Friday, November 11, 2011

Bil Keane

Bil Keane, the creator of the comic strip the Family Circus, died on November 8. He was still producing strips until his death although his son Jeff had taken over a lot of the work.

When it started in 1960, the strip was called the Family Circle. The daily strip had a few characters in a circle with a dialog caption at the bottom. There was some confusion about the strip's relationship with Family Circle magazine (none) so the same was changed to the Family Circus.

While the daily strip usually only contained a few characters, the Sunday strip often featured the entire family with a barrage of word balloons. The idea was that all of the kids were talking at once.

The art in the strip had a very 60s look which continues to today. The main concession to time was the mother getting a new hairstyle in the 1980s. Only a few other things changed - the baby PJ was added, a second dog was adopted, they traded the family car in on a minivan, and the father got glasses.

While the barrage of word balloons continued, other jokes took over the Sunday strips. One frequent one showed the circuitous path that one of the sons took going from one place to another, usually punctuated with a line about "I came straight here." Other strips featured ghosts named "Idda Know" and "Not Me" who were responsible for any mayhem in the house ("Who broke the vase?" "Not Me!").

A few times a year the oldest child Billy would supposedly take over the Sunday strip so his father could have a day off. These featured outrageous puns.

Keane was gracious about allowing parodies of his strip. In an interview he said that it flattered him. Family Circus characters often appear in Pearls Before Swine (seldom in a good light) with Keane's permission.

Keane never tried to be the funniest cartoonist but was usually good for a mild chuckle. The Family Circus is one of the world's most widely syndicated strips.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ah, how well I remember this...even the confusion with my mom's subscription to Family Circle!