Follow TV Tropes


Literature / Captain Underpants

Go To
That's a pretty tiny building.
Faster than a speeding waistband! More powerful than boxer shorts! Able to leap tall buildings without getting a wedgie!

A series of EPIC NOVELS written by Dav Pilkey. Its main character is Exactly What It Says on the Tin.

George Beard and Harold Hutchins are two mischievous kids at Jerome Horwitz Elementary School, who enjoy pulling off practical jokes and making comic books to brighten the lives of their fellow students. 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 superpowers.

There are also three Spin-Off titles: The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby, The Adventures of Ook and Gluk: Kung-Fu Cavemen From the Future, and the Dog Man series. These books are presented as graphic novels written by George and Harold, with Super Diaper Baby featuring a Crossover with their Captain Underpants comic.

The books to date are:

  1. The Adventures of Captain Underpants (1997)
  2. Captain Underpants and the Attack of the Talking Toilets (1999)
  3. 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)
  4. Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants (2000)
  5. Captain Underpants and the Wrath of the Wicked Wedgie Woman (2001)
  6. Captain Underpants and the Big, Bad Battle of the Bionic Booger Boy, Part 1: The Night of the Nasty Nostril Nuggets (2003)
  7. Captain Underpants and the Big, Bad Battle of the Bionic Booger Boy, Part 2: The Revenge of the Ridiculous Robo-Boogers (2003)
  8. Captain Underpants and the Preposterous Plight of the Purple Potty People (2006)
  9. Captain Underpants and the Terrifying Return of Tippy Tinkletrousers (2012)
  10. Captain Underpants and the Revolting Revenge of the Radioactive Robo-Boxers (2013)
  11. Captain Underpants and the Tyrannical Retaliation of the Turbo-Toilet 2000 (2014)
  12. Captain Underpants and the Sensational Saga of Sir Stinks-A-Lot (2015)

DreamWorks Animation produced an animated film Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie, directed by Rob Letterman (Monsters vs. Aliens) and David Soren (Turbo) and written by Nicholas Stoller (Get Him to the Greek, The Muppets). Kevin Hart and Thomas Middleditch voice George and Harold, while Ed Helms plays the Captain. There's also an animated series on Netflix.

Now has a recap page. Don't worry, all the One Paragraph Chapters are Already Done for You.

The main Captain Underpants books contain examples of:

