This isn't a horror entry. I apologize, however it has a place with the Drive-In. Dav Pilkey is the creator, artist, and writer of the Captain Underpants books. I was in desperate need of something different for reading material a few months ago and sometimes an unpretentious piece of juvenile fiction is an ideal palate cleanser. It's also good stuff.

Here's the premise: George Beard and Harold Hutchins are two kids trying to survive the 4th grade by creating comics and pulling pranks. After a set of convoluted circumstances, the only way they can deal with their oppressive principal is to hypnotize him. As a gag, they make him think he is their superhero creation Captain Underpants. Whenever they snap their fingers, he's the captain, when he gets splashed by water he is mean ol' Principal Krupp. Eventually, he even gets superpowers.

What follows us a series of misadventures in which dastardly villains almost take over the world such as Professor Poopypants, the Wedgie Woman, and Sir Stinks-a-Lot. The books are silly and full of toilet humor but there is underlying intelligence and wit in there that reminds us that we can't take what we read too seriously. In addition, there is no short amount of meta.

My first intro to the character was the Captain Underpants movie that was released in 2016. I found myself laughing like crazy and forgetting about my worries for a while. The humor was organic and earthy but not condescending.It also gave me a chance to connect with my kids.

Pilkey also created the Dog Man graphic novels. Also for kids, Dog Man is the story about a cop and his dog who gets caught in an explosion. The cop's head was too injured to survive. The dog's body was too injured to survive. The solution? Sew the dog's head on the human's body of course.

What you get is a lovable crime fighter who slobbers on the police chief. His arch foe is Petey, the world's most evil cat. He's more of a mischief maker than anything else. Eventually, Petey clones himself and ends up with the loving kitten Lil Petey who is good through and through. Lil Petey and Dog Man eventually become the superheroes Cat Kid and The Bark Knight. Through Lil Petey's kindness, Petey ends up reforming and becomes a cranky hero instead of a cranky villain. There's an underlying moral center in each book such as agency, acceptance, and forgiveness. There's considerable depth to these crazy, funny books.

Dog Man is becoming a major force in comic sales, having represented 13% in comic sales back in 2020. Considering some of the over-complicated plots and over-politicization in comics these days, this is a breath of fresh air by emphasizing humor (which is why they're called comics in the first place).

Why did I write this? Pilkey's books are cut from the same cloth as Weird Al in its wacky humor. In the books, George and Harold are fans of his. Al himself wrote the song in the end credits to the Captain Underpants movie. Horror may be the center of the Drive-In but humor is on the other side of the same coin and you need to take time to laugh.

Written by Nicholas Montelongo

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