Captain Underpants

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Faster than a speeding waistband! More powerful than boxer shorts! Able to leap tall buildings without getting a wedgie!

Captain Underpants is a series of silly children's chapter books EPIC NOVELS written by Dav Pilkey. Its main character is Exactly What It Says on the Tin.

George Beard and Harold Hutchins[1] 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 Crossover with their Captain Underpants comic.

The books to date[when?] 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)
  • Captain Underpants and the Sensational Saga of Sir Stinks-A-Lot (2015)

A CGI film produced by Dreamworks Animation, titled Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie, was premiered in 2017. DreamWorks Animation also produced a television series based on the film, The Epic Tales of Captain Underpants, that was released in Netflix in 2018.

The following tropes are common to many or all entries in the Captain Underpants franchise.
For tropes specific to individual installments, visit their respective work pages.

The main Captain Underpants books contain examples of:

  • 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.
  • Aint 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.
  • Anticlimax: Parodied Once an Episode. Near the end, there's some climactic event which gets its own chapter. 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.
  • 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.
  • Better Than a Bare Bulb
  • Black Bead Eyes
  • Black Best Friend: George to Harold, in the technical sense. The trope is actually averted since their personalities are almost identical and you wouldn't even know George was black if it wasn't shown in the books' covers/illustrations, within the drawings inside the book only using the colors black (as in, the color which does not reflect light), white and grey.
  • 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."
  • 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.
  • 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. 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 Fliporama advised people to do so for those who didn't want to see it.)
  • 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.
  • Captain Superhero
  • Catch Phrase: "Tra la LAAAAAA!"
  • Comic Books Are Real
  • 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.
  • Continuity Nod: Dr. Diaper is arrested (offscreen) at the end of book one. In book four when Professor P.P. Poopypants is in jail, you can see him in a window.
    • 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.
  • Dean Bitterman: Mr. Krupp.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Evil Me Scares Me: George and Harold.
  • 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.
  • Eye Glasses: Melvin. And his family.
  • 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.
  • 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!"
  • Fat Bastard: Mr. Krupp.
    • And also, Ms. Ribble.
  • F Minus Minus: In one book, George and Harold get "G" grades.
    • Which was 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
  • 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. 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."
  • Genre Savvy: Both George and Harold know that they exists 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.
  • The Good Captain
  • Gross-Out Show: Lampshaded by issuing a warning prior to 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: All the books in the regular series end with George screaming "Oh no!" and Harold screaming this trope's name.
  • Heterosexual Life Partners: George and Harold.
  • High on Catnip: Occurs in Super Diaper Baby 2: The Invasion of the Potty Snatchers.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: In the comic George and Harold make for Ms. Ribble, Wedgie Woman is defeated by having her robo wedgie-claw grab her own underwear.
    • And earlier, the comic Ms. Ribble assigns a huge amount of book reports, only to get crushed by the pile.
    • Harold 2000 (and the Robo-George) get beaten up their own rocket arms.
    • And the real Wedgie-Woman finds out too late that her stolen Extra-Strength Spray Starch is actually Hair Remover.
  • 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.
  • Insufferable Genius: Melvin Sneedly.
  • 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 cure Captain Underpants....only to find the store literally sells everything EXCEPT fabric softener.
  • Jerkass: Melvin and Mr. Krupp (when not in Captain Underpants mode).
  • 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.
  • 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 a silly-sounding one which uses the same pattern as his.
  • 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".
  • 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.
  • Mirror Universe
  • My Grandma Can Do Better Than You: Used at least once.
  • No Fourth Wall: "Where were you in chapter fifteen when we needed you?"
  • Nose Nuggets: Bionic Booger Boy.
  • Non-Human Sidekick: Sulu (a hamster) and Crackers (a pterodactyl).
  • 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 George and Harold's graphic novels - each one has a panel introducing two characters in the same fashion with one of the two saying, "Remember that now."
    • In George and Harold's comic books, when the Monster of the Week begins its rampages, a kid shows up to announce what terrible things it just did. An adult will show concern for the less important one, such as knocking over a tray of cupcakes.
      • And 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 the sentence "They got away."
  • 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!"[3]
  • 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: Most of 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), Morty Fyde (mortified), Mr. Rected (misdirected), Miss Crent (miscreant), and so on.
    • The Netflix animated series introduces: Ms. Hurd (misheard), Mr. Toilette Ree (mystery and toiletry), Ms. Yewh ("miss you"), Señor Jerry Citizen ("senior citizen") and Dr. Mentor ("tormentor").
  • Rival Turned Evil: Melvin in the sixth and seventh books.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 tips one off on it makes it perfectly obvious.
  • 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 by hypnotizing her into having a Heel Face Turn.
  • 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.
  • 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: Jerome Horwitz Elementary School, named after Curly of the Three Stooges.
  • 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."
  • 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' constume Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
  • Spin-Off: Two as of this writing, with more promised.
  • Staring Kid: A recurring character who always tries to point out the titular superhero's antics to his mom, but she never believes him.
  • Stylistic Suck: George and Harold's comic books.
    • Inverted by their EvilTwins in Preposterous Plight of the Purple Potty People, whose comics have clean drawings with proper spelling. George and Harold see their comics, and comment that it looks bad with some misspelled words.
  • Sucky School: See two examples down.
  • 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
  • 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 free of books, with a librarian who discourages readings and posts signs 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
    • 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.
  • Take That Us: The Preposterous Plight of the Purple Potty People's time travel 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."
  • Talking Poo: Unsurprisingly, in the first Super Diaper Baby comic.
  • Tempting Fate: Harold asks "What could be worse then going to jail for the rest of our lives?". Then Professor Poopypants Tippy Tinkletrousers returns for Revenge against the world again.
  • Toilet Humor: Pretty much the entire point.
  • Trope 2000: Many machines in this series are named like this.
  • Underwear of Power: But of course.
  • Unfortunate Names: Professor Pippy P. Poopypants.
    • At the end of the book, he tries changing his own name as he went to jail. Unfortunately, he choose "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.
  • What Could Possibly Go Wrong?: ("Every time you say something like that, something bad happens!")
  • When Elders Attack: Geezer Powers - ACTIVATE!!
  • Widget Series: There are Captain Underpants videos, and then there's... this. Very, VERY Japanese, indeed.
  • Worst News Judgement Ever: The resigning of Jerome Horwitz Elementary School's science teacher somehow becomes the top story in US Today.
  • Write Who You Know: According to this story on Dav Pilkey's website, Melvin was inspired by an annoying kid in his sixth grade class named Michael Sneedman.
  • Writing Lines

