British cartoonist and illustrator Raymond Briggs, whose creation The Snowman became a Christmas staple for generations of children, has died aged 88, his publisher Penguin Random House said Wednesday.
The 1978 picture book about a young, ginger-haired boy who builds a snowman that magically comes to life has sold more than 5.5 million copies globally and was transformed into an animated film in 1982.
First shown on British TV, with an introduction by David Bowie in some later versions, the film and its memorable musical score has become synonymous with Christmas ever since, being shown every year.
"Raymond's books are picture masterpieces that address some of the fundamental questions of what it is to be human, speaking to both adults and children," said Francesca Dow, managing director of Penguin Random House Children's.
Reflecting his own curmudgeonly nature, Brigg's first major success came in 1973 with Father Christmas, in which Santa Claus is an irascible old man who hates the cold and snow, and finds delivering presents a chore.
In 1977's Fungus the Bogeyman, the eponymous hero of the slimy underworld scares vicars, wakes human babies and makes things go bump in the night.
Briggs later admitted that it was based on himself - a "miserable, disillusioned, depressed middle-aged man".