November 10, 2011
The “Family Circus” comics captured a range of family experiences – from silly things kids say to the stresses of juggling work and family to favorite family traditions like vacation and trick-or-treating. The one-panel comics engendered laughs, but also left a sense of familiarity. As Keane said, according to the Associated Press, “I would rather have the readers react with a warm smile, a tug at the heart or a lump in the throat as they recall doing the same things in their own families.”
Actually, the “Family Circus” family was probably a lot like Keane’s family. The cartoon family has a similar number and gender of children (Bil was the father of one daughter and four sons) and the Mommy was modeled after Keane’s wife Thelma. Keane commented once that "I was portraying the family through my eyes. Everything that's happened in the strip has happened to me.”
If the life of Daddy, Mommy, Billy, Jeffy, Dolly, and P.J. in “Family Circus” gives us a picture of the Keane family, it’s pretty safe to say Bil was not only a talented cartoonist, but more importantly a great dad. As his son Jeff told the AP, "He was just our dad. The great thing about him is he worked at home, we got to see him all the time, and we would all sit down and have dinner together. What you see in the 'Family Circus' is what we were and what we still are, just different generations."
Thanks, Bil, for sharing your family with us through 50+ years of fun and endearing comics. Our condolences go out to your loved ones as they mourn your passing.
Here's a few favorite fatherhood moments from "Family Circus":