Bil Keane

Infobox Comics creator
name = Bil Keane

imagesize = 250px
caption = Bil Keane at work in his studio in 1990
birthname = William Aloysius Keane
birthdate = birth date and age|1922|10|5|mf=y
location = Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
deathdate =
deathplace =
nationality = American
area = Cartoonist
alias =
notable works = "Family Circus"
"Channel Chuckles"
awards = full list
spouse = Thelma Carne (1948–2008)
children = Gayle, Neal, Glen, Christopher, Jeff

Bil Keane (born October 5 1922) is an American cartoonist best known for his work on the long-running newspaper comic "The Family Circus", which began its run in 1960 and continues in syndication.


Keane was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He taught himself to draw while attending Northeast Catholic High School by mimicking the style of the cartoons published in "The New Yorker". His first [ cartoon] was published on May 21 1936 on the amateur page of the "Philadelphia Daily News".

Keane served in the U.S. Army from 1942 to 1945, drawing for "Yank" magazine and creating the "At Ease with the Japanese" feature for the Pacific edition of "Stars and Stripes". While stationed in Australia he met Thelma "Thel" Carne. cite news |first=Amanda Lee |last=Meyers |title=Thelma Keane; Wife Of Cartoonist Bil Keane |url=|work= Associated Press |publisher=The Washington Post |date=2008-05-27 |accessdate=2008-05-29] Bil and Thel were married in Brisbane in 1948 and settled in Roslyn, Pennsylvania. Thel, the inspiration for the "Mommy" character in his long-running strip, died on May 23 2008 from complications due to Alzheimer's Disease. [ Inspiration for 'Family Circus' Mommy dies] , CNN retrieved 2008-05-26] They have five children, Gayle, Neal, Glen, Christopher and Jeff.

He worked for the "Philadelphia Bulletin" as a staff artist from 1946 to 1959, where he launched his first regular comic strip "Silly Philly". His first syndicated strip, "Channel Chuckles", premiered in 1954 and ran until 1977.

In 1959, the Keane family moved to Paradise Valley, Arizona. His daily newspaper panel "The Family Circus" premiered on February 29, 1960.

Keane was the president of the National Cartoonists Society from 1981-1983 and was the emcee of the NCS annual awards banquet for 16 years.

From 1981 to 1983, Bil also published the gag strip "Eggheads" in collaboration with his son Jeff. Jeff currently acts as Bil's assistant and is expected to take over daily production of the strip when Bil retires. [Keane, Christopher, [,M1"Family Circus: The Next Generation"] , Cartoon Profiles, Issue No. 127, pg. 11, September 2000, Retrieved 2008-05-26 ]


Keane is a four-time recipient of the National Cartoonists Society's Award for Best Syndicated Panel, winning in 1967, 1971, 1973 and 1974. [cite web
title = NCS Newspaper Panel Awards
publisher = National Cartoonist Society Website
url =
accessdate =2008-04-30
] Then in 1982, Keane was named the Society's Cartoonist of the Year and received its top honor, the Reuben Award. [cite web
title = The Reuben Award
publisher = National Cartoonist Society Website
url =
accessdate =2008-04-30
] He also received the Elzie Segar Award in 1982 for his unique contribution to the cartooning profession. [cite web
title = NCS Elzie Segar Award
publisher = National Cartoonist Society Website
url =
accessdate =2008-04-30
] Keane was honored with the Silver T-Square Award from the National Cartoonist Society in 2002 for "outstanding dedication" to the NCS and the cartooning profession. [cite web
title = The Gold & Silver T-Squares
publisher = National Cartoonist Society Website
url =
accessdate =2008-04-30

In 1998, he became the tenth recipient of the Arizona Heritage Award, joining – among others – Barry Goldwater, Sandra Day O'Connor, Mo Udall and Erma Bombeck.


*Keane had a close friendship with humorist, newspaper columnist, and fellow Catholic Erma Bombeck until her death in 1996. Keane provided illustrations for Bombeck's 1972 book "Just Wait Until You Have Children of Your Own!". Keane considers himself instrumental in convincing Bombeck to move to Arizona.
*Keane also counted fellow cartoonists Charles Schulz ("Peanuts") and Jeff MacNelly ("Shoe") as close friends.


*In 1992, when "Calvin and Hobbes" creator Bill Watterson began requiring newspapers to run his Sunday comic feature in half-page size, Keane opposed the idea. Keane said, "I can see why he wants to do it for himself, but it is a disservice to other cartoonists. It diminishes the space other cartoonists get or forces newspapers to drop strips."Astor, David, Editor & Publisher, March 7 1992 edition; p. 34, available from "Lunatic Hub" as [ Cartoonists Discuss 'Calvin' Requirement] , retrieved 2008-05-26] Keane also voiced his displeasure when Watterson announced his retirement, saying that the decision was "not fair to the readers or to the editors who have paid good money and provided space in their newspapers."Astor, David, Editor & Publisher, March 7 1992 edition; p. 38, available from "Lunatic Hub" as [ Strong Reaction To End Of Comic Strip] , retrieved 2008-05-26]


"Family Circus" collections

pecial compilations

*"'The Family Circus Treasury", foreword by Erma Bombeck (1977)
*"The Family Circus Album" , foreword by Charles Schulz (1984)
*"The Family Circus is Us" (1990)

Other cartoon collections

*"Channel Chuckles" (1964)
*"Jest in Pun" (1966)
*"Pun-Abridged Dictionary" (1968)
*"More Channel Chuckles" (1971)
*"It's Apparent You're a Parent." (1971)
*"Deuce and Don'ts of Tennis" (1975)

Illustrated books

*"Just Wait ‘Till You Have Children of Your Own!" written by Erma Bombeck and Bil Keane (1971)
*"Hey, Father!" written by Jeanne Marie Lortie, illustrated by Bil Keane (1973)
*"Daddy’s Surprise Day" written by Gale Wiersum, illustrated by Bil Keane (1980)
*"Ask Any Mother" written by Jean B. Boyce, illustrated by Bil Keane (1991)
*"Just Ask Mom" written by Jean B. Boyce, illustrated by Bil Keane (1996)
*"Just Like Home" written by Jean B. Boyce, illustrated by Bil Keane (2001)


*He is the father of Disney animator Glen Keane.
*Keane dropped the second "L" from his name as a teenager while working on a satire magazine with friends.
*He appears (as a cartoon character) in an episode of the animated series "Pinky and the Brain" as the face behind an investigator digging for dirt to overthrow Pinky's presidency.


*"(about "Peanuts" cartoonist Charles Schulz)": "I always said we had a lot in common: We both did a feature about kids and family values. He had five children; I had five children. He was born in 1922; I was born in 1922. He made a million dollars a week; I was born in 1922." [cite web
title = "Bil Keane's Family Circus," Christopher Gunty, St. Anthony Messenger, November 2001
publisher = American Catholic Organization Website
url =
accessdate =2008-04-29

External links

* [ Bil's biography at the Family Circus Website]
* [ Bil Keane biography at King Features Syndicate]
* [ Feature article on Bil Keane at St. Anthony Messenger Magazine Online]
* [ National Cartoonist Society Awards]


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