The Captain Underpants book series is losing one of its titles due to controversy over “passive racism.” Scholastic has announced that the publisher will no longer be distributing the book The Adventures of Ook and Gluk: Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future, a spinoff of the Captain Underpants series. It will also be completely scrubbed from the official website to remove all mentions of the book, all with “the full support” of author Dav Pilkey.
“Together, we recognize that this book perpetuates passive racism,” a statement from Scholastic reads. “We are deeply sorry for this serious mistake. Scholastic has removed the book from our websites, stopped fulfillment of any orders (domestically or abroad), contacted our retail partners to explain why this book is no longer available, and sought a return of all inventory. We will take steps to inform schools and libraries who may still have this title in circulation of our decision to withdraw it from publication.”
In a letter posted to his YouTube account, Dav Pilkey offered an apology of his own. The author writes: “About ten years ago I created a book about a group of friends who save the world using kung fu and the principles found in Chinese philosophy. The Adventures of Ook and Gluk: Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future was intended to showcase diversity, equality, and non-violent conflict resolution.”
“But this week it was brought to my attention that this book also contains harmful racial stereotypes and passively racist imagery,” adds Pilkey. “I wanted to take this opportunity to publicly apologize for this. It was and is wrong and harmful to my Asian readers, friends, and family, and to all Asian people. I hope that you, my readers, will forgive me, and learn from my mistake that even unintentional and passive stereotypes and racism is harmful to everyone. I apologize, and I pledge to do better.”
The children’s book author has also announced that he and his wife pledged to donate all of his advance and royalties from the sale of The Adventures of Ook and Gluk: Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future to “charities that provide free books, art supplies, and theater for children in underserved communities; organizations that promote diversity in children’s books and publishing; and organizations designed to stop violence and hatred against Asians.”
A long-running series with 12 books and 11 spinoffs, Captain Underpants has been around since Pilkey released the first graphic novel in 1997. The story follows two fourth-graders, George and Harold, who accidentally turn their principal into the titular superhero. With over 80 million books sold, the last title in the Captain Underpants series was released in 2015, though spinoffs like Dog Man are still ongoing. Released in 2010, The Adventures of Ook and Gluk is presented as an in-universe comic written and illustrated by George and Harold.
DreamWorks Animation and 20th Century Fox released the first movie adaptation, Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie, in 2017. Featuring the voices of Kevin Hart, Ed Helms, and Nick Kroll, the movie was a success and would later spawn the Netflix TV series The Epic Tales of Captain Underpants. There doesn’t seem to be any plans for a new Captain Underpants movie anytime soon, but the Netflix series has been on for four seasons. This news comes to us from Scholastic.