The A-team is back! Mango and Brash, the alligator investigators who star in John Patrick Green’s middle grade graphic novel series InvestiGators (Macmillan), take on a new case in book six, Heist and Seek, out in September. Fans have even more to look forward to: Agents of S.U.I.T., a spin-off series, is in the works for 2023. Green chatted with PW about his alligator agents and the joy of creating graphic novels for kids.

For anyone who isn’t familiar with InvestiGators Mango and Brash, can you give an introduction?

Mango and Brash, the stars of InvestiGators, are two alligators who wear vests and solve crimes. They work for S.U.I.T., which stands for Special Undercover Investigation Teams. Mango is Brash’s latest partner. He’s a bit of a goofball and is very green. Well, they’re both green, but Brash by comparison is the more seasoned agent. Brash is typically more serious and level-headed, but he still has issues about his previous partner, who became the gators’ archenemy Crackerdile. It’s a long, tragic backstory. But together Mango and Brash are S.U.I.T.’s A-team, though there is debate whether the “A” means they're the best or if it's just short for “alligator.”

What’s in store for the characters in book six, Heist and Seek?

Heist and Seek finds our gator duo in what could be considered a more traditional mystery, as famous works of art headed to the city museum for an upcoming gala have gone missing in transit. Mango and Brash have to brush up on their art knowledge and skills to solve this crime, just as I had to in writing and drawing it! Having grown up drawing all the time and gone to art school, book six is probably my most personal of the series so far.

I hear there’s a spin-off series in store. Will we see familiar side characters get starring roles? How about any new characters?

Indeed, the spin-off series Agents of S.U.I.T. will highlight other S.U.I.T. agents, such as newly commissioned field agent Cilantro the chameleon, resident tech whiz Monocle, and the B-team, which are the two badgers, Bongo and Marsha. We will see some new faces who’ve only been mentioned before, like Inspector Vague and Inspector Pacific, who run different departments of the secret organization. Readers may even get to learn more about the history of S.U.I.T. itself. And Mango and Brash might pop in on occasion if they’re not busy.

What do you like best about creating graphic novels for middle grade readers?

My favorite part is really when I’m all done with a book and it’s out in the wild and kids read it and then tell me if they thought it was funny or not! The actual act of creating the books does take me back to when I was a little kid drawing my own comics in my bedroom, but the most rewarding aspect of the whole thing is that my silly jokes and drawing don’t exist in a vacuum. It’s wonderful to visit schools where children are responding to the books or to get letters from teachers and parents about how the series is connecting with reluctant readers.

I’m sure readers would love to know... Do you find yourself coming up with new story ideas at unexpected moments?

I do, but often it’s more jokes or funny scenarios that come out of thin air that I then have to construct an entire story around just because I want to use some clever gag or draw whatever humorous image. That part I don’t really have a way of turning off, and sometimes working all those silly situations or word plays (words play?) into a sensical narrative is a real struggle! I have piles of scraps of paper and post-it notes with random ideas on them because they do come to me without any warning. I end up with so many that a lot gets cut in the writing stage, but I’ll go back to ones that weren’t used and see if they can get worked into a future storyline.