The end is near. After spending the better part of a decade doing good deeds hoping to shake their “bad guy” reputations, reformed criminals Mr. Wolf, Mr. Snake, Mr. Shark, and Mr. Piranha are headed for their swan song. On November 12, Scholastic will publish The Bad Guys in One Last Thing, the 20th and final volume in Australian author-illustrator Aaron Blabey’s smash-hit graphic novel series, with an announced first printing of 500,000 copies. PW has a first look at the cover—fittingly black background and all.

By any measure, the Bad Guys are going out with a bang. The series boasts 23 million copies in print in the U.S. since its 2017 debut and was adapted as a Universal Pictures and DreamWorks Animation feature film in 2022, with a sequel from the same team (Blabey is executive producing) on the way next summer. And a DreamWorks Animation Television half-hour special that served as a prequel, The Bad Guys: A Very Bad Holiday, aired on Netflix last November.

Major mojo aside, Blabey believes the time is right to bring the Bad Guys adventures to a close. “After the first book unexpectedly took off in 2016 [initially for Scholastic Australia],” he told PW. “I knew I had my chance to create something with scope that could reach a wide audience over an extended period,” he said. “I carefully plotted their entire journey with a 20-book arc, quietly hoping that I could sustain tension and anticipation for an age group that is generally underestimated in their capacity to remain interested if there are gaps between instalments. To my delight, each new episode has been more popular than the last. That said, the story has always had a specific, and hopefully very satisfying, conclusion planned. So, here we are.”

A favorite element of the books for fans has been each episode’s cliffhanger ending. One of Blabey’s biggest teases appears at the end of book 19, The Bad Guys in the Serpent and the Beast, which will be released July 2, and it helped inspire the cover design for the finale. “Kids have been left wondering what happened to Mr. Wolf at the end of episode 19,” Blabey said. “What became of him is quite unexpected. The final cover gives a little hint of where he’s ended up.”

But what about this very last book’s last chapter—will readers get closure to the story? “They sure will,” Blabey said. “I love episode 20. It’s my favorite. I’ve been so excited for kids to see what’s been in my head [all this time].”

Blabey Drops the Mic

The end of the Bad Guys series marks another significant endpoint for Blabey. “As for books, I have officially retired,” he announced. “I always wrote my books specifically for my own kids, to make them laugh, but now they’re all grown up,” he said. “Continuing past this point just feels kind of inauthentic. It was a magical time but it’s over, just like childhood. It’s bittersweet but it’s also beautiful.”

Blabey certainly has plenty to show for this career era. “I’ve made 40 books in 10 years—20 Bad Guys, 10 Pigs [Pig the Pug], three Cats [Cat on the Run], two Thelmas [Thelma the Unicorn], and a bunch of others,” he said. “That feels like plenty to me. I love all of them and I’m really proud of the body of work, so it feels like the right time to drop the mic. It’s time to explore other things.”

The Bad Guys in One Last Thing (The Bad Guys #20) by Aaron Blabey. Scholastic Paperbacks, $6.99 Nov. 12 ISBN 978-1-5461-1180-1