Faster than a speeding waistband! More powerful than boxer shorts! Able to leap tall buildings without getting a wedgie!
A series of EPICNOVELS written by Dav Pilkey. Its main character is Exactly What It Says on the Tin.George Beard and Harold Hutchins note Harold is the one on the left with the T-shirt and the bad haircut. George is the one on the right with the tie and the flat-top. Remember that now are two mischievous kids at Jerome Horwitz Elementary School. They enjoy pulling off practical jokes and making comic books to brighten the lives of their fellow students. But one day, their evil principal, Mr. Benny Krupp, manages to record video of them pulling off a series of pranks that causes their football team to forfeit a game, and blackmails the two boys by threatening to show the video to the football team unless they give up their mischief-making ways and do all sorts of hard labor.Not wanting to go through with this, George and Harold order a hypnotic ring and use it to hypnotize Mr. Krupp into giving them the tape. Then, for laughs, they hypnotize him into believing he is their comic book creation, Captain Underpants. But as a result of their inability to handle the ring properly (and pouring water over his head, which they weren't supposed to do), Mr. Krupp now transforms into Captain Underpants whenever he hears the sound of fingers snapping.Initially, Mr Krupp as Captain Underpants was powerless (aside from being a mean shot with underwear), as opposed to his comic incarnation, who was a classic Flying Brick. However, as of the third book, he has acquired super powers.There are also two Spin-Off titles: The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby and The Adventures of Ook and Gluk, Kung-Fu Cavemen From The Future. These books are presented as graphic novels written by George and Harold, with Super Diaper Baby featuring a Cross Over with their Captain Underpants comic.The books to date are:
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, Part 1: The Night of the Nasty Nostril Nuggets (2003)
Captain Underpants and the Big, Bad Battle of the Bionic Booger Boy, Part 2: The Revenge of the Ridiculous Robo-Boogers (2003)
Captain Underpants and the Preposterous Plight of the Purple Potty People (2006)
Captain Underpants and the Terrifying Return of Tippy Tinkletrousers (2012)
Captain Underpants and the Revolting Revenge of the Radioactive Robo-Boxers (2013)
Captain Underpants and the Tyrannical Retaliation of the Turbo-Toilet 2000 (2014, coming soon)
Captain Underpants and the Sensational Saga of Sir Stinks-A-Lot (2015, coming soon)
Aerith and Bob: The three aliens in the third book: Zork, Klax, and Jennifer.
Affectionate Parody: Captain Underpants is very much one of Superman - he is first described in the same manner of Superman's own "More powerful than a locomotive..." way. His costume is a takeoff of Superman's spandex and Badass Cape. Within his comics inside the universe, he shares Superman's Flying Brick powers. Then, outside the comics, he actually gets the powers. For a bonus, he's also one of Batman - inside his comics, he has a 'waistband utility belt' which is just as Crazy-Prepared as Batman's. He even once says "To the underwear cave!", though he actually lacks such a place. As an added bonus, his in-comic origin story is identical to Superman's—doomed planet, only survivor, adopted by rural folk, father appearing in dream sequence, et cetera.
Ain't No Rule: Inverted. The Jerome Horwitz "Big Book o' Rules" has rules about EVERYTHING, including kicking a softball into outer space, students turning into giant flying robots, etc.
Aliens In Cleveland: The books are set in Piqua, Ohio, once known as the Underwear Capital of the World.
Anti-Climax: Parodied Once an Episode. Near the end, there's some climactic event which gets its own chapter (the Robo-Plunger rebuilding the school, George and Harold attempting a Heel-Face Brainwashing on Ms. Ribble, the kids pouring water on Captain Underpants to turn him back to Mr. Krupp, Tippy Tinkletrousers getting stepped on by Zombie Nerd Harold, etc.). The chapter in question simply says something like "they did" or "it worked".
This chapter in each book is always called 'To Make a Long Story Short'. To make an even bigger conundrum even more anticlimatic, in "The Perilous Plight of the Purple Potty People", such a chapter is followed by a similar chapter, 'To Make a Longer Story Shorter'. Ironically, this chapter is actually more characters long than the preceding one.
