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November 9, 2011 11:24 AM   Subscribe

Bil Keane, creator of famous (and often mocked) newspaper comic The Family Circus, has died at 89.
posted by mightygodking (78 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Not me!



(Sorry.)


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posted by darkstar at 11:25 AM on November 9, 2011 [8 favorites]


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posted by LakesideOrion at 11:25 AM on November 9, 2011


Aaaand having now seen the title of the post, I hang my head in abject shame.
posted by darkstar at 11:26 AM on November 9, 2011 [6 favorites]




mightygodking that archive is A TOP INTERNET SECRET SHHH!
posted by The Whelk at 11:27 AM on November 9, 2011


I feel like drawing one of those Billy wandering around the neighborhood cartoons, except he doesn't end up anywhere, just standing there staring off into the sunset.

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posted by never used baby shoes at 11:27 AM on November 9, 2011 [11 favorites]


o
posted by resurrexit at 11:29 AM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


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posted by deezil at 11:29 AM on November 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


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posted by rahnefan at 11:30 AM on November 9, 2011


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posted by VanishingPoint at 11:30 AM on November 9, 2011


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posted by oneironaut at 11:30 AM on November 9, 2011


well i'll be dawg
posted by rahnefan at 11:31 AM on November 9, 2011


Ida Know, Not Me seems innocent.
posted by josher71 at 11:31 AM on November 9, 2011


He had a good long life, and his cartoons always evoked a much simpler, happier, mid-western time and mentality. I probably appreciated his cartoons more when I was 10, there are always more 10-year olds.
posted by crunchland at 11:31 AM on November 9, 2011 [13 favorites]


Now ghost granddad will have a partner.


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posted by dr_dank at 11:33 AM on November 9, 2011 [14 favorites]


He made a lot of people smile.
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:35 AM on November 9, 2011



posted by dbiedny at 11:35 AM on November 9, 2011


Oh god! I can see forever!
posted by wcfields at 11:37 AM on November 9, 2011 [6 favorites]


While I was never a huge fan of his work, it inspired some brilliant spin-off projects which made me laugh more than a little.

And that alone is a worthy legacy.
posted by quin at 11:37 AM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Like many I made fun of Family Circus as an adult, but as a kid it was one of my favorite comics in the paper. When I was teaching myself how to cartoon in grade school I used many of Bil Keane's drawings as models to copy and learn from. First the big round heads and basic body shapes, and then poses. I didn't realize it at the time, but his cartoons have a simple elegance that's pleasing to the eye, which is probably why he was one of the cartoonists I wanted to emulate.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 11:39 AM on November 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


By all accounts, he also enjoyed the spin-off projects as well and appreciated them for what they were.
posted by Curious Artificer at 11:39 AM on November 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


I certainly did my fair share of mocking The Family Circus, but the man knew his craft and by all accounts I've ever heard, he was quite easy and bighearted about people poking fun at his strip. Cheers, man.
posted by Wolfdog at 11:40 AM on November 9, 2011 [7 favorites]


Should have included in post:

Jersey Circus
Nietzsche Circus
posted by mightygodking at 11:41 AM on November 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


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posted by drezdn at 11:44 AM on November 9, 2011


There's one of those detourned Family Circus panels with the little girl watching a TV and yelling "Oh my god, they hit the second tower!" that made me laugh a long, hard laugh, and makes me laugh every single time I think about it, so there's that. It probably says something very grim about my personality, but here we are.

The guy had a consistent iconography.
posted by sonascope at 11:44 AM on November 9, 2011 [6 favorites]


I wrote an essay on the Family Circus, by reading/reading into a million of the comics, I had to figure out who the intended audience was. It gave me an unexpected/unfortunate appreciation for them. One of the most fun essays I wrote.

Also, from the movie Go:

"What do you have against The Family Circus?"

"You read your paper... and you're enjoying your two-page comic spread. And there's The Family fucking Circus... bottom right corner, just waiting to suck. And that's the last thing you read, so... it spoils everything you read before it."

"You could just not read it."

"I hate it, yet I'm uncontrollably drawn to it."


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posted by hopeless romantique at 11:46 AM on November 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


I always loved the "deep" reviews of his books on Amazon.
posted by cccorlew at 11:47 AM on November 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


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posted by zylocomotion at 11:47 AM on November 9, 2011


Also a personal favorite:

Scott Meets Family Circus


Keane always seemed like a nice old guy in interviews I read and what I've read about him, and the strip must have entertained some people. It's saccharine to a lot of us, but there's a reason why some people think that's the same as sweet, so more power to him. His comics pushed a conservative, family values-y, status quo world view that I'm not always comfortable with, but at least, his strip never was assholey (like a lot of the old timers on the comics page today), so I'm not gonna dance on his grave.