  • The Ace: George is established as this in The Terrifying Return of Tippy Tinkletrousers. In the span of five minutes, he outwits an auto mechanic who mocks a bullying victim, then intimidates the bullies into submission using only a tie — on his first day of kindergarten. He later masterminds the plan to humiliate and scare Kipper Krupp and his gang into reforming, and is only slightly fazed when he has to adapt his plans due to some lucky guesswork from Kipper.
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: In the fourth book:
    Poor Pippy Poopypants had been laughed out of every major scientific institution in the US. He'd been giggled out of Georgetown, howled out of Harvard, yuk-yukked out of Yale, snickered out of Stanford, and chuckled out of Chattanooga State Technical Community College.
    • And the fifth book:
    The creamy candied carrots clobbered the kindergarteners. The fatty fried fish fritters flipped onto the first graders. The sweet-n-sour spaghetti squash splattered the second graders. Three thousand thawing thimbleberries thudded the third graders. Five hundred frosted fudgy fruitcakes flogged the fourth graders. And fifty-five fistfuls of fancy French-fried frankfurters flattened the fifth graders.
  • Adults Are Useless: Mr. Krupp is usually competent as a principal when it comes to punishing George and Harold, but allows his nephew Kipper Krupp and his friends to bully and terrorize kindergartners.
  • Advanced Tech 2000: Many machines in this series are named like this.
  • Aerith and Bob: The three aliens in the third book: Zork, Klax, and Jennifer. Also, Carl, Trixie, and Frankenbooger in the sixth and seventh books.
  • 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 a bonus, his in-comic origin story is identical to Superman's—doomed planet, only survivor, adopted by rural folk, father appearing in a dream sequence, et cetera.
  • Afro Asskicker: Five-year-old George had an afro, and he beat up some older bullies with his necktie.
  • Aliens in Cardiff: The books are set in Piqua, Ohio, once known as the Underwear Capital of the World.
  • Alliterative Name: Harold Hutchins.
  • Alliterative List: Always the three R's: Reading, (w)Riting, and Rithmetic. When you're Ms. Ribble, however, there's also the three S's—"Sit down, Shut your pie holes, and Stop driving me crazy!"
  • Alliterative Title: The book titles starting with the second one, after the "Captain Underpants and the..." part.
  • Alternate Personality Punishment: In Book 7, Melvin and Mr. Krupp go through a "Freaky Friday" Flip, which results in Krupp being rude to Miss Anthrope and causing trouble as Captain Underpants, while in Melvin's body. When Melvin gets back into his own body, an angry mob arrives to chase after him, believing him to be responsible for the actions done by his flipped version.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: Ms. Ribble makes the students eat chunky tofu ice cream at her retirement party in Book 5. It actually exists, minus the chunky part.
  • Ambulance Cut: In Book 6, in an attempt to complete Ms. Ribble's assignment, Stephanie Yarkoff and Jessica Gordon attempt to demonstrate how to cook lasagna using a toaster. The next scene cuts to firemen leaving the school.
  • Animesque: Old Harold's art style develops into this, as shown by the Dog Man graphic novel.
  • And Then John Was a Zombie: See Future Me Scares Me.
  • Anti-Climax: Parodied Once an Episode. Near the end, there's some climactic event that gets its own chapter (the Robo-Plunger rebuilding the school, George and Harold attempting a Heel–Face Brainwashing on Ms. Ribble, Tippy Tinkletrousers getting stepped on by Zombie Nerd Harold, etc.). The chapter in question, or the one immediately following, is always called "To Make a Long Story Short" and simply says something like "they did" or "it worked".
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In the fifth book when Wedgie Woman starts giving the officers that attempt to stop her wedgies:
    Police Officer: "Call the Army, call the Marines, call a HAIRSTYLIST!!!"
    • In book 6, Melvin's new killer robot has the power to punch through cinder blocks, crush steel in its vice-like grasp, plow mercilessly through poorly written run-on sentences, and slice bagels.
  • 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.
  • Artistic License – Biology: The implication that Sulu and Crackers had sex, resulting in the birth in Tony, Orlando, and Dawn is rather impossible by genetic evolution standards. While Crackers is already avian as is, birds, specifically chickens, are thought to be the closest evolutionary relatives to dinosaurs, and Sulu, being a mammal, would likely be genetically incapable of impregnating Crackers.
  • Ass Shove: In book 10, Tippy Tinkletrousers' Robo-Trousers are equipped with a thermonuclear bomb, which is activated by having a robotic tentacle pull it out through the nether regions.
  • Atrocious Alias: 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.
  • Author Avatar: George and Harold are basically Dav Pilkey split into two kids: Dav also had many cruel teachers, who were always punishing him for acting outnote  and drawing "silly books."
  • 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. This means that the moon was blown up, and there are two separate invasions of the earth- one by talking, flesh-eating toilets, and the other by giant zombies under the control of aliens. It's not pretty.
    • 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.
  • Bait-and-Switch: When George and Harold go to the future and their future selves don't remember the event happening in their pasts, the characters chalk it up to bad writing. Given that this series lives and breathes on Better Than a Bare Bulb, this would probably be true in any other book. However, it's actually foreshadowing for the fact that the pair from the future is actually the Yesterday Pair from the present, and that George and Harold Prime will continue to adventure through time to try and save Crackers and Sulu.
  • Bare Your Midriff: Mr. Meaner's midriff spills out from his uniform.
  • Better Than a Bare Bulb
  • Big Bad: Melvin Sneedly is the Disc-One Final Boss and everyone thinks he is the main antagonist of the book series. But he turns out to be The Dragon to the series' true main antagonist, Tippy Tinkertrousers (formerly Professor Poopypants).
  • Big Bad Ensemble: Each book has its own main antagonist. The third book in particular has the aliens and the Dandelion of Doom, who work independently of each other.
  • Big, Thin, Short Trio: Frankenbooger, Carl, and Trixie, respectively.
  • Bilingual Bonus: While Wedgie Woman is announcing her new regime, her hair-tentacle-hands are using ASL to spell out "WEDGIE POWER".
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Grand Finale Sensational Saga of Sir Stinks-A-Lot ends with Mr. Meaner (AKA Sir Stinks-A-Lot) defeated, the day being saved, and Captain Underpants permanently reverting into Mr. Krupp, while Yesterday George and Yesterday Harold decide to retire the Captain Underpants comics (meaning that the world will likely forget him). However,The Yesterday pair end up making a Dog Man comic instead and are implied to be the ones who grow up to be the ones who get married. This means that Yesterday George and Harold get to live relatively normal lives while the original pair continue to go on awesome new adventures (first trying to rescue Crackers and Sulu), fulfilling both their callings at the same time.
  • Bizarro Universe: George and Harold end up in one in Preposterous Plight of the Purple Potty People. The good news is that the entire school staff are nice to students and the "villains" are nice guys performing community service. The bad news is that George and Harold are evil—and then there's Captain Blunderpants.
  • Black Bead Eyes: Every single character.
