OK well, Brion doesn’t sound THAT silly in real life, but his webcomic Flipside is definitely the bee’s knees! And frankly it’s one of the longest running webcomics I’m aware of. Ex-PA! super star Jen Brazas (aka Savage Sparrow, aka NeoQueenJen, aka TRCassidy) has been helping out with Flipside as well—I mean, they’re married afterall, you would think she would help out her hubby!
If you’re into awesome comics about jester girls and swordswomen and deep emotional plotlines… definitely give Flipside a go!
The Actual News:
As an artist, I really enjoy looking relaxing pictures from time to time. I sometimes even have them as my desktop background! Here, let me share some of my favorite desktop backgrounds with you.
Ahhhhh… I just love the sweeping hills of the one right there… better than the hills used as the Windows XP … Ecks-Pee background! OH! And that beach view! Sooo relaxing looking, it almost feels like I’m there, feeling the cool sea breeze blowing across my face. And who doesn’t find that green-blue-yellow splotchy painting calming?? Yes… such beautiful pictures…
…but wait a second…
I dunno about you… but something about these look familiar. A little TOO familiar, if you get my drift. …!!! WAIT A FLIPPIN’ SECOND!
Card images sourced from pkmncards.com
OH MY GOODNESS, they’re the background artwork for many Pokémon TCG cards! You’ve just been bamboozled; April fools!!
Hahah, ok ok, jokes aside… yes, that’s what’s going on here. Turns out a recent Twitter post which was brought to my attention by CinnamonBiscuits (who also told me about the bootleg cards I talked about recently) had discovered the source of many of the backgrounds on the earliest cards. Then coincidentally, Alveinhero on the PA! Discord Server posted a link to a Flickr account with a TON of related background. Between those two sources, I decided to look into this further and share the conclusion of my investigations with you. Huzzah!
First off though, the Twitter post in question:
Last night I managed to find a bunch of source images used as backgrounds in Pokemon cards, here's a few of them. pic.twitter.com/NMJ6VaSqOa
— Fanamel (@FanamelT) March 26, 2021
So these backgrounds come from a digital stock photo and artwork collection called Datacraft Sozaijiten, or sometimes simply Sozaijiten. The name “Sozaijiten” (素材辞典) clearly spells out its purpose, as it translates to “material dictionary”: specifically, it’s a Japanese-produced collection of stock pictures produced by Image navi corporation, broken up into over 245 various volumes of shared concepts released on CD-ROM format. For example, Volume 1 is “Stone Textures”, Volume 10 is “Flowers”, Volume 20 is “Wild Flowers and Cherry Blossoms”, and so forth. Furthermore, it seems as if new volumes are constantly being produced every now and then, as in 2008 there was only 207, but in 2013 it was up to 235. Given this it’s most likely that the original artists working on the Japanese release of Base Set back in 1996 only had access to the earliest Sozaijiten releases, as most of the backgrounds seem to pull from the first 30 or 40 volumes.
Now are you looking to use this artwork to spice up some of your OWN fake cards?? Well, hopefully you have a bunch of extra cash to spare, because these photo sets go for a pretty hefty price! True, you’re definitely going to get some quality pictures to work with—the photos on the disc are about 2950 × 2094 pixels at 350 dpi—but each CD of 190-200 photos go for about ¥8,424, or about US$76. OUCH! But hey, that’s only about ¥42 or USD$0.38 per picture, so it’s not THAT expensive! That’s actually a pretty good deal; where else can you get high quality photos that you can use in your Pokémon TCG artwork for cheaper??
Fortunately though, you don’t have to actually buy any of the CDs to at least preview all of the images in each Volume; in fact, you can simply visit the Sozaijiten website, click on any of the CD links, and you can see the images right there! But… oooh… actually, not quite. I mean, normally you can see a preview of each CD on the website. But unfortunately, the website currently seems to have a bunch of broken images, so you can’t exactly see any of them. There is, however, an easy way around this: all you need to do is click on the “PDF” link in the header of each volume page, and it’ll load all the preview pictures which were otherwise broken. Easy peasy, eh?
Better yet, you can simply edit the PDF’s URL in order to cycle through each preview PDF. For example, if the PDF for Volume 2 is sj2list.pdf, simply change the “2” in the filename to a “3”, hit “Enter”, and you’ll get to the PDF for Volume 3! Then change “3” to “10” and you get Volume 10. Even EASIER PEASIER! Here, I’ve linked to the first three PDF files, you can see the rest from there.
Anyways… now to be clear, not ALL Pokémon TCG cards used pictures from Datacraft Sozaijiten. By the looks of it, it was mostly images drawn by Ken Sugimori which otherwise had no background images… so clearly some of the designers pulled up a few Datacraft Sozaijiten CDs, grabbed a few appropriate images, threw a Photoshop filter on it, and called it a day. Which was a pretty simple and smart idea, otherwise the cards would look like this:
OK so… now what? Well, it wouldn’t be a Pokémon Aaah! post if I didn’t already have something else in mind… and so if you look to the left, you’ll see a new page in the Research & Theory section: TCG Backgrounds! That’s right, I’ve started work on trying to figure out which card background came from which Datacraft Sozaijiten Volume, as well as providing an example of that picture (albeit limited in size as to not overstep copyright law). The work is incomplete, but I aim to have just about every possible card and background sorted out for your information purposes only. Keep an eye out for updates!
But other than that, that’s all I got for you. Were you surprised to finally discover where these card backgrounds came from? Are you thinking of maybe making your own fake cards using other backgrounds from the Datacraft Sozaijiten collection for added authenticity? Feel free to let me know what you’re thinking, either in the comments below, or in the Fake Card Mania channel on the PA! Discord, or maybe send me a tweet? I’d love to hear what you think about all this!