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posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:48 AM on November 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


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posted by shakespeherian at 11:49 AM on November 9, 2011


Rooney, Frazier, Heavy D, Bill Keane, we have been losing them fast and furious this week. :(

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posted by sweetkid at 11:51 AM on November 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


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posted by 200burritos at 11:54 AM on November 9, 2011


Lynda Barry's Family Circus story, from the recent NYT profile:

“I grew up in a house that had a whole lot of trouble,” she said. “As much trouble as you could imagine. In the daily paper, there were all these comic strips, and there was one that was a circle. It seemed like things were pretty good on the other side of the circle. No one’s getting hit. No one’s yelling.”

Once, at a comics convention, she shook hands with Bil Keane’s son, Jeff — Jeffy — who now inks the strip. Barry instantly burst into tears. She told the class why: “Because when he put his hand out and I touched it, I realized I had stepped through the circle. I was on the other side of the circle, the place where I wanted to be. And how I got there was I drew a picture.”

posted by neroli at 11:55 AM on November 9, 2011 [58 favorites]


I spent a lot of time on the DFC in its spinnwebe days, and I still count some of those people among my good friends.

I am hard-pressed to know how to react to this. Really gross jokes seem somehow totally apt and wildly inappropriate all at the same time.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:57 AM on November 9, 2011 [7 favorites]


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posted by brundlefly at 11:57 AM on November 9, 2011


Gotta give Bill props.

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posted by Thorzdad at 11:58 AM on November 9, 2011


What they won't tell you is that he died tripping his nut sack into a frenzy of dik play.
posted by fleetmouse at 12:01 PM on November 9, 2011 [8 favorites]


Sweetkid, my thoughts exactly. They say these things come in three's but that's five so far, since last Friday, 4 November. What a sad week....

I've always looked for the Family Circus cartoon, every since I was a kid reading the Daily News in NYC. The parodies that different people did (Stephan Pastis of Pearls Before Swine comes to mind first) always made me think that his cartoon was more widely known than people thought (or at least than I thought).

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posted by KillaSeal at 12:05 PM on November 9, 2011


I enjoyed Family Circus I was a kid. I particularly remember obsessively tracing the circuitous dashed line used in many a strip to map Billy's travels. Family Circus was a lot of things, but that detail is one Keane definitely got right.

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posted by Songdog at 12:09 PM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Keane was pretty cool to Spinn about the DFC, so props for that.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:10 PM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I remember how Keane let the DFC hit 500 and retire it there, rather than flip out and demand it shut down immediately.

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posted by dragoon at 12:11 PM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


When I was a kid I loved that comic. Even now, it still has a sort of true-to-life, kids say the darndest things sort of appeal.

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posted by Gary at 12:13 PM on November 9, 2011


The man made a living drawing a single panel cartoon for his entire life. If that's not living the dream, I don't know what is. Much respect to you, Mr. Keane. I may have mocked (and will continue to mock) your creation, but damn if I don't wish I could do the exact same thing.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:13 PM on November 9, 2011 [6 favorites]


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posted by lilkeith07 at 12:18 PM on November 9, 2011


Bil said that his father once caught him writing on the wall as a child and proceded to knock the L out of him...and that's why he spelled Bil with one L.

As a child I liked the strip and I think it's fashionable to down it when you get older. It's a strip that's gentle and has little conflict. It has its place and I'm glad it's still around.

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posted by inturnaround at 12:20 PM on November 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


Family Circus is sappy and simple, rarely funny, yet somehow more vital and honest than contemporary crap culture like, say, Real Housewives of X or Thomas Kinkade, Painter of Trite™.

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posted by eyeballkid at 12:20 PM on November 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


“I grew up in a house that had a whole lot of trouble,” said Lynda Barry. “As much trouble as you could imagine. In the daily paper, there were all these comic strips, and there was one that was a circle. It seemed like things were pretty good on the other side of the circle. No one’s getting hit. No one’s yelling."

Once, at a comics convention, she shook hands with Bil Keane’s son, Jeff — Jeffy — who now inks the strip. Barry instantly burst into tears. She told the class why: “Because when he put his hand out and I touched it, I realized I had stepped through the circle. I was on the other side of the circle, the place where I wanted to be.""
posted by bicyclefish at 12:21 PM on November 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


bicyclefish

Double.
posted by The Confessor at 12:25 PM on November 9, 2011


One of the most awesome things about the Family Circus was Bill Keane's 1994 crossover "jam session" with Bill Griffith's Zippy the Pinhead. Griffith originally intended to satirize Keane's strip, then called the artist after a change of heart; a friendship ensued, with the two strips' creators making recurrent nods to each over over the years.

