In 1994 the USA network greenlit a little cartoon called Duckman. They had no idea at the time that they’d just given birth to the funniest, raunchiest and most heartwarming cartoon we’d ever see on TV. Creative genius, Everett Peck, was the man behind the duck. We interviewed him to hear the story of Duckman and attempted to get an up close and personal glimpse into his sticky, squishy duck brain.
KP: How did you first get into comics? Who were your early inspirations.
EP: I grew up in a small beach town in the ‘50s and ‘60s, pre-internet of course. In fact, pre-most everything. So the most exposure I got to art or cartoons was either the very limited stuff on TV or the local magazine store which fortunately had a huge comic section. I don’t remember when I got into comics, but I was petty young. I read a lot of Floyd Gottfredson, Mickey Mouse, and Carl Barks Donald Duck stuff. They were really beautifully drawn and richer both graphically and in story than the animated cartoons (although I liked those too, especially Donald Duck). The stories in those comics were really well developed, they were always going on some big adventure with great villains and other characters that weren’t in any animated cartoons, at least not at that time.
KP: What was your inspiration to start Duckman as a comic book?
Actually, Duckman existed before the comic. I had been developing the characters for a while on my own. The dysfunctional working relationship of Duckman and Cornfed was based in part on a friend of mine and his business partner. I first began doing some short Duckman concept pieces for the East Bay Express in San Francisco, At the same time I was also working on some unrelated projects with Gabor Csupo at he and his wife’s animation studio in LA. One day Gabor asked if I had any ideas for animated projects (they had just started as the production company for the Simpsons). I showed him Duckman and he liked it immediately so we decided to develop it as a television series. At the same time I had also started developing a Duckman comic with Darkhorse Comics. So I was working on the initial Duckman comic and the animated pilot at the same time.
KP: How did the idea for the show come about?
The idea of Duckman as an animated show was always my intent. I was planning to continue developing Duckman as a pitch and take it around. When Gabor suggested we go in together on the show that seemed like a good opportunity. I very much liked what his studio was about, plus my friend Matt Groening was there with his new show, The Simpsons. The nature of animation, especially prime time, was large studios and networks were getting interesting in original animated shows but there really wasn’t any clear way to go about it because prime time “adult” animation on TV had been pretty much dead for quite a long time, decades.
KP: Duckman visually feels so much like one vision. I imagine you had many animators duplicating your style. What was the process like of teaching people how to dry like you? Did you have to dumb down your style a bit to make it easier to draw on a massive scale?
EP: Thanks, that was something that was very important to me. My personal drawing style is pretty much what you see in the original comic, loose and spontaneous, what you might call chicken scratch. I knew I would need to modify Duckman’s design a bit to not only allow other people to draw utm but to even make it something that could be animated by the technology of the time which was traditional cell on background. What I decided to do was in exchange for a cleaner line. I would change up the character’s basic proportions, especially for Duckman. So he went from being a taller scratcher character, to a more compact silhouette with a cleaner, thicker line.
My former student and artist extraordinaire, Jerry Richardson, was a great help getting that worked out. I also worked out some simple shadow systems and a little interior line detail. In addition I began experimenting with ways to introduce texture and shadow into the design of the backgrounds but I was never really successful at that. I was very hands on with all the art aspects of Duckman, from character design to final color and was very vigilant about maintaining the look I wanted, plus it didn’t hurt to have an incredibly talented art crew on hand either.