Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Celebrating the life of Bil Keane

The Family Circus is one of my favorite comics. These comics always "hit home" with expressions like "Go to Your Room!" and "I'm Already Tucked In."  They personify a lighter, more loving side of family dynamics that survived (for good reason) the heavy sarcastic "wit" that hit the scene during the protests of the US occupation in Vietnam. 

Never having had the privilege of meeting Mr. Keane, I cannot speak from personal experience, but it seems to me that he loved his family so much that he couldn't hold it in - and that's why he created Family Circus. 

He shared his love for his family with an eager audience who took delight and pleasure from his comics. Having grown up with The Family Circus, I always knew what to expect in terms of feeling good after reading his work. No matter what the topic, it usually resonated as something we kids did growing up. It also resonated in terms of the silly things our parents and grandparents would do and say in response to our antics. It's this type of humor that truly melts my heart. I was deeply saddened today when I read of Mr. Keane's passing. 

I'll end this post with a heartfelt condolence to his family, the tight net circle that dared draw us close enough to smile and laugh together. Laughing together is the essence of true humor. Never did I read one Family Circus comic that stooped to laughing "at" someone - that is a gem in a world filled with ridicule and strife. 

As I continue posting more on the subject of humor, laughter, and comics, you can bet that I'll be posting many more Family Circus comics because I think the world prefers to laugh wholeheartedly instead of nervously, and that's what Family Circus offered for over 50 years. 

Below is "The Story of My LIfe" by Bil Keane...



I was born in Philadelphia. Well, I wasn't exactly born, I was discovered there by Benjamin Franklin (Oct. 5, 1922). I grew up in that city with a penn by my side--William Penn! When asked who cracked the Liberty Bell I replied, "Not me!"--my first association with that invisible gremlin who showed up in "The Family Circus" many years later.

Taught myself to draw, so I can't blame anyone but me. Started cartooning in high school which I attended when I grew too tall for low school. Spent 3 years in the U.S. Army during World War II, but we won anyway. While stationed in Australia I met a cute koala bear named Thel Carne who was trying futilely to throw away a boomerang. I, too, returned--5 years later and we were married in Brisbane. 
In Roslyn, Pa. we started our real-life family circus. They provided the inspiration for my cartoons; I provided the perspiration.

I worked at the Phila. Bulletin for 15 years where I was a staff artist. I drew staffs. I launched "Channel Chuckles" in 1954, a syndicated cartoon about TV. 
The TV repairman was at our house so much I thought he was part of the family. In fact, later I named one of my cartoon characters after him: Barfy. I drew free-lance cartoons for the majormagazines and a Sunday comic for the Bulletin called "Silly Philly."
In 1959 I decided to work from my home and we moved the whole family lock, stock and barrel to Arizona. We managed the lock and stock okay, but had trouble with the barrel. We still live in the same house near Phoenix and love the state.
Even its canyons are grand.

"The Family Circus" bowed in 1960 and I've been going around in circles ever since. It now appears in over 1500 newspapers whose editors have excellent taste in comics. Readership polls place "The Family Circus" at the top regularly. And it's a very nice view from atop a poll.
"Family Circus" has appeared on TV in holiday specials and has been published regularly by Fawcett Gold Medal Books in paperback collections. 
There are over 14 million "Family Circus" books in print. If you can't find a copy in your book store, come over to my house--I have 13 1/2 million of them.
In 1983 I was named cartoonist of the year by the National Cartoonist Society and at the awards dinner I was given a sitting ovation.
We now have nine grandchildren who I like to follow around for grand ideas.
Thel is my editor and consultant. Youngest son Jeff inks and colors the cartoons. The Syndicate does the selling.
Come to think of it, what do I do? I keep in shape (I'm not sure what the shape is) by playing tennis and jogging.
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!"

Love to All!

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