Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey is a series of American children's books about two 4th graders, George Beard and Harold Hutchins, and the aptly-named superhero they accidentally create by hypnotizing their principal, Mr. Benny Krupp. The book series had recently won a Disney Adventures Kids Choice Award.The most recent book in the series, Captain Underpants and the Preposterous Plight of the Purple Potty People, was released on August 15, 2006. Ever since the first book was published, Pilkey received letters from parents of reluctant readers, telling him that their kids who hated reading enjoyed and loved Captain Underpants.
Dav Pilkey originally got the idea of Captain Underpants back when he was in the second grade. Pilkey says during an interview:
I got the idea when I was a second grader at St. John's Lutheran School in Elyria, Ohio. My teacher used the word "underpants" in class one day and everyone started laughing. She got mad and told us that underwear was not funny. We all laughed harder. Usually, when the class cracked up, it was because of something I had said or done. But our teacher had never made everybody laugh so hard before. I realized then that the word "underpants" was a very funny word. On the school bus home that day, I was making up a story about underwear and some younger kids in the seat behind me were laughing so hard, they almost fell on the floor. The next day, while sitting in the hallway — I spent lots of time in the hallway because I often misbehaved in class — I invented a superhero named Captain Underpants.
The debut novel, The Adventures of Captain Underpants
which Dav Pilkey
had created, was based on a superhero that he invented in 1973.When Dav Pilkey began making children books in 1986, starting with World War Won
, his goal was to one day publish a book about Captain Underpants
. Because of that, he wrote several different versions of the story, including a 48 page comic book. Afterwards, he sent the versions of the story to many different publishers. For years, every publisher who saw it turned it down. It was not until 1995 until the book was finally accepted; the first Captain Underpants
book was published in the United States
by Scholastic, Inc.
in March 1997. There might be a movie based on the book.
- George Beard and Harold Hutchins - Two pranksters who are best friends and next-door neighbors. They have started a comic book making club called "Treehouse Comix Inc.," and every day at school they run off several hundred copies of their latest comic book and sell them on the playground. George is identified by his tie and flat top haircut, Harold is recognizable by his T-shirt and bad haircut.
George is 9¾ years old while Harold is 10 years old. They are considered as the class clowns of 4th grade at Jerome Horwitz Elementary School, a school which discourages imagination.
- Mr. Benny Krupp - The mean principal of Jerome Horwitz Elementary School. Principal Krupp has a very deep hatred against other children, especially with George and Harold. He constantly tries to make up schemes to punish George and Harold, and also to protect Jerome Horwitz Elementary from the boys' antics. Benny Krupp is a really bad pun on "bankrupt," the only pun which does not correctly describes its character.
- Captain Underpants - The main hero of the series. He always wears a red cape with black polka-dots and a pair of white briefs. He is acutally Mr. Krupp hypnotized to think he is "Captain Underpants," a character created by George and Harold. Whenever Mr. Krupp hears the sound of fingers snapping, he turns back to Captain Underpants which causes George and Harold to follow him and keep him out of trouble. Captain Underpants turns back into Mr. Krupp when water is poured on his head.He gained his superpowers by drinking some "Extra Strentgh Super Power Juice" found from an alein spaceship.
- Sulu and Crackers - George and Harold's pets. Sulu was Melvin's abandoned pet bionic hamster after he yelled at Sulu which offended him badly, but afterwards adopted by George and Harold. Crackers is their pet pterodactyl. Both appeared in the Big, Bad, Battle of the Bionic Booger Boy parts 1 and 2. Sulu was briefly a villain after being hypnotized by Evil George and Evil Harold in The Preposterous Plight of the Purple Potty People. Crackers was hypnotized as well, but didn't turn evil (presumably because Crackers is a female as hypnosis has the opposite effect on females).
- Boxer Boy and Great Granny Girdle - Appearing in the eighth book, Boxer Boy and Great Granny Girdle are (respectively) Harold's grandfather and George's great-grandmother. They battled (and beat) Captain Blunderpants to save their grandchildren. George and Harold accidentally gave them Super Power Juice while showing them a new comic in a two-family dinner during grandparents' day.
- Melvin Sneedly - George and Harold's nerdy nemesis. He is an annoying tattle-tale and a mechanical genius. He was first introduced in the book Captain Underpants and the Attack of the Talking Toilets where he invents the "PATSY-2000" for the science fair. Melvin is described as "the kid with the bowtie and glasses". He was the main villain of book 6 Captain Underpants and the Big, Bad Battle of the Bionic Booger Boy Part 1: The Night of the Nasty Nostril Nuggets after accidentally transforming himself into the Bionic Booger Boy. In Purple Potty People, the alternate Melvin was not at all intelligent.
