The decline of newspapers has forced the media landscape to change drastically over the past decade. Almost nowhere is this more evident than in the world of comic strips.
Staples of the funny pages, such as Peanuts, Garfield, and Dilbert, still have their place. But even they don’t have the reach they used to.
Collecting compilation books for strips like The Far Side and Calvin & Hobbes was a childhood obsession of mine. As such, the lack of new comics to take up the old mantle and carry the torch for new generations has been a concern of mine.
Then I discovered Strange Planet, a four-panel comic strip with a disarmingly gentle sense of observational humor. Created by Nathan W. Pyle, it features no defined protagonist and certainly no antagonists. The art itself is simplistic and somewhat crude, but that minimalist approach is part of its charm. Indeed, Strange Planet has all the trappings of a great comic strip.
But I didn’t stumble upon it in the pages of a local newspaper or the latest edition of The New York Times. No, my introduction to Strange Planet came via Facebook. During my daily scroll through the feed, I noticed a shared post from a friend. It featured two blue aliens talking about ‘star damage’ and how they crave it.
It took me a second to wrap my head around it. Oh! “Star damage” is a sun tan! That’s clever. With a chuckle, I smacked the ‘haha’ reaction. Over time, more and more of the whimsical strips found their way to my social media routine.
And “star damage” was just the beginning. The alien beings use all sorts of funny words to represent everyday appliances and vocabulary. For example, “teeth” are called “mouth stones”. “Refrigerators” are “sustenance preservers”. “Pillows” are “comfort squares”. And one of my personal favorites, the classic game show “The Price is Right” is called “The Cost is Correct” in Strange Planet.
There’s something cathartic and joyously profound about examining shared human experiences through the lens of these viral extraterrestrials. The irony is, if Strange Planet teaches us anything, it’s that we’re the ones who are strange.
Why do we push our mouths together when we are in love? Why do we wear funny hats with “danglestrings” when we graduate from university? Why do we seek out thrilling experiences like riding rollercoasters?
It all really is quite strange when you think about it. But in that strangeness lies beauty and humor. Both of which are captured perfectly by this quirky comic.
And now, it’s available in book form. That’s right, I can continue my obsession of collecting printed comic strips with the Strange Planet
Some people might wonder if it’s worth buying a book of a comic strip that you can read on Facebook and Instagram for free. My response is “affirmative”. It is.
The Strange Planet book has a wonderful presentation. Its hard cover is complemented by a poignant inner lining filled with sketches of our alien buddies. Each four-panel strip is printed faithfully in high-quality full color. There are interstitials between each section of strips, and the end of the book features a handy reference to help translate the alien language.
And it’s reasonably priced to boot. All in all, Strange Planet makes for a fun addition to any coffee table or a stocking stuffer for friends and loved ones. I highly recommend it.
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