I am remiss in not posting this when I first saw it, but Paul Coker Jr. died July 23 at 93.
From Deadline: "Paul Coker Jr. Dies: Designer of Rankin/Bass Classic Holiday Characters & Longtime Mad Magazine Illustrator Was 93"
Coker has two claims to fame: He was one of the "Usual Gang of Idiots" at MAD Magazine, contributing hundreds of features over six decades.
The other claim to fame?
Coker’s contributions to the production and character design of the Rankin/Bass specials helped create some of the most indelible holiday images of the last half-century. As either a character designer or production designer, Coker lent his talents to such Christmas and Easter specials as Cricket on the Hearth (1967), Frosty the Snowman (1969), Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town (1970), Here Comes Peter Cottontail (1971), The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974), Rudolph’s Shiny New Year and Frosty’s Winter Wonderland (both 1976), Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey and The Easter Bunny Is Comin’ to Town (both 1977), Jack Frost (1979), Pinocchio’s Christmas (1980), The Leprechauns’ Christmas Gold (1981) and Santa, Baby! (2001).
I just happened to be reading some of Coker's work right around the time of his death. In one issue of HELP!, Harvey Kurtzman sent Coker on assignment to Fidel Castro's Cuba (1961) and he drew a feature about his experiences. For the next issue, Coker was sent behind-the-scenes of a Broadway play. When I was a kid reading MAD magazine, I always thought of Coker as one of the new guys for some reason.
Coker had a very recognizable style. Knowing his work from Mad, one could easily spot his hand on the animation specials as well as on greeting cards.