- Ms. Tara Ribble - George and Harold's mean 4th grade teacher, introduced in the first book as an unnamed character. In book 5, she turned evil after George and Harold accidentally made her think she was "Wedgie Woman," one of the characters in their comic books. Afterwards, the two made change her behavior to be nicer and happier with their 3D Hypno-Ring, including making her serve freshly-baked cookies to the class every day of school. She enjoys chunky tofu ice cream, as revealed in the fifth book. She also almost marries Mr. Krupp, but refuses because he has a "silly nose" (the joke being that they have identical noses). Her name is a pun. Tara Ribble is a pun on the word "terrible" and Ms. Ribble is a pun on the word "miserable".
- Mr. Meaner - Jerome Horwitz Elementary School's gym teacher. He is depicted as being a fat man, and with a personality similar to Mr. Krupp's. Like him, he is very cruel to students and often yells at them. His name is a reference to the word "misdemeanor." George and Harold express their dislike for him by constantly having gym teachers being attacked or killed by various monsters in their comics, but no one ever cares.
- Edith Anthrope - The school secretary. She is not very nice. She helped set up Ms. Ribble and Mr. Krupp's marriage. Her name is a reference to the word "misanthrope".
- Mr .Morty Fyde - Mr. Fyde is the Jerome Horvitz science teacher. He quit in the book Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants. He is not mean and rather dorky; his name is a pun on the word "mystified" while his full name is a pun on the word "mortified".
- The Lunch Ladies - The lunch ladies do not play large roles in any of the books, but are essential to the plot of the third book. Two of the ladies' names are given; they are: Mrs. DePoint and Ms. Creant, which are puns on the phrases "misses the point" and "miscreant", respectively.
- Dr. Diaper (Dr. Nappy in the European series) - A villain whose plan was to blow up the moon with the Lasermatic 2000 and all the big hunks of it would come crashing down on earth, crushing evry major city. This Chaos would allow him to take over the planet. He made a brief appearance in the fourth book.
- The Turbo Toilet 2000 - A giant toilet who planned to eat Captain Underpants and take over the world. He was later defeated and flown to Uranus; in the fourth book in the newspaper Professor Poopypants was holding, one of the articles was that there were talking toilets found on Uranus and the "Piqua Order Of Professional Space Interplanetary Explorers (POOPSIE) later discovered the talking toilets on Uranus yet again. It is also a running gag in the book series that bad guys get sent to Uranus.
- The Talking Toilets - Miniature toilets who worked for the Turbo Toilet 2000. They were poisoned by the cafeteria food.
- Zork, Klax and Jennifer - Three space aliens who planned to turn everybody into zombies by using a special juice. They were later killed in a horrific UFO explosion.
- The Dandilion Of Doom - A dandilion that drank alien juice. He and the aliens are basicly the reason Capt. got his super powers, especialy him.
- Professor Pippy Pee-Pee Poopypants (Tippy Tinkletrousers) - A villain who is described to have a funny name and plans to make everybody's names silly because people teased him. He was briefly a science teacher after Mr. Fyde quit. George convinces him to change his name, but it is still silly. He re-appears in the ninth book, Tippy Tinkletrousers.
- Wedgie Woman - A villain who planned to destroy Captain Underpants and rule the planet. She is later changed back to normal by George and Harold, where she becomes nice.
- Robo-George and Harold 2000 - Two robots built by Wedgie Woman based on George and Harold. They tried to defeat Captain Underpants, but he destroys them.
- The Bionic Booger Boy - A mix of Melvin Sneedly, snot and a robot in an invention test. He went crazy after an idiotic, fat person named "Mr. Snoddy" in the sixth book threw tissues at him. He grew bigger and more annoyed, and plotted to get revenge. He is later broken down by Sulu and Mr. Sneedly.
- Carl, Trixie and Frankenbooger (The Robo-Boogers) - Boogers that planned to destroy Captain Underpants. They all came from the Bionic Booger Boy. They were destroyed by Captain Underpants by "nutrious" oranges.
- Captain Blunderpants - An evil version of Captain Underpants from an alternate dimension who plotted to destroy Captain Underpants. Captain Blunderpants has a toupee and looks and acts more like Mr. Krupp. He was defeated by Boxer Boy and Great-Granny Girdle.
- Evil George and Evil Harold - The opposite versions of George and Harold from an alternate dimension. They helped Captain Blunderpants and they are actually good authors and illustrators. They were shrunk and sent back to universe by George and Harold.
