Sunday, July 31, 2022

PAUL COKER JR. (1929 -2022)

This week the great Paul Coker Jr. passed away at age 93.  Over a long career working for diverse clients such as Rankin/Bass, Hallmark cards and MAD magazine, Coker created handsome, well designed drawings of quiet quality while his peers were screaming for attention. 

Coker never drew naked barbarian chicks or musclebound heroes in spandex, but if you want to see what genuine strength looks like, study his work.

Coker's monsters for MAD's "horrifying cliche" series were better drawn than thousands of "serious" monsters drawn by other artists for comics and monster magazines.

I've previously written about how I admire Coker's linework:

In an era of micron pens, Coker reminded us what ink is for.


For his long career of quality and integrity-- scarce commodities today-- Paul Coker Jr. deserves our recognition and respect.   

Thank you, Mr.Coker.


MORAN said...

One of my favorites. Sorry to hear the news.

Vanderwolff said...

Yet another loss that cuts deep--I'm sure much more so for those of us who grew up with his quixotically brilliant, seemingly effortless pen and ink capers.

At that age I subconsciously put him in the same stylistic column as Hank Ketchum, and I wasn't yet aware of his Rankin/Bass production work, but (with no disrespect to the amazing Mr. Ketchum), just revisiting these samples underscores how singular he was, each uniquely Cokerian panel or scene rife with rococo insanity. It’s a marvel to see the sheer ease with which he could turn any figure or tableau--fantastical or everyday--into a celebratory explosion of crow quill chaos, or so his madcap mastery would deceive us into believing. The anarchy was always well under control. Coker’s seemingly casual high-wire act with form, composition and delirious ink ornamentation was his, and his alone--and made the pages he gifted us indelible and instantly recognizable.

Look at his work again--just for a nanosecond we're back wherever we first found him, leafing our giddy way through genius camouflaged as really cool funny pictures.

Thank you, Mr. Coker, indeed.

kev ferrara said...

When Coker, Davis, Rickard, Aragones, and Drucker were all in Mad together, it was like the '27 Yankees. Always loved his unique penmanship; a born cartoonist with a silly, light spirit. As a kid, his "Horrifying Clichés" series was one of my favorite things in the world.

Bobo the Hobo said...

Don’t forget Don Martin!

Coker was 93? Sorry to see him shuffle off this mortal coil, even at 93, but he had a good run. Fair skies and following winds, Mr Coker!

Richard said...

He was a great. I hope his art is well cared for while we wait for the west’s art institutions to get their heads out of their butts regarding 20th century art and cartooning.

chris bennett said...

Well said Richard.
I'll go further and say we're waiting for the west's art institutions to get their heads out of their butts regarding almost anything at all.

Re Coker: This blog introduced me to his work and I'm grateful to David for that. It's interesting to me how Coker employs a graphic handwriting similar to Ronald Searle's yet to communicate content that is less Anglo-whimsical and more American-knockabout in its feel.

Rob Stolzer said...

David, thank you for the post. Also, thanks for the reminder about Coker's line. Such a wonderfully active and calligraphic line he had. A terrific cartoonist who will be missed.