Strange Planet, a webcomic that has taken Instagram by storm, is now a book! Nathan Pyle, creator of Strange Planet, has accumulated over 4.7 million followers on his @nathanwpylestrangeplanet Instagram account at the time of writing and graciously answered some of Fictionist’s burning questions.

For context, anyone unfamiliar with Nathan’s comics should know that each Saturday, he films New York City pigeons and adds entertaining captions. He also enjoys communicating emotion through facial expressions, even in simplistic drawings, and recently taught a free course at the Fifth Avenue Apple Store on the subject.

What’s your favorite facial expression to draw?

I love drawing the sequential concern and relief expressions in a young being. This is the combination featured on one of the first pages of my book (see below!) 

Do you come up with the captions for your pigeon videos in real-time, or look closely after you take them?

I film pigeons when I see them in New York, and I then I create dialogue for them later. It’s more than just a hobby, this has helped me break out of little creative ruts that I get into. Pigeons are so expressive and peculiar!

Are you giving anyone a copy of your book for the holidays? Why does it make a great gift?

I have already started giving the book to many friends! Strange Planet is a book for anyone who has grown up on Earth and enjoys giggling at our complex and beautiful human habits. It is safe for any age to read! 

If someone hasn’t heard of Strange Planet, and “the comic with the blue aliens” doesn’t ring any bells, how would you describe it to them?

It is a colorful planet full of curious beings who are not entirely sure why they exist but are nonetheless determined to find out how to exist! They particularly love to ingest sweet sustenance and then sit outside to be damaged by the nearest star. 

Have you ever had to conduct (real or Google) research for a Strange Planet strip? If so, what’s the weirdest or most memorable research you’ve conducted?

I did have to investigate how many sugar crystals are in a spoonful of sugar for Strange Planet because I just wanted to make a joke that was accurate, and fortunately, The Naked Scientists had already worked on the calculations! (Click here to view the page Nathan used for research)

When it comes to creating a career out of webcomics, what would you say is the biggest hurdle you’ve had to overcome?

Every cartoonist needs to find the right balance of their strengths and weaknesses, and Strange Planet was the first time I really found the perfect blend that plays to my strengths (humor and sadness) and avoids my weaknesses (drawing hair) 

Anything else you’d like to add?

I want to celebrate humanity! I think that so much of what we are doing here is meaningful and absurd simultaneously. We have created thousands of different ways just to amuse each other and ourselves and communicate that we care about our friends.

To order your own copy of Strange Planet, click here.