Earl and Opal Pickles are a beloved senior citizen couple that have been making newspaper readers chuckle into their morning coffee for over 30 years. As one of today’s most popular comic strips, “Pickles” delivers amusing observations about married life with heaping helpings of humor and heart.
The strip’s ability to find both laughs and wisdom in domestic life explains its long-running widespread appeal to readers across generations.
With over 800 newspaper syndications globally, the strip’s funny, thoughtful take on married life continues to entertain new and loyal fans daily. Its universality stems from the fact that no matter one’s age or background, everyone can relate to the comic situations Earl and Opal Pickles find themselves in.
Through all of life’s sour moments and sweet surprises, this charming couple tackles it together—that’s a sentiment anyone can understand.
Humble Beginnings of Pickles Comic Strip
“Pickles” first originated from the mind of talented cartoonist Brian Crane in 1988. While working a graphics job in California, Crane began doodling concepts for a new comic strip featuring a retired couple. His idea was to create “a strip that had a little bite to it” while also warmly celebrating the ups and downs of lifelong marriage.
Crane spent nearly two years diligently perfecting his concept and getting helpful input from his wife on thoughtfully crafting the personalities of Earl and Opal. All that hard work paid off—the “Pickles” comic strip debuted in 1990 and was quickly picked up for widespread syndication by over 50 major publications.
Readership continued to rapidly grow over the next decade as the beloved strip was featured in over 800 newspapers across the world thanks to its funny, relatable characters.
|Cartoonist Brian Crane first begins developing the “Pickles” concept
|Comic strip debuts in publications
|The early 2000s
|Syndicated in over 800 newspapers globally
Meet the Pickles Comic Family
At the heart of “Pickles” are stars Earl and Opal Pickles themselves. The strip’s anchors are portrayed as a married senior couple still deeply in love after 50 years together. They play off each other’s quirks while revealing the universal ups and downs of maintaining a lasting marriage.
Earl Pickles is characterized as a lovable curmudgeon with a penchant for sarcasm and teasing his patient wife Opal. Underneath Earl’s grumbles lies a big heart and sentimental streak which he only shows to his family. His favorite activities include golfing, lounging, and poking fun at Opal.
Opal Pickles serves as Earl’s cheerful, loving foil and anchor. She has an upbeat attitude and takes pleasure in simple things like gardening and spending quality time with her husband of 50 years. Opal often affectionately returns Earl’s teases while supporting his eccentricities and lazier hobbies.
While the Pickles couple are the main stars, the strip also features their friends and wider family. Their only child Nelson is often mentioned but rarely directly shown. Other occasional minor characters include the Pickles’ grandson Sylvester, their widowed neighbor Louise who is Earl’s love interest before Opal, and Earl’s older golf buddy Milt.
Poking Fun at the Ups and Downs of Marriage
“Pickles” skillfully derives much of its humor from gently poking fun at the quirks and frustrations of married life. No topic is off limits for talented cartoonist Brian Crane. Over 30+ years, the strip has insightfully touched on everything from playful bickering over the right way to load a dishwasher to navigating each other’s eccentricities over decades together.
Crane cleverly mines the daily frustrations and joys of the Pickles’ marriage for comedic fodder. Despite their occasional spats and squabbles, Earl and Opal still adore each other. Their lasting devotion serves as the emotional core anchoring the strip’s lighthearted jokes through times of strife.
The humor stems from the couple’s contrasting personalities and how they practically navigate life’s mundane activities together as a team.
- For example, strips may feature Opal’s failed, funny attempts to get Earl off the couch or the couple bickering over directions during a chaotic road trip. These everyday situations and observations will feel enjoyably familiar to any married reader.
Behind the Panels
Crafting six fresh, creative strips a week is no simple feat. Cartoonist Brian Crane, his artistic process starts with filling notebooks with unique ideas reflecting his marriage and funny relatable moments witnessed in daily life. He then selects the best concepts that inspire finished strips with the help of his assistant Stefan Pastis.
Crane works digitally to draw and ink the expressive Pickles characters against colorful, inviting backgrounds. The California locale of “Pickles” is brought to vivid life with scenery inspired by Crane’s gorgeous environment in Santa Rosa. Other visual elements like Earl’s quirky printed shirts and Opal’s unique hairstyles further embody the couple’s charming personalities.
Once completed with care, the strips are distributed by Crane’s syndicate King Features to over 800 newspapers globally for an audience of millions to enjoy daily. Cartoon aficionados can also enjoy collections of “Pickles” strips published in over 30 compilation books for years of laughs.
A Lasting Legacy
Part of the universal appeal of “Pickles” is its universality. No matter a fan’s age or background, everyone can relate to the comic situations Earl and Opal Pickles realistically find themselves in. The strip’s ability to insightfully find both laughs and wisdom in domestic life explains why it continues to run in hundreds of publications even after 30+ years.
During its extensive impressive run, “Pickles” has earned two nominations for the National Cartoonists Society’s prestigious Reuben Award for Best Newspaper Comic Strip. This high esteem from Crane’s peers recognizes the strip’s beloved, unique place in the comic world. Earl and Opal Pickles seem poised to continue delighting new generations of readers with their quirky adventures for years to come.
Final Words on Pickles Comic Strip
In the end, the enduring popularity of “Pickles” comes down to its heartfelt humor and honesty. More than just delivering laughs, the strip celebrates the ups and downs of an enduring romance between two perfectly imperfect yet compatible people.
Through all of life’s sour moments and sweet surprises, Earl and Opal tackle it together—that’s a sentiment anyone can warmly relate to.