Back when we first covered Pokenatomy, a series of illustrations detailing the inner-workings of Pokemon, the project was promising but incomplete. After the success of the Kickstarter and the subsequent release of the physical collection, we thought it was a good time for a revisit. Artist Christopher Stoll sent Dorkly a couple of the completed books, and as a fan of both Pokemon and sinewy organic tissue, I was delighted with the finished product.
In our email correspondence, Stoll told me that he was one of many lapsed Pokemon fans that rediscovered the series in his twenties. Following his positive experience releasing the dark A Natural History of the Fantastic, Stoll set his trusty secondhand iPad to work on Pokemon. It's a stark transition, but one that worked in Pokenatomy's favor.
"Imagining that adorable Pokémon characters have all the messy underlying biology that real organisms have is an unsettling thought for a lot of people," said Stoll. "That mild transgressive element was exciting to me, and since the anime-style proportions of Pokemon are so unrealistic it was a challenge to design their biological underpinnings in a way that felt authentic."
Though many Pokemon have direct real-world counterparts -- you might have an easy starting point with Squirtle's anatomy, for instance -- there wasn't always an existing species for direct reference. When it came to bizarre and otherworldly Pokemon, Stoll improvised by studying life that thrives in extreme and hostile conditions.
"[Koffing's] peculiar design became a chance to talk about some of life's weirder processes like chemosynthesis and carbon fixing," said Stoll. "And even though no real life on earth resembles anything like a Koffing I could still try to approximate the abilities and behavior of the Pokemon by combining a variety of these existing processes and systems."
It's fascinating to see how Pokenatomy tackles the strangest and most obtuse Pokemon. Eggsecute, a collective organism that is probably best described as "a bunch of fucked up eggs," proved especially tricky for Stoll. But sometimes having a Pokemon with a real-world equivalent didn't make things easier. "Others like Staryu were a real challenge for totally different reasons," Stoll said. "The biology of Starfish is already so alien I actually felt like I should probably tone down the actual anatomy so that the readers wouldn't think I'd made it all up."
Stoll is still contemplating his next project, but in the meantime, we've included some of our favorite dissections below. You can pick up Pokenatomy to see the full roster of Gen 1 Pokemon, including whatever the hell Diglett looks like under the ground.