For today’s piece of obscure Pokémon history, I would like to direct you to the YouTube channel “Did You Know Gaming” and its latest video on a part of the brand’s past that Nintendo, The Pokémon Company, and Creatures have tried to bury: the Pokémon newspaper comic strip!
Pokémon wasn’t always the powerhouse franchise we know and love today and actually had a slower start in the US than over in Japan. In an effort to increase awareness among American audiences, TPC and Creatures raced to create an American newspaper comic strip that would replace the then-outgoing Peanuts strip. That’s right, Pokémon was being positioned to take over from Charlie Brown in our funny papers.
Towards the end of the 90s, legendary author and animator Charles Schulz had been battling cancer in his final days. Announcing his retirement just before the end of 1999, executives at TPC and Creatures saw an opportunity. With Peanuts soon to vacate its spot in American newspapers, this would be the perfect opportunity to spread awareness of Pokémon in the West. Children already loved the brand, but if TPC could get adults on board, think of all the money that could be made!
It certainly sounds more sinister when you consider that Schulz’s retirement was directly linked to his declining health, but then capitalism often makes monsters out of men. Tsunekazu Ishihara, CEO of TPC, worked quickly to make the deal happen and was able to assemble a relatively eccentric team to get the job done. Just one week after their meeting to brainstorm this idea, Charles Schulz passed away. It was now or never.
Not to spoil all of the factoids contained in this video (which is sourced from Japanese magazines and the book “Pokémon Story” written by Masakazu Kubo), but the result of this plan wasn’t exactly great. You can now peruse the strips on the Internet Archive thanks to DYKG, but needless to say, TPC and Creatures likely weren’t happy with the outcome. When the most memorable strip is of Ash’s mom pulling her hair out over a Charmander burning down the drapes, I think you can already tell why this bombed.
Still, this is a fascinating bit of not only Nintendo, but Pokémon history that almost no one remembers. For those curious about the strips, they were published under the title of “Pikachu Meets the Press.” Surprisingly, Viz Media did release two compilations in the West, but obviously, those are out of print and no one at TPC or Creatures is in a rush to reprint them.Leave a Comment