So here's three rocks, two trees, and a fence for the laughs and fond memories.

...YYIIIIII
posted by Smart Dalek at 12:30 PM on November 9, 2011 [8 favorites]


...is survived by his wife Thel, 4 kids, and his Crypto-partner Uncle Roy.

Thanks, Bill. you made me laugh a lot, maybe not in the way you expected, but I had a great time.

a big, 72 point period for Bill.
posted by Mcable at 12:32 PM on November 9, 2011


I loved it as a kid and grew to hate it as an adult. Sincere thanks for the joy you once brought to me, Bil. I don't give many dots, but you get a dot.

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Poop holds the tent wher it is.
posted by bondcliff at 12:41 PM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


And let us not forget the great Comic Strip Switcharoo, where Bill wrote Dilbert and Scott Adams wrote Family Circus for a day.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 12:53 PM on November 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


+------------------------------------------------------------------------+ 
|                                                                        |  
|   X ~~~~~~~~~~~~~                                                      |  
|                 ~~             ~~~~~~~               ~~~~~             |  
|               ~~~~              ~    ~             ~~    ~~~~          |   
|         ~~~~~~    ~~~          ~~    ~             ~         ~~~       |  
|        ~~        ~~ ~~~     ~~~~   ~~              ~~          ~~      |  
|        ~        ~~     ~~~~~      ~~                ~~~         ~      |   
|         ~~     ~~               ~~    ~~~~~~~~~       ~~~~       ~     |  
|           ~~~~~~               ~~   ~~        ~~         ~~      ~     |  
|                                ~   ~~          ~         ~~      ~     |  
|                    ~~         ~~  ~           ~~     ~~~~~       ~     |   
|                 ~~~  ~~~      ~~~~~      ~~~~~      ~           ~~     |  
|                ~       ~           ~~~~~~           ~         ~~~      |  
|      ~~        ~       ~            ~               ~~       ~         | 
|     ~~~~~      ~        ~            ~               ~~~   ~~          |  
|   ~~     ~~~~~~~        ~~          ~~~                ~~~~~           |  
|   ~                       ~~~~ ~~~~~                 ~~~~~~~           | 
|   ~       ~~~~~~             ~~~                ~~~~~~      ~~~~       | 
|   ~~    ~~~     ~~~                        ~~~~~               ~~  .   | 
|     ~~~~          ~~~~~~~~~~~~        ~~~~~                            | 
|                              ~~~~~~~~~                                 |  
+------------------------------------------------------------------------+ 
Oh, and: Dysfunctional Family Circus
posted by mazola at 12:55 PM on November 9, 2011 [13 favorites]


Heh. I had scooted my chair back a couple feet, and was squinting at it, and had just about convinced myself that the blob on the right might be Dolly's arm - then I got it.
posted by Wolfdog at 12:57 PM on November 9, 2011


There's a lady at my church (she's super nice, BTW) with the same hair and dark eyes as The Mom in Family Circus. I have trouble remembering her name, but when I call her "Family Circus lady" my wife knows who I mean.

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posted by wenestvedt at 1:02 PM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]



Growing up in Phoenix I met Bil Keane helping out at a Telethon my Dad was doing (long, weird, hippie, methadone, story.) This had to have been in the 70's some time. The guy could not have been nicer. Not only did he hang out with us kids, he drew us each a picture on a paper plate and signed it.

So:

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posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:07 PM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


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I especially enjoyed all the times Bil would "take time off and let Jeffy draw the strip", originally because I love bad puns (and they were Jeffy's specialty) but later because it was almost a fourth-wall breaker since the real-life Jeffy grew up to take over from his dad.

But both Bil and Jeff have been extremely good sports about other comics mess with the Circus.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:22 PM on November 9, 2011


"...is survived by his wife Thel, 4 kids, and his Crypto-partner Uncle Roy."

Thelma Keane died of Alzheimer's disease in 2008 and was the inspiration for the Mommy character in the comic strip.
posted by Cranberry at 2:01 PM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by ZeusHumms at 2:07 PM on November 9, 2011


It's funny... although my tastes ran to Doonesbury and Calvin & Hobbes (and Zippy the Pinhead), I seemed to always find myself reading Family Circus. I'm not sure why. And... enjoying it.

