Panel cartoonistBil Keane

A cartoonist, Keane created the “Family Circus” panel, set in a circle to make the scenes feel close. (It was originally titled “Family Circle”, but the magazine of the same name objected.) “Circus” is still syndicated to nearly 1,500 newspapers, making it the most-circulated syndicated comic panel, according to King Features, which distributes it. “I don’t just try to be funny,” Keane explained in a 1990 interview. “Many of 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.” The characters were based on his own family, perhaps too closely: shortly after it started (in 19 newspapers in 1960), people would stop his wife to ask, “Aren’t you the Mommy in ‘Family Circus’?” Keane’s son Jeff has been working with his father on the cartoon, and will continue it. Keane died November 7 from congestive heart failure. He was 89.

From This is True for 13 November 2011