"Crankshaft" reveals a deep, dark secret about the title character's life starting Monday, Oct. 3, in the Deseret News comics pages.

The cantankerous bus driver, Ed Crankshaft - like over 27 million other Americans - can't read.According to Creator's Syndicate, the company that markets "Crankshaft," the special continuing storyline on adult illiteracy has already received much acclaim and praise from newspaper editors and national literacy organizations for being sensitive, realistic, humorous and educational.

Tom Batiuk, creator, writer and artist of the "Crankshaft" strip, said the idea to do the story was inspired by his parents, who volunteer a lot of their time as tutors for adults who cannot read or write.

Batiuk said he has already done a good deal of research on the illiteracy subject, and he plans to do even more as the story develops. He also stresses that the story will not involve a quick-fix approach.

Crankshaft will learn to read, but it will be an on-going two year process that's more like what it would be in the real world, instead of the way things usually work in imaginary comics land.

What is Batiuk hoping to achieve with the series?

"As always, my first goal was to write as interesting and as readable a story as I could: A story about someone who has harbored a secret from his friends and loved ones all his life . . . and ultimately, a story about how he deals with it. This story isn't preachy or judgmental, but I have worked hard to make it factual.

"I think that using a character like Ed Crankshaft helps to personalize a problem like illiteracy, and, if it's done realistically, might lead some people who need more information on the subject to seek it out. That, to me, would be the real ultimate success of the series."

Batiuk also said the story will feature some unexpected twists and turns along the way.

In fact, Crankshaft's inability to read explains rather nicely why he has so far shunned all opportunities to read to his grandkids in the comic strip.