Interview: Strange Planet's cartoonist Nathan Pyle on his inspirations and creatic comics on human behaviour
You would know Nathan as the man behind Strange Planet — the webcomic featuring blue aliens. Designed in four panels, the beings encounter universal traditions and situations — a funny take on humankind. With over 4.3 million followers on Instagram, the American cartoonist is also the New York Times bestselling author of comic series and book, NYC Basic Tips and Etiquette and 99 Stories I Could Tell, which showcases his sardonic observational humour. Excerpts:
Tell us the backstory! How did you get into designing comics?
My cousin is a professional illustrator named Clinton Reno (clintonreno.com). He showed me Adobe Illustrator, and ever since then I have been pretty obsessed with digital drawing. In particular, my comics started when I wrote and illustrated a book about New York City called NYC Basic Tips and Etiquette.
Your comic strips featuring little blue aliens have been called a mirror to the world and human behaviour. Is it intentional to pick themes from issues around you?
Yes! My wife and I were tidying up before a party when I realised how odd it is to hide all one’s possessions before friends visit. The very first Strange Planet comic focused on this particular human habit. Since that day, I have made over 300 Strange Planet comics that focus on a variety of human experiences. The characters you chose are sans gender, race or any other cultural boundaries.
Would you say that is one of the reasons why your comics are so relatable?
Yes, definitely. The blue beings are intentionally drawn so that anyone of any age can relate to them. In a similar way, pigeons have very relatable and dramatic encounters with each other.
What inspires and draws you towards comics? Do tell us about your design process.
Ultimately, I love celebrating humans. I think humans go to such great lengths to entertain themselves and each other. It is quite inspiring when I think of something like “confetti” it’s tiny trash thrown into the air (and then cleaned up). It is quite a bit of work, all for the sake of celebration! Then the hard part is figuring out the most succinct explanation for the tradition that can be translated into the being’s unique dialogue style!
Can you describe a typical workday of yours to us?
Most days I start out by drawing the black and white version of a Strange Planet comic and then posting it to Facebook. Then if I really like the comic, I will start to colour it in. Sometimes I change a few of the words just to make sure it makes sense. Another part of the day is dedicated just to interacting with the fans who make so many fun comments every day!
We hear this is your first time in India. Any touristy plans?
I am fascinated by the incredible variety of cultures and languages in one place. I am particularly looking forward to the biryani.