Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Comic 443: Far, Far Too Much Information

I want to start off this post by explaining that I am NOT going to complain about quirky relationships. The joke isn't about a quirky relationship (I don't put "light bondage" into the category of "quirky", for one thing); it's about a hilarious and painful mistake that the characters Deserve for being Dangerous Sexual Deviants. I like the rhythm of it too, with a noun at the top of each frame and then a sort of counterpoint description at the bottom.

I do have one complaint - this is very technical and you will no doubt find it boring. So skip it. But -

The bottom line, "Relationship After Camping Trip: Strained" should not be where it is at all. It nearly ruins the flow of the joke. Here's why - the bottom line is essentially acting as a caption. It is removed from the other frames, stretches the whole width of the comic, and is at the bottom. As such, it reads like a description or title for the whole comic (for an example of this being used more or less effectively, see comic 365). The caption can probably be read either before or after the rest of the comic and it will work about equally well.

But that's not the purpose the "Relationship" line serves - it should be read last. I posit that it would noticeably dampen the humor to read that line first. The "Relationship" line is the punchline. The first four lines are the set up - they are almost like a syllogism:

1. Virginia Creeper Looks like X and can be used as a rope
2. Poison Ivy Looks Looks Like Y and grows near Virginia Creeper
(implied conclusion [a] - they look alike)
3. Girlfriend is into bondage
(1 and 3 imply [b], that vines will be used for bondage)
4. Campfire is dark

All lead to implication [c], the punchline, namely that poison ivy was used by accident. Because we have to make that jump in our minds, it is funny. In many cases (puns being a good example, but many jokes fit) you have to make the conclusion yourself, and when you do, that's what makes it funny. Had the syllogism been spelled out, it wouldn't work as a joke, or at least, not nearly as well.

Yes, the last line is at the bottom, and so it is read last, but it would have been better to present it in the same form as the others - in a small box, and to make it clearly at the end. Yes, I know this would give you 5 boxes and maybe it would look weird, but Randall is a smart boy and I'm sure he could figure something out. A 6th box to add, or perhaps stretching out the two plant boxes.

Anyway, this just goes to show that while Randall M. can be funny, there are times when he just doesn't understand humor in the best way. Another example of this is in my long and complex thoughts on comic 398, which I have been meaning to dissect like this for a while. Sometime later (suffice it to say it's a sucky comic that would need only the tiniest of changes to be much funnier).

Anyway, that's all. Damn but I write a lot. Hope you didn't read that whole thing.

Update: A loyal reader sends in a version that uses the magic of photoshop to make this a better comic:

I find this much better. Tell me what you think, gang.


  1. At first I thought "come on, it's a good joke, don't nitpick too hard on one line's design," but after seeing the 5-panel layout, I completely agree. But if Munroe's only a couple limestones short of a Giza of humor, then perhaps he's due for an upward curve in quality.

    Don't let that slow you down, though, Carl.

  2. Oh it was TOTALLY nitpicky though!

    It does unnerve me that I've liked two comics in a row (though "I Love My Own Webcomic" was more cute than funny). I'm still making up my mind on MacGuyver or however you spell it, of course, I'll post once my thoughts congeal.

  3. Is this site actually, you know, for real?

    Or it just a clever parody of nerds' propensity for over-analyzing every freakin' thing?

    If the latter, I salute you. It's utterly brilliant :-) If not, seek help.

  4. I don't even know. As long as #2 makes you think I'm brilliant, let's pretend it's that. It probably is.

  5. My take on it:

    Maybe the final square should have a picture of a sore skin? Nah, that would be just explaining the joke. I don't know. I am not a comic genius. :-(
    Oh, maybe a drawing of an emergency room? Are poison ivy really that toxic? Wikipedia says they CAN be life threatening, though I'm not sure about this idea.

  6. When I say "my take" I really mean "my tiny cut and tiny paste tiny adjustment of Kristen's take"

    Maybe this is how they use photoshop on tiny islands? (tiny tweaks)

  7. My beef with this comic is that he felt the need to qualify "bondage" with "light". As in, "Oh dear no, we're not any of those *heavy* bondage freaks. We're totally normal!"

    As far as I'm concerned, the only time "light" has been successfully used to modify a dubious activity was in Arrested Development: "A little light treason."

  8. that is an excellent point, and a great George Bluth quote.

    though i guess maybe you could say that it has to be "light" because otherwise it would require some stuff that you can't always fake out of vines. You could say that. but i'm not going to.

  9. light bondage *is* normal, and it is *certainly* different than SM or dom bondage.
    I assume you would know that if you ever had sex....

    That said, carry on. I enjoy the humor critiques, just not the willful ignorance that seems to plague your posts on his better comics. It's ok to just say that "X was wrong with this one, I did have to google Y however..."

  10. It's at the bottom. The rules of the ENGLISH FUCKING LANGUAGE dictate it is to be read last.

  11. Right, but design and placement depend on where your eye is drawn upon reading the comic.

  12. Light bondage equals dangerous sexual deviancey? The Fuck?

  13. I think the real problem with the comic is not where he includes "Relationship After Camping Trip: Strained" but rather -that- he includes "Relationship After Camping Trip: Strained." The implication of the use of the wrong vine is heavy handed enough in the fourth panel that the further explanation is utterly unnecessary.

  14. i dunno - that would have been awfully subtle. Maybe I am too dumb, but I think it's better as is. an interesting idea though.