Everett Peck, illustrator, cartoonist, and creator of the timeless cult classic Duckman, has died. He was 71.
Peck passed away on Tuesday, June 14, and the news was shared two days later across the artists’ social media accounts. His wife Helen later told The Hollywood Reporter that Peck died of complications from a long-term battle with pancreatic cancer.
Peck was born in San Deigo, California on October 9, 1950. From an early age he enjoyed drawing and loved reading Mad Magazine. After high school, he attended Cal State Univeristy Long Beach where he received a degree in illustration in 1974.
After graduating, he lived for a period of time in New York City, where he established a career as a commercial illustrator, doing both editorial illustration for publications like The New Yorker, Time, Rolling Stone, and Playboy, as well as ad agency work for major brands like Honda and Nike. An LA Times piece from 1986 reported that Peck was earning more than $100,000 annually ($267,000 in today’s dollars) from his work as an illustrator.
In the mid-1980s, after he’d relocated to southern California, he began working regularly in animation in addition to continuing his career as an illustrator. He worked as a designer on commercials, with his first major industry role as character designer on the animated series The Real Ghostbusters. Below is the commercial “The Adventures of Nic (A Teen)” that Peck designed and which was animated by Kurtz & Friends in 1984:
In the early 1990s, Peck occasionally worked on projects for the L.A. animation studio Klasky Csupo, and contributed story and design work to series like Rugrats and spots for Sesame Street (below).
While at the studio, Peck pitched Gabor Csupo on an animated version of Duckman, based on a one-shot comic he’d created for Dark Horse Comics a few years earlier about a private detective who’s a duck. “[Csupo] actually self financed twenty minutes of animation that we used to sell the project to Paramount,” Peck said in a 2009 interview. “He was a huge force in getting things going.”
The project was picked up as an animated series by the USA Network and debuted in 1994. Klasky Csupo produced seventy episodes of the series over four seasons. In an era before the emergence of adults-only animation, the pioneering series was never a huge hit, but developed a cult following and was nominated for three Emmy Awards and won a CableACE award in 1996. Peck credited the low viewership with ensuring that they had “a lot of freedom” and little creative interference from the network.
Jason Alexander, who voiced the titular Duckman lead, tweeted about the loss of his former collaborator:
I have just sadly learned of the passing of Everett Peck, the genius animator and cartoonist who brought Duckman to life. It was an honor to voice his beloved creation and a joy to have known Everett. He was one of a glorious kind. My best to his family&friends#ripeverettpeck
— jason alexander (@IJasonAlexander) June 17, 2022
Peck contributed to numerous other animated series in the 1990s including The Critic (1994-1995), and worked as a design consultant at Columbia TriStar’s short-lived children’s division, where he helped design Jumanji (1996), Extreme Ghostbusters (1997), Men in Black: The Series (1998-2000), Godzilla: The Series (1998), and Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles (1999), among other shows.
Peck sold a second series – Squirrel Boy – which ran for 26 episodes on Cartoon Network from 2006-2007.
In addition to his work in print and animation, Peck was also an educator. In the mid-1980s, he was head of the illustration department at Otis Parsons School of Design. More recently, Peck taught at his alma mater Cal State University Long Beach. Students who took his classes at both Otis and CSULB have praised Peck as an edcuator. Animation industry veteran Marcelo Vignali, who was the production designer of Hotel Transylvania, was taught by Peck in the 1980s and posted the following tribute publicly on Facebook:
What a punch to the stomach this news has been. As a student of Everett Peck we learned more than just about art…but also about human kindness, dignity, humor, sincerity and how to become a giving soul. Everett was the kind of teacher that understood the best way teach art was by rolling up his sleeves. He demystified art for me by giving us paint demos, thinking about concepts, drawing out roughs, and most of all…teaching us how to have fun. Everett’s work is fun. Everett’s wealth of knowledge in art and insight made him one of our favorite teachers at Otis/Parson, he gave us all so willingly and didn’t hold back, and for that we will be eternally grateful to have known him.
Chelsea Blecha, currently a visual development artist at Dreamworks Animation, took Peck’s classes at CSULB and shared the following message on Twitter:
Everett was one of my favorite, most supportive, & kindest teachers at [Cal State University Long Beach]. He encouraged me to pursue vis dev & guided me at a time I had no experience or knowledge of it at all. He always kept in touch, even after graduation. Truly heartbreaking. He will be sorely missed
Aubry Mintz, who ran the art department at CSULB, also expressed his condolences on Facebook:
We hired Everett Peck to teach character design and visual development at CSULB about a decade ago. There was an immediate shift in the student work once he began teaching in our animation program. Not just the quality of their design but their love for the art form grew rapidly under Everett’s guidance. He really knew how to motivate the best out of his class- an incredible inspiring artist (and a legend to his peers). Everett Peck made a massive impact and we will never forget him. Rest In Peace master Peck you will be sorely missed.
Peck is survived by his wife, Helen Vita Peck, children Emily and Spencer, stepdaughter Paloma, and granddaughter Sidley.