In Book 10, we actually get to see the "long story" of Book 9 in its entirety.
Art Evolution: In the first three books, the illustrations have a very flat and much cruder look. However, by the end of the third book, the art started to look noticeably crisper and more three-dimensional.
Author's Saving Throw: In-universe - Captain Underpants' origin story is made to make him invulnerable to starching.
Bad Future: As Tippy Tinkertrousers appeared before the already-traumatized Kipper and his gang with a giant pair of robotic pants, he inadvertently causes them to go insane from the terror, and Mr. Krupp was blamed for his crime. Mr. Krupp was then fired from being principal of Jerome Horwitz Elementary School. As a result, Mr. Krupp didn't become Captain Underpants and the first three villains from the first three novels succeeded in accomplishing their goals.
In the tenth book, George and Harold decide to swear off pranks and comic books and become model students after witnessing all of the chaos brought about by their time traveling. They meet themselves thirty years in the future, having become jerkass teachers themselves and working for an elderly Mr. Krupp. However, this becomes subverted when the young George and Harold finally defeat Slightly Younger Tippy Tinkletrousers by summoning the elderly Captain Underpants to assist his younger time-shifted self in the fight.
"A huge cloud of mist filled the air, covering everything in sight, and making these two pages incredibly easy to draw."
Brilliant, but Lazy: George and Harold have lots and lots of potential and are very smart boys, but are horribly lazy and tend to use their potential in the form of pranks and comic books rather than in their schoolwork.
In one of the later books, George and Harold tell everyone how to make a squishy prank, which is to put ketchup packets under a toilet seat. Half way through the book, Melvin sits on a toilet and gets ketchup on his legs.
"I was at the shoe store ordering a cheeseburger."
The Bully: Mr. Krupp's nephew, Kipper Krupp, and his gang in book nine.
The Cameo: In one of George and Harold's comic books that were clearly a Take That on the school's tattletale Melvin, among the people going to jail were Super Diaper Baby and Diaper Dog from the spin-off titles. They show up again when Captain Underpants releases everyone from their cells.
Cannot Spit It Out: In the Wrath of the Wicked Wedgie Woman, George and Harold prank Mr. Krupp by changing an apology card he ordered them to make for Ms. Ribble that she reads out loud into a marriage proposal to her for him. He is so shocked and stupefied when she reads it out, an actual marriage happens until Ms. Ribble breaks it off just before the vows happen, and only then does Mr. Krupp say he didn't want to marry her either, the entire thing happening due to George and Harold tricking them.
Chekhov's Gag: Squishies. First used as a seemingly throwaway gag in the sixth book, and later makes a surprise reappearance in the seventh book, cleverly used by Captain Underpants to dispatch Trixie and Frankenbooger at the same time.
Chekhov's Gun: The 3-D Hypno-Ring was originally just a(n extremely silly) plot device in The Adventures of Captain Underpants and was only brought up in passing in most of the sequels, if it was mentioned at all. In Wrath of the Wicked Wedgie Woman, however, the ring made a full reappearance and the trouble using it causes became a plot point.
In the first book, George and Harold decide to take a fake dog poop with them when go to search for the hypnotized Mr. Krupp. Later, George uses the poop to distract Dr. Diaper.
Cliffhanger Cop Out: Tippy Twinkletrousers was apparently killed by the zombi-fied Harold at the end of Book 9. Book 10 reveals the former left out a scene between, in which it turns out Harold was so incredibly slow Tippy was able to fake it.
Dr. Diaper is arrested (offscreen) at the end of book one. In book four when Tippy Tinkletrousers is in jail, you can see him one of the windows at the jail.
At the end of Book two, George and Harold tell the robot they created to take the dead toilets out to Uranus. Then in book 4 if you notice a newspaper, they're apparently found on Uranus. This once again shows up in Book 7, when Major Tomski and his crew make an expedition to Uranus and find the dead toilets and the Toiletnator.
Contrived Coincidence: This is how Captain Underpants frequently sources his red with black dots curtain-capes:
Most of the time, they come from Mr. Krupp's office in the school.
