Thursday, November 10, 2011

RIP Bil Keane

I know that we all love to make fun of it, but Family Circus was the stuff Sunday morning was made of for many of us. I always had a secret soft spot for it and I'm not sure why it never occurred to me before now that it may very well be because it resembled my own family in many ways: too many kids, an adorable mother, constant havoc. It was too precious by half which made it perfect fodder for critics and people who love to ape the nuclear family. In fact, when searching on-line for a panel to accompany this entry, I found just as many parodies as there were originals. But as sentimental as it is and as overly cutesy as it can be, it was genuine, heartfelt, sweet, and beautifully rendered. And it remains, rightly so, one of the great American funnies. RIP Bil Keane, the creator of all those circles, the father of all those children.

"There was something about the life on the other side of that circle that looked pretty good. For kids like me there was a map and a compass hidden in Family Circus. The parents in that comic strip really loved their children. Their home was stable. It put that image in my head and I kept it.
I’d always heard that great art will cause people to burst into tears but the only time it ever happened to me was when I was introduced to Bil Keane’s son, Jeff. As soon as I shook his hand I just started bawling my face off because I realized I had climbed through the circle."
- Lynda Barry, New York Times Magazine