Cracking the Case with Author John Patrick Green

Imagine two alligators working as investigators using the latest spy technology to solve mysteries and you would have an idea of what you’ll find in one of John Patrick Green’s InvestiGators graphic novels.

Student with pizza hat
Lower School Author Visits are Back!

Lower School librarian Kristen Robb was thrilled to welcome Grades 2, 3, and 4 to the Dance Studio for the first Author Visit in a long time and the students, some wearing fancy chapeaus for Crazy Hat Day, were eager to hear about Green’s writing career.

Green is also the artist and co-creator of the graphic novel series Teen Boat!, with writer Dave Roman. Green, who grew up on Long Island, now lives in Brooklyn.

Love of Comics and Storytelling Becomes Green’s Calling

Green began by sharing his own “origin story.” Because he had asthma and allergies as a young child, he missed many days of school. There was no Zoom or Internet then for him to take part in class, so he spent his time at home reading, drawing, and making up stories. He loved comic strips such as Garfield, Peanuts, and Calvin and Hobbes and taught himself how to draw Garfield. He demonstrated on an art easel for the Poly students.

Lower School guest author John Patrick Green

A comic strip is essentially made of three panels with the beginning, middle, and end of a story or a joke, Green explained. When he returned to school in third grade, friends noticed that he was very good at drawing Garfield. Soon they were paying him a dollar for a Garfield picture. But his friends were using their lunch money to buy the pictures and their parents complained, so the principal called his mother. His mom said he had a right to “earn a living.” But, there was also the problem that the image of Garfield was copyrighted. So “J.P.,” as he was known then, had to create his own characters.

By fourth grade, Green had come up with the “Footsies,” people with very large feet. J.P. drew three-panel strips and photocopied them and sold them to friends, though not taking their lunch money. Eventually, by the time he was in Grades 5-9, he created “comic books” of the Footsies’ adventures modeled on action adventures such as Spiderman and X-Men and sold these to friends.

By the time he went to college, Green wanted to explore different aspects of art at the School of Visual Arts. There he met Dave Roman, later the author of the Astronaut Academy series. (Robb noted that Roman was a past Lower School guest author.) Green and Roman had similar origin stories and began working on comic books together, sometimes alternating in the roles of artist and writer, or writing the good guy versus bad guy roles.

Students excited by John Patrick Green's visit to Poly.

After college, Roman got a job working for Nickelodeon and Green went to work for Disney where he stayed for 10 years.  But the two friends continue to collaborate on projects now with Roman acting as Green’s editor.

InvestiGators Come to Life

Through his work at Disney, Green met people in publishing and had contacts for when he was ready to go out on his own. He began with ideas for animals who had “human jobs” like the Kitten Construction Company. He found that animals wearing clothes was funny. And people related to stories about jobs as “very relatable.”

It occurred to him, “What do you call an alligator who solves crimes?” An Investigator! And they can also go undercover! This led to his two main characters, Mango and Brash, and their arch rival, Crackerdile. A student held up her copy of one of the InvestiGator books. The series now has six editions, with the most recent being Heist and Seek. But Green told the students that he is already working on the next episode in the adventures of Mango and Brash!

After a brief Q&A, some students chatted with their favorite author.

John Patrick Green with students
John Patrick Green with students

Watch InvestiGators animated shorts.