  • Brains Evil, Brawn Good: Captain Underpants vs Professor Poopypants and Wedgie Woman.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: All the time.
    • "A huge cloud of mist filled the air, covering everything in sight, and making these two pages incredibly easy to draw."
  • Brick Joke: Several examples:
    • 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. Halfway through the book, Melvin sits on a toilet and gets ketchup on his legs.
    • "I was at the shoe store ordering a cheeseburger." (It Makes Sense in Context)
  • 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.
  • Briar Patching: Captain Underpants does this to Melvin in Book 7.
  • Brown Note: Parodied in Book 4, where George and Harold's comic is about Professor Poopypants turning an army of gerbils evil by making them listen to Cher.
  • The Bully/Jerk Jock: Mr. Krupp's nephew, Kipper Krupp, and his gang in book nine. They're members of the school wrestling team and extort kindergarteners for lunch money because they can.
  • Bungled Hypnotism:
    • The premise of the series revolves around protagonists George Beard and Harold Hutchins hypnotizing their Dean Bitterman principal to be nicer. The whole issue about him believing he's a superhero every time someone snaps their fingers was a very unwanted side-effect.
    • The fifth book reveals the Hypno Ring has the unintended effect on women of compelling them to do the opposite of what their hypnosis orders. Thus George and Harold's attempt to hypnotize their teacher into being nicer causes her to turn into a monstrous supervillain. In the end, when they hypnotize her again, they have to reword all their orders to state the opposite of what they want, so that she actually turns nice this time.
  • 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 was 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 tricking him into singing a birthday for Ms. Ribble, which contains a marriage proposal. 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.
  • Captain Superhero: The titular character, of course!
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Evil George and Harold from the mirror universe in Book 8, who open their comic with the line "Once upon a time, there were two evil children named George and Harold."
    Evil George: I am bad.
    Evil Harold: I am bad as well.
  • Cassandra Truth: Once a book, a little boy tells his oblivious mother about what's happening and she brushes him off.
    • In book ten, it's the mother who tells the kid that she saw something odd, and he too swears it off.
  • Catchphrase:
  • Cerebus Syndrome: Surprisingly. After the first five books, the series gets slowly more continuity-intensive, and a bit Darker and Edgier too.
  • Character Name and the Noun Phrase: The title of every single book except for the first one.
  • 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.
    • After being sent to school in George and Harold's places, the robot George and Harold play kickball and end up sending a kickball into space by accident. It eventually lands on Uranus several books later, accidentally causing the revivial of the Turbo-Toilet 2000.
  • 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 going to search for the hypnotized Mr. Krupp. Later, George uses the poop to distract Dr. Diaper.
    • Professor Poopypants'/Tippy Tinkletrousers' various inventions from book 4 become this in books 9 and 10, and are ultimately directly or indirectly responsible for the ice age, the extinction of the dinosaurs, and the Big Bang itself.note 
    • Dog Man, the first comic that Harold and George made together eventually becomes a graphic novel by Harold and George as adults. Book 12 ends with Harold and George deciding to move on from Captain Underpants and make more comics about the character.
  • Clark Kenting: The Captain sports a Bald of Awesome, while Mr. Krupp seems to be wearing a Dodgy Toupee.
  • Cliffhanger Cop Out: Tippy Twinkletrousers was apparently killed at the end of Book 9 after the giant zombified Harold squished him underfoot. Book 10 reveals the former left out a scene between, in which it turns out Harold was so incredibly slow Tippy had time to scream three times, go shopping, then buy a giant novelty ketchup pack and place it beneath the foot.
  • Comic Books Are Real
  • Conforming OOC Moment: In "The Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants", all the students laugh at the eponymous professor's Unfortunate Name. Melvin laughs too, despite the fact that he's known for looking down on the other kids for their immature sense of humor.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Dr. Diaper is arrested (offscreen) at the end of book one. In book four when Tippy Tinkletrousers is in jail, you can see him in 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 Robo-Plunger. Finally, Book 11 opens with the softball from Book 5 arriving at Uranus and decapitating the Robo-Plunger, freeing the Turbo Toilet 2000.
  • 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.
    • In book 12, Captain Underpants's cape is a towel he was using to dry his face.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: Professor Poopypants tries to get his revenge by forcing everyone to have a silly-sounding name that uses the same pattern as his name.
  • Crapsack World: The Bad Future that Tippy Tinkletrousers unintentionally created.
  • Crazy Consumption: In Book 3, as punishment for them pulling a prank on the lunch ladies that caused them to quit, Mr. Krupp forces George and Harold to brown bag their lunch and eat with him in his office from then on. It backfires on him when he sees what the two of them are eating.
    George: I'll trade you half of my peanut-butter- and-gummy-worm sandwich for half of your tuna-salad-with-chocolate- chips-and-miniature-marshmallows sandwich.
    Harold: Sure. Y'want some barbecue sauce on that?
    Krupp: You kids are disgusting!
    • Soon, they're munching on potato chips with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles. And then guess what's next?
    George: Hard-boiled eggs dipped in hot fudge and Skittles!
    Krupp: AAAUGH! I can't stand it anymore!
  • Create Your Own Villain: With the notable exception of the first book's antagonist, every subsequent major villain has either had their plans facilitation or can contribute their descent into evil to George and Harold's callous actions.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Captain Underpants (who, at this point, has no superpowers) versus the Turbo Toilet 2000 goes about as well as you'd expect. Another one happens a few chapters later when the Robo-Plunger shows up, this time with Turbo Toilet on the receiving end.
  • Dark Action Girl: Wedgie Woman.
  • Dean Bitterman: Mr. Krupp.
  • December–December Romance: George's great-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.
  • 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 are some Timey-Wimey Ball shenanigans 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.
  • Dream Deception:
  • invokedDude, Not Funny!: After Professor Poopypants is defeated in Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants, George exclaims "Let's all give Captain Underpants a big hand!" Harold, whose hand was accidentally enlarged a few chapters prior, glares at George who apologizes.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: In Book 11, Melvin becomes a superhero to fight back against the Turbo Toilet 2000. He soon finds himself doing less of his lab work more of helping people out with trivial needs. He finally gets fed up with this and brings George and Harold back from the future to deal with the Turbo Toilet 2000.
  • 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.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Happens In almost every book, like when principal Krupp sees his secretary eating a desk.