In Book 6, George, Harold and Krupp were hiding behind one of these curtains when George turned Krupp into Captain Underpants. (The coincidence was lampshaded here)
In Book 9, the Everything Except Fabric Softener store happens to be selling superhero capes at 100% off, as part of their 'Lazy Storytelling' sale.
In Book 10, Krupp was holding a box of curtains when he was accidentally sent back in time with George and Harold.
December-December Romance: George's grandmother and Harold's grandfather hook up around the end of the Preposterous Plight of the Purple Potty People. George and Harold were suitably Squicked from being present to them passionately kissing before going off to find a restaurant for a date.
Detonation Moon: Dr. Diaper's plot. The new timeline created in Book 9 shows an aversion to No Endor Holocaust, with the remains of the destroyed moon scattered across the ruined landscape.
Development Hell: The 9th book was stuck in this for six years until finally being released in 2012.
Disney Death: Parodied when George and Harold nearly fall to their doom due to Captain Underpants using toilet paper to escape an alien spaceship. Also doubles as a Disney Villain Death.
Double Entendre: The title of the third book could be referencing both the fact that the aliens are evil, and their ...appendages.
Downer Ending: Terrifying Return of Tippy Tinkletrousers. AND HOW!
Luckily, there is some Timey-Wimey Ball shennanigans involved as the Tippy that appeared before George and Harold were sentenced to juvie was from the future, and the story focused on what happened when Tippy didn't appear before then.
Early-Installment Weirdness: In the first two books, the Once an Episode Incredibly Graphic Violence Chapter(s) were called the Extremely Graphic Violence Chapter(s). The first three books each had a chapter titled "Busted" as well.
Every Episode Ending: The first five books end with everything going back to normal, until someone snaps their fingers and Mr. Krupp runs off to become Captain Underpants. The later books end with Sequel Hooks instead.
To name two example, the twenty-third chapter of the third book and the twenty-second chapter of the fourth book are respectively called "The Twenty-Third Chapter" and "The Twenty-Second Chapter".
Expy: In universe example; the aliens seen in George and Harold's "The Adventures of Great-Granny Girdle and Boxer Boy" during the events of Book 8 are clearly based on Zork, Klax, and Jennifer from the third book.
Fail O'Suckyname: Professor Poopypants' nation has this as their Hat. His first appearance as a villain has him attempting to give everyone else stupid names after being sick of being laughed at for his.
Family-Unfriendly Death: Tippy being squished to death by a giant zombie nerd Harold at the conclusion to Terrifying Return of Tippy Tinkletrousers. The narrator even describes what's left of him as a "red squishy stain". This was lampshaded in the beginning of the next book, of course.
Subverted: The zombie nerds actually squashed a pack of ketchup, as they were too slow to actually crush Tippy.
Fantastic Aesop: "But what George and Harold forgot was the other moral, that is, never, ever, EVER hypnotize your principal. Because if you do, your life may go from bad to worse at the snap of a finger!"
Fantastic Naming Convention: Played with in the novel Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants. The antagonist comes from a country named New Swissland, where everyone has a silly name. His is Professor Pippy Pee Poopypants. He later changes it Tippy T. Tinkletrousers.
F Minus Minus: In the fifth book, Ms. Ribble, infuriated with George and Harold's prank that nearly got her married to Mr. Krupp, gives them both "G" grades, a grade specially made just for them. (Unfortunately, the joke is lost on some British readers nowadays, as it is actually possible to get a G grade at GCSE.)
Future Me Scares Me: At one point in the 10th book, George and Harold resolve to start taking their lives more seriously. Later, they end up traveling to the future that by following this resolution, they have grown up to become sadistic teachers. They are able to prevent this by breaking the resolution.
Getting Crap Past the Radar: Both averted and lampshaded. In "Attack of the Talking Toilets" George and Harold get the idea to create a giant urinal called "The Urinator" to destroy the evil toilets. However, they quickly scrap the idea after deciding that they would never get away with that in a children's book. note According to Pilkey, this was an exact transcript between himself and his girlfriend while he was writing the book. He'd intended for the destroyer of the toilets to be called "The Urinator", but she talked him out of it for the same reasons. Also in the Alternate Universe, a sign in the background shows a book called 'Mommy has Two Heathers', which is a spin on the book 'Heather Has Two Mommies' about lesbianism.
