Circus Maximus

Rebel satire site spurs generational battle with Valley cartoonist

It might also be seen as a twisted Rorschach test -- a series of family-oriented ink blots to test your psyche. One Family Circus reader might look at children gathered at the dining table and think, "Billy is telling his mother that he doesn't want to eat his breakfast."

While DFC writers view the same scene and write for Billy: "Okay, so we'll all eat rat poison so Daddy will feel bad about spending the night with his secretary."

Says Galcik: "A number of people have told me that the reason they don't like The Family Circus is that they don't think it applied to them -- they never experienced anything remotely like it."

Sample from Greg Galcik's unauthorized Dysfunctional Family Circus Web site. Readers, not cartoonist Bil Keane, supplied the caption.
Sample from Greg Galcik's unauthorized Dysfunctional Family Circus Web site. Readers, not cartoonist Bil Keane, supplied the caption.


The future of The DFC is uncertain. There are prominent copyright notices throughout the site to ward off potential lawsuits, and Galcik says he has never made a profit (there are no ads on the site). An argument could be made that the site constitutes parody and is therefore protected by the First Amendment, but Galcik is unsure whether he can afford to take on King Features -- mammoth syndicate of such antique staples as Mary Worth, Blondie, Apartment 3G and Beetle Bailey.

"I admit the possibility that [number 500] might be the last," Galcik says. "I can't even read the captions anymore. I tried reading them and I get all maudlin. The number of people who've been reading this over the past few years is so astounding."

In an interview last week with the Arizona Republic, Keane left open the possibility of compromise, saying: "I wouldn't mind . . . if it was kept clean and within the parameters of my intentions."

Except, of course, that staying outside the parameters of his intentions is the purpose of the site and the reason it's funny.

More recently, Keane told New Times there's no room for compromise as long as the archived material remains on the site.

"[Not adding new material] is sort of a halfway compliance, and I'm not sure that accomplishes what King Features feels would be a cease and desist," Keane says. "It's up to King Features, but I feel they will do whatever needs to be done to put a stop to it."

Contact James Hibberd at his online address: jhibberd@ep.newtimes.com

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