Eek and Meek, back when they were still mice (but from the dialog, very man-like ones. Artist: Howie Schneider.

EEK AND MEEK

Medium: Newspaper comics
Distributed by: Newspaper Enterprise Association
First Appeared: 1965
Creator: Howie Schneider
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Funny animals have been part of the comics scene for so long, sometimes it's hard to remember the point of making the characters animal-shaped instead of just …

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… drawing them as regular people — except in cases involving predation (cf. Li'l Bad Wolf), there aren't very many situations funny animals can get into, where humans wouldn't do just as well. Apparently, that's what cartoonist Howie Schneider was thinking when, midway through the run of his most famous comic strip, he gave his protagonists a species change.

Schneider, whose other credits include children's books, editorial cartoons and a couple of other syndicated comics, Percy's World and The Circus of P.T. Bimbo, launched Eek & Meek, a daily and Sunday strip about a pair of talking mice, on September 5, 1965. It was distributed by Newspaper Enterprise Association, which had earlier syndicated Out Our Way, Herky, Captain Easy and Red Ryder.

Eek (no relation) was aggressive, chronically unemployed, and never seen without a healthy growth of beard stubble. Meek was exactly what the name implied, with the added disadvantage of loving a lady mouse named Monique, who was about as attainable for him as the Little Red-haired Girl was for Charlie Brown. Needless to say, Eek easily dominated his less pushy pal.

There were no comic books or Little Golden Books based on the two mice, and not very much merchandise. But they did appear in several paperback reprints from the late 1960s through the '70s.

After about a decade and a half or so, the appearance of both protagonists, and Monique as well, began to undergo a radical change — they looked less mouse-like, and more like human beings. The change was completed in 1982. Starting February 8 of that year (a Monday), all were drawn as regular people. The tone of the strip and the traits of all the characters remained, and they were even recognizable visually. But from that day forward, Eek & Meek was no longer a representative of the funny animal genre.

In 2000, Schneider decided, like Bill Watterson (Calvin & Hobbes) and Gary Larson (The Far Side) before him, that he'd said just about all he could with that particular set of characters, in that particular format. Tho the strip was running in more than 400 papers (down from about 500 a decade or so earlier), he chose to end it in favor of other endeavors. The last strip appeared on March 25 of that year. Meek and Monique were finally married that day.

Tho he'd finished with Eek & Meek, Schneider couldn't stay away from comics. His new strip, The Sunshine Club, about the funny aspects of old age, began October 6, 2003, from United Feature Syndicate (Li'l Abner, Peanuts). But old age had the last laugh. Schneider died at 77 in 2007.

— DDM

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Text ©2004-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Howie Schneider.