How would an alien make sense of the phrase “don’t worry” or “sweet dreams”? New York-based artist Nathan Pyle’s viral comic series STRANGE PLANET explores the innocuous, everyday experiences through the lens of an outsider. Pyle’s curious transposition of common phrases turns “don’t worry” into “prohibit anxieties” and “sweet dreams” into “imagine pleasant nonsense.”

Pyle follows the lives of his unsettlingly cute blue aliens as they gently experience life on the Strange Planet. The collection of four-panel comics gently invites readers to laugh at humanities’ proclivities, foibles, and daily choices. Everything from ordering waffles at a diner to hosting a dinner party is fair game for Pyle. But by defamiliarizing the human experience of the mundane, STRANGE PLANET helps readers relocate joy to the simple things.

STRANGE PLANET
Image courtesy of Nathan W. Pyle.

STRANGE PLANET Goes Viral

Pyle’s aliens caught the attention of Instagrammers in early February. The series has quickly taken the internet by storm. It seems that everyone can relate to the friendly little blue aliens as they make sense of their existence. But just as the little aliens remind us of ourselves, they also seem to remind us that we are not alone.

Indeed, STRANGE PLANET’s viral success may derive from a sense of community. For example, many of us can relate to wanting a clean house before inviting friends over. Pyle makes fun of this strange tendency by having his aliens “store irregular shapes inside shapes with flat surfaces.” As a result, the aliens’ home is spotless, leading them to proclaim, “We own things but have hidden them.” If you don’t know a friend who wants a spotless house before hosting, it’s probably you!

In another instance, Pyle’s alien feels “suboptimal” — a great way to describe being sort of sick. Hilariously, the other alien states, “I am not trained for this.” For those of us not in the medical profession, dealing with illness can spark this exact reaction. Yet despite our lack of training, we press on with care-taking.

These moments in and of themselves are not exciting. I do not thrill in cleaning my house, and I am even less excited when my partner gets sick. However, these moments are part of life. Pyle’s comics remind us to find some humor in our tendencies and even our limitations. In a world where we often get caught up in broadcasting the highlights of our lives on social media, it is refreshing to discover a universe where we can laugh at our silly habits.

STRANGE PLANET
Image courtesy of Nathan W. Pyle.

Linguistic Shifts

While Pyle’s illustrations are adorable and hilarious, the peculiar use of language is what makes STRANGE PLANET stand out. Any native speaker of a language will notice that we use common phrases and signs without thinking about their origins or meanings. Pyle, however, draws attention to the bizarre sociolects and idioms that typically go unnoticed. In one instance, Pyle’s alien experiences a rush of excitement. While we might call this feeling “butterflies in my stomach,” Pyle’s alien says joyfully, “I am digesting moths.” By tweaking the phrase just slightly, Pyle makes us realize just how strange it is to describe excitement as having an insect flying inside you.

While Pyle’s STRANGE PLANET defamiliarizes our experiences and linguistic trends, the series is nevertheless optimistic and fun. Readers may realize that it is strange to give a bouquet of dead flowers to a loved one on Valentine’s Day. But just as Pyle’s alien lovingly coos “so meaningful!” we also can recognize the sweetness and humor in our cultural gestures.

Animal Matters

The comics involving animals stand out in STRANGE PLANET’s collection. Indeed, the presence of another non-alien, non-human animal adds an additional layer of strangeness to the comics. By adding a domesticated animal to the scene, Pyle addresses humanity’s tendency to lack self-reflection when observing another animal. For example, in one scene, Pyle’s aliens marvel at their cat’s decision to sleep in a box. They exclaim, “It has the freedom to explore this entire space yet prefers the confines of a tiny box.” The cartoon then zooms out for a view of the alien’s tiny apartment in a vast and unexplored city. Pyle cleverly points out the ways in which humans so readily judge animal behavior while ignoring their very same behaviors.

The animals in Pyle’s comics do not always exist for purely existential points. Indeed, in a recent comic one alien excitedly tells their friend, “I found an animal we can sit on.” To which their friend replies hilariously, “We can sit on most animals.” While true, we should not sit on most animals. The alien is, of course, talking about a horse. The interactions between alien and animals in STRANGE PLANET demonstrate humans’ adoration for as well as disconnect from animals. Perhaps Pyle’s collection will inspire more self-awareness when we interact with other creatures.

STRANGE PLANET
Image courtesy of Nathan W. Pyle.

STRANGE PLANET’s Joy in the Every-Day

STRANGE PLANET’s viral success is no surprise. The collection of brightly-colored comics featuring wide-eyed and smiling blue aliens is shockingly easy to relate to. Indeed, Pyle manages to lovingly tap into the quotidian. While readers may come away wondering just why we say and do the things we do, they will also leave craving more. STRANGE PLANET encourages us to laugh at ourselves and reminds us that we aren’t alone on our strange planet.

Show ComicsVerse some Love! Leave a Reply!