Saturday, June 18, 2005

Comic Fun: Dav Pilker, Captain Underpants and the Big Bad Battle of the Bionic Booger Boy (New York, Scholastic, 2003)

Separated into two parts:
1. The Night of the Nasty Nostril Nuggets
2. Revenge of the Ridiculous Robo-Boogers.

Some books are absolutely written for kids. They are designed to make adults squirm. Everything about this book, from the disgusting slime boy to the protagonists who are anti-intellectual tricksters is designed to irritate an adult. Our heroes defeat super-scientist braniac nerd boy (think about it and you realise they are simply bullies, but that never stopped me loving Dennis the Menace[the UK version]).

I'm not going to sum up the plot, I'm much more interested in the way the story is told. George and Harold, as well as being the driving force of the tale are also collaborative narrators through the medium of the comics they draw. So you have a told story which is frequently anticipated by the comic. The comic superheroes can do anything while the 'real' superheroes are limited by specific powers. Pilker seems to have a clear understanding that children like rules in the real world, and wish fulfilment in their imaginations, but that this doesn't mean the rules have to be mimetic rules.

The other thing I like is that George and Harrold are imaginative and can think. Many of the "tricks" are later re-used as technological ways of doing things the adult scientists (who are usually shown as fools) cant. The books are anti-scientists/adults, but they aren't anti-science.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

My wife, Ann, teaches a bar/bat mitzvah class and frequently tries to use pop culture references to keep the kids' interest. One day she was making a parallel to comic book superheroes and one of the boys started talking about "Yes, like Captain Underpants!" Ann hadn't heard of Captain Underpants and a discussion ensued, during which Ann was trying not to laugh, about what was appropriate and not appropriate...until it began clear this was a "real" character.

Kids find Captain Underpants very liberating.

Jeff VanderMeer

5:12 AM  
Blogger Farah said...

That was my sense. I'm hanging on to these books as I think there are things I can learn from them. I want to compare their technique to MacHale's Pendragon books. Why is one internal narrative limiting and the other liberating?

12:49 AM  

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