Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Thanks for memories, Mr. Keane

Sad news tonight. Bil Keane, the creator of the popular daily comic panel strip "The Family Circus," died yesterday. He was 89. The story is here.

According to King Features Syndicate, which distributes it, "The Family Circus" is the most widely read syndicated panel. It's a delightful, if sometimes overtly sentimental, bright spot in the day. I've read it, along with two other strips, regularly for more than 25 years. It isn't "Peanuts," but it's pretty good.

Keane used the "Circus" circle to find humor in the adventures of his real-life brood. One I read just this past week had one of the kids yelling after the father, who was carting off two large bags of leaves, "Wait, Dad, here's some more for you," while shaking a few more out of the trees in the family's yard.

It was never irreverent or smug, just cute and warm, as comforting and familiar as an old friend.

"Many of my cartoons are not a belly laugh. I go for nostalgia, the lump in the throat, the tear in the eye, the tug in the heart," Keane told the Los Angeles Times in 1990.

Years and years ago, "The Family Circus" partnered with KOA Campgrounds. The family was featured in KOA literature, which I can remember reading while spending summers camping with my grandparents, dreaming about traveling the country by camper.

Keane's passing won't be the national mourning moment that followed Charles Schultz's death. But he'll be missed. His youngest son and longtime collaborator, Jeff, will continue the panel.

Thanks for the memories, Mr. Keane.

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