by Dallas Shelby, Publisher & Editor-in-chief //
It’s hip to hate Bil Keane.
We at the Pasquinade wanted to talk awhile with this man who elicits such emotion from his readers. And let’s face it… love it or hate it, they are avid readers of his comic strip. Unfortunately, we at the Pasquinade do not always get what we want. Bil Keane will not return our phone calls, letters, email — any of our very polite requests for a chat.
True, many of Keane’s panels are just statements of the obvious: “Barfy and Sam are comin’ in and Kittycat is thinkin’ about it.” But, as mind-nummingly wholesome as it may be, The Family Circus is the most widely syndicated cartoon in America today. It appears in more than 1,500 newspapers and is read by more than 100 million people every day.
Faced with these statistics, several questions beg to be answered. And, though Mr. Keane chooses to ignore us, the questions still must be asked.
- Your cartoon is read by more than 100 million people every day. What percentage do you think, in fact, hate your cartoon
- Do your children, now surely in their 30s still say the cutest things?
- Do you have any set rituals that help you work? (Ex., desk must face east, hard-core drug consumption, animal sacrifice…)
- Is it true that the name of The Family dog, Barfy, actually came to you after a night of binge drinking?
- Have you ever watched a gladiator movie?
- Have you ever beaten your children?
- Do you, in fact, worship Beelzebub?
- Why won’t you talk to us?
On January 16, 1998, a large manila envelope bearing no return address was delivered to the office of the Pasquinade. Curiosity overcame paranoia and the envelope was opened — Bil Keane had finally responded.
He responded, but he didn’t respond. Choosing to ignore our questions, Keane sent the above drawing, a three-page life story and his best regards.
The biography offered little insight into the work of the artist – no abusive family history, no mental illness… at most a severe case of Catholic guilt. Interestingly, we did find that in his youth Keane was a founding member of a satirical magazine, The Saturday Evening Toast. And, Keane admitted that “I don’t try to make my cartoons especially funny.”
It’s still hip to hate Bil Keane.