It is with a very heavy heart that I must report another cartooning icon of my childhood has left us. The creator of the long-running newspaper comic strip The Family Circus
, Bil Keane
, has died of congestive heart failure at 89 in his Arizona home; the full obit is here
Although his son Jeff
has actually been drawing the strip the past few years so his dad could enjoy a well-earned retirement, Keane pére
still kept a close eye on the never-aging family of six (plus dog, cat and occasional smaller pet) he has chronicled since that first strip appeared on Leap Day, February 29 in 1960. Many could and did ridicule and parody his single-panel, circle-bound strip for its lack of social relevance or uproarious humor, but Keane said those were never his goal: "I don't just try to be funny...Many of my cartoons are not a belly laugh. I go for nostalgia, the lump in the throat, the tear in the eye, the tug in the heart."
Like its neighbor Peanuts
was comfort-food reading, one of those features you could always count on to grace your daily funny pages, the one you could turn to for a chuckle of recognition, a trigger for memories and an occasional "awww" of sentiment. Its gentle humor speaks to the things that happen in every family with young children, the ones you laugh about when they are grown but drive you absolutely up the wall when they happen. Bil's sharp artist's pen and uncanny knack for capturing the child's-eye view of things (even long after his own children reached adulthood) was what kept his strip in front of the readers of over 1,500 papers around the world for half a century...and unlike Peanuts
will continue in Jeff's able hands.
Prayers and deepest sympathies go out to his children, grandchildren and one great-grandchild, his Aussie wife Thel
having pre-deceased him by three years.Goodbye and thank you, sir, for generations of fun for readers and inspiration for other artists...including Your Humble Correspondent.