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Crankshaft is a Spin-Off of Tom Batiuk's Funky Winkerbean that focuses on the day-to-day life of title character, curmurdgeonly eighty-five year old bus driver, Ed Crankshaft. Much like its parent, the strip combines character-based humor with story lines about issues that affect average Americans. It should also be noted that, since the title character and many others are over eighty years of age, much use is made of the same flashback device the parent strip does.
This strip contains examples of:
- Character Title
- Flashback Effects: the same shading effects as used in Funky Winkerbean.
- Foreshadowing: Some strips have had Crankshaft's malapropisms creep into normal speech ("dimensions" instead of "size", "gas store" instead of "gas station"). In real life, this word-salad is a sign of mental illness like dementia or Alzheimer's.
- Fridge Logic: That a ball player as good as Crankshaft was supposed to be would only get one shot at impressing big league scouts.
- Grilling Pyrotechnics: A Running Gag
- Grumpy Old Man: And how!! Most of the characters spend most of their time dealing with his sour outlook on life.
- Heroic Dog: A 2009 strip has Rose's dog, Tinkerbelle, jumping in front of a rattlesnake that was planning to strike at Crankshaft and getting bit herself.
- Karma Houdini: No matter how late Crankshaft is in delivering his charges to school, how many things he destroys because he's too stubborn and stupid to pay attention to what he's doing and how many people he offends, he's never had to endure any punishment more severe than being frowned at. And of course, in Batiuk's twisted world, the one man who actually deserves cancer will never get it.
- The 2009 "future Crankshaft" storyline may prove that someday, Crankshaft is due for some serious suffering.
- Love Letter Lunacy: For many years, Crankshaft had two elderly neighbors, Lillian and Lucy, sisters that through the course of their life had never married. Just before Lucy passed away, Lillian revealed to a comatose Lucy that she had stolen a letter from her beloved Eugene when he was deployed overseas, in which he mentioned that if Lucy never replied, he would never communicate with her again.
- Malaproper: Most of the punchlines are based on Crankshaft's mangling of proverbs and commonplace sayings. An entire week of Crankshaft in the hospital was even devoted to his daughter and her husband mocking his habit.
- Morality Pet: The plotines with Jefferson Jacks seem to exist almost entirely to show that Crankshaft has a soul - or at least had one in his minor league days.
- Narm: The end of the storyline listed below, Bushka Sr is bragging - fifty years later - about how he screwed Crankshaft out his shot at the big leagues. Readers were supposed to see him as a villain, but he came across as a sad old man who's personal Crowning Moment of Awesome was a petty act of For the Evulz.
- Never Learned to Read: One of the first issues-based story lines was the revelation that the title character was illiterate; this led to an examination of literacy classes for the elderly as well as a flashback that depicted the grandfather of Funky Winkerbean's Coach Bushka destroying Ed's dream of playing in the Majors by switching out the line-up card (which Crankshaft had someone else read for him) just long enough to trick Crankshaft into missing a scheduled start with big league scouts in attendance.
- Take That, Critics!: Batiuk once used a Sunday strip as a means to answer critics who objected to the storyline in Funky Winkerbean that revolved around Lisa's slow, agonizing death from cancer.
- Teen Pregnancy: One storyline involved a student that rides on Crankshaft's bus going through one, she ends up having the baby on the bus after it became stuck in snow. She names the baby boy Ed after Crankshaft and in a flash forward is visiting the man's grave together.
- Wring Every Last Drop Out of Him: The slow, agonizing death of Crankshaft's former neighbor from complications of Alzheimers.