  • 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, with George and Harold running after him, yelling "Oh no!" and "Here We Go Again!!" The later books end with Sequel Hooks instead.
  • Evil Counterpart: George and Harold have no less than three sets of Evil Counterparts—Robo-George and the Harold 2000, created by Wedgie Woman in Book 5, Evil George and Evil Harold from the mirror universe in Book 8, and their future adult selves who are Sadist Teachers working for Mr. Krupp in Book 10.
    • The captain himself has three: Dr. Diaper, Wedgie Woman note , and Captain Blunderpants.
  • Evil Me Scares Me: George and Harold.
  • Evil vs. Evil: The three Tippies in book 10.
  • Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: Crackers the pterodactyl (who's actually a Quetzalcoatlus).
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The book titles and villain names in general, probably as an Affectionate Parody.
    • To name two examples, 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".
  • Exact Words:
    • A rare non-verbal example in the fifth book. Ms. Ribble writes a poem on the blackboard and finished with "signed, your name here". She then makes all the students write the poem. But instead of writing their names, the students write "your name here".
    • In the tenth book, the heroes know that Tippy Tinkletrousers, is their only hope for returning from the Pleistocene epoch, as he is the only one with a time machine. Tippy tells the heroes, "I bet you all want a ride back to the future." The keyword being future.
    • In the climax of the eleventh book, the hamsterdactyls lift the Turbo Toilet 2000 half a mile into the air. When the TT 2000 tells them to let him go, guess what they do.
  • Expendable Alternate Universe: The premise of Book 12 relies on an alternate Earth populated with smart people getting destroyed (granted, it was their own fault, but still...).
  • 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.
  • Eye Glasses: Melvin. And his family.
  • 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 at 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-Pee Poopypants. He later changes it to...Tippy T. Tinkletrousers, naturally solving nothing for him.
  • Fat Bastard: Mr. Krupp.
    • And also, Ms. Ribble.
    • Pretty much all the teachers at Jerome Horwitz.
  • F--: 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.)
  • Flying Brick: Captain Underpants.
  • Four-Fingered Hands: Everyone.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: In Book 5, Wedgie Woman creates robot replicas of George and Harold using Leonardo da Vinci-Esque drawings and notes for reference. If one were to look closely at the notes, however, it's the lyrics to Dem Bones written backwards, but it also replaces "bones" with "bolts" ("The foot bolt connected to the ankle bolt"... etc.).
  • Funny Background Event: In Book 5, Ms. Ribble orders the class to copy a poem from the blackboard onto their retirement party cards for her that ends with "Signed, Your Name Here". Looking at the illustrations reveals that the children have literally signed their cards "Your Name Here".
  • Fun with Acronyms: In Book 2, Melvin’s invention, the PATSY 2000, is short for Photo-Atomic Trans-Somgobulating Yectofantriplutoniczanziptomiser.
    Harold: I’m sorry I asked.
    • Piqua has its own space force which is named POOPSIE: The Piqua Order Of Professional Space and Interplanetary Explorers.
  • 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 can prevent this by breaking the resolution.
  • George Lucas Altered Version: So far, the first nine books have been reprinted in color.
  • Genius Serum: Captain Underpants and the Wrath of the Wicked Wedgie Woman has George and Harold's school teacher, Ms. Ribble (who they accidentally hypnotized to become the titular villain), granted Super Intelligence when the Super Power Juice ended up poured onto her hair, also soaking into her brain.
  • 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.
  • Glad I Thought of It: In Book 6, After Melvin’s defeat as the Bionic Booger Boy, Mr. Sneedly mentions that it’ll take a few months to create a machine to reverse the effects of the Combine-O-Tron 2000, the machine that turned Melvin into the Bionic Booger Boy in the first place. George suggests switching around the Combine-O-Tron 2000’s batteries, theorizing that it’ll reverse the effects. Mr. Sneedly at first dismisses this idea as childish but decides to do it anyway to prove them wrong. When this actually does reverse the effects, Mr. Sneedly exclaims, “Well, what do you know? My idea worked.” George and Harold simply roll their eyes in annoyance.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: The entire school staff undergoes this in Book 11 when George and Harold try to sneak into the school while their time-travel duplicates were in attendance, only to be caught. Mr. Krupp ends up being committed.
  • 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.
  • Good Parents: George's parents and Harold's mother come off as this to their children.
  • The Good Captain
  • Gorn: Parodied by the Flip-o-Rama chapters, which self-describe the (clearly bloodless) fights consisting of two related panels which the reader flips between quickly to make it look animated as "incredibly graphic violence".
  • Gory Deadly Overkill Title of Fatal Death: Book 3.
  • Grand Finale: Captain Underpants and the Sensational Saga of Sir Stinks-a-Lot ends with Mr. Krupp's Captain Underpants identity and powers erased, George and Harold going on time-traveling adventures, and Yesterday George and Yesterday Harold moving on from making Captain Underpants comics and returning to their first creation, Dog Man.
  • Gross-Out Show: Lampshaded by issuing a warning before a nauseating starting bit of a chapter inside the Bionic Booger Boy, and having George yell at the narrator for his disgusting descriptions right after it.
  • Heel–Face Brainwashing: Mr. Krupp and Ms. Ribble.
  • Here We Go Again!: The Trope Codifier. All the books in the regular series ended with George screaming "Oh no!" and Harold screaming this trope's name.
  • Hero of Another Story: Old George and Old Harold getting back the Hamsterdactyls at the end of Captain Underpants and the Sensational Saga of Sir Stinks-a-Lot.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: George and Harold. Though Harold isn't heterosexual.
  • High on Catnip: Occurs in Super Diaper Baby 2: The Invasion of the Potty Snatchers.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Several examples in Wrath of the Wicked Wedgie Woman:
    • 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.
  • Hot Skitty-on-Wailord Action: Implied with Sulu the Bionic Hamster and Crackers the pterodactyl at the end of book 11, and grossly lampshaded by the boys.
    Harold: "But that doesn't make sense!"
  • 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.
    • George and Harold read their evil counterparts' book on Captain Blunderpants (which has great handwriting plus no words are misspelled), then they say that the handwriting is bad and that words were spelled wrong. And we all know how awful their penmanship and spelling are...
    • In the final book, George gets excited when learning he became an author when he grew up. Harold tells him to have self-control, but when he hears he became an illustrator, Harold also gets excited despite having told George not to. George lampshades this.
    • Mr. Meaner constantly makes fun of the overweight kids even though he is fat too.
    • This exchange from the fourth book:
    Harold: From now on you must call yourself "Buttercup Chickenfanny". The guy in the gerbil suit says so!
    Captain Underpants: Hey! I don't take orders from anybody!
    George: Great. Now fly out that window and bring back that big machine.
    Captain Underpants: Yes, sir.

