PHOENIX (AP) — For more than a half century, Bil Keane's clever "Family Circus" comics entertained readers with a mix of humor and traditional family values, intentionally simplistic because the author thought the American public needed the consistency.
Keane, who started drawing the one-panel cartoon featuring Billy, Jeffy, Dolly, P.J. and their parents in February 1960, died Tuesday at age 89. His comic strip is featured in nearly 1,500 newspapers across the country.
Jeff Keane, his son, said his father died of congestive heart failure. Bil Keane has a home in Paradise Valley, near Phoenix, but it was not immediately clear where he died.
"It's reassuring, I think, to the American public to see the same family," he said.
(Left: Bill Keane in 2006.)
(AP Photo/East Valley Tribune, Paul O'Neill)
"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.
"And how I did it was by making pictures and writing stories.
"I am so very sad to know Bill Keane has died. To me the Family Circus is my family. They are my soul family in the image world.
"That’s why if you say a word against Family Circus to me I will slug you so hard."
Click here for more Bil Keane tributes and memories from a variety of cartoonists, including Mike Luckovich, Mike Peters, and the cartoonists of 'Zits', 'Pearls Before Swine', 'Non Sequitor' and others, collected by Michael Cavna of the Washington Post's Comic Riffs blog.