Via Jeff Keane’s Facebook page, word has come that Bil Keane, creator of the iconic Family Circus comic strip, has died. He was 89.

Begun in 1960, the single panel strip followed the mundane activities of Billy, Dolly, Jeffy, and P.J. and heir long suffering parents. Keane’s gentle humor was often the target of biting satire’s — recent parodies replaced the kid captions with quotes from Nietzsche and HP Lovecraft — but to a country expanding its suburban lifestyle in the post war years, the strip clearly resonated. Given that it was based on Keane’s own family, the resonance was personal. Keane’s most imitated elements include the “Not me!’ panels and the famed dotted line strips in which a path of childlike destruction was usually charter.

Keane’s son Jeff continues to draw the strip; anther son, Glen, is a noted animator.






  1. Who needs Nietzsche and Lovecraft when “Cameras shrink us so Grandma can carry us around in her wallet.”

    Cameras shrink us so Grandma can carry us around in her wallet.

    Oh God, the horror.

  2. “I Don’t Know” & “Not Me” will never be the same with him gone!
    That and the follow the dotted line that Jeffy took to get home.
    Bill Keane will be missed.

  3. I’m not a fan. But I respect Bil Keane’s popularity, and I appreciate that he gave us a good example to challenge the question of whether you need more than one panel to meet McCloud’s “juxtaposed” criterion, and I appreciate him giving us such excellent examples (in the dotted-line strips) of how a single panel can depict more than an instant in time. In doing so, he helped us define “comics”.

  4. I realize that many people consider The Family Circus to be corny and saccarine, but I have always enjoyed the warm hearted and gentle humour. Keane lived a long life, and created a lot of joy for those who read his strips aloud to their kids.

  5. I don’t know if it can still be found but several years ago someone created a website using Family Circle strips with new captions which completely changed the meaning of the cartoon. Bil Keane objected to this twisted use of his work and it was apparently taken down. To me the Family Circle was like the Brady Bunch, an idealized version of family life which could only have made children wonder why their lives were so miserable and not as happy as the comic strip world was. Maybe Bil Keane’s family life was like that but I’ve never met anyone whose childhood was remotely like his cartoon. Quite the opposite.

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