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For more than a half century, Bil Keane's gentle “Family Circus” comics entertained readers with a mix of humor and traditional family values, intentionally simplistic because the author thought the American public needed that consistency.
Keane, who started drawing the one-panel cartoon featuring Billy, Jeffy, Dolly, P.J. and their parents in February 1960, died Tuesday at age 89. His comic strip is featured in nearly 1,500 newspapers across the country.
Claudia Smith, a spokeswoman for the comic distributor King Features Syndicate, confirmed his death but said no other details were immediately available. Keane has a home in Paradise Valley, near Phoenix.
Keane said in a 1995 interview with The Associated Press that the cartoon endured because of its consistency and simplicity.
“It’s reassuring, I think, to the American public to see the same family,” he said.
Although Keane kept the strip current with references to pop culture movies and songs, the context of his comic was timeless. The ghost-like “Ida Know” and “Not Me” who got blamed for household accidents were staples of the strip. The family's pets were dogs Barfy and Sam, and the cat, Kittycat.
“We are, in the comics, the last frontier of good, wholesome family humor and entertainment,” Keane said. “On radio and television, magazines and the movies, you can't tell what you’re going to get. When you look at the comic page, you can usually depend on something acceptable by the entire family.”
His friend Charles M. Schulz, the late creator of “Peanuts,” once said the most important thing about “Family Circus” is that it's funny.
"I think we share a care for the same type of humor," Schulz told The Associated Press in 1995. "We're both family men with children and look with great fondness at our families."