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.
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Tom Batiuk (rhymes with “attic”) was born in Akron, Ohio, in 1947, and his first cartoons were published in his elementary-school newspaper in Elyria. He won a national scholastic art award in high school, and after graduating from Kent State University with a bachelor of fine arts degree and a certificate in education, Batiuk became a high school art teacher.
Batiuk’s teaching experiences inspired him to create Funky Winkerbean in 1972. What began as a gag-a-day comic strip about high school life evolved as Batiuk himself matured. Through the years, he has stretched the creative boundaries of comic strip narrative humor, introducing real-life issues such as dyslexia, teen suicide, guns in the classroom, racial discrimination, teen-dating abuse, breast cancer, alcoholism and post-traumatic stress disorder in Funky Winkerbean. Batiuk has won accolades and awards from his peers as well as from educators and professional and civic organizations across the country for his outstanding treatment of serious social issues.
Batiuk has created other strips as well. In 1979, he launched into syndication John Darling, the adventures of a fictional talk-show host featuring celebrity caricatures. In 1987, he created his third comic strip, Crankshaft, based on the irascible school bus driver in Funky Winkerbean.
Chuck Ayers, artist of Crankshaft, was born in Akron, Ohio, in 1947. He graduated from Kent State University with a degree in graphic design. He began his cartooning career as a staff artist and later editorial cartoonist for the Akron Beacon Journal. Ayers has taught cartooning at Kent State University and the University of Akron. Ayers received a first-place award for editorial cartoons from the Ohio Associated Press in 1986. His work has been reprinted in The New York Times, Washington Post, Forbes Magazine and school textbooks.