Greg Peters, whose award-winning cartoon "Suspect Device" appeared in Gambit, died Aug. 2 following emergency surgery at Ochsner General Hospital.
A native of Marquette, Mich., Peters, 50, studied at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette and began drawing "Suspect Device" in the mid-1990s, while working at The Times of Acadiana. The strip (named for the Stiff Little Fingers song of the same name) debuted in Gambit in 1998 and continued until 2010. Peters also worked as production director in Gambit's Baton Rouge offices in the early 2000s.
Years before "Get Your War On" popularized the art of cartoons made from clip art, Peters was using intricate stock images to lampoon a host of national, state and local politicos, including former mayor Ray Nagin, former Gov. Kathleen Blanco and "recovery czar" Ed Blakely. In 2003, the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies recognized Peters' work in the field of editorial cartooning, writing, "He shows a deep concern for the local politics and character of Louisiana, and his opinions are frequently unexpected. It's also a very funny cartoon."
Funny — and always furious and rude, juxtaposed with sophisticated writing. In a 2004 profile of Peters and his work, former Gambit Music Editor Scott Jordan noted, "Peters' craft is fueled by his punk rock-influenced DIY personality and educational background in literary criticism, Marxism, post-structuralism and Buddhism — all meeting the surreal arena of Louisiana politics."
"Louisiana was his playroom, his target, his subject and his home. Nobody found the humor and the laughter in the pain like Greg Peters," said former Gambit Editor Michael Tisserand, who is completing a book on the pioneering New Orleans cartoonist George Herriman, creator of "Krazy Kat." "[Peters] was one of the great writers and great cartoonists, and as with many great writers and great cartoonists, there was only a select group of people who recognized his genius."
"The clip art thing was always a punk staple," Peters told Jordan. "Like the cut-out letters and clip art that Jamie Reid, the Sex Pistols designer, did using Queen Elizabeth with the safety-clip-through-her-cheek picture. They're very much out of the DIY ethos. And the attitude simply of baseline mistrust for authority, and the demand that you be shown, not told."
Peters, who had a congenital heart condition called aortic stenosis, had been through many hospital visits and surgeries in the last few years, particularly since moving to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. As a veteran of many medical procedures, he was a vociferous supporter of the Affordable Care Act. In July 2009, he created the cartoon above, detailing his health struggles and his frustrations with obtaining insurance while having a pre-existing condition. Despite his struggles, he remained optimistic; last May, he had the word "INDESTRUCTIBLE" tattooed down the length of his forearm in elaborate script.
Peters is survived by his companion, Gambit contributor Eileen Loh; his former wife, Saundra Scarce of Lafayette; and two sons. Services are pending. —KEVIN ALLMAN