Captain Underpants Main Series
- The Adventures of Captain Underpants (1997)
- Captain Underpants and the Attack of the Talking Toilets (1999)
- Captain Underpants and the Invasion of the Incredibly Naughty Cafeteria Ladies from Outer Space (and the Subsequent Assault of the Equally Evil Lunchroom Zombie Nerds) (1999)
- Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants (2000)
- Captain Underpants and the Wrath of the Wicked Wedgie Woman (2001)
- Captain Underpants and the Big, Bad Battle of the Bionic Booger Boy (2003, 2 parts)
- Captain Underpants and the Preposterous Plight of the Purple Potty People (2006)
- Captain Underpants and the Terrifying Return of Tippy Tinkletrousers (TBA)
Captain Underpants: Collectors' Editions
Captain Underpants in popular culture
Captain Underpants appeared in two scenes of My Life As a Teenage Robot: The Movie
. He is a guest character alongside Bart Simpson
, Marvin the Martian
, Lisa Simpson
, Homer Simpson
, Fat Albert
, Iron Man
, Daffy Duck
, Jerry Mouse
, and The Incredible Hulk
Recurring Jokes and Themes
- George and Harold often break the fourth wall in the books. The characters in the series know that they are created by an author. For example the line "ALRIGHT ALREADY! Enough with the descriptions,you're making us sick!", yelled George to the narrator and "Why are all our pronouns being italicized?" and even acknowledge it's a book such as "I was hoping for something a little more dramatic but we're running out of pages"
- The last phrase of a chapter has the answer as the title of the next chapter. (Example: Mr. Krupp says "Where, oh where?"; the title of the next chapter is "Here, oh here").*In the 7th book, George said he knew that Melvin said something about the purple potty on page 77 (Which was, "Don't use the purple potty two days in a row").
- Every book has a chapter with just a few words and one page, titled "To Make a Long Story Short". "It did" is the usual phrase in the chapter. The eighth book bent this a little, making two chapters on it, the first being the usual, and the second being entitled "To Make A Longer Story Even Shorter"
- Every book begins with "George and Harold" as the first chapter, with George and Harold switching a sign around to make a funny phrase. The only one that bent this pattern was Captain Underpants and the Big, Bad Battle of the Bionic Booger Boy (part 2), which also introduces Melvin Sneedly, Mr. Krupp, Sulu, Carl, Trixie, and Frankenbooger, due to the chase. George and Harold still switch a sign around. Oddly enough, the eighth book did not include introductions of Sulu and Crackers.
- Every book has two comics, one at the beginning (an intro) and one in the middle (for humor, and someone often complains about it afterwards), the exceptions are book 5 where George and Harold create a third comic to save the world and book 8 where the evil twins of George and Harold created a third comic.
- There is a little boy who, after seeing a fight between Captain Underpants and the book's villain, tells his mother that "I just saw a guy in his underwear fighting someone!", to which the mother denies it by saying something like, "Don't be silly." She is often seen reading something even more unbelievable, such as a book about how to lose 20 pounds in 3 days (see: Irony). In fact, in book 4, the boy notices Professor Poopypants climbing into the then-giant Gerbil Jogger 2000. His mother then sarcastically asks if the next event will be the giant robot fighting a giant in his underpants in the middle of the city. Later on in the book, the boy sees Poopypants and Captain Underpants fighting each other, just as his mother predicted: "Mommy?" "Yes?" "Um, never mind." He and his mother only appeared in books 1, 2 and 4.
- Every book has a chapter known as "The Incredibly Graphic Violence Chapter", which has an animation mode known as Flip-o-Rama or "The Cheesy Animation Technique". It begins with a silly warning about how the "violence" might be offending, instructions on how to work Flip-o-Rama by flipping one page back and forth, and then one to three groups of pages that you flip back and forth. Instead of a violence chapter, book 7 includes instructions on how to do the Underpants Dance. However, book 8 did not include a warning on the first page of the flip-o-rama chapter.
- At the end of Chapter 1 in every book the last line is "But before I can tell you that story I have to tell you THIS story", reverting to another sub-plot story that often ties into the main-plot.
- There is occasional meta-humor, the most common joke being a character declaring something only happening in poorly written children's stories, usually right before the actual event happening.
- There is often a mention of things that happened in previous books (usually in the background). Like in the fourth book when Professor Poopypants was at the cafe, the newspaper he was reading said that NASA discovered robots living on Uranus (at the end of the second book the heroes told Robo-Plunger to take the evil toilets to that planet). In the fifth book they make numerous references to the previous books, like when Harold says that the stuff that fell on Ms. Ribble was the alien juice from the third book, George asks "You mean the one with the annoyingly long title?".
