Gannett Cartoonist Profiles Series, Part One: Jeff Keane and Brian Crane

note: The Daily Cartoonist has no idea if other USA TODAY Network newspapers will follow and run profiles of local newspaper cartoonists; it is our hope that more will take up the banner, and so we add “Part One” to our header.

Prior to the USA TODAY Network standardizing their comics pages tomorrow a couple cartoonist interviews.

It makes sense that Jeff Keane would one day take over “The Family Circus” from his father Bil.

After all, he’s one of the characters.

Jeff Keane is the inspiration for Jeffy. All of the child characters are modeled after Bil Keane’s own children, in fact. But Jeff is the only one with the same name.

“Jeffy, he was always the hero,” Jeff Keane said, laughing. “As far as I was concerned he was the savior of the strip.”

So, in a way, was the real-life Jeff. He began working on the strip part-time with his father in the 1980s, after graduating from the University of Southern California, and took over after Bil’s death in 2011.

It was, again, a natural progression.

The Family Circus © Bil Keane Inc.

Bill Goodykoontz for The Arizona Republic interviews Jeff Keane about taking over The Family Circus.

photo by Bradley Slade

“Pickles,” written and drawn by Brian Crane, is the story of senior-citizen couple Earl and Opal Pickles, their daughter Sylvia, her son Nelson, dog Roscoe, moody and irascible cat Muffin and Sylvia’s husband Dan.

Crane, based in Sparks, Nevada, has drawn “Pickles” since 1990. It was named newspaper comic strip of the year by the National Cartoonists Society in 2001.

In 2013, the National Cartoonists Society named Crane the co-winner of the Reuben Award along with “Baby Blues” cartoonist Rick Kirkman. The honor, given to the outstanding cartoonist of the year, previously had been given to newspaper comic strip legends including Charles Schulz, Rube Goldberg, Bill Watterson, Gary Larson and Cathy Guisewite.

Not too shabby for someone who didn’t start cartooning until age 40.

Pickles © Brian Crane

The Reno Gazette Journal profiles Brian Crane, their local cartoonist who made good with Pickles.

From The Gazette Journal article: “[Brian’s] initial strips appeared in about two dozen newspapers. Now, 33 years later, the strip is featured in nearly 1,000.” From the Comics Kingdom about page regarding the panel: “The Family Circus is the most widely syndicated comic panel in the world, appearing in nearly 1,500 newspapers.”

3 thoughts on “Gannett Cartoonist Profiles Series, Part One: Jeff Keane and Brian Crane

  1. I wish the Jeff and Bil Keane/Bil and Jeff Keane signatures were in a circle with an “&” in the middle/

    1. What’s wrong with the word “and“? (See the lower right corner of the last panel of the strip for October 1st, above.)

  2. I was surprised to see Bob’s bit in my local paper. He hasn’t drawn anything new in a long time. I thought he had retired.

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