Mike Thaler – RIP

Children’s author-illustrator Mike Thaler has passed away.

Michael Charles (Mike) Thaler

October 8, 1936 – March 23, 2024

From the obituary:

Mike Thaler’s creative genius captured the imaginations of millions of children with a story called The Teacher From the Black Lagoon. It blossomed into a favorite Scholastic series consisting of 66 titles and selling over 26 million books.

Mike loved inspiring children with his unique style of humor wearing his trademark yellow hat, shirt and shoes to share his message: “Believe in yourself. Work hard and never give up!“

The Publishers Weekly notice of his passing explains Mike being mentioned here:

In 1958, at the age of 22, Thaler moved to New York City to launch a career as a cartoonist. “What I really hoped to earn a living at was doing cartoons for adults,” he told Something About the Author. He made a good start on that goal, selling pieces to Harper’s Bazaar, the Saturday Evening Post, and several other publications. But his magazine work unexpectedly opened a door to the children’s book world. “Actually, they weren’t even funny cartoons, they were the ‘save-the-world’ kind,” he said. “Then one day, Ursula Nordstrom, an editor at Harper & Row, saw a picture story I had done for Harper’s Bazaar and asked if I had ever thought of doing children’s books.” Immediately after that fateful call in 1960, Thaler set to work, writing and illustrating a story that same night and taking it to Nordstrom’s office the next day. Nordstrom bought the manuscript, Magic Boy, about a boy who juggled rainbows, and published it in 1961.

A handful of other picture books followed, as well as a classic cartoon anthology, before Thaler embarked on a bold new project: a cartoon satire magazine he called Inkling. But when his funding for the venture fell through, Thaler stepped back from cartoon work and moved to upstate New York.

Mike Thaler’s home site lists Harper’s Magazine, Opera News, Horizon Magazine as well as Harper’s Bazaar and the Saturday Evening Post mentioned above as magazine he contributed to in his short early career as a cartoonist.

Unfortunately I can find no samples of his magazine cartoons, though here is a poorly reproduced photo of his The Fallen Star two-page comic from the December 1960 Harper’s Bazaar that got him noticed by Harper & Row.

And again poorly reproduced panels of Mike’s The Major from the 1956 UCLA Daily Bruin newspaper: