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​Gotta Catch 'Em All: Meet the Tattoo Artist Tattooing the 151 Original Pokémon

Alicia Thomas has tattooed 130 of the 151 original Pokémon, and she won't stop until she's caught them all.
All photos courtesy of Alicia Thomas

We hold these truths to be self-evident: Nerds win at life and tattooed weirdoes are hot. While stalking my sexy writer friend Casey's Instagram, my girl boner leapt from a 7 to a 10 when I saw she had just gotten a Golbat tattoo. I had to know more. Was she just the girl of my dreams, or were there bigger forces at play? Alicia Thomas is a tattoo artist who works out of the Boston Tattoo Company in Somerville, Massachusetts. Thomas is on a mission to "catch 'em all": aka, tattoo the 151 original Pokémon. The project started last August and is nearly completed. I called up Thomas after she was finishing a session to learn how she got so cool. Hit her up and maybe you can snag one of the remaining Pokémons, then meet someone who has your evolution on their bicep at a Poké Ball party Thomas hopes to throw for all 151 of you.


VICE: How'd you get into tattooing?
Alicia Thomas: I went to art school for printmaking, and did that for a couple of years after school. I realized that it's more of a dying field, like film photography, so I actually applied for a counter person position [at a tattoo parlor] and they hired me. A couple months in, they offered to apprentice me.

So take me back. Let's talk about your Pokémon history, the early days.
It was definitely a big part of my childhood. Probably the one staple that I actually hold onto today. I still occasionally play cards; I still play the video game and things like that. Kind of just like everyone else, 4th and 5th grade when everyone started playing the game. It's what I'd get out of school at 2:15 and run home to do. It's stuck with me my entire life.

How did this Pokémon project get started, and does it have an official name?
I've been calling it "Help Me Catch Them All," that kind of thing. It started when I was tattooing one of my regulars. We were about the same age, talking about our childhoods. We were both pretty nerdy. We were just talking about growing up with Pokémon, and we made a joke that "Oh, you should tattoo all of them," and then we kind of laughed, and then we looked at each other and said, "No, this should actually be a thing." I'm definitely a goal-oriented person so I figured it would be a fun project to start. I've seen someone try to tattoo Pokémon once in a while, but I don't often see, from beginning to end, to tattoo every Pokémon. I've [done] about 125, 130, out of the 151 original


One of Thomas's masterpieces. Photo courtesy of the author

How did you get the word out?
Honestly, now is when I'm having to do the work. I had a couple of friends get them and then it just snowballed. I've done very little work. Right now I'm starting to post them, trying to remind people on social media that I'm doing it, but most of those 125 have just been word of mouth.

Which ones are left?
Like the fighting Pokémon, a lot of the bug Pokémon which is surprising. But there's still some pretty good ones, like Jolteon is still left, Moltres is still left.

Which ones went first?
Pikachu gets asked the most; Bulbasaur is the next one that gets asked the most. I'd say the first ones were Scyther, then Bulbasaur, then Haunter. Those are my top three.

Do you have a Pokémon tattoo?
I don't. I want to wait through the whole project, and then I will be getting my favorite one which is Bulbasaur, and I'd like to get a Poké Ball with it as well, to signify that I completed the project. But I'm not going to get one until I complete it. My friend [tattoo artist] is going to do it, he lives in California and his favorite is Bulbasaur as well.

What's your favorite story of people who came in?
I would get groups of friends I caught—I use the word "caught." They'd book me for the day and it would be like seven or eight girls all getting tattoos. Kind of channeling their childhood that they spent together, or something they all have in common. I think the best story was two brothers and their mom. They all got the Charmander, Charmeleon, and Charizard. Mom got the baby, and then her two boys got the Charmeleon and Charizard. She's not into Pokémon but she was completely supportive of the project. She liked the idea that, even if she's not into it, she watched her sons grow up and collect the cards, trade the cards, and battle each other. So that was probably the cutest story out of all of them.


I had a lot of couples that matched. A couple got the Rattata and the Raticate; I did those very early on. I was like, "Who is going to get rats tattooed on them?" and they explained that they love rats and mice, and that's what they have as pets. They were a happy couple.

I hear you're planning an event after the project's over and you've "caught them all."
Along with getting the tattoo myself, I very much would like to have some sort of party, some kind of event where I can go through all the paperwork and get in touch with everyone by email or call them, everyone who has gotten Pokémon tattoos, so they can all meet each other and their evolutions. Kind of like a meet-and-greet. I'd love to get a picture of everybody together, too. That would be pretty awesome.

Do you think people would get along with the other person who has their evolution?
I think so. I keep making the joke about "spirit Pokémon," like a spirit animal, because I usually have a consultation with every person before the tattoo, so altogether I might spend a couple of hours with them. Every single time, by the end of the tattoo, I'm like, "Yes, this is definitely the Pokémon that you should be getting tattooed on you." So I bet whatever their pre-evolution or evolution is, I think they would get along with that person. Or at least have something in common.

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