Word Wednesday: ‘Strange Planet’ by Nathan W. Pyle

Strange Planet

This Week’s Word Is “Strange.”

Webcomics. Are they for workers? I’m a stay at home dad and read precisely zero webcomics. Who has time for that? Yet many of my friends with conventional jobs, seem to follow at least half a dozen.

Webcomics are the perfect short-form entertainment to flick to when you’re fed up with compiling the quarterly budgets, or whatever it was I used to do when I worked in an office. Which is why there are so many great webcomics out there. When a copy of Strange Planet dropped through my door, I had never heard of it but I was immediately charmed and entertained.

What Is Strange Planet?

Turns out it’s an Instagram sensation, which just shows how out of touch I am these days; 50 rotations of the planet is rapidly approaching! We’ve gone from the days where people might want “the book of the film” to delivering “the book of the Instagram account.” Not that cartoon anthologies published in the run-up to Christmas are a new phenomenon.

The Strange Planet cartoons are naively drawn aliens, who go about everyday life, much as humans do. Throughout the comic, Pyle uses the aliens’ extremely logical view of the word to show the utterly illogical nature of human existence. It’s not a new concept (Check out Matt Haig’s The Humans for the perfect, long-form, execution of the idea.), but it’s very funny nevertheless.

Stranger Planet is broken down into 4 broad areas:

  • Young beings – definitely one for the GeekFamily. These comics neatly skewer the simultaneous joy and ridiculousness of interactions with small children.
  • Friendship – Why do we enjoy scary movies together?
  • Adulthood – The absurdities of birthdays. “This is on fire,” “I will exhale on it,” “Who wants to ingest this now I have exhaled on it.”
  • Recreation – If there’s one sphere of human life that’s more ridiculous than any other, it’s how we spend our spare time.

At the end of the book, there is a brief glossary of terms for “commonly observed objects.” These are literal interpretations of everyday objects, such as “foot fabric tubes.” Much of the comic’s humor is derived from these definitions.

Strange Planet is a small square hardback of 144 pages, every one of which is funny. Its small format makes it perfect a stocking filler for the geeky person in your life. It’s almost as if the publishers timed it that way.

Strange Planet
The ‘Strange Planet’ cartoon most applicable to gamers!

Why Read Strange Planet?

Most GeekDad readers will probably already be aware of the Strange Planet phenomenon. This book collects lots of great strips in one handy place. Reading the book very much reminded me of reading the Far Side collections back when I’d rotated the Earth only 15 or so times. The comics have a similar mixture of surreality and nuggets of truth.

If you’re a Luddite like me and like your comics in dead tree format, then you’ll love this book. If you have friends, who are Luddites like me and yet to be exposed to the joys of Strange Planet they’ll love this book too.

You do need to have a certain viewpoint to enjoy the book though, I think. My wife, who is definitely more literal than me, whilst appreciating the humor, commented: “This book is weird.” Well, yes, in many ways it is, but in lots of ways it’s also completely accurate; just with unusual terminology. Strange Planet is a book that’s surreal, yet very logical but might be too surreal for the logical amongst us.

And whilst you’re figuring out whether that sentence makes any sense, I’ll leave you with one more comic.

If you enjoyed this week’s Word Wednesday, do check out my other reviews, here.

If you’d like to pick up a copy of Strange Planet you can do so, here in the US and here, in the UK.

Strange Planet
It’s the internet. There has to be cat pictures.

Disclosure: I received a copy of Strange Planet in order to write this book.

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