  • Informed Judaism: We learn that Mr. Krupp is Jewish at his wedding thanks to there being a rabbi there. Of course, he's only there so that he can tell George and Harold not to pull any tricks, leading to:
  • Insufferable Genius: Melvin Sneedly.
  • I Resemble That Remark!: On a meta-level. The books are written to make kids laugh, while frequently criticizing teachers and other authority figures for being too strict and not letting kids have fun. Teachers and parents responded by banning the books in many schools for having inappropriate humor and supposedly teaching kids to disobey authority figures.
  • 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).
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: Tippy. Once he saves Captain Underpants from disappearing, he goes back to being evil.
  • Juvenile Hell: Subverted in a way that's played for laugh, George and Harold at one point get arrested for crimes their Evil Twins committed, yet their time served in juvenile hall proved surprisingly pleasant, at least compared to the Sucky School they regular attended.
  • Kids Are Cruel: In book 4, when Professor Poopypants shows up as the new science teacher and introduces himself, the whole 4th-grade class laughs at him.
  • Killed Off for Real:
    • Zorx, Klax, and Jennifer were in their ship when it exploded.
    • Sulu, Crackers and Tippy Tinkletrousers die at the end of Book 10. We were warned.
  • Kryptonite Factor/Placebo Effect/Weaksauce Weakness: Captain Underpants loses his power when sprayed with spray starch. At least, he thinks he does, because that was what George and Harold wrote in their comic. Played straight, as Captain Underpants reverts to Mr. Krupp with a little water. Tippy even lampshades how easy this weakness is to exploit.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Everywhere.
  • 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.
  • Later Installment Weirdness: The last 5 books are longer and have more depth than the other books.
  • Lazily Gender Flipped Name: The three aliens Zorx, Klax, and Jennifer disguise as humans to pose as new cafeteria ladies, gender-bending their names as part of the guise by adding "-ette" (Zorxette, Klaxette, and Jenniferette) at the end. Played for Laughs in that Jennifer is already a female name by Earth standards.
  • 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 Into 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".
  • Loophole Abuse: 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.
  • Lovable Rogue: George and Harold.
  • Luxury Prison Suite: Although not intended as such in-universe, George and Harold find that they don't mind being in juvenile hall in Book 10, because it's almost exactly like their old elementary school, except with library books, a music teacher, and an art teacher.
  • Madness Mantra: Mr. Krupp tends to say "B-b-bubba bobba hob hob hobo wah wah!" whenever he comes across something mind screwy.
  • Manchurian Agent: Mr. Krupp becomes Captain Underpants when he hears fingers snapping, and returns to normal when water is poured on his head.
  • Medium Awareness: Oh my god, so much.
  • Merging Mistake: In The Big Bad Battle of the Bionic Booger Boy, Melvin attempts to fuse himself with an advanced robot of his own making, intending to turn himself into a bionic super-boy. But just as the fusion process is commencing, Melvin's cat allergies are triggered and he sneezes boogers out his nose, causing them to be fused as well and turning him into the Bionic Booger Boy.
  • Mind-Control Music: In the comic in The Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants, the professor plays Cher's greatest hits to the gerbils to make them turn evil.
  • Mirror Universe: "The Preposterous Plight Of The Purple Potty People" has one, where the mean teachers (and the villains) are nice, George and Harold are evil, and Captain Underpants is the evil Captain Blunderpants.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: From The Tyrannical Retaliation of the Turbo-Toilet 2000, there's Tony, Orlando, and Dawn, the hamsterdactyl offspring of Sulu the Bionic Hamster and Crackers the pterodactyl.
  • My Future Self and Me: Abused all over the place in books 10, 11, and 12, which include various characters traveling through time, meeting their past/future selves, and then teaming up with and/or betraying themselves in various ways.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Tippy Tinkletrousers has this reaction when he realizes he essentially destroyed the timeline in Book 9.
  • My Grandma Can Do Better Than You: Mr. Meaner says this at one point.
    "My grandma can run faster than you guys!"
  • Nerd Glasses: Melvin Sneedly is the most obvious one, but pretty much everyone who wears glasses is an antagonist, such as Ms. Ribble, Professor Poopypants, and the zombie versions of George and Harold.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: Near the end of book 9, Tippy Tinkletrousers prevented the creation of Captain Underpants.
  • No Fourth Wall: "Where were you in chapter fifteen when we needed you?"
  • Non-Human Sidekick: Sulu (a bionic hamster) and Crackers (a pterodactyl) in books 6-10 and 7-10 respectively, and Dawn, Orlando, and Tony (hybrids between a bionic hamster and a pterodactyl, created because Crackers and Sulu mated) in book 11 and onwards.
  • Nose Nuggets: Bionic Booger Boy.
  • Oh, Crap!: George and Harold, whenever someone snaps their fingers and Mr. Krupp's nearby.
    • Whenever someone busts them. The worst time this happened was when Mr. Krupp caught them pranking the football game on tape. This is the event that kicks off the whole series.
    • Another example was when they tricked Mr. Krupp and Ms. Ribble into marrying each other. When Mr. Krupp finally said he didn't want to marry her and that George and Harold set them up, George had one thing to say. "Time to go."
  • Old People Are Nonsexual: Captain Underpants and the Plight of the Purple Porta-Potty People: George and Harold are both horrified by their grandparents' Big Damn Kiss.
  • 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.
      Kids: Help! The Tattle-Tron 2000 just ran across the soccer field and squished the gym teacher!
      Prinsiple: OH NO! We just planted that grass!
    • 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.
    • Somewhere in each book, the reader will be told to do some silly thing, usually involving making your own sound effects. At the back of each book, Harold and George apologize for potentially getting the reader in trouble for following this instruction, and offer to send them "something fun" to make up for it.
  • One-Paragraph Chapter: A Running Gag in the books is a chapter consisting only of a 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.
  • Only Sane Man: George, occasionally. And Harold is a bit more sensible than George, due that he is a year older than him.
  • Overly Long Scream: At 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 
  • Parental Bonus: More than one would expect! Almost all of the non-toilet related humor operates on a level that the kids will skip right over and have the parents guffawing, especially over ones that were set up many chapters before the punchlines were delivered. One particularly good gag has George and Harold getting sent to juvie hall, and find it surprisingly similar to elementary school, except that unlike elementary school, juvenile hall actually has music teachers, art class, and a well-stocked library.
    Mr. Krupp: Do you have any experience?
    Alien: No.
    'Mr. Krupp: Do you have any credentials?
    Alien: No.
    Mr. Krupp: Do you have any references?
    Alien: No.
    Mr. Krupp: You're hired!
  • Parents as People: Melvin's parents are shown to be too busy to spend time with their son. Melvin does, however, show to still love them. This is one of his redeeming qualities.
  • Person as Verb: In Book 9, George saved Harold from the bullies by taking off his tie and proceeding to "Indiana Jones" them (I.E. whip their butts).
  • Pint-Sized Kid: The kids are portrayed as extremely small, to the point that George and Harold don't reach much (if any) higher than the average adult's legs.
  • Please, I Will Do Anything!: Said in the second book.
  • Power-Up Food: Mr. Krupp got his Flying Brick powers after drinking some "Extra Strength Super Power Juice" stored in an alien milk carton.
  • Punny Name: The school teachers and staff - Benny Krupp (bankrupt), Ms. Edith Anthrope (Eat it and throw up and misanthrope), Ms. Tara Ribble (miserable and terrible), Mrs. DePoint (misses the point), Miss Creant (miscreant), Mr. Rected (misdirected), Mr. Morty Fyde (mystified and mortified), Miss Singerbrains (missing her brains), Ms. Anita Calculator (miscalculator, I need a calculator), Mr. Kenny B. Meaner (misdemeanor, can he be meaner?), Miss Labeler (mislabeler), Ms. Guided (misguided), Miss Fitt (misfit), Miss Zurry (misery), and Mr. Rustworthy (mistrustworthy).

