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LAT: Bil Keane dies at 89; 'Family Circus' comic strip creator


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Bil Keane, a cartoonist who chronicled the lighter moments of family life for more than 50 years through the gentle, heartfelt humor of the "Family Circus" comic strip, has died. He was 89.

Keane died Tuesday of congestive heart failure at his longtime home in Paradise Valley, Ariz., according to King Features Syndicate, which distributes the daily comic.

The first cartoon appeared in 19 newspapers on Feb. 29, 1960. It is a drawing of a census taker who inquires of a puzzled woman surrounded by a roomful of toys: "Any children?"

"The Family Circus" appears in nearly 1,500 papers around the world today, making it the most widely read syndicated panel, according to King Features.

"He was so marvelous. I always felt that he had a great sense of truth," said Mell Lazarus, creator of the "Momma" comic strip. "He had a vivid imagination. It's one of those cannot-miss features."

The strip's characters remained largely the same age year in and year out — an ageless suburban mother and father and their four children, Billy, 7; Dolly, 5; Jeffy, 3; and PJ, 18 months. The daily panels were routinely drawn within a circle, which underscored their sense of closeness, according to the syndicate.


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