In June 2006, "Suspect Device" creator Greg Peters welcomed the arrival of the first hurricane season since Hurricane Katrina with pokes at several of his frequent targets, including FEMA, former Gov. Kathleen Blanco, Sen. David Vitter and former Mayor Ray Nagin.
“My message is kind of an emperor’s new clothes thing: I’m making fun of them, but I’m also trying to remind people that you have a choice. And if you don’t get involved in it, then it’s going to continue, and they’ll continue to put on the circus show for you, amusing you by proposing laws about pants that show ass crack, or Darwin being racist, at the same time that they’re screwing over your future.” — Greg Peters
Greg Peters, whose “Snake Oil” cartoon ran in The IND for several years but was better known across the state for his award-winning and long-running “Suspect Device” cartoon — which debuted in the Times of Acadiana in the mid-1990s under current IND Publishers Steve and Cherry Fisher May — died this morning following emergency surgery at Ochsner Medical Center.
A native of Marquette, Michigan, Peters studied at UL Lafayette and began drawing “Suspect Device” while working at The Times. The strip (named for the Stiff Little Fingers song of the same name) was picked up by 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 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, Sen. David Vitter 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 (and former IND 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.” “He was one of the great writers and great cartoonists, and as with many great writers and great cartoonists, there were 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, had been through many hospital visits and surgeries in the last few years, particularly since moving to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.
A veteran of many medical procedures, he was a vociferous supporter of the Affordable Care Act. In June 2012, he wrote, “Gobsmacked. People like me will be able to buy insurance outside of group plans. People who can’t afford insurance will get insurance. America takes a baby step into the 21st century today.”
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, and two sons. Services are pending.
Leslie Turk contributed to this story.