  • Reality Ensues:
    • In the first book, after Captain Underpants "foils" a robbery, the police arrive, and upon seeing a weird man wearing nothing, but his underwear and a cape standing at the scene of a crime, they quickly try to place him under arrest.
    • From the second book, Captain Underpants tries to fight the Turbo Toilet 2000, but since at this point in the series he has no superpowers and is just an overweight, middle-aged man, the "fight" ends in a humiliating Curb-Stomp Battle.
    • In the third book, Captain Underpants thinks a roll of double-ply toilet paper can support his, George's, and Harold's weights at the same time, as his comic-book counterpart swung from a roll-on toilet paper in the book the lunch ladies showed Mr. Krupp earlier in the novel. Guess what happens.
    • In book 11, when George and Harold are too exhausted to attend school due to them hardly getting any sleep (they are forced to attend due to complaints from their parents about truancy reports from the school), they plan on taking a quick nap. This results in them sleeping until 4 pm.
  • 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.
    • Much of the ninth book and the first half of the tenth book tried to explain the odd ending of the eighth book to make up for the delay, revealing that it was caused right after Tippy Tinkletrousers returned from reverting a time-travel-induced zombie apocalyptic, but George and Harold WERE arrested and sent to jail in the original timeline.
  • 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.
    Who would want to argue with a bunch of linebackers?
  • Relax-o-Vision: The Incredibly Graphic Violence Flip-O-Rama chapters begin with a warning that the reader is advised to avoid them if they dislike very graphic violence. Book 5 takes this even further by stating that the chapter is so violent it is mandatory to skip it or the reader faces prosecution.
  • Revenge via Storytelling: In Captain Underpants and the Big, Bad Battle of the Bionic Booger Boy - Part 1: The Night of the Nasty Nostril Nuggets, George and Harold get fed-up with Melvin's constant tattling. So they create a Captain Underpants comic featuring Melvin as the villain: a tattletale kid who becomes the mayor and jails everyone for incredibly minor violations. After the jails get full, Melvin creates a hybrid giant robot suit/prison and imprisons people. Captain Underpants saves the day and defeats Melvin, sending him to his own jail while freeing the others. Melvin himself gets angry after reading the comic and swears to get revenge on them both.
  • Rewriting Reality: In Wrath of the Wicked Wedgie Woman, Captain Underpants falls to the effects of 'spray starch'...because that was what was in George and Harold's latest comic book. Later, to cure him, they write another comic telling him he can be freed from it by summoning the power of 'Underpanty World'. It works.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: A young George and Harold come up with a scheme to swap the locks of the school bully Kippy Krupp in order to take and put things into his locker. Later on, he realises that it's just a prank and not the work of a poltergeist after suspecting that it's his lock that's the problem; assuming that someone's picking it instead of swapping it outright and gets a new lock. This throws a wrench into George and Harold's plans as he changed his habits as well by not letting go of his new lock.
  • Rival Turned Evil: Melvin in the sixth and seventh books.
  • Robot Me: In Wrath of the Wicked Wedgie Woman, the titular antagonist builds evil robot copies of George and Harold: Robo-George and Harold 2000.
  • Rule of Funny: The series' name makes it perfectly obvious.
  • Sadist Teacher: Pretty much the whole staff of Jerome Horwitz Elementary School. With teachers like that, who needs bullies? 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 Captain Underpants comics as a coping mechanism. Mr. Krupp in his Captain Underpants identity is a kind of Bumbling Dad Parental 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: To stop Kipper Krupp and his gang from bullying the kindergarteners, 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 kindergarteners to bully them in retribution.
  • Sequel Hook: Every book after the first five:
    • Bionic Booger Boy Part 1: Nasty Nostril Nuggets: Melvin and Mr. Krupp have their minds swapped, and the Robo-Boogers destroy the Combine-O-Tron 2000 and chase everyone.
    • Bionic Booger Boy Part 2: Ridiculous Robo-Boogers: George and Harold attempt to travel in time for the second day in a row.
    • Purple Potty People: Tippy Tinkletrousers returns seeking revenge.
    • Tippy Tinkletrousers: Tippy apparently dies.
    • Radioactive Robo-Boxers: Melvin Sneedly returns to bring the gang back to the present. The next book revealed he did this so George and Harold could deal with the Turbo Toilet 2000.
    • Retaliation of the Turbo Toilet 2000: Lampshaded big time. While the Turbo Toilet 2000 was permanently stopped, there are still two Georges and Harolds as a result of time travel shenanigans, the town is in ruins from the rampage, the mutant babies of Sulu and Crackers have hatched, and think the boys are their parents and most if not all the teachers of their school have been sent to jail and or the loony bin.
      "I guess there are a lot of loose ends in this story."
      "Uh-oh. That can only mean one thing!"
      "Another SEQUEL!!"
  • Series Fauxnale: The 12th book, Sir-Stinks-A-lot can be considered this. On the one hand, Krupp appears to have been depowered and unhypnotized for good while Yesterday George and Harold retire the Captain Underpants series and we know they will grow up to become successful and good adults.. On the other hand, the original George and Harold now have a time machine and are intended to try rescue Crackers and Sulu leaving the series open-ended for a sequel.
    • There's also this message from Dav Pilkey
      Dav Pilkey: Even though I have stated that the next book, Captain Underpants #12 will be the LAST Captain Underpants book, you probably shouldn't believe me. I wouldn't.
  • 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."
  • Shout-Out:
  • 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.
  • Skewed Priorities: George and Harold are so dedicated to doing the Signs of Disrepair gag at the start of every book that even when they're being chased by three robot boogers, they have to stop to screw with a sign.
  • Something Completely Different: In Book 7, instead of the usual "Incredibly Graphic Violence Chapter", there's a Flip-O-Rama chapter dedicated to Captain Underpants doing "the Underpants Dance".
  • 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.
  • Spandex, Latex, or Leather: This trope is played with by George and Harold while conceiving the concept of Captain Underpants - as such spandex wearers end up looking like they're in their underwear, they made Captain Underpants' costume Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
  • 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." One has to wonder what exactly happened in the past of Jerome Horwitz Elementary that made them include those.
  • Spin-Off: Three as of this writing — Super Diaper Baby, Ook and Gluk, and Dog Man.
  • 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.
    • The Preposterous Plight of the Purple Potty People originally had the sub-title The Clash of the Colossal Kung-Fu Monkeys from Beyond Infinity. Said titular creatures were going to appear in the book's proposed second part, which later became its own book and then went into Development Hell and changed entirely.
  • 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 explains how the square-cube law works before revealing 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.
  • Stylistic Suck: George and Harold's comic books look like they were drawn by actual fourth-graders, with messy handwriting and drawings, misspelled words, and spacing issues.
    • Inverted by their Evil Twins' in Preposterous Plight of the Purple Potty People, whose comics have clean drawings with proper spelling and neat handwriting. George and Harold see their comics and comment that it looks bad with some misspelled words.
