Hurray! A new Captain Underpants novel is out. My daughter Jane (9) rips through each Captain Underpants novel the second she gets her hands on a copy. And so do I. These adventure stories are about two mischievous but goodhearted 4th grade boys, George Beard and Harold Hutchins, and their crabby high-school principal, Mr. Krupp. The boys learned how to hypnotize Mr. Krupp into believing he is a superhero, and whenever they snap their fingers, Mr. Krupp removes his clothes and toupee and becomes the jolly, heroic Captain Underpants. When someone pours water on Captain Underpants' head, he turns back into Mr. Krupp and has no memory of being Captain Underpants.
Captain Underpants and the Revolting Revenge of the Radioactive Robo-Boxers is Pilkey's 10th Captain Underpants novel and it concerns robotic trousers, zombie nerds, time machines, nuclear bombs, a giant squid, cavemen, and multiple clones of a villain named Tippy Tinkletrousers. Readers get to witness the birth of an ice age and the invention of comics.
Dav Pilkey, the author and artist of the series, invented Captain Underpants as a child, while sitting at his desk. From a 2000 CNN profile:
In the books, George and Harold are described as "behaviorally challenged," and suspected of having attention deficit disorder. In real life, Pilkey was diagnosed with A.D.D., and suffers from it to such an extent that he avoids face-to-face and telephone interviews. He will answer questions only via e-mail.
"I had A.D.D.," Pilkey recently e-recalled. "I had a lot of trouble, um... what was the question again?"
As a second-grader, Pilkey was so disruptive in class that his exasperated teacher put his desk out in the hallway. (Pilkey says he stayed there pretty much throughout elementary school, moving his desk down the hall outside a new classroom each year). He had time on his hands, and a pencil.
"It was there in the hall that I began drawing Captain Underpants," said Pilkey. "Soon I was making my own comic books about him."
Classmates clamored to read each new hand-drawn Dave Pilkey production.
Thankfully, this form of punishment resulted in this funny, clever book series, which has sold 15 million copies. If your kids have not yet experienced the joy of Captain Underpants, you can get books 1-5 in a box set.
Read more in Family at Boing Boing
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. His new book is Maker Dad: Lunch Box Guitars, Antigravity Jars, and 22 Other Incredibly Cool Father-Daughter DIY Projects