Skip to main content

Captain Underpants spin-off pulled from shelves over anti-Asian imagery

cover of The Adventures of Ook and Gluk: Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future
(Image credit: Scholastic)

Cartoonist Dav Pilkey and publisher Scholastic have removed his 2010 graphic novel The Adventures of Ook and Gluk: Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future from distribution and will not be reprinting the book, due to "racial stereotypes and passively racist imagery."

The 2010 story is a spin-off of Pilkey's popular Captain Underpants young readers' graphic novels, which have been adapted to film and television. The Adventures of Ook and Gluk: Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future focuses on two cavemen who travel to the future, where they learn the martial art of Kung Fu and its accompanying philosophy in order to travel back in time and save their home.

Pilkey issued a statement withdrawing the title from publication, with Scholastic following suit. Pilkey's statement includes an apology for the depiction of stereotypes, and a promise to donate his personal proceeds from the book to charity.

"About 10 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," reads Pilkey's statement. 

(Image credit: Scholastic)

"But this week it was brought to my attention that this book also contains harmful racial stereotypes and passively racist imagery. 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."

"My publisher, Scholastic, Inc., has stepped forward to share my responsibility, and together we are ceasing all further publication of The Adventures of Ook and Gluk, Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future, and actively working to remove existing copies from retail and library shelves," Pilkey continues. "I hope that you, my readers, will forgive me, and learn from my mistake that even unintentional and passive stereotypes and racism are harmful to everyone. I apologize, and I pledge to do better."

Pilkey closes off the statement listing the charities to which he plans to donate his profits from The Adventures of Ook and Gluk: Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future.

"My wife and I pledge to donate all of my 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," Pilkey concludes. "These non-profit charities include: We Need Diverse Books, The AAPI, and TheaterWorks USA, among others."

Scholastic themselves echoed Pilkey's apology, and pledged to remove the book from distribution while also requesting the return of copies already in inventory with retailers.

"On Monday, March 22, 2021, with the full support of Dav Pilkey, Scholastic halted distribution of the 2010 book The Adventures of Ook and Gluk. Together, we recognize that this book perpetuates passive racism," reads Scholastic's statement.

"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," Scholastic concludes. "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."

The Adventures of Ook and Gluk: Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future remains available through private sellers on Amazon, with paperback prices now reaching over $250. The digital version is currently unavailable on Kindle.

Pilkey's latest publication, Dog Man: Mothering Heights, was released last week to critical acclaim, including from Newsarama.

Reading Dav Pilkey's comics digitally? Here are the best digital comic readers available.

Newsarama staff writer who learned to read from comic books and hasn’t shut up about them since.