Saturday, November 19, 2011

Bil Keane, 1922 - 2011

Bill Keane & The Family Circus. Mirror UK image

On November 8, Bil Keane, creator of The Family Circus, passed away. I was so sad to learn of this. His syndicated single-panel comic strip, "The Family Circus" played such a big role in my life, for a time when I was young.

I discovered Family Circus in the Sunday funny pages when I was 9 or 10, and I was hooked. Over a period of time, I collected several (actually, quite a few) of the paperback book collections. I read them over and over and over again. I was drawn to the wholesome and simple but super-sharp humor—I greatly admired his writing. The well-rounded character development was a feat for a one panel strip. And last but not least, Bil Keane's art and awesome line work. His style was just flawless—I never got tired of looking at his art.

In the strip, the interpersonal relationships were a highlight, as were the humorous moments that sprang from them. I have three older siblings myself, so in many ways I related to Billy, Dolly, Jeffy, and P.J. and their situational conflicts... the pecking order.

The Family Circus has its share of detractors. Though generally snark-free, there are aspects that some find distasteful. Overt religious themes showed up fairly often. The strip could be didactic at times. And, even at it's edgiest, The Family Circus was still extremely earnest and uber-traditional— G-Rated to a fault.

But, therein lies its magic. Looking back, I now actually have a better handle on why I was initially so drawn to The Family Circus in the first place (great line-work and one-liners aside). The traditional aspects helped me feel more centered in my own (disrupted) young life. The Family Circus was a safety zone for me, a life preserver of sorts. I appreciated the wholesome, simple stories told with a just little dash of flavor but never even remotely facetious or flip. I found a sense of comfort in the consistent dependability of the family portrayed in the strip. I liked that any conflicts always landed softly. I liked how the sibling relationships may have had a little bit of zing sometimes, but never, ever were they acerbic or bitter. Aside from all these emotional aspects, I liked the fact that art played a big role in the family, as a profession and as a part of life. The father, Bil, was a cartoonist. I especially loved the days when Billy takes over the strip—my favorite!

So, thanks to Bil Keane. The Family Circus world that he created gave me such a gift of great childhood memories and enjoyment through his simple (and simply wonderful) stories and art.


> Bil Keane obituary
> Family Circus official site
> Wikipedia

Bill Keane tribute articles
>Mirror UK
> A.V. Club

Signature devices Bil used in Family Circus
> Billy takes over the strip
> Dashed line humor (shows the steps one takes to do a task) Examples: 1 2 3
> Thought bubbles
>Not Me & Ida Know
>Vignettes Examples: 1 2 3
Bil Keane 1990. Photo: Wikipedia

No comments: