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‘Off the Mark,’ ‘Pickles’ hit the stage

You’ll notice some new faces on our comics pages starting today.

It’s been four years since we’ve freshened up our comics, and some good new strips have come along since then.

So we’re going to test some of them out over the next few months, two at a time.

One of today’s entries actually features some familiar faces: “Pickles,” which has been running in our Sunday comics section since October 2008.

Brian Crane’s strip centers around a retired couple, Earl and Opal Pickles, and their extended family as they navigate their not-always-golden years.

“Pickles” was the runner-up (to “Tundra”) in our 2007 test of new comics, and readers have been asking that we add it to our daily pages ever since it debuted on Sundays. It was the most-requested new strip by far in our recent reader comics poll.

For now, it takes the place of “Get Fuzzy,” which our poll showed was easily our least-read comic.

(Yes, Satchel and Bucky fans, we realize “Pickles” is nothing like “Fuzzy.” But we’ll be testing other types of new strips, too, and whatever we end up picking will need to appeal to younger readers as well as older ones. Bear with us.)

Our other new offering today is “Off the Mark,” which is described as “a world of scheming pets, evil computers and talking plants that puts an ironic, absurd or just plain silly spin on the ordinary occurrences of everyday life.”

Mark Parisi’s “Far Side”-influenced creation was named Best Newspaper Panel by the National Cartoonists Society in 2009.

It takes the place of “6 Chix,” which our poll showed was the least-liked daily comic among people who read it regularly.

Both “Pickles” and “Off the Mark” will test-run for three or four weeks. After you tell us what you think about them, we’ll start two more trial strips in those spots, then two more after that – probably four or five comics, total, in each space.

We’ll be back next week with instructions on how to start voting on “Pickles.” Until then, happy reading.

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