In The Wrath of the Wicked Wedgie Woman, Harold says:
Harold: If he believes that spray starch will save him, then it probably will. I think it's called the Placenta Effect.
The next chapter is then called "The Placenta Effect."
In book nine Little George messes up a sign saying "Free Brake Inspection" in order to save Harold from bullies. He removes the k and e, making it say "Free Bra Inspection."
Genre Savvy: Both George and Harold know that they exist in a series of books, and love lampshading tropes.
George and Harold are tied up, with a candle burning through a rope that when burnt through will launch an axe at them.
George: Well, it looks like this is the end.
Harold: Maybe not. Maybe the blade will fall and slice through our ropes and not harm us at all.
George: I doubt it. That kind of thing only happens in really lame adventure stories.
Suddenly the blade fell and sliced through the ropes, not harming George or Harold at all. The two boys looked at each other and decided it was best not to comment on the situation.
Gone Horribly Right: The whole premise. George and Harold hypnotized their principal to believe he was an underwear-themed superhero. It worked too well.
In the third book, George reluctantly gives Captain Underpants "Extra-Strength Superpower Juice" to save his life before he could get eaten. Now, not only does he believe he's Captain Underpants, he has superpowers.
In the comic George and Harold make for Ms. Ribble, she assigns a huge amount of book reports only to get crushed by the pile. When she's rebuilt as Wedgie Woman, she's defeated when her robo-wedgie-claw grabs her own underwear.
Harold 2000 and Robo-George get beaten up their own rocket arms.
Happens to the real Ms. Ribble when she's hypnotized into thinking she's Wedgie Woman. That stolen Extra-Strength Spray Starch? It's actually Hair Remover, and her powers are all in her hair.
Hypno Fool: The result of George and Harold not reading the directions, and the rationale behind the books after the first one.
Hypocritical Humor: When Ms. Ribble says she could never marry Mr. Krupp because of his stupid-looking nose, the scene is drawn in close-up to emphasize the fact that their noses are drawn identically.
Irony: Oh so much. Especially in Wrath of the Wicked Wedgie Woman where Harold and George head to a newly-opened store to buy fabric softener to help Captain Underpants... only to find the store literally sells everything except fabric softener.
Jerkass: Melvin and Mr. Krupp (when not in Captain Underpants mode).
Laser-Guided Karma: Professor Poopypants attempts to give everyone this for laughing at his name, by forcing them to change their names to silly-sounding ones with similar patterns.
Lead In: Several of the books often have a mini-plot that eventually kicks off the major events of the book, preceded by the line "But before I can tell you this story, I have to tell you this one..." In the case of the ninth and tenth books, the ninth book ends up being a book-long Lead In to the tenth book.
Long Title: 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). Lampshaded once by George when he points out that it had an "annoyingly long title".
Oh Crap: George and Harold, whenever someone snaps their fingers and Mr. Krupp's nearby.
Once an Episode: Indulged and occasionally played with by changing the pattern a bit.
Typically the books introduce George and Harold at the beginning. "George is the one with the tie and flat-top. Harold is the one with the striped shirt and bad haircut. Remember that now." Parodied in the kids' graphic novels: each one has a panel introducing two characters in the same fashion with one of the two saying, "Remember that now."
Also parodied in the fourth book, in which after Professor Poopypants changes everyone's names, the following chapter begins just like the first one, only calling George and Harold by their new names.
Also in George and Harold's comic books, when the Monster of the Week begins its rampage, a kid shows up to announce what terrible things just happened. An adult will show concern for the less important one, such as knocking over a tray of cupcakes. Also, the more important incident always seems to involve the gym teacher.
Every book includes the line "But before I tell you that story, I have to tell you this one."
There is always a chapter called "To Make A Long Story-Short." One book had a chapter called "To Make a Longer Story Even Shorter."
There's always a "Flip-O-Rama" section for the action sequences. Usually with someone telling the reader not to do it and that they will be punished if they do.
Whenever a ridiculous suggestion comes up, a character will almost always say something along the lines of, "That can only happen in dumb children's books." Then they try the suggestion out anyway and it works!
