A Q&A with Dav Pilkey, author of Captain Underpants


You might know that call. Captain Underpants has captured the imagination of thousands and thousands. (And is ever-popular with students using Renaissance Accelerated Reader®.) In 2017, Captain Underpants took another giant leap and made his big screen debut. In addition, Netflix is now streaming The Epic Tales of Captain Underpants TV show. The series has inspired several popular spinoffs, including Dog Man, Super Diaper Baby, and others.

Dav Pilkey, the author behind it all, came up with Captain Underpants while he was in grade school. As a child, Dav was diagnosed with dyslexia and ADHD. Being disruptive in class, his teachers often made him sit out in the hall. He loved to draw and create stories, so he spent his time in the hall creating original comic books—one of them being about a superhero named Captain Underpants.

News-O-Matic, the program that powers Renaissance myON® News, did a Q&A with Dav! Check out a few of the questions and answers below.

Aaron, age 11, asked: How long does it take to make a book?

Dav: For me, it usually takes about six months to write and illustrate a book. That’s from the very, very beginning when I think of the title to the very last page of doing the illustrations.

Sarah, age 8, asked: What is the biggest challenge you face when writing your books?

Dav: I think it’s fear probably. Because I don’t know exactly where the ideas come from, and I sometimes am afraid that I might never think of another idea. That’s a challenge for me. I get fearful sometimes.

Suzanne, age 16, asked: What is the hardest part of your job?

Dav: I think the hardest part of my job is actually getting the work done. Sometimes the deadlines do mean that I’m in the studio for 10 or 12 hours a day, and it can get a little lonely. So I think that is the hard part.

But fortunately, I have so many wonderful times: meeting my readers and getting to see how the books have influenced the lives of children. There are a lot of kids that didn’t like to read until they discovered some of my books. That really means a lot to me.

Jack, age 9, asked: Who inspired you to write books for kids?

Dav: A professor I had when I was in college. She really liked my writing and she said, “Hey Dav, have you ever thought about writing books for children? You can illustrate them. You write them. You should think about that.” And I was so inspired by her that I started writing my first book that day.

Wanjiku, age 8, asked: Who is your biggest inspiration?

Dav: I think the biggest inspiration I had, at least as a child, was Charles Schulz. He’s the artist who created the Peanuts characters, Snoopy, and Charlie Brown. And I used to read those comics all the time and I was very, very inspired, not only by the stories, but also by the art. I think I was inspired to draw. I used to draw Charlie Brown and Snoopy all the time.

Maya, age 10, asked: How did you come up with Captain Underpants? Was he in your dreams?

Dav: No, he wasn’t really in my dreams. He was a character that I invented when I was in the second grade. And the reason I came up with him is that one day my teacher said the word “underwear” in class and everyone started to laugh.

And I thought, “Wow, she got such a huge reaction from the classroom just by saying the word underwear. I wonder what I could do by inventing a cartoon character based on underwear.” I felt like that might another strong reaction.

Jacoby, age 10, asked: Why did you make Dog Man and where?

Dav: Dog Man is another character that came from my childhood. He was one of the very first comic book characters I ever created. I was in second grade. I was probably eight years old. The reason I made him is because I love dogs. I love animals. And I always thought a dog would be a great superhero. So Dog Man’s been with me for most of my life.

Sophie, age 11, asked: What advice would you give to kids who want to become published authors?

Dav: Well, I think the best advice is, you know, what I used to do myself, is to practice. You have to practice all the time. Practice, practice, practice. And sometimes it can get discouraging, especially when you’re a kid and you’re practicing. Because sometimes you’ll work very hard on something, and you won’t like what you’ve done when you finish it.

Curious to see more questions and Dav’s answers? Check out myON News, powered by News-O-Matic! In addition to fun Q&As with authors like Dav, it features age-appropriate news articles for students, reporting on timely topics, and current events. Articles incorporate engaging multimedia—videos, slideshows, and photo galleries—to help students better understand the world around us.

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