested to Opal that they do the same for their cat, Muffin.

Not funny, his readers told him.

Another time, he did a series of strips based on one of his own Facebook-worthy dilemmas: whether to get new carpet now or after the incontinent dog dies. When Earl and Opal had the same discussion about their dog, Roscoe, Crane got angry letters.

Not funny, his readers told him.

So, he tends to stick to less controversial topics — like trying to keep from going bald and plucking unwanted chin hair.

We got to read what Opal and Earl have to say about their secret to everlasting love; what does their creator think keeps them together?

"They are cantankerous and crabby to each other but underneath it all, they really do have an enduring love."

Not unlike Crane and his wife of 40 years, Diana. "We met at college in 1970; married in 1972 and raised seven children," he said.

"I wouldn't be doing Pickles today if it weren't for her," he added. "After my first three rejections from the syndicates, I was ready to give up on the idea of doing a comic strip. But she insisted I try one more time, and, of course, that was the lucky charm.

"I have learned over the years that she is almost always right about everything, but I still insist on making my own bonehead mistakes from time to time."

Brian Crane lives in Sparks, Nev., outside Reno.

'Pickles' cartoonist Brian Crane uses Facebook for inspiration 02/21/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 21, 2012 3:30am]
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