In honor of Pokémon's 25th Anniversary this year, Bleeding Cool is talking to comics creators (and perhaps some great creators outside of the industry) about the role that Pokémon has had on their lives. From the original games, to the cards, to Pokémon GO, we're excited to share stories of how this incredible world has changed our own. This time, we're talking to Ben Kahn, co-writer of Renegade Rule.
Kahn: Red and Blue came out when I was in the 3rd grade in 1998, and it was this absolutely instantaneous lightning bolt that changed school life completely. Elementary school children were waking up hours early on school days so we could watch a new Pokémon episode at 6 AM, and be ready to talk about it during homeroom at 8. You blinked – and suddenly every kid in school had a Gameboy Color, a link cable, and binders full of Pokémon cards.
The school eventually had to ban Pokémon altogether. We were obsessed. We'd talk about the anime during class, trade cards during recess, and battle on the school bus. My ninth birthday party was entirely Pokemon-themed. I hear my parents describe Beetlemania, and it's the only thing I've heard of that sounds comparable to the impact Pokémon made when it first came to America.
Even after that level of craze died down, and after I stopped watching the anime when Johto dragged into endless filler Hell, I still loved the games. Red, Yellow, Gold, Crystal, Ruby, Emerald – I never missed a release for the first three generations. Gen 4 was the nadir of my Pokemon love, I finally reached my 'too cool for school' utterly insufferable teenage years. Then in college the house I was living in got really into competitive Pokémon, so that kept me interested in the franchise through Gen 5, and then it was when X & Y came out after college that I fell back in love with Pokemon, and haven't stopped since.
Do you have any stories about Pokémon and your experiences with the franchise?
What I really love is just the world of Pokémon. It's always been such a fun place to just daydream about and escape into. I think that's what I loved the most about Detective Pikachu, seeing the world I'd imagined for so long fully realized. And then my favorite part of the games is building a new team, finding six new favorites, and putting them together.
And this is super duper dorky, but with every new main series game, and every new team I build, I create a new character in this little fan-fic universe I've created for myself. Mostly fun daydream stories to keep myself entertained when out for a run or stuck in traffic. But it makes each new game that much more special. It's not just another game, it's another chapter in this whole Pokémon saga I've been telling since I was a kid.
And then this past year, when the pandemic started, I decided that with all the new time on my hands during lockdown, I was going to complete my Living Dex, which is having one of every single type of Pokémon. And I actually finished it! But then they went and released the Crown Tundra DLC, so now I'm doing a new playthrough of Sword so I can catch Regieleki and Glastrier.
What does Pokémon mean to you?
Pokémon is escapism and adventure. It's this world that's been there for what feels like all my life, and it keeps growing and changing while staying its same old charming self. From the cutest mons to the biggest of badasses, there's just something so lovable about each and every one of them. Even Garbodor. Especially Garbodor.
If you were a gym trainer, what type of Pokémon would you specify in?
I would specialize in Steel-type Pokémon. I'm gonna say the sixth or seventh gym in the region, and my team would be Ferroseed, Metang, Doublade, and Corviknight
Of course, I have to ask: Favorite Pokémon?
Even though I started back with Pokemon Red, I wouldn't meet my favorite starter and favorite pokemon until Gen 3 with the introduction to Sceptile. The Sceptile that I trained in Emerald, I've transferred it from generation to generation all the way to today in Pokémon Sword. That's one pokemon that I've had for over fifteen years. And that's something I love about the franchise, your progress never truly resets. The Pokémon you raised years or decades ago can still travel alongside you game after game.
We'll be back with Part Two to hear Ben's take on Pokémon's 25th Anniversary. Until then, make sure to check out RENEGADE RULE, a queer eSports action-comedy OGN was written by Ben Kahn and Rachel Silverstein with art by Sam Beck and letters by Jim Campbell. Published by Dark Horse Comics, it's out in comic stores on May 26th, 2021.