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Thinking in Print: How accurately does 'Captain Underpants' portray Piqua, Ohio?

The popular Captain Underpants book series is set in the very real city of Piqua, Ohio, due to Piqua’s history of underwear manufacturing and its discontinued Underwear Festival. But does author Dav Pilkey do Piqua justice in his series, or was the city chosen as a clever reference and nothing more? Having grown up in Piqua and binge-read all 12 epic novels in the Captain Underpants saga, I am ready to judge if the Piqua the waistband warrior occupies is the same Piqua I know and love. 

The majority of Captain Underpants takes place within Jerome Horwitz Elementary School. While Jerome Horwitz does not exist in Piqua, the series states that the main characters, George and Harold, live five blocks from the school on Vine Street. Vine Street is a real location, and back in 1997 when Captain Underpants debuted, four short blocks away rested Wilder Elementary School, which taught fourth graders like George and Harold. 

Wilder is not a perfect match for Jerome Horwitz, though. The school taught grades 4-6 instead of K-6 as Jerome Horwitz does, and book four states that there were “nearly a thousand” students attending the fictional school, which is more than Wilder’s 800 student capacity.

Moving beyond school buildings, book three shows schoolchildren boarding “Miami County” buses to go to the Piqua Pizza Palace, a Chuck E. Cheese-style eatery. While the restaurant is fictional, Piqua is indeed part of Miami County. Pilkey also correctly places Piqua in the Midwest when Professor Poopypants reads a newspaper ad stating “Midwestern Elementary School Seeks Science Teacher” in book four. 

Book seven has George and Harold create a comic titled Captain Underpants and the War of the Willey Wonder Nerd, which features a nuclear power plant. Clearly, the boys were inspired by Piqua’s own shuttered nuclear power facility that operated in the '60s. Piqua’s Franz Pond is also featured in book 12, when the evil gym teacher Mr. Meaner sets up his lab in an abandoned factory near the fishing spot. 

When the boys are locked in the Piqua Juvenile Detention Center after being falsely accused of robbing a bank in book nine, they are overjoyed that the institution has art and music teachers. While there are no juvenile detention centers in Piqua, the closest I could find was the West Central Juvenile Detention Center that accepts students across the Miami valley — Piqua included. Its website boasted having various community leaders and motivational speakers, but art and music teachers were not specified. 

Regrettably, there is no real-world equivalent to the Piqua Order of Professional Space and Interplanetary Explorers, or POOPSIE, that appears in the series. Also, many backdrops of downtown Piqua throughout the books show the city with skyscrapers and other tall buildings, when most of Piqua is made up of average-sized houses and businesses.

Finally, when George and Harold visit the future in book 12, they discover that their adult selves live in a neighborhood called Echo Hills. In reality, Piqua’s Echo Hills is merely a golf course. When the boys return to the present, though, Echo Hills is devoid of housing and an “empty hilltop,” as one would expect a golf course to be. If the real-world Echo Hills is ever converted into a neighborhood, Pilkey will have predicted the future. 

Despite taking certain artistic liberties, “Captain Underpants” does a fine job at referencing real locations in Piqua, and it’s pretty cool that Pilkey took the time to look up real locations to place such zany characters in. If I ever wake up and see giant toilets rampaging across the city, rest assured I’ll be prepared.  

Charlene Pepiot is a senior studying English at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk more about it? Let Charlene know by emailing her,

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