Willis Pac-Man bezel
This little beauty popped up on eBay with the title “Willis Pac-Man bezel”. Now I’ve seen plenty of Pac cpo’s and of course that really bad Wico Pac-Man side art; but I have never seen a Willis Pac-Man bezel, or even knew it existed. The seller only posted a few small pictures, and while the Willis name appeared to be printed in the lower right, it just wasn’t very clear. What really caught my attention was a small mark or artist signature also in the lower right corner. Whoa, an artist signature? I have seen lots of Willis artwork, but I have never seen an artist signature on any of the pieces. Willis artists have always been a mystery. Of course it might be just a scratch, but I had to find out and see what history it might reveal. After losing the eBay auction for a Willis Vanguard bezel, I didn’t want to lose out again. This Willis piece was just too cool to pass up.
I did the unthinkable and reached out to the seller. He was a tough negotiator and stated that lots of people were watching the auction, but in the end we agreed on a price and he posted a buy it now for me. I’m sorry if you were one of the watchers, but I just had to grab this. At $85 shipped, it is probably the most I’ve ever paid for an individual piece of Willis artwork. I think it was a worth while purchase, being such a unique piece of Willis art, and I do love my Willis stuff. The bonus was that it did in fact have an artist signature in the lower right hand corner. Maybe you recognize it?
I certainly didn’t recognize it, and my little bit of research on P. PEAK brought up mostly mountain hiking trail information. Having no luck I reached out to fellow collector and arcade historian Keith S. Maybe he would recognize the name “P.PEAK”. He came back with Pat “Sleepy” Peak who is credited with some of the early Exidy arcade game artwork, including Death Race. Pretty cool information, thanks Keith. While it doesn’t initially appear like his style of artwork, it does makes sense. Willis was probably still trying to figure out the reproduction arcade artwork business back in 1981, so where did you go when you need information, wanted to network, or just wanted to scope out the competition?
You went to an expo or trade show. Someone from Willis probably went to a show, or maybe even ran a booth showcasing Willis products. At the show they met up with Pat “Sleepy” Peak. Pat might have been hanging around the Exidy both during a time when Exidy was getting all sorts of press over Death Race. He talked to Willis and agreed to do some artwork for them in exchange for a paid commission, a royalty or both. At some point Willis realized how expensive a good artist can be, and then made the decision to source their artwork else where. Which is unfortunate. Can you imagine how cool all the Willis artwork would have been if artists like Pat Peak had been commissioned? Of course I’m just speculating, but its fun to wonder about what went on back in the glory days of the arcade. This very unique piece of Willis arcade game artwork is a welcome addition to the vault. As always, happy gaming!