32 pages 1 hour read

Dav Pilkey

Captain Underpants

Fiction | Graphic Novel/Book | Middle Grade | Published in 1997

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more.

Summary and Study Guide


Dav Pilkey’s graphic novel for children, The Adventures of Captain Underpants (1997), spawned a long list of sequels and adaptations in other media. The Captain Underpants series has won numerous awards, including the Garden State Children's Book Awards (Children's Fiction) 2000, the Buckeye Children's Book Award (Grades 3-5) 2001, and the Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Award (Grades K-3) 2000.

Plot Summary

The story begins by introducing two best friends, George and Harold. They love to pull pranks and play tricks on others. They also write their own comic book about a crime-fighting superhero named Captain Underpants. George and Harold choose the name because superheroes always look like they are wearing underwear. They sell photocopies of each issue for 50 cents at school.

At an important school football game, they plan a series of pranks that result in the school being forced to forfeit the game: They put pepper in the cheerleaders’ pom-poms, making everyone sneeze; helium in the football, causing it to float away; bubble solution in the marching band’s instruments; and itching powder in the muscle rub. The next day, Harold and George are called into Principal Krupp’s office, where Krupp reveals he has a videotape of them pulling the pranks. He tells the boys that from now on they must do exactly as he tells them or he will show the tape to the angry football team.

Krupp forces Harold and George to wake up at 6:00am every day to do chores for him. They also must never smile during class, and they get extra homework. Desperate to escape these grueling punishments, George thinks he sees a solution when he orders a “3-D Hypno-Ring” from a catalog. The ring takes weeks to arrive, during which time Harold and George continue doing chores and extra homework. When the ring finally arrives, they use it to hypnotize Mr. Krupp, replacing the video with one of Harold’s little sister’s videotapes.

With Mr. Krupp hypnotized, the boys fall back into their pranking ways, having the principal act like a chicken, then a monkey. Then they order him to behave like Captain Underpants. Krupp takes off his pants and ties a curtain around his neck, making the boys laugh. Before they can stop him, he jumps out the window to fight crime.

The boys chase him on their skateboards to a bank robbery, where he confronts two mystified robbers. The police arrive and start to arrest Krupp along with the criminals, but the boys get him away. As they are trying to get Krupp back to school to change him back into the principal, they come across two robots stealing a mysterious crystal. Captain Underpants’s cape gets caught in the van’s door as it speeds away, dragging him behind it. The boys grab on and are taken with Captain Underpants to an abandoned warehouse, where they discover that the evil Doctor Diaper is planning to use the crystal to destroy the moon, destroying all the cities on Earth and allowing Doctor Diaper to become Earth’s ruler.

The boys hide, but Captain Underpants is tied up. The boys hatch a plan: They use fake doggie poop they find in the warehouse and a slingshot to make Doctor Diaper think he needs to be changed. While he is distracted, George and Harold destroy the robots and untie Captain Underpants. They examine the machine Doctor Diaper has built to destroy the moon and pull a level, thinking it is an off switch. It is a “self-destruct” switch.

Doctor Diaper returns, producing a ray gun. Angry, he intends to use the ray gun on the boys, but Captain Underpants shoots underwear at his face. They capture Doctor Diaper and escape the warehouse as it is destroyed. Leaving Doctor Diaper tied up outside the police station, they return to the school, deciding it is time to bring back Principal Krupp—but they have lost the Hypno-Ring’s instruction manual and have no idea how to bring Krupp back without it. George finds a vase of water and dumps it on Krupp’s head, breaking his hypnotic state.

Angry, Krupp decides to give the videotape to the football team, not knowing that the boys switched it. George finds the instruction manual for the ring, where he reads that the one thing you should never do is pour water over a hypnotized person’s head because it will cause them to go in and out of a trance at the sound of snapping fingers. He throws the manual away.

The football team watches the video, the Boomer the Purple Dragon sing-along tape, and they love it. They rename the team the “Purple Dragon Sing-A-Long Friends.”

George and Harold go back to their normal lives, making comics and playing pranks. One day, they see someone snap their fingers in front of Principal Krupp, who instantly becomes Captain Underpants. The boys watch him running across the football field in his underwear, the curtain tied around his neck again, to go fight crime.