I liked Peanuts as a kid but I loved Family Circus. Where Charles Schulz used his kids to make universal points, Bil Keane tried to be about real kids and real parents. It was a chronicle of post-war suburban life, and I could relate. It also was probably the greatest source of insight I had into the parental point of view (well, along with Dave Berg’s The Lighter Side comics in Mad Magazine, with had some similarities to Circus in style and point of view).
Although Keane undoubtedly had a rosy view of life — and why not, he was a successful cartoonist living in a suburban paradise — the comic was not without its edgy moments. There was no shortage of frustrations, disappointments and annoyances, however gently they were portrayed. Picture windows even in paradise are not without cracks.
Looking back now, one big (and at the time invisible) crack was the cigarette that hangs from the father’s mouth in a large number of panels, something that would be inconceivable in a family comic today. And indeed, Family Circus is a period piece in a way that more artistically serious comics like Peanuts will never be.