I love when characters have their own theme songs! Especially bad guys! Team Feety Pajamas are partially a tribute to Team Rocket, the wonderful villains from Pokémon. There are quite a few Pokémon (and also Digimon) references throughout Astronaut Academy, so you gotta catch ‘em all! And you won’t want to miss Patrick Woodruff’s guest contribution to the Love Letters & Heart Container’s blog series below.
I remember begrudgingly rising one morning, getting ready for school, and coming downstairs to the sound of my mother brewing the morning coffee and flipping through the major television networks. If I could catch her in a good mood, I could sometimes convince her to let me eat my breakfast in the family room, in front of the TV. So jumping on the opportunity, I planted my butt at the coffee table and stared at the screen, waiting for something vaguely interesting to catch my young eyes. I thought it was just going to be another day of the usual news reports and early-morning infomercials when a kid with huge eyes and garish clothes sent a giant butterfly into battle with a sewer rat in the dining room of a cruise ship.
This was my very first encounter with Pokémon. “Oh, this is that ‘Pokey Man’ show everyone is talking about, I think!” Mom said, trying to wrap her head around the flashing colors and low animation frame rate. She wasn’t the only one- I was taken aback, having never seen anything quite like it (it would be another few yeas before I was introduced to Japanese anime properly). However, over the next couple of weeks, much like my classmates, I became totally entranced by these weird little creatures. Pokémon Fever hit the nation like the flu, bringing with it toys, games, the cartoon series, and of course, the video games.
Full disclosure here: I never had a Game Boy growing up. We had a Game Gear, SEGA’s valiant, but ultimately flawed, answer to Nintendo’s handheld. So for the entirety of the 90’s, I was an envious looker-on. My classmates showed off their team of six; Blastoise, Mewtwo, a legendary bird here and there for those skilled enough to catch them. The idea of superpowered cock-fighting hypnotized me even from afar, but according to Mom & Dad, one game system in the house was enough. So I instead took up a Pokémon-related hobby that, in the long run, probably cost my parents more than the Game Boy would have– collecting Pokémon Trading Cards.
A booster pack came with 11 cards, and each one had the tantalizing prospect of containing a holographic rare card. There was no prize greater than the Charizard card. With an estimated worth of $100 a piece, Charizard cards might as well have been made of platinum. I remember somehow convincing my grandmother to shell out $40 on a Charizard card in a mall kiosk and absolutely losing my mind over it. A few months later, I’d open a booster pack to find a second Charizard card, and time stopped completely. Once it resumed, I sprinted down the block and traded it to my neighbor Brian for a king’s ransom of rare cards.
By the time 1999 had rolled around, most kids had played the games ragged, gotten all the cards they wanted, and had hit their PokéLimit with their patient parents. Pokémon Gold and Silver were released in 2000, but in my school system, the whole fad had cooled out. I stopped collecting the cards (which was an expensive hobby), I gave up the case for a Game Boy, and I didn’t bother trying to catch Ash and Pikachu on WB11 every Saturday morning anymore…
My younger brother Greg got a Game Boy Advance for Christmas one year, and also got a copy of Pokémon Ruby. For some reason, Pokémon’s Generation 2 lineup left me cold– they just didn’t feel like they had the same level of personality. Pokémon like Corsola and Bellossom just seemed lame compared to Magneton, Alakazam or Nidoking. With Ruby/Sapphire, Generation 3 brought some real flare, with cool and wacky designs like Aggron and Ludicolo, introduced double battles (woah!), and really revamped the art style. I would sneak in some play time whenever I could, and finally knew what I was missing all those years in elementary school. The satisfaction of leveling up your starter Pokémon (Treeko for me), learning a new attack, or crushing a mighty Gym Leader beneath your heel was breathtaking, and I wanted more.
In the summer of 2006, just before heading off to college, I used a chunk of money I had earned at my summer camp counseling “job” to by my own GBA and a copy of Pokémon Fire Red. Once I got to the School of Visual Arts, it really was like grade school again– talking about Pokémon was a regular thing that happened, and with an equal amount of excitement! We were whipped up into a frenzy once Generation 4, Diamond and Pearl, was announced. We started collecting the trading cards again (yes, they still make them, and no, it’s not an easy hobby to keep up with on a college budget). Something just felt right about it. Like it had never really left, even though I had fallen out of it for a spell.
Now, we’re on the verge of the next new release, Pokémon X and Y. And just as I was at the beginning of the phenomenon in the late 1990’s, I couldn’t be more excited. Pokémon as a franchise is a little bit like the monsters themselves– while they change and evolve over time, they stay close to our hearts and are always a good friend to lean on. I can count on the franchise to offer comfort in times of hardship now as I could then. The only difference is that now I worry about paying the electric bill instead of whose kickball team I was going to get picked for.
Patrick J Woodruff is a graduate of the School of Visual Arts. When he’s not working full time as the Digital Publishing Coordinator of Archie Comics, he’s working on his upcoming webcomic, Man-Pig & Dracula. Check his Twitter account @knockonwoodruff for sneak peeks!
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