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‘Family Circus’ Creator Bil Keane Passes Away at 89

Bil Keane, creator of the long-running syndicated comic strip The Family Circus, has passed away at the age of 89 from congestive heart failure according to The Associated Press. Appearing in more than 1,500 newspapers at its peak and inspiring numerous multimedia adaptations in animation and merchandise, Keane’s work on The Family Circus is known around the world for its family-oriented and heartfelt observational humor.Keane served in the United States Army from 1942 to 1945, where he contributed to Yank and Stars and Stripes. While stationed in Australia near the end of his armed services career, Keane met his future wife Thelma Carne. The two married in 1948 and moved to Pennsylvania, where Keane would work for 13 years at the Philadelphia Bulletin. In 1959 the Keanes and their five children (Gayle, Neal, Glen, Christopher and Jeff) relocated to Arizona, where Bil would begin chronicling he and his wife’s adventures in suburban parenting through an analogous cartoon family modeled after his own in the 1960 debut of The Family Circus.

Keane, who worked on the strip for more than half a century, never gave any indication that he wanted to stop creating, joking at the official Family Circus site, “If asked when I will retire I say “probably about 11 o’clock tonight. But, hopefully, I’ll be back at the ol’ drawing board in the morning and happy to be there!”

Given its continuously — and some might say increasingly — wholesome tone, The Family Circus strips have long been the subject of parody in new creations, mashups and remixes with varying degrees of reverence/irreverence. Even prominent cartoonists such as Pearls Before Swine creator Stephan Pastis have been known to get in on the joke, publishing playfully antagonistic strips built on a friendship with Bill’s son and assistant, inker and colorist Jeff Keane.

Jeff Keane, now 53 and a parent of three children of his own, is expected to continue his father’s work on the strip.

[Via The Associated Press]

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