Bil Keane's warm, humorous portraits of the intimate moments in family life, based on his own real-life family circus, have charmed readers around the world since 1960. Today, The Family Circus is the most widely syndicated comic panel in the world, appearing in nearly 1,500 newspapers. The daily panels are routinely drawn within a circle, meant to underscore the sense of closeness between the characters. More than 70 collections of the cartoons have been published, and the panel's characters have inspired three TV specials and appeared in a wide variety of educational and public-service projects.
While Keane's cartoon kids have stayed the same age for decades, his real-life kids have grown up, and two followed in their father's creative footsteps. Glen is now a prominent animator for The Walt Disney Company, and Jeff worked with his dad for years in creating the comic panel until Bil's death in November of 2011. And today, Bil's family circus of nine grandchildren and one great grandchild provide a whole new generation of ideas.
Mommy is the glue that holds this brood together. She is a loving wife and mother who derives great comfort and pleasure from her family. Although she doesn't live a "glamorous" life, and may never drive anything better than the family station wagon, she has something that is beyond any price: a home filled with love and laughter, making it the happiest place in the world.
When he's not at work as a cartoonist with the local newspaper, Daddy is usually at home with the family. He likes nothing better than spending time with them; sharing memorable moments with Thel, and watching their children grow. Sometimes, Daddy lets oldest son Billy "take over" the comic panel. This usually leads to outlandish results, as the inexperienced Billy skewers the meanings of commonplace phrases and euphemisms.
Billy takes the responsibility of being the oldest very seriously, and is more than happy to “teach” his siblings. Sometimes, Daddy lets Billy "take over" his comic panel. This usually leads to outlandish results, as the inexperienced Billy skewers the meanings of commonplace phrases and euphemisms.
Dolly will have none of Billy's domineering ways, and she can be more than a match for him in the bossy department. Dolly has all the best instincts of a big sister to Jeffy and PJ and often explains how things work to her kid brothers.
As the third child, Jeffy looks up to Billy and Dolly and relishes his role as PJ's big brother.
PJ, the baby, keeps a close eye on all three of them, usually amused by their antics.
When the kids can't get what they want from Mommy and Daddy, the first person they run to is Grandma, a widow who happily obliges and is always willing to impart a little well-learned wisdom.
Barfy, Sam, and Kittycat
No family is complete without at least one pet scampering around and getting under-foot. So, with Barfy (named by the kids, of course), Sam (a rescued stray), and Kittycat, the whole family has plenty to keep an eye out for.