The Captain Underpants Spin-Off titles contain examples of:

  • 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.
  • Cats Are Mean: Petey in The Invasion of the Potty Snatchers.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Mr. Goppernopper, who uses time travel to find more forests to raze.
  • Flying Brick: Super Diaper Baby and Diaper Dog.
  • Heel Face Turn: In Super Diaper Baby, Deputy Dog changes sides after seeing Deputy Doo-Doo try to murder the titular infant.
  • 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 to what Super Diaper Baby, Diaper Dog, and Deputy Doo-Doo are.
  • My Name Is Not Durwood: Deputy Doo-Doo... er, Dangerous. Granted, he only got that name when a failed attempt to steal Super Diaper Baby's powers turned him into a piece of poo.
    • 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.
  • Powers as Programs: In Super Diaper Baby, Deputy Dangerous steals Captain Underpants' powers and distills it into a liquid, which gets transferred to Deputy Dog and Super Diaper Baby 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.
  • 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".
  • 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.
  • Talking Poo: Deputy Doo-Doo.
  • 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: Deputy Doo-Doo gets deposited on Uranus. 'nuff said.

"Welcome to Uranus (Please don't make fun of our name)"

  1. 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
  2. One of the things that the previous "incredibly graphic violence" chapter recommends you do if you don't want to see it is go to the shoe store and order a cheeseburger.
  3. If you wrote in, then sent you a newsletter called Something Fun.