Somehow, somewhere, a sign will always get its letters rearranged or knocked off to spell something ridiculous.
One-Paragraph Chapter: A Running Gag in the books is a chapter consisting only of one two- to four-word sentence confirming that the sequence of events that needed to happen, as explained at the end of the previous chapter, happened.
Overly-Long Scream: In the beginning of Book 10, when Tippy Tinkletrousers was about to be stepped on, he screamed in terror. And screamed... and screamed... and checked his watch and screamed some more.
Page Turn Surprise: The end of Book 9 expresses some End of Series Awareness and says "There are no more Captain Underpants books..." The next page is nothing but a silent two-page spread of Scenery Gorn. The page after that, however, is a teaser for the actual final book, accompanied with the text, "...except for this one:"
Painting the Medium: When George and Harold tricked the cafeteria ladies into making a baking-soda-and-vinegar explosion, the resulting tidal wave of foam obscured most of the text on the page; the reader is prompted to make their own special effects for the explosion by shaking the book and yelling "KABLOOOOOOSH!" The back of the book even has an apology and address for you to send a letter to if you got in trouble for yelling that, with the promise that "we'll send you something fun!" note If you wrote in, they sent you a newsletter called Something Fun.
Punny Name: The school teachers and staff - Benny Krupp (bankrupt), Ms. Anthrope (misanthrope), Ms. Tara Ribble (miserable and terrible), Mrs. DePoint (misses the point), Mr. Morty Fyde (mystified and mortified), etc.
Real Men Wear Pink: At the end of the first book, the school football team changes the team's name to the Purple Dragon Sing-Along Friends after a video they saw. Fans were stated to have disliked it, but no one actually argued with the team in front of their faces - for obvious reasons.
Sadist Teacher / Child Hater: Pretty much the whole staff of Jerome Horwitz Elementary School. However, in the fifth book, George and Harold turn Ms. Ribble into a subversion of this via Heel-Face Brainwashing. Also, book nine reveals that Harold's father walked out on the family when he was six, and Harold created the Captain Underpants comics as a coping mechanism. Mr. Krupp in his Captain Underpants identity is a kind of Bumbling DadParental Substitute for both of the boys, but particularly Harold..
San Dimas Time: The fifth and tenth books play this one completely straight. The entire plot of the tenth book depends upon at least three nested time loops resulting in the extinction of the dinosaurs, the Ice Age, and the creation of the universe respectively!
Scare 'Em Straight: In order to stop Kipper Krupp and his gang from bullying the kindergardeners, George and Harold staged an elaborate prank about a ghost called Wedgie Magee. This results in Kipper and his gang turning over a new leaf and allowing the kindergardeners to bully them in retribution.
Schedule Slip: Fans had to wait three years between the publications of books 7 (2003) and 8 (2006). Afer that, Dav Pilkey spent some years caring for his terminally-ill father. His next book, The Adventures of Ook and Gluk, Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future (another George and Harold graphic novel) was finally released in August 2010, the first of a four-title publishing deal.
Book nine, The Terrifying Return of Tippy Tinkletrousers didn't come out until six years after book eight.
Severely Specialized Store: Inverted in Captain Underpants and the Wrath of the Wicked Wedgie Woman: To help Captain Underpants regain his powers, George and Harold need to get some fabric softener to counteract the spray starch that took them away. They run to a new store that opened nearby, which turns out to be "Everything BUT Fabric Softener."
Shrink Ray: the Shrinky-Pig 2000, invented by Professor Poopypants. He also invented the Goosy-Grow 4000, the inverse.
Signs of Disrepair: Every book opens with George and Harold rearranging the letters around on a sign to say something silly. The boys also use this trope as a running gag in their comic books.
Space Whale Aesop: The moral of Professor Poopypants is: Don't make fun of people's names, or they'll shrink you to the size of a bug and make YOU change your name to something ridiculous to make themselves feel better. Although this could also be interpreted as "Don't make fun of people, because what goes around comes around."
Spaghetti Kiss: Parodied in The All-New Captain Underpants Extra-Crunchy Book o' Fun 2's "The Night of the Terror of the Revenge of the Curse of the Bride of Hairy Potty", complete with Hairy Potty rolling a urinal cake with his nose.
