In an article about comic artists, an frame from the comic Strange Planet
"Strange Planet" is one of 2020's most popular web comics. (Image via Instagram/@nathanwpylestrangeplanet)

3 Popular Comic Artists Tackling Life Issues While Making Us Laugh

During times like these, creatives have way too much time on their hands. One result: killer web comics with deadly serious undertones.

Pages /// Screens x
In an article about comic artists, an frame from the comic Strange Planet

During times like these, creatives have way too much time on their hands. One result: killer web comics with deadly serious undertones.

Amid the development of COVID-19, comic artists across the globe are finding that they have too much time on their hands, allowing them to think a little more deeply as they draw their comics. Over the past three months, many comic artists have experienced a sharp increase in followers as they get the chance to put a little extra effort into what they love.

Here are three comic artists on Instagram that have been attracting followers by the hundreds each day, and it seems to have more to do with the quality of the comics themselves than the extra time we’re all spending on social media.

1. Nathan W. Pyle and “Strange Planet”

Strange Planet” comics follow the experiences of delightful blue aliens who exhibit an innocent forwardness as they follow the social norms and expectations of humans on Earth. From something as simple as sleeping in, to complex relationships with other “beings,” these aliens offer us the simple yet nonsensical reasons why humans behave the way that they do.

Comic artist Nathan W. Pyle provides his 5.6 million followers with social commentary from a unique point of view. The standard “Strange Planet” comic will take an activity or action that has been normalized in our society and reframe it in the eyes of these aliens, which reveals just how illogical social interactions between humans can be.

What makes the subjects of this comic particularly relatable is their androgyny, which allows readers to put themselves into these little blue aliens’ shoes no matter their gender. The most impressive aspect of this stylistic choice is that unless it’s specifically pointed out, the reader may not even notice it. Readers are able to relate to the aliens as they are, not as their gender.

The “Strange Planet” comics were not Pyle’s first project. The illustrator started out as a highly regarded T-shirt designer on Threadless in 2008, and has even had his designs used as costuming on multiple TV shows.

In 2013, he decided to join the ranks of the comic artists; he posted a series of GIFs and basic comics about some of the do’s and don’ts of New York City on Reddit, which caught the attention of Buzzfeed, who offered him a position and later helped him develop the series into his New York Times bestseller, “NYC Basic Tips and Etiquette.”

As Pyle moved on to his next project, he was inspired by the bizarre behaviors that have become mundane in our society. There are many things humans do that they think of as normal, but it seems like most people have forgotten the original purpose of these actions.

Pyle posted his first comic on the “Strange Planet” Instagram account on Valentine’s Day 2019. The comic dissects the human impulse to tidy the house before guests come over, providing some hilarious insight into how this would look in a foreign context. To most people, it makes perfect sense to make their homes nice for their guests, but it seems the exact reasons why have been lost.

As of June 16, there have been two published Strange Planet” books. The first was simply titled “Strange Planet” and was published last November. The second, released earlier this week, is titled “Stranger Planet” and is a continuation of the first comic book.

“Strange Planet” content is not exclusive to Instagram; Pyle has also created a Patreon account and an independent website for the comic where you can find merch featuring the most popular “Strange Planet” comics.

2. Sarah Andersen and “Sarah’s Scribbles” (3.7 Million Followers)

Comic artist Sarah Andersen is the illustrator of “Sarah’s Scribbles,” a comic series featuring social commentary on the journey to adulthood and the unfairness of double standards. The comic book definition of a coming-of-age story, “Sarah’s Scribbles” follows the plight of an average girl with relatable issues ranging from period cramps to toxic behavior.

The subject of Andersen’s comics experiences the same things as everyone else. She struggles to navigate her adulthood, she works through mental health issues and she’s finding herself while doing it. “Sarah’s Scribbles” is a feel-good comic that teaches you to believe in yourself even if you have to start with baby steps. At the end of the day, slow progress is still progress.

Andersen’s use of juxtaposition is particularly pleasing to her followers. While many of her comics cover the unfairness of double standards, she also makes funny insights into contrasting points in history or how behavior differs based on a situation. Andersen sheds some light on how universal these differences are, which allows her readers to effectively put themselves in a new pair of shoes.

The comic artist’s followers aren’t the only ones who enjoy her work. So far, Andersen has published three books compiling her comics. The first, “Sarah’s Scribbles: Adulthood Is a Myth,” was published in 2016; the second, “Sarah’s Scribbles: Big Mushy Happy Lump,” in 2017; and the third, “Sarah’s Scribbles: Herding Cats,” in 2018.

All three of these collections won the Good Reads Choice Award for best graphic novel the years they came out, proving that while many of the concepts may seem trivial, they have touched the hearts of readers everywhere.

While “Sarah’s Scribbles” has soared in popularity on the platform, these comics are not native to Instagram. Andersen started out by posting her comics on her Tumblr account in 2011, where you can also find her merch, but she has since expanded her reach; her comics can now be found on Facebook, WEBTOON and Patreon as well.

3. Loryn Brantz and “The Good Advice Cupcake” (2.6 Million Followers)

Cuppy, an animated cupcake who guides her 2.6 million followers with her vast knowledge of the world, stars in “The Good Advice Cupcake.” Her sassy, candid persona has captured the hearts of many while keeping things straight — everyone deserves to feel confident in themselves, and everyone deserves a little tough love sometimes.

“The Good Advice Cupcake” serves its followers as a modern-day advice column on Instagram. Fans of Cuppy the Cupcake can direct-message the account asking for advice about various topics, like fading friendships or building confidence.

Fortunately, Cuppy doesn’t stop at personal issues like these; the bodacious cupcake isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty talking about current events either. Two of the most recent advice posts on “The Good Advice Cupcake” Instagram account tackle topics like the recent COVID-19 lockdown and how to be a good ally to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Other posts on “The Good Advice Cupcake” account will feature Cuppy handling her own problems with herself and her friends in a healthy way that promotes confidence and a sense of self-respect. Followers may also find comedic one-frame comics on the account, some even referencing historical figures or popular culture.

View this post on Instagram

I’m very cultured.

A post shared by The Good Advice Cupcake (@thegoodadvicecupcake) on

The creator of “The Good Advice Cupcake” is Loryn Brantz, though her path was a little different than other comic artists. In the 2000s, Brantz worked on the set of “Sesame Street,” where she built props and made puppets. In fact, the future comic artist won an Emmy in both 2009 and 2011 for her talents, and she was nominated two more times after.

Brantz later went on to dabble in children’s literature, winning a Moonbeam Children’s Book Award for her book “Harvey the Child Mime.” Afterward, she turned to the comic artist’s life, writing and publishing her book “Feminist Baby” in 2017. She went on to add two more books to the series: 2018’s “Feminist Baby Finds Her Voice!” and 2019’s “Feminist Baby! He’s a Feminist Too!

It was during this time that Brantz worked with Buzzfeed, where she curated “The Good Advice Cupcake.” In 2019, she had the opportunity to publish another book exclusively about Cuppy the Cupcake, titled “Grab Life by the Balls: And Other Life Lessons from The Good Advice Cupcake.”

Cuppy merch featuring Brantz’s most popular comics can be found on Buzzfeed’s website.

Leave a Reply