Keane was known across America for his signature one-panel oval cartoons and reassuring, wide-eyed worldview through the lens of his main characters, based loosely on his children and home life. Family Circus, which began in 1960, still runs in over 1,500 newspapers today, even after Keane's son Jeff (the basis for character Jeffy) took over the comic as his father's health worsened.
Comic strip artists and political cartoonists have expressed their sadness at Keane's passing, influencing such disparate figures as Lynn Johnson of For Better or For Worse and Wiley Miller of Non Sequitur.
These cartoonists, in interviews with online blog Comic Riffs, reveal something few knew about a man whose strip was so focused on family values: he was whip-smart funny. Johnson, Miller, Jerry Scott of Zits and Hilary Price of Rhymes with Orange all remarked on their initial surprise at Keane's hilarious comebacks and general good-natured demeanor. For someone whose comics have been criticized for being sappy or simple, Keane could rattle off a one-liner with the best of them.
Bil was a misunderstood creative genius who knew how to write for his target audience, said Scott Adams of Dilbert fame. Critics were sometimes harsh, especially other cartoonists. But allow me to point out the obvious: If other cartoonists could make a family-oriented comic that was as popular as 'Family Circus,' they would have done it.
Keane-isms To Live By
Below, read some of Bil Keane's best quotes over the years:
Yesterday's the past, tomorrow's the future, but today is a gift. That's why it's called the present.
A hug is like a boomerang -- you get it back right away.
They invented hugs to let people know you love them without saying anything.
We are, in the comics, the last frontier of good, wholesome family humor and entertainment. On radio and television, magazines and the movies, you can't tell what you're going to get.
Everything that's happened in the strip has happened to me. That's why I have all this white hair at 39 years old.
Family Circus character Dolly: Dyeing eggs isn't the same as killing them, is it, Daddy?
I dropped the L [in the name Bill] just to be different.
It's reassuring, I think, to the American public to see the same family.
Bil Keane is one of many comic strip creators whose work has affected generations, and whose influence must now be felt only through the work and legacy they've left behind. A close friend of Keane, Peanuts creator Charles Schultz, passed away in 2000, followed by Johnny Hart (Wizard of Id, B.C. Comics) in 2007, Harvey Pekar (American Splendor) in 2010 and Tom Wilson (Ziggy) in September 2011.
Here, enjoy some more words of wisdom and funny quotes from Schultz and Wilson, the two men closest to the late Bil Keane.
Charles Schultz Quotes:
All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt.
Don't worry about the world coming to an end today. It is already tomorrow in Australia
It doesn't matter what you believe just so long as you're sincere.
I love mankind; it's people I can't stand.
My life has no purpose, no direction, no aim, no meaning, and yet I'm happy. I can't figure it out. What am I doing right?
Sometimes I lie awake at night and ask why me? Then a voice answers nothing personal, your name just happened to come up. Other times, I lie awake at night, and ask, 'Where have I gone wrong?' Then a voice says to me, 'This is going to take more than one night'.
I think I've discovered the secret of life -- you just hang around until you get used to it.
Tom Wilson Quotes:
Honesty is the best image.
My life is one long blooper reel!
How come 'fat chance' and 'slim chance' mean the same thing?
Nobody knows what the future will bring, but it's a good bet that there will be a delivery charge.
I've finally reached the age where my Wild Oats have turned into All-Bran.
Whoever said 'You can't buy love' probably never went into a pet shop.
You can complain because roses have thorns, or you can rejoice because thorns have roses.