Spin-Off: Two as of this writing, with more promised.
Square/Cube Law: Played with in Books 9 and 10 — in Book 9, the giant zombie nerds appeared to have crushed Tippy Tinkletrousers in the ending. The following book reveals that the giants were moving slow enough to allow Tippy to fake his death.
Staring Kid: A recurring character who always tries to point out the titular superhero's antics to his mom, but she never believes him.
He and his mother make an appearance in Book 9 as the people who tell Tippy Tinkletrousers about what happened since he changed the past.
They make a cameo in book 10, in which their roles are reversed - the mother is the one who sees something strange, and her son doesn't believe her.
Sparse List of Rules: In the fifth book, the school reveals it has the Big Book O' Rules, with nearly 8000 rules. We only hear two: "Rule 411: Don't kick school property into space", and "Rule 7,734: Don't transform into big, flying robots during afternoon recess."
Spotlight-Stealing Title: Despite Captain Underpants being in the name of every book and usually front and center on the cover, George and Harold are the real protagonists. The most egregious being the cover of Preposterous Plight of the Purple Potty People — Captain Underpants is front and center on the cover and yet only appears in the book itself for about 12 pages.
In the books themselves, The Terrifying Revenge of Tippy Twinkletrousers. Captain Underpants and Tippy Twinkletrousers are important on the cover, and yet 90% of the book focuses on young George and Harold redeeming their school bully.
To put it in perspective, the first eight chapters focused on Tippy escaping from jail and discovering Captain Underpants's secret. Then the focus switches to the bully story and Tippy doesn't return until the thirty-first chapter of this thirty-four-chapter book.
Furthermore, Captain Underpants and the Preposterous Plight of the Purple Potty People features a trip to an alternate universe where the school library is stocked with books and the librarian encourages creativity and non-conformity.
The ENTIRE SERIES is easily a Take That to the author's teachers, particularly memorable ones like the one who told him to grow up and stop making silly comic books, or the principal who told him he would never make a living as an artist. This is also a large reason for the "death to the gym teacher" Running Gag.
"Captain Underpants and the Terrifying Return of Tippy Tinkletrousers" enjoys drawing parallels between prison and Elementary School, the primary difference being that prison has better funding.
The tenth book features some pages which are devoted to the narrator explaining to the kid readers why adults are so mean to them and why they would rather blame other people or things for problems that are their own fault.
Take That, Us: The Preposterous Plight of the Purple Potty People's Mirror Universe plot, when realized by George and Harold, was remarked by them as something "That's only happens in children's book where the author is clearly running out of ideas."
Old Master: Master Wong, the kung-fu teacher from Ook and Gluk.
Powers as Programs: In Super Diaper Baby, Deputy Dangerous steals Captain Underpants' powers and distills it into a liquid, which gets transferred to Danger Dog and Billy when they drink it. The Captain regains his powers later when Super Diaper Baby buys a carton of Super Power Juice from Mars.
Punch Clock Villain: Danger Dog, Deputy Dangerous' sidekick in Super Diaper Baby, admits at the beginning that he's not actually evil, but rather just with the Deputy for the Kibbles. Later, the Deputy's attempt to kill Super Diaper Baby causes Danger Dog to have a Heel-Face Turn and save the baby.
Real Life Writes the Plot: The large gap in release between Purple Potty People and Terrifying Return is because Dav Pilkey took a hiatus to care for his ailing father.
Ret Gone: In Ook and Gluk, the Big Bad Mr. Goppernopper erases himself when he vaporizes his prehistoric ancestor.
Rogues-Gallery Transplant: Petey the cat started out as the sidekick of a villain in Super Diaper Baby 2. He has since shown up as a recurring villain of the Dog Man seriesnote Which currently comprises of two comics — the first as part of Captain Underpants and the Terrifying Return of Tippy Tinkletrousers, and the second being the bonus comic of the colorized edition of Captain Underpants and the Attack of the Talking Toilets.
San Dimas Time: Happens to Ook and Gluk after they spend seven years in the future learning martial arts.
Shout-Out: All three books so far contain a line referencing the song "Billy, Don't Be a Hero".