    • Taken Up to Eleven with Kindergartener!George and Harold's comic books. The pictures are even cruder and the words are much larger, that they take up so much space.
    • In The Tyrannical Retaliation of the Turbo Toilet 2000, chapters 6 and 7 are illustrated by Timmy Swanson, age four, whose characters resemble misshaped blobs with stick-figure fingers and limbs.
  • Sucky School: Jerome Horwitz Elementary. It's badly funded, discourages individuality and creativity, and the staff are all idiots, jerks, or idiotic jerks.
  • Superheroes Wear Tights: Parodied by the titular Captain Underpants, who instead of wearing skin-hugging tights with Underwear of Power, is simply unclothed aside from a pair of underpants.
  • Super Serum: Extra Strength Super Power Juice.
  • Take That!:
    • In response to the Captain Underpants books being constantly challenged by self-appointed Moral Guardians, later books depict the school library as being almost completely devoid of books, with Ms. Singerbrains discouraging reading and posting anti-reading signs on the shelves encouraging mindless conformity. 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.
    • Boomer the Purple Dragon
    • In-universe example: George and Harold have gerbils being driven into homicidal maniacs because they were being forced to listen to Cher in one of their comics. In the Spanish prints, Cher was replaced by Julio Iglesias.
    • 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 10th book's first chapter is dedicated to explaining to the child readers why adults are so mean to them and why they would rather blame other people or things (like the kids) for problems that are their own fault.
    • The 11th book's second chapter is dedicated to not offending older people (called "grouchy old people", or the "GOP"), by eliminating words like "poop", and constantly referencing things they like, such as Bob Evans Restaurants, and FOX News. The next chapter then goes on to criticize how human evolution led to annoying things like car alarms, leaf blowers, and spray-on hair, and how we built dangerous weapons like nuclear warheads and then had the codes controlled by politicians.
    • The warning before the Flip-O-Rama of the fourth book says, "If you are easily offended, or if you tend to blame all of society's evils on TV shows and cartoon characters, please run to your nearest supermarket and get a life."
  • 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 only happens in children's book where the author is clearly running out of ideas."
  • Tempting Fate: Harold asks "What could be worse than going to jail for the rest of our lives?". Then Tippy Tinkletrousers returns for Revenge against the world again.
  • Tiny Guy, Huge Girl: Crackers and Sulu.
  • Title Drop:
    • In books one, two, and five, the title of the comic book that George and Harold write is the same as the novel itself.
    • In the twelfth chapter of book three, the evil aliens are described as "incredibly naughty cafeteria ladies from outer space", and the sixteenth chapter is called "The Assault of the Equally Evil Lunchroom Zombie Nerds".
    • The fourteenth chapter of the fourth book is called "The Perilous Plot".
    • In the eighth book, the comic book that Evil George and Harold write is called "The Preposterous Plight of Captain Blunderpants", and Evil George and Harold and Captain Blunderpants's bank robbery are called a "preposterous plight".
    • In the eleventh book, the Turbo Toilet tells George and Harold, who is disguised as Talking Toilets, "my tyrannical retaliation is at hand!"
  • Toilet Humor: Pretty much the entire point.
  • Trilogy Creep: Parodied by the end of the Eleventh novel, since the Tenth was marketed as the "final book"
    Not another sequel!
  • Underwear of Power: But of course.
  • Unfortunate Names: Professor Pippy P. Poopypants, as well as most of the names on the "Name Change-O-Chart."
    • At the end of the book, he tries changing his own name as he went to jail. Unfortunately, he chooses "Tippy Tinkletrousers", his grandfather's name.
    • In Poopypants' home country of New Swissland, everyone has an Unfortunate Name.
    • On a subtler but more disturbing note, Principal Krupp.
      • Which is made ironic and somewhat hilarious when you find out that Mr. Krupp is Jewish.
  • Unholy Ground: The third book, the one with the long title about the lunch ladies, had a very good page image about the hill where they buried the lunch ladies being haunted.
  • Unusual Chapter Numbers: Book 3 has a Chapter 6½, while Book 5 has a Chapter 14½ and a Chapter 14¾.
  • Up to Eleven: Invoked in the teaser for Book 11: "Captain Underpants goes to eleven!"
  • Villain Decay: Mr. Krupp goes from being a Knight of Cerebus to being an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain once George and Harold brainwash him into being Captain Underpants.
  • Weaksauce Weakness
    • Captain Underpants loses his power whenever someone pours water over his head. Likewise, his evil counterpart turns back to normal when someone snaps their fingers. For the record, this means that the only thing that can remove the Captain's powers is a substance that covers seventy percent of the planet's surface, and his counterpart can be defeated by a poetry slam.
    Tippy Tinkletrousers: You've got to be the easiest superhero to defeat!
    • In book 5, Captain Underpants loses his powers from starch. Downplayed example, in that due it being established as his weakness in a previous comic book, he only thinks he's been depowered. After a hasty illustration of his origins and in turn giving him the ability to undo said weakness by "summoning the Power Of Underpantyworld", he recovers immediately through simply saying those words.
  • Wedgie: Captain Underpants uses Wedgie Power in most of his comics.
  • We Interrupt This Program: Occurs midway through book five. Right when George and Harold are about to hypnotize Ms. Ribble, the chapter is literally interrupted by a news report saying that the Hypno rings have just been recalled because they make a woman do the opposite of what she has been hypnotized into doing.
  • What Could Possibly Go Wrong?: ("Every time you say something like that, something bad happens!")
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Discussed in Pilkey's first Flip-o-Rama Workshop, where Dav mentions how parents would be quick to object if your Flip-o-Rama depicted a human being attacked, and offers making the attacked subject a robot or monster as a quick work-around.
  • When Elders Attack: Geezer Powers - ACTIVATE!!
  • Whole Episode Flashback: The Terrifying Return of Tippy Tinkletrousers.
  • Widget Series: There are Captain Underpants videos, and then there's... this. Very, VERY Japanese, indeed.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Professor Poopypants.
  • Worst News Judgement Ever: The resigning of Jerome Horwitz Elementary School's science teacher somehow becomes the top story in US Today.
  • Writing Lines
  • Wrong Restaurant: In one book, the author suggests ordering a cheeseburger at a shoe store. This becomes a Brick Joke later on when Captain Underpants returns after a short absence and explains that he was at a shoe store, ordering a cheeseburger.
  • You Look Like You've Seen a Ghost: Tippy Tinkletrousers says this to the bullies right after (a) the bullies have been scared away by a fake ghost, and (b) Tippy materializes before them.
  • You Have to Have Jews: The later books have a sprinkling of Jewish references and jokes.
    • Wedgie Woman reveals that Mr. Krupp is Jewish when the rabbi who's going to marry him to Ms. Ribble tells George and Harold that he doesn't want any tricks today, to which they reply "Silly rabbi! Tricks are for kids!"
    • In Bionic Booger Boy, Part 1, the narrator describes the owner of the tissue factory as "not the brightest bulb on the Hanukkah tree" when he won't stop giving Monster!Melvin tissue, despite them clearly driving him nuts.
  • Younger Than They Look: Kipper, Loogie, Finkstein, and Bugg are only sixth graders, but they could easily pass off as high schoolers.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: Bionic Booger Boy, Part 1 appears to have a happy ending (taken even further by the chapter name), but it just leads to a Sequel Hook.

