Posted By Art Baxter


By the time I thought to clip these strips to save, it was unfortunately near the end of the run of them. They were all drawn by Keane himself but he was already beginning to hand the reigns of the strip over to his son Jeff. Bil Keane became less and less involved with the strip. I think with the Grandma/Granddad strips Keane began to feel the cold hand of death on his own shoulder and produced strips on the subject no matter how banal they were. There were two noticeable exceptions that I'm aware of.

The first of these is this strip from August 10, 1997. Here we see Grandma being greeted by a young acquaintance who offers her condolence on the passing of Grandma's husband. The woman uses the word "lost" to soften the bluntness of the situation. To which, Grandma replies that she is the one who is "lost." The woman looks at Grandma with sadness through heavily lidded eyes. Meanwhile, Granddad can be seen looking down from his cloud in heaven. Grandma's loneliness is palpable. Aside from Granddad's appearance, the strip is pretty sober.

The next from November 6, 1999 (see above), is the darkest. Grandma sits on the edge of the bed and offers a meditation on how her days seem to be numbered. This is accentuated by the scene out the window of the sun setting and the skeletal leafless tree. It's not only the end of the day but the end of the season. Grandma looks tired. She's hunched over. Her eyes are tiny slits. Her eyebrows arching up in worry.

I hope you have enjoyed these comics by Bil Keane on the theme of death for his 86th birthday!

THE FAMILY CIRCUS is © Bil Keane, Inc.

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