LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "The Family Circus" creator Bil Keane, whose kid-friendly comic strip gave readers a funny version of his own life at home and became one of the most widely syndicated cartoon panels in the world, has died at age 89, his distributor said on Wednesday.
Keane died on Tuesday of congestive heart failure at his home in Paradise Valley, Arizona, said Claudia Smith, a spokeswoman for syndication company King Features.
"The Family Circus" first appeared in 1960, and Keane modeled its two parents and four boisterous kids on himself, his wife and children. The comic still appears in 1,500 newspapers although Keane's son, Jeff, has helped with it.
"If 'The Family Circus' has any social value, it shows parents that their children are normal," the late Keane said in a statement provided by King Features.
"And if there is a philosophy behind the feature, it's this: A home filled with love and laughter is the happiest place in the world," he said.
"The Family Circus" is characterized by traditional family values and a round border that Keane used on his panels, to emphasize the closeness between the characters.
The strip features the characters Daddy, Mommy and their children Billy, Dolly, Jeffy and P.J.
King Features said the comic is among the most widely syndicated panels in the world and appears in about 1,500 newspapers.
"We are fortunate that his son, Jeff, who has worked with him for years, will remain at the helm of the great feature and continue his father's tradition of putting a smile on readers' faces every day," Brendan Burford, comics editor for King Features Syndicate, said in a statement.
The comic's humor typically comes from the children's guileless attitude, or their misunderstanding of what is occurring around them.
In one typical panel from the 1970s, the oldest boy holds out a hand in a snow storm and complains "I CAUGHT one of those snowflakes but I can't find it!"
Keane, a native of Philadelphia, taught himself to draw in high school. He first imitated the drawing styles of some of The New Yorker magazine cartoonists of the late 1930s, before developing his own approach.
He served in the U.S. Army during World War Two and met the woman who would become his wife, Thel Carne, while stationed in Australia.
Aside from appearing as a character in his strip, Thel also helped her husband as an editor and consultant.
After World War Two, Keane worked at the Philadelphia Bulletin as a staff artist, and moved his family to Arizona the year before launching his most famous comic strip.
He is survived by his children, nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild. His wife, Thel, died in 2008.
Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by Jerry Norton and Cynthia Osterman