The Captain Underpants Spin-Off titles contain examples of:

  • Accidental Misnaming: A Running Gag throughout "Ook and Gluk" is people saying Chief Goppernopper's name wrong.
  • And Now You Must Marry Me: Gak Schadowski is forced to marry Gophernopper in Ook and Gluk.
  • Artistic License – Paleontology: In Ook and Gluk, George and Harold claim that dinosaurs coexisted with humans. However, the message at the beginning of the book downplays their claim.
  • Bad Future: The future shown in Ook and Gluk is so polluted and resource-depleted that they use a time machine to mine the prehistoric past.
  • Berserk Button: Do not say Chief Goppernopper's name wrong.
  • Blinding Bangs: Ook has long stringy hair that obscures his eyes.
  • Cats Are Mean: Petey in The Invasion of the Potty Snatchers.
  • Comically Missing the Point: The origin of Super Diaper Baby 2. After reading the first Super Diaper Baby comic book, Mr. Krupp yells at George and Harold for writing too many comic books about poop, and gives them a copy of How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (with the last 7 pages ripped out) to give them more ideas. George and Harold agree with him, surprisingly, and decide to write about something else other than poop. They end up writing a comic book about pee.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Mr. Goppernopper, who uses time travel to find more forests to raze.
  • Epic Fail: When Super Diaper Baby is born, the doctor's attempt to give him the "spank of life" somehow ends with him accidentally throwing the baby out the window.
    Mr. Hoskins: Look what you did!
    Mrs. Hoskins: My baby!
    Doctor: Hey, I said I was sorry. Jeez!
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Diaper Dog objects to Deputy Doo-Doo tossing Super Diaper Baby into a nuclear plant.
  • Exact Words: The in-universe origin of the Super Diaper Baby comic books. One day, Mr. Krupp, realizing how ineffective Writing Lines had been as a punishment, decided to punish George and Harold for making mischief by making them write a 100-page essay on "good citizenship", and specifically told them not to turn it into a 100-page Captain Underpants comic book. He did not say anything about not writing a 100-page Super Diaper Baby comic book.
  • Flying Brick: Super Diaper Baby and Diaper Dog.
  • Got Me Doing It: In Ook and Gluk, after Goppernopper's guards say his name wrong for the umpteenth time:
    Goppernopper: It's "gobstopper", I mean "Goppernopper" you idiots! Now you've got me doing it!
  • Heel–Face Turn: In Super Diaper Baby, Danger Dog changes sides after seeing Deputy Doo-Doo try to murder the titular infant.
  • Hey, You!: Billy never refers to Diaper Dog by name and instead refers to him as "doggy".
  • Hulk Speak: Ook and Gluk, even after seven years of education in the 23rd century.
  • I Lied: Invoked by Mr. Goppernopper after he gets Ook and Gluk to surrender.
  • Meaningful Name: Three guesses as to what Super Diaper Baby, Diaper Dog, and Deputy Doo-Doo are.
    • Big Chief Goppernopper and Mr. Goppernopper also suffer this in The Adventures of Ook and Gluk.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: The Adventures of Ook and Gluk, Kung-Fu Cavemen From The Future is Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
  • Old Master: Master Wong, the kung-fu teacher from Ook and Gluk.
  • Older Sidekick: Diaper Dog to Super Diaper Baby.
  • 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.
  • Ret-Gone: In Ook and Gluk, the Big Bad Mr. Goppernopper erases himself when he vaporizes his prehistoric ancestor.
  • Rip Van Tinkle: The Big Bad of Invasion of the Potty Snatchers is named "Rip Van Tinkle".
  • Rogues Gallery Transplant: Petey the cat started as the sidekick of a villain in Super Diaper Baby 2. He has since shown up as the main villain of the Dog Man series.
  • 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".
  • Stone Punk: A montage shows Chief Gophernopper inventing something useful, and then realizing Ook and Gluk already invented something more powerful than that.
  • Take That!: In the back of Ook and Gluk, there is a section where one can learn "Cavemonics", caveman speak. "I'd like to eat at Applebee's" is translated as "Me go to barf place."
    • A further extension on Dav Pilkey's website translates "He's riding on a Segway" as "Hims riding on world's dumbest invention".
  • Talking Animal: Diaper Dog, even before he gets superpowers.
  • Talking Poo: Deputy Dangerous tries to use an invention called the Danger-Crib 2000™ to transfer Super Diaper Baby's powers to him, but Super Diaper Baby's mom pulls him out of the crib at the last second, leaving only a poop-filled diaper in it when Deputy Dangerous activates the machine, accidentally turning himself into "Deputy Doo-Doo".
  • Those Two Bad Guys: Goppernopper's guards.
  • Time-Travel Romance: Ook falls in love with Lin Wong, who is from the future. They get Happily Married at the end and Lin Wong eventually goes back to prehistoric times.
  • Toilet Humor: Heavily used in Super Diaper Baby, especially with the Big Bad, Deputy Doo-Doo.
  • Upgrade Artifact: Deputy Dangerous tries to use a power-sapping crib to steal Super Diaper Baby's powers. He ends up zapping a bowel movement instead, and turns into Deputy Doo-Doo.
  • Uranus Is Showing: Both Deputy Doo-Doo and Rip Van Tinkle get deposited on Uranus. 'nuff said.
    "Welcome to Uranus (Please don't make fun of our name)"
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: In Ook and Gluk, Lily is shown vomiting several times, at one point in Mr. Goppernopper's mouth.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Diaper Dog draws the line at Deputy Dangerous throwing baby Billy into a nuclear power plant.

Dav Pilkey Dog Man has it's own page.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: