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‘Family Circus’ Cartoonist Bil Keane Dies at 89

BilKeane
Christopher Keane, Wikimedia Commons

Bil Keane, who drew the one-panel cartoon ‘Family Circus’ for more than 50 years, died Tuesday of congestive heart failure at the age of 89.

‘Family Circus,’ which runs in 1,500 American newspapers, uses humor and traditional family values to chronicle the life and times of a clan with four kids, two harried parents, and three household pets.

Although Keane kept the strip current with references to pop culture movies and songs, he once said he felt consistency and simplicity were the keys to the cartoon’s enduring success.

“We are, in the comics, the last frontier of good, wholesome family humor and entertainment,” Keane said. “On radio and television, magazines and the movies, you can’t tell what you’re going to get. When you look at the comic page, you can usually depend on something acceptable by the entire family.”

But while his own comic strip may have been wholesome and simplistic, Keane also had an appreciation for the absurd — Gary Larson’s ‘The Far Side’ and Bill Griffith’s offbeat ‘Zippy the Pinhead’ were among his favorite cartoons by other artists.

He is survived by the five children he had with his wife Thelma “Thel” Keane, the inspiration for the Mommy character in ‘Family Circus,’ who died of Alzheimer’s disease three years ago.

[Associated Press]

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