- In George and Harold's comics, the gym teacher and something else is usually attacked somehow by the antagonist (the principal seems to care more about the object). Such as the first comic, the principal says "Oh, no! not folding chairs" (without saying "the")
- In both parts of Bionic Booger Boy, George's ideas are stolen. In book 6, Mr. Sneedly claims that George's idea of switching the batteries in The Combine-O-Tron 2000 was his idea. In book 7, Melvin steals George's idea of building the Purple Potty Time Machine.
- Sometimes, Captain Underpants would do the exact opposite of what he said (for example, in book 4, George told him that his name is now Buttercup Chickenfanny, which outrages the Captain as he said,"Hey! I don't take orders from anyone'!" but he actually let George boss him around).
- Wedgie Woman was doing mute hand signs with her hair in book 5(it spells out "wedgie power"), where George and Harold witnessed her and Robo-George and Harold-2000 destroy the city.
Starting with Book 2, someone other than Captain Underpants saves the day. The following is a list of the world savers.
- Book 1: Captain Underpants/George & Harold
- Book 2: Robo-Plunger
- Book 3: Captain Underpants/George & Harold
- Book 4: Captain Underpants
- Book 5: Captain Underpants/George & Harold
- Book 6: Sulu the Bionic Hamster/Mr. Sneedly
- Book 7: Captain Underpants
- Book 8: Captain Underpants/Boxer Boy & Great Granny Girdle/ George & Harold
- Book o' Fun: Captain Underpants
- Book o' Fun 2: Captain Underpants/Super Diaper Baby/Diaper Dog
- Super Diaper Baby Book 1: Super Diaper Baby & Diaper Dog
The Captain Underpants
books were reported by the American Library Association
to be the sixth most frequently challenged books in the year 2002. Dav Pilkey
also mentioned this in his website. According to the American Library Association, Pilkey's Captain Underpants series was banned for insensitivity and being unsuited to age group, as well as encouraging children to disobey authority.
Captain Underpants Halloween costumes create controversy at Long Island (NY) high school. After 3 female students dressed up as Captain Underpants the principal placed a costume ban for all students. The three girls donned beige leotards and nude stockings under white briefs and red capes to portray the superhero, who has battled such foes as talking toilets. According to Principal Restivo, "the appearance was that they were naked."
References to other heroes
- In the comics, the principal says,"This looks like a job for...". It is a reference to Superman.
- In book 6, Miss Anthrope said,"Go get 'em, Tiger!" after she kisses Captain Underpants. This is a reference to Spider-man's girlfriend, Mary Jane Watson.
- Dr. Diaper has the personality and intelligence of Dr. Doom.
- Melvin Sneedly parodies Spider-Man's unfortunate reaction.
- Captain Blunderpants parodies Ultraman.
- Sulu the Bionic Hamster parodies Krypto as the superhero's animal ally.
- Spray Starch parodies Green Kryptonite as the superhero's weakness.
- Some of the characters from Captain Underpants also appeared in the Moron Comics title, The Annoying Spitter-Man.
- Captain Underpants teamed up with Spitter-Man and other Superhero parodies.
Distribution outside of the USA
- Brazil: Cosac & Naify
- Canada, Argentina, Mexico, UK, Hong Kong, India, Australia, New Zealand: Scholastic
- Catalan: Editorial Cruilla, a division of Ediciones SM, Barcelona
- Chinese Simplified: Thinkingdom/New Buds
- Chinese Traditional: Commonwealth
- Czech: Egmont
- Danish: Forlaget Sesam, a division of Egmont
- Finland: Tammi
- France: Le Petit Musc, a division of Playbac, Paris
- German: Ueberreuter, Vienna
- Greek: Modern Times
- Iceland: JPV Forlag
- Indonesia: Gramedia
- Italy: Piemme (Captain Underpants), Salani (Super Diaper Baby)
- Japan: Tokuma Shoten
- Norway: A.W. Damm
- Poland: Egmont
- Portugal: Gradiva
- Romania: Editura National
- Russia: Machiny Tvoreniya Publishing (title: Капитан Подштанник "Kapitan Podshtannik")
- Slovene: Zalozba Mladinska Knjiga
- Spain: Ediciones SM, Madrid
- Sweden: Egmont Richters
- Thai: Pearl Publishing
- Turkish: A.I. Iletisim/Altin Kitaplar