Paul Coker, Jr. – RIP

Cartoonist and character designer Paul Coker, Jr. has passed away.

Paul Allan Coker, Jr.
March 5, 1929 – July 23, 2022


Tom Richmond, among others, has reported the death of Paul Coker, Jr.

Paul was a gag cartoonist and an illustrator of greeting cards,
but more famous as a MAD magazine contributor and
a character designer for the Rankin Bass animation studio.

The Coker art style is familiar and unmistakable and much copied.

He became one of The Usual Gang of Idiots in 1961 when he joined MAD magazine.
He contributed to many pieces at the magazine, with some becoming regular features.
The most popular of those recurring conceits was the Horrifying Clichés series.

Paul’s fame spread even more when he joined the Rankin Bass Studio as a character designer,
the most well-known headliner being the perennial favorite Frosty the Snowman.


Years ago David Apatoff wrote an appreciation of Paul’s style:

You’ve seen Paul Coker Jr.’s drawings all over the place– on countless greeting cards, ads, magazines and comic books– but when was the last time you actually paused to look at them? His drawings may appear simple, but they reflect considerable sophistication and talent.

For example, Coker understands anatomy and body language.

This is how a good artist uses anatomy: not as a distraction, but with confidence and understatement, in the service of the total image. Coker’s drawings never brag about his knowledge, but they would not “ring true” without it.


Coker started off as an designer of greeting cards for Hallmark in the 1950s and 1960s, often in collaboration with writer Phil Hahn. He worked for Esquire, Good Housekeeping, Pageant, Look, McCall’s and became an editorial cartoonist for the New York Enquirer in 1957. Coker also contributed to Hugh Hefner’s Playboy, where he created both erotic cartoons as well as parodies of other comics.

Lambiek’s Comiclopedia has a great accounting of Paul’s cartooning career.

In the early 1970s he co-created two short-lived newspaper comics. One of them was ‘Lancelot’ (Newspaper Enterprise Association, 1970-1972), scripted by Frank “Penn” Ridgeway. It featured the antics of a lazy husband who lets his wife do all the hard work.

Duck Edwing wrote the gags for ‘Horace and Buggy’ (McNaught Syndicate, 1971), another daily gag comic illustrated by Coker, but about insects. This series only lasted about six months.

In 1971 Paul was drawing two comic strips while continuing to contribute to MAD and Rankin Bass.



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