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posted by kinnakeet at 2:27 PM on November 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


People still live in those little golden towns of our imagined childhoods. Family Circus was the last little porthole off the stern at sunset.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 3:24 PM on November 9, 2011


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Barfy wasn't named for vomit; it was a portmanteau of bark and arf.
posted by brujita at 3:58 PM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I had a lot of fun when I was younger tracing the kids' paths between A and B in the Sunday Comics section. As an adult I never appreciated the comic much, but as a kid, it was great.

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posted by hippybear at 4:13 PM on November 9, 2011


As a kid, I loved it because it was a peek into the kind of happy family life I never had. I have the same sort of warm, fuzzy, nostalgic feelings about it that I have about Play Doh, and fluffy, tiny kitten tummies.

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posted by MexicanYenta at 4:20 PM on November 9, 2011


As Josh Fruhlinger wrote it: RIP, Big Daddy Keane.

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posted by Chichibio at 4:51 PM on November 9, 2011


Meanwhile, little Jeffy (age 53) has been writing and drawing the strip for years now, so expect exactly zero changes on that front, and our mockery to continue unabated. Also Fruhlinger.
posted by Chichibio at 4:53 PM on November 9, 2011


I always loved the "deep" reviews of his books on Amazon.

Way back at the dawn of the Amazonian era, scurrilous book reviews were often deleted by the moderators. But one of these "deep" reviews sneaked through to be included in a "Best of Amazon Reviews" feature on their website. Soon the floodgates were opened to an entirely new micro/meta genre. Bil Keane is in heaven now, gazing down benevolently, and wearing a three wolves howling at the moon shirt.
posted by ovvl at 5:03 PM on November 9, 2011


Would someone please explain mazola's drawing to me before my wife and I lose our minds?
posted by 4ster at 5:22 PM on November 9, 2011


It's just a dashed line meandering around.
posted by Wolfdog at 5:36 PM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thank you. Also:


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posted by 4ster at 5:37 PM on November 9, 2011


bicyclefish

Double.


Heh, Dilbert For A Day...

You know, I knew Lynda Barry back in the day. And I remember mentioning to her once in conversation that her work -- and this was before her first book, even, mind you -- reminded me of Aline Kominsky a bit, an Aline Kominsky who could draw. And she claimed to know nothing, not a thing about Aline Kominsky. And this was after Dirty Laundry and Arcade comics had come out, with comics by Kominsky not only attached to the name of Robert Crumb but in her own right -- which made Kominsky a name as a woman comics artist even then.

And in the voice of Jimmy Stewart, I thought to myself 'Now, now, now wait just a doggone minute! I find this lack of knowledge hi- hi- highly unbelieveable...' and have cocked a Vulcan eyebrow at many an assertion of hers I have read thereafter. Just sayin'...

That said, I think she is incredibly talented and deserves all of her success blah blah woof.

On Topic: Family Circus was something I always read when it was in the paper. But I won't miss it. Not like I miss Moon Mullins, say...
posted by y2karl at 5:42 PM on November 9, 2011


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posted by jquinby at 5:47 PM on November 9, 2011


Of all the parodies of Family Circus. this is the god awfullest, NSFW/NSFLest, disgustingest, probably should be banned and the kill the person who came up with itest, I have ever seen.

In other words, you'll probably want to bookmark it.
posted by timsteil at 6:26 PM on November 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


Meanwhile, little Jeffy (age 53) has been writing and drawing the strip for years now


I feel compelled to point out that Bil Keane's ultimate artistic legacy might be his other son, Glen Keane. In addition to being the original inspiration for FC's Billy, Glen is also one of Disney Animation's all-time-great supervising animators, and was the artist whose work brought Ariel, The Beast, and Aladdin to life.
posted by Strange Interlude at 7:06 PM on November 9, 2011 [5 favorites]




I was part of the filthy rabble at the Dysfunctional Family Circus when it closed up. While I thought the closure was sadly inevitable, I ended up with a great deal of respect for Bil Keane. He personally called Spinn and just talked the whole thing over like folks and artists. He impressed me for being down-to-earth about the whole thing. The fact that he turned out to have a wicked sense of humor was pretty cool, too.

And the Zippy crossover rules.
posted by Spatch at 11:09 PM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


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posted by LobsterMitten at 3:01 PM on November 10, 2011


sonascope: "There's one of those detourned Family Circus panels with the little girl watching a TV and yelling "Oh my god, they hit the second tower!" that made me laugh a long, hard laugh, and makes me laugh every single time I think about it, so there's that. It probably says something very grim about my personality, but here we are."

If you like that, you'll love the two strips that actually ran on September 10th and 11th (2002).
posted by Rhaomi at 5:19 PM on November 10, 2011


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