In a world of snarky comic strips, there was virtually nothing controversial about The Family Circus, the circular, single-panel strip drawn by Bil Keane for more than 50 years. Keane, who died Nov. 8 at 89, was the creator of wholesome Americana centered on Mommy, Daddy and their four children and steeped in his wry humor. Full of puns and clever devices--like the character Not Me!, a phantom who took the blame when the kids got into mischief--The Family Circus is syndicated in more than 1,500 newspapers.
Keane was a self-taught artist who drew cartoons for Stars and Stripes during World War II. While posted in Australia, he met his wife Thelma, a native Australian who inspired the character Mommy and was the mother of their five children. For years, Keane sketched out panels that were then completed by his youngest son, Jeff, who plans to carry on the strip. "I don't just try to be funny," Keane said in a 1990 interview. "My cartoons are not a belly laugh. I go for nostalgia, the lump in the throat, the tear in the eye, the tug in the heart."