Monday, July 14, 2008

Comic 449: Things Fall Apart

I'm not sure what the point of this comic is. I know it's not trying to be funny - at least not funny in a way that makes you laugh, or makes you happy or anything. If it's supposed to be funny, it's supposed to be funny in a very sad way. The problem is that this comic doesn't do anything for anyone: If you've never been in that situation then you don't understand it; if you have, then all it does is remind you of horrible feelings (though different kinds of horrible, depending on which side you were on).

If you are going to say "OH but it's artistic, it's meaningful" well not really. Unless he really thinks that no one has every thought to put this feeling in print before, he's not doing anything new or interesting. He's basically just saying "Hey guys, here's a common situation and guess what? I UNDERSTAND IT A BIT."

In short, I don't see how anyone can come away from this comic feeling any kind of happy, or even thinking about sad things in a new way, unless they totally lacked imagination.

On a related note, the excellent comic Achewood is both funny and depressing (and just plain awesome). For example, this is pretty sad. And of course the comics that dare to ask What Is The Saddest Thing? Chris Onstad is allowed to do this with no Achewood Sucks blog from me for two reasons - 1, they can also be insanely funny, 2) the sad ones are usually part of a larger story or at least build character development; in xkcd the characters are usually faceless and you don't see them over time, so you don't ever care.


  1. True, this latest installment of XKCD is not spectacular by any real stretch of the imagination. I didn't dislike it, either. I found it mildly amusing, in a very 'laughing at myself' sort of way.

    It is entirely possible that Randall sort of treats the comics more like a blag than a comic--albeit a blag with a more consistent update schedule than most and definitely a bigger readership.

    If you will allow me the conceit of comparing it to my blag (in which I write morose flash fiction): I have some readers (like, maybe five) who have added me to their RSS feeds, and will read pretty much whatever I put out even if it's just a half-assed idea I got which is not very entertaining, insightful, poignant, or otherwise worth reading. It would not be a stretch to assume that they like some of my entries enough to give these entries a miss, or even, possibly, they find these entries, if not enjoyable, still a worthwhile read simply because they're a fan overall.

    I don't actually hold Randall to terribly high standards, I guess is what I'm saying. I don't do so because I don't view each comic as something which is designed for my entertainment, and as such I don't view it as a failure if it doesn't do so. I don't get offended if it is unexpectedly serious, because I've always felt more like it's just Randall expressing his thoughts in a blag-like way. I enjoy them most of the time; sometimes they are spectacular, other times they are mildly amusing, other times they are ultimately forgettable, but on the whole it provides an enjoyable experience.

    Some webcomics are very much about the comic and its presentation, and the artist isn't overwhelmingly in the foreground. Some try to be like this, but fail. I've never felt like Randall is trying to distance himself from the comics themselves. It actually affects my perception of it, at any rate. (I write too much. Can you tell I'm in love with my own words?)

  2. I suspect that I will have to accept your view of xkcd eventually, given that the comic seem to be taking a less humorous (or at least, lest comical) tone, and that when a comic isn't funny it's easy for people to say, as they do, well, it wasn't SUPPOSED to be funny.


    You must admit that that is not what xkcd started as (well, not counting the original sketches, which were actually more whatever-jumped-to-mind) but the first few years of the comic, it was a webcomic. It was usually pretty funny, or close to it. So it's changed, and the thing is that a) people seem to be denying that it's different now, and b) I'm not sure that xkcd-as-blog would have been popular at all if it hadn't been for the (deserving) success of xkcd-the-webcomic. It's like a Come For The Funny, Stay For All My Relationship Observations kind of deal.

  3. I can't say I've done a side-by-side comparison of the old versus the new but I'll give you that it has probably changed in recent months. I'm not sure I ever saw it as more than xkcd-as-blag (which, nevertheless, I enjoyed immensely). It's possible you're right and he's running out of ideas. Or maybe he's just in a lull.

    Then again: you have a pretty comprehensive list of Repeat Offenders here, dating back to pretty early on. He's pretty steadily interspersed the ones which aren't intended to be funny (apparently since about 46, or 43 if you count the Red Spiders); so maybe it's always been there and you're only now getting tired of it? Or it's only really standing out to you now because he's doing more of the ones you dislike lately?

    A comparative analysis might actually be helpful. Or it might drive you into the depths of madness.

  4. I don't think there is any further madness I can fall to.

    I did at one point have a pretty good empirical study going but I haven't updated it since then. The computer science jokes faded a bit so I didn't feel the need to keep up with it. Relationship jokes are on the rise though, but I don't feel like adding them all the way through. I am LAZY.

    Most of the repeat offenders seem denser as you go forward in time. I need to get some fancy database program and make lots and lots of charts and powerpoints about this. CLEARLY that is my destiny in life.

    I maintain that there must have been something that made me go from loving xkcd to not loving it.

  5. Could it be the lack of computer sciency jokes that made you "go from loving xkcd to not loving it?"

    Is that why you are making the charts, to quantify your lack of love?

  6. you must be new here...I generally oppose the computer science jokes (not always, but usually I think they are lame). I first made the chart to follow the unfortunate rise of them.

    It is, however, ironic that I used such a scientific method to complain about things being too sciency. You'd think that someone nerdy enough to make a chart about a webcomic would be nerdy enough to think xkcd was TEH R0X0RS. I am an enigma I suppose.

  7. yes, thank you for explaining my joke to me. i was going to put "isn't it ironic, dont'cha think?" at the end, but thought you might catch it by your self.

    i guess - like so many times before - i was wrong.


    Do you all get the joke? I want to make sure you all get it. It took me a while.

    I am glad we are clear on this now.

  9. In the spirit of your latest post:

    My Hobby:

    Being incredibly sarcastic in text form, then being a dick when no one picks up on it.

    You see, the joke here is that sarcasm doesn't translate well when dictated.

  10. You see, the joke is...probably being carried on too far.

    My Hobby: No longer understanding what we are talking about.

  11. Another example of why I hate Randall Munroe. Trying to be an insightful, touching, bittersweet look at the end of a relationship... more like some fucking nerdy emo bullshit.

    And why does he call his blog a "blag" anyway? What an internet cockjockey!

  12. That "What Is The Saddest Thing" comic is the dumbest thing I have ever read.
    Vlad, I think he calls it a "blag" as a joke. One of the comics I remember is an over zealous guy screaming about "the interblags!" It is a humor sight. Just not your type of humor.

  13. Kurt, Achewood is too good for you, never read it, stick with xkcd.