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Stories of My Childhood: Captain Underpants

Welcome to a new series that I plan on exploring this year. I want to talk a little bit about the stories I loved as a kid and why I love them now. You’re never too old to outgrow your favorite story. My first pick? Captain Underpants. I recently finished writing a party quest for my Captain Underpants party on my party planning site, and it got me thinking back to old times.

Potty humor. Misbehaving boys. Superheroes. Not exactly what a third grade girl would be interested in, right? You’d be wrong. 

What is the book about?

Tired of their cruel principal, George and Harold order a 3-D Hypno Ring and use it to make him do crazy things…just long enough to get their pranking stuff back from his office. Their joke goes too far when they hypnotize him into believing that he is Captain Underpants, and he jumps out the window to go and fight crime. This pays off, though, because a villain just happens to be on the brink of destroying the world. Throughout the series, George and Harold bring back Captain Underpants to save the world from talking toilets, evil professors, alien lunch ladies, and more. 

How did I discover it?

I think it was from a school book fair. Posters of Captain Underpants hung on the walls at school, but I never really paid them any attention. Then my mom bought the first book for me. I wasn’t thrilled, but on one weekend afternoon, I sat down and read it. It was hysterical. There was a particular scene with a villain called Dr. Diaper looking like he pooped himself. I laughed until I cried. 

I then bought book 3, and then 5, and then 2…yes, out of order. Book 4, the plot of Professor Poopypants, came last. I’d also brought a spinoff, Super Diaper Baby, to a reading event at school one day and struggled to not laugh until I cried, not wanting to disturb the entire class. 

What do I love about the books?

Author Dav Pilkey is a really cool guy, and still one of my most admired authors. He takes a lot of inspiration from things that happened in his life, and the books reflect that. There are tons of fourth wall jokes. There are fun comics drawn by George and Harold, the creators of Captain Underpants. There are ridiculous jokes seen in the pages, particularly within drawings of signs, posters, and book covers. 

I also love George and Harold’s sense of fun. They’re not bad kids; they’re just creative, as we’re told to see them. Despite what protective librarians and gatekeepers might say, they didn’t encourage me to act out in school or misbehave. They did encourage me to be creative…more on that below. Finally, I thought the superhero story was clever and well-drawn, but you don’t have to like official superheroes to enjoy these books. It’s not realistic fiction when you add in all the technologies, super powers, and aliens that appear in later novels. Even the first book isn’t too realistic when you consider that a little guy in a diaper is using robots to help him blow up Earth…but before that, the book seems strangely plausible! The world is real (mostly), and that’s fun too. 

Digging deeper into the fandom

I’d always noticed links to websites on the back covers where you could visit to play games. One was Scholastic’s; the other belonged to the author. My dad suggested one rainy day that I try it, and I did. My sister and I, who I’d also gotten to read the books, had a blast playing the arcade games and using the comic creator. 

Pilkey.com was a whole different level of awesome. Fun facts about the books, legendary arcade games, pages created just for jokes (actually, one was literally a joke page), and facts about the author all made for hours of fun. Later on, there would actually be Captain Underpants songs that came out that we loved. 

My sister and I invented many games together, and eventually we started playing Captain Underpants. I would strip down to my underwear and a cape I had, and she would pretend to be his sidekick Harold. We’d go around the house pretending to fight the evil villains seen in the books.

Favorite memory involving the books

My sister and I played many games of Captain Underpants as mentioned above. Those were good times. At one point, though, we’d decided to put on a play for our parents. Act 1 featured me as George and her as Harold. Act 2 featured me as Captain Underpants and her as Deputy Doo Doo, a cowboy-hat wearing turd that was featured in the Super Diaper Baby book. The play was going smoothly until my sister decided to deliberately botch it. During random moments, she would take her cowboy hat, take a bow, and go, “Howdy, partner!” This was something she was only supposed to do once, but she would. not. stop. doing it. It drove me nuts, but we all laughed anyway. 

To this day, this infamous play still gets brought up on occasion. 

How did the books inspire me?

I made my own comic book, just like George and Harold did! It was about a smoothie (a type of character my best friend and I had invented that looked more like an ice cream cone) who had a sleepover at their friend’s house and woke up in a land of evil villains. It was called The Adventures of Cool Chocolate. 

My thoughts on the books now

I definitely took a peek into the later books on Amazon. Sadly, what I saw, I didn’t love. The plots get convoluted, the villains repeat, and at one point, Pilkey gets too carried away with snide political jokes. (I chuckled at the first one, but a whole chapter’s worth…meh.) Still, I do love the first five, or even the first seven. Actually, I wouldn’t mind reading book 8 either, which has the concept of an alternate universe.

But I love the first books as much as ever!

Captain Underpants was one of my favorite book series. Did you have any favorites? Feel free to share below.

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