At their Saturday morning panel at WonderCon, IDW Publishing announced that they will be collecting Bil Keane's long-running syndicated comic strip “Family Circus,” starting from the very first cartoon published on February 29, 1960. The first volume, to be published in November, will include every strip up to December 31, 1961, including the longer-format Sunday strips. CBR News caught up with IDW editor Scott Dunbier to discuss the project.
“I think 'Family Circus' is a strip that for many people might be a guilty pleasure--which is a funny way of putting it, since it's not a very 'guilty' kind of strip,” Dunbier said.
He told CBR that he has been a fan of “Family Circus” creator Bil Keane (who spells his name with one L) since childhood. “I look at Bil's work almost in the same manner as I look at Norman Rockwell. There have been many people who've made fun of me for my love of 'Family Circus,' but to me it's the same sort of Americana, that Norman Rockwell-esque style, that really appeals to me,” the editor said. “There's so much as a parent, especially, that when I read the strip now, or look at a strip from 1962 or 1965, it's exactly what's happening between me and my kids. Whether it's a strip about one of the kids playing with a box rather than his toys on Christmas day, which I don't know how many times that's happened with parents, or the kids saying 'Not me! Not me!'--I think he captured something with great wit and humor.”
As Dunbier suggested, “Family Circus” has changed very little in its nearly fifty-year history, yet remains relevent and relatable. “It's been going strong for 50 years. The only strip that's probably been more popular in that time is 'Peanuts,'” Dunbier noted, attesting to “Family Circus's” continued popularity. “It's been going strong for 50 years, and has been running in 1500 newspapers for many years, making it one of the most widely read comics strips in the world.”
For the IDW editions, the publisher is fortunate to have the resource of the “Family Circus” creator himself—not to mention his wife, who supplied IDW with an impressive archive. “We are very, very lucky in that Bil Keane, and especially his wife, Thel, kept just immaculate archives of printers' proofs,” Dunbier said. “Mrs. Keane kept them in wonderful condition with everything in order. It really is amazing. So thanks to her, really, we're able to have beautiful source material for these books.” IDW's collections, Dunbier said, will offer a crisper, higher quality presentation of the comics than has ever been seen before. The books will be designed by Dean Mullaney, whose work includes the other titles in the Library of American Comics. “He does just fantastic work, fantastic designs. Coupled with the great reproduction, these are going to be beautiful sets.”
“Family Circus” has been reprinted in nearly 100 paperback collections, though IDW's will be the first in more than five years and certainly the most comprehensive, high-end editions. Dunbier compared the virtues of the different formats, noting that his personal collection includes around half of the paperback reprints. “I'm a big fan of classic comic strips, so while it's nice to have a paperback collection of 'The Far Side' or 'Calvin and Hobbes,' I could never resist buying those fantastic complete collections of 'The Far Side' or 'Calvin and Hobbes,'” he said. “Although, to tell you the truth, those collections, while great, are a little too big and unwieldy for me. So things like the 'Peanuts' collections from Fantagraphics or the 'Gasoline Alley' collections by Drawn & Quarterly, or any of the strips we do here at IDW, 'Terry and the Pirates,' the Noel Sickles book, 'Little Orphan Annie'--for me as someone who particularly loves this kind of material, I want to have it in a format that is accessible and that I know exactly what I'm getting and that I'm reading it in the order it was meant to be read.”