Pickles is a rare comic strip in that it can make me laugh out loud. It’s the story of a retired married couple, Earl and Opal, and their extended family (their daughter Sylvia, her son Nelson, their cat and dog, and various other friends and relatives). I guess I would describe Earl and Opal as being tolerably married: Earl is a wise guy with too much time on his hands and not a whole lot of energy, while Opal is cheerful and motivated but won’t put up with Earl’s guff. (I’m reminded of the joke: “Retirement: Twice as much husband, half as much money.”)
The new collection came out last year: Let’s Get Pickled! It’s more of the same, but that’s not a bad thing. Creator Brian Crane has a clean line and a straightforward, Peanuts-like approach to panel layout. Most of the humor is in the characters rather than the pictures. This strip sums up Earl and Opal’s relationship pretty well:
(Click to view the strip)
The strip has lots of jokes about Earl and Opal’s sketchy memory and generally being elderly. I suppose whether all this is funny will depend on your point of view, but I usually find the humor to be tasteful:
Roscoe and Muffin are pretty hilarious at times, by the way. To some extent they’re similar to Percy and Pooch in Sinfest, although Roscoe is more befuddled than he is hyperactive, while Muffin can be downright mean to anyone but Opal. Sylvia I think mostly doesn’t know what to do with her parents, while Nelson loves his grandparents but frequently gets taken in by Earl trying to play tricks on him.
Earl is really the heart and soul of Pickles, which means it’s a very smart-alecky strip, which is probably why I like it:
Pickles reminds me a bit of Fox Trot in its cast of characters trying to one-up one another (or retaliate against those who already have), but I think Crane is a better artist, and his repertoire of humor is broader. It’s also not nearly as well known, which seems a shame. If you haven’t already, I suggest checking it out.
Earlier Pickles collections: