Bil Keane, Creator of Family Circus, Dies at 89

Posted on November 10, 2011

Photo of Bil Keane, creator of The Family Circus

Bil Keane, the creator of the classic family cartoon The Family Circus, has died of congestive heart failure at the age of 89. King Features Syndicate says that Kean died at his home in Paradise Valley, Arizona, surrounded by his family. Bil's son now writes the comic which is syndicated in 1500 newspapers. The cartoon first appeared on February 29, 1960, in 19 newspapers.

Brendan Burford, Comics Editor for King Features Syndicate, said in a statement, "Bil was fortunate to know the respect of his peers and to have his characters embraced by people all over the world during his lifetime. We are fortunate that his son, Jeff, who has worked with him for years, will remain at the helm of the great feature and continue his father's tradition of putting a smile on readers' faces every day."

When asked about the cartoon, Keane would say that The Family Circus is all about the day to day life of an average American family. The family is made up of Mommy and Daddy, and their four children: Billy, Dolly, Jeffy and PJ. Other characters that appear in the strip are the dogs, Barfy and Sam, Kittycat and the grandparents. The cartoon is drawn in a circle to highlight the "sense of closeness between the characters," according to King Features. He based the strip initially on his own family.

Keane is survived by his children, nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild. His wife, Thel, died in 2008. Keane often said this about the cartoon he created, "If The Family Circus has any social value, it shows parents that their children are normal. And if there is a philosophy behind the feature, it's this: A home filled with love and laughter is the happiest place in the world."

Photo: King Features Syndicate