Captain Underpants and the Revolting Revenge of the Radioactive Robo-Boxers

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.

Captain Underpants and the Revolting Revenge of the Radioactive Robo-Boxers


  1. I hate Captain Underpants, and it seems for just the same reasons you love it. It gives the kids who don’t really want to read an excuse to prat around with a ‘flip-o-orama’ book with lots of pictures, and it gives kids who can read but aren’t challenged an excuse to look at lots of grayscale pictures with an abundance of toilet humor. Fun comes in shades of gray, sure, but in the case of Captain Underpants, everything’s a shade of brown and that’s because defecation is hilarious and education isn’t. I fail to see the attraction when there’s decent kids books out there which genuinely stimulate the mind and manage to get past the poo-is-funny stage.

    1. You must be proud of your refined taste that puts you a cut above the people who’ve bought 15 million Captain Underpants books. 

    2. Have you ever read any of the books?  The vocabulary and puns are challenging. Pilkey is a Caldecott Honor Award winning illustrator and artist. A person educated in fine arts would be able to see the value in his illustrations, especially in the facial expressions of the comics within the Captain Underpants series. Really, the potty humor is not as prevalent as one may be lead to believe. The books teach the importance of good-heartedness. If you have read the books, perhaps you should check your reading comprehension skills. It’s crucial to introduce children to good literature. Mark Twain was criticized for his writing. It took years before the literary world recognized his contribution to education. Maybe it will take years for you to understand the contribution the Captain Underpants series has made to education and to literacy. 

    3. When I was young, I used to read comic books. A LOT of comic books. And some fairly crappy ones at that (let’s just say I wasn’t that into Marvel and leave it at that). My Dad secretly despaired for me. But, the whole deal was, was that I really, really, really wanted to read. In the fourth grade, for reasons that aren’t clear any more, I memorized the entire poem The Raven. I attempted to start Moby Dick (and exactly why that was in an elementary school library, I don’t know), but at the  time the first two pages simply left me dizzy. So I kept reading comic books and eventually found The Hardy Boys and a few Tom Swift  books (even a Nancy Drew or two from my sister). These were ‘grown-up’ books ’cause they didn’t have pictures! Ok, not as many pictures. I kept moving forward and by 6th grade or so, I was reading James Bond books, which Mom promptly forbade, with some urging from Sis (meanie!) because they were too ‘racy’. So I snuck the Fleming stuff, but found out that the Matt Helm books were fine for my tender years. Hah! Better than Bond anyways and racier too. President Kennedy read them too. Maybe that’s why they were ok for me. Throughout all my grade school years I was blessed with really excellent English teachers (and mind, we’re talking 10 years in Tulsa and the last 2 Dallas). By Jr. High I was reading The Graduate, the film of which I was too young (theoretically) to see. And this was for an actual book report in English class. My teachers challenged me and I challenged myself. By High School, I was amassing enough books to warrant actual bookshelves for my room. By now, Dad was muttering with a slight smile something about how maybe those damn comics weren’t such a bad idea after all. I was devouring Dickens on my own because I must have chosen something other than the normal Brit Lit, which was all for the best because Great Expectations is really not the best introductory Dickens book. I myself liked it a lot more the second time around. Onward and upward!

      So. Tell me this xwizbt: Can you say that you say that you’ve read most of Dickens novels? And a good chunk of Faulkner? A nice sprinkling of Fitzgerald and Hemingway with multiple readings of War and Peace; let’s not forget Dostoyevsky? Madame Bovary? Moby Dick at least a few times, of course. How many times have you read Gravity’s Rainbow? Ulysses or any Joyce at all? Have you read all of Harry Potter? Lemony Snicket? How many times through Lord of the Rings or (Oh, ESP.) Gormenghast (reread that once in college while tripping, which didn’t seem possible)? Hell, I could go on for pages. And I still like the light stuff. Give me a new, to me, Agatha Christie or Ross MacDonald and I’m happy as a clam for a few hours. So, basically, DON’T FUCKING WHINE because you think something is beneath your pea-sized mind. To a kid it can be a whole portal to who knows where.

      [BTW, the Matt Helm movies really, really sucked. I was so disappointed. At least they formed the basis for the whole Austin Powers thing, so there’s that]

    4. “It’s been said that adults spend the first two years of their children’s lives trying to make them walk and talk, and the next sixteen years trying to get them to sit down and shut up.
      It’s the same way with potty training: Most adults spend the first few years of a child’s life cheerfully discussing pee and poopies, and how important it is to learn to put your pee-pee and poo-poo in the potty like big people do.
      But once children have mastered the art of toilet training, they are immeadiately forbidden to ever talk about poop, pee, toilets and other bathroom-related subjects again. Such things are now considered rude and vulgar, and are no longer rewarded with praise and cookies and juice boxes.
      One day you’re a superstar because you pooped in the toilet like a big boy, and the next day you’re sitting in the principal’s office because you said the word “poopy” in American History class (which, if you ask me, is the perfect place to say that word).”
      ― Dav Pilkey, Captain Underpants And The Preposterous Plight Of The Purple Potty People

  2. I’m not crazy about the books, but the Captain Underpants theme song is amazing.

    It’s by Rappy McRapperson, the same guy that brought us the fannypack song and the Fish Sticks song.

  3. Thanks For posting this. I love these books. I read them with my 5 year old son. He loves the jokes about poop to be sure. I love reading them. I have personally read most of them cover to cover five times a piece. I would urge anyone who thinks Dave Pilkey is strictly a potty mouthed, grey scale, low brow hack to read his books and read about him. He is a smooth operator with an awesome message about the personal value of creativity for kids. He is making poop jokes on one level, and showing kids that their art, no matter how badly drawn, or how poorly spelled is worthwhile and entertaining. And poop is really funny.

  4. I haven’t encouraged my kids to read them because the ubiquitous misspellings are a turn-off (for me, anyway, as a parent). Can someone please explain the appeal of filling a kids’ book with intentional errors?

    1. The misspellings occur ONLY in the comics drawn by the two protagonists who are in elementary school. Many educators will tell you that the misspellings empower children. It is truly an effective psychological tool. There are stories about autistic children, prodigies, and reluctant readers who can actually relate to the misspellings. Perhaps you should read the stories with your children and ask them to point out the misspellings. In my experience, children are thrilled to point out the misspellings. Most children, however, see the two kids in the books creating and that in turn inspires them to want to create. It makes the kids in the books highly relatable. Teachers will often say that the misspellings in the comics written by the kids in Pilkey’s books are very common misspellings that the teachers encounter in their classrooms. I think Pilkey did his research about kids. 

  5. Fun facts: There are Spanish translations of the books, which take the puns out and replace them with new ones (complete, and very well done, translation). Also, Harold becomes Albert.

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