Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Comic 461: Where Have I Seen This Before?

I was all set to write a really positive post about this comic. Really, I was. I was going to mention that it was genuinely funny, had cool art, etc. I figured it was probably a good thing that every once in a while I really liked a comic, to prove to myself that I don't just have a bad attitude. I was going to think long and hard about the last time I enjoyed a comic that much, and I have a feeling it was going to be before this blog began.

Then I got this comment on my last post:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You may find this link relevant when thinking about #461: http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2002/08/19/

That links to the following Penny Arcade comic (click for original):

Can You Tell Me How To Get
That's from August 19th, 2002.

Jesus fucking christ.

It's the same comic. Basically. And don't say "OOOH well one is google maps and one is yahoo maps" because I will punch you in the face. It's the same comic. Map-making website gives bizarre, mysterious RPG like instructions. The end. That's a damn specific joke.

Obviously Randall Munroe reads PA because he's parodied it before. Twice. I think I can say with a pretty high level of confidence that Randall read this comic. I don't care how long ago, he read it, and he copied it almost identically.

He probably forgot about the original, I'm guessing at most he felt the idea was vaguely familiar and decided he was just being crazy and it was all his. Maybe he entirely forgot about PA's comic. He should still acknowledge the similarities and take his comic down.

I'm serious - copying ideas is a big problem in comedy (I'm looking at you, Mencia! asshole!) and I am willing to accept that Munroe just made a mistake, but it's a bad one, and he needs to correct it.

(as an aside, I am currently a few years into the PA archives, and enjoying it a lot, as someone who is not at all a gamer)


  1. I don't mind the accidental copying of an idea, I just think that the PA version is strictly better, both for the line ending in the bar and the use of the "miles area" to insert some extra funny.

    I browsed through the xkcd forums for the first time looking for someone to call him on it (ugh), but although a few people mentioned the "strange similiarity" nearly everyone let it pass without criticism or comment. Sad.

  2. Hey newsflash.
    The XKCD one is funnier.

    XKCD isn't always funny, and the only thing sadder than Munroe's comic is a guy who blogs about how crappy he thinks it is.

    Good day.

    P. S. I'd love it if you'd RAGE over this comment. It would make my day. But you don't have to.

  3. Looks like Anon 1 can fight with Anon 2 over who did the joke better. I am leaning towards PA. Anon 2, what makes you like xkcd's more?

    I personally don't really care though. I can make (and have made) funnier versions of Randall's strip but that doesn't mean anything. The second joke was based heavily on the first; making something that exists a little better takes next to no ability.

    I too was surprised that the forums were not more annoyed, I expected more. I wonder if Randall's blog or PA will comment.

    Generally I don't get enraged over comments - something about how you are all named Anonymous so it's hard to keep up a real conversation - just over shitty comics. I like to think of my most...emotional posts as sarcastic rather than enraged. You can't do serious comedy analysis if you're angry...

  4. Anon 2: "XKCD isn't always funny, and the only thing *funnier* than Munroe's comic is a guy who blogs about how crappy he thinks it is."

    There, fixed it for you.

  5. "Anon 1" and "Anon 2" makes me think of Thing 1 and Thing 2 from Dr Seuss...

  6. Well, technically, I'd say this is "fair use", he doesn't copy a single word, the punchline is very different (spectral wolf), he only copied the type of joke.

    Even though it is fair use, he risked putting off P-A readers, which I suppose he did.

    I'd hate to have a website criticizing my work, though. I'd say the premise of this blog is aging just as fast or faster than xkcd. Everyone has feet of clay!

  7. OOOH well one is google maps and one is yahoo maps so it's not really the same joke.

  8. fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck you!

  9. NO, one is RPG-style and the other is in the style of someone who doesn't really know where it is.


  11. It's a funny working framework. Condemning Randall for using the same framework to tell a different story 6 years later is like condemning anyone who tells variations on the "How many x to screw in a lightbulb?" joke. FWIW, I think the XKCD version was funnier...not that that would make a difference if it WERE a case of out-and-out stealing.

  12. A FRAMEWORK? You think having google maps give you weird/funny directions is just a FRAMEWORK? What else do you think is a framework? HEY check out this great joke I just made:

    Person 1: Dude, make me a burrito.
    Person 2: No, do it yourself.
    Person 1: Sudo make me a burrito.
    Person 2: OK.

    ISN'T THAT HILARIOUS? Sure it's from the same framework as some old nerdy webcomic somewhere, but it's different! it's about burritos! and therefore, it's better, because burritos > sandwiches.

  13. I don't think Randall should pull down the comic. Just acknowledge the similarity. It's basic honesty. What could have happened?

    a) He had forgotten about a comic from 6 YEARS AGO, about a different (if analogous), service, with somewhat different delivery. Hell, I'd forgotten about that PA. (I think the PA version is funnier, personally, but that's subjective. The XKCD one takes way too long to get to the punchline, but the punchlines aren't bad). So just acknowledge that there may have been subconscious inspiration from the PA comic, link it, everyone moves on, Tycho gets to comment on it. Everyone wins.

    b) Randall knew about the comic but had a different interpretation, or thought enough time had passed, or had had a particularly galling experience with Google Maps and wanted to joke about it, or whatever. So he gets to tell us about what made him decide to write it, acknowledges the previous effort. Again: Everyone wins.

    Shamus Young has been a great sport about linking to other articles expressing similar themes to his rants. Similarly, the guys at Darths and Droids explicitly acknowledge links to and homages to the DM of the Rings source material. People get to compare the different approaches, maybe archive binge a comic they weren't aware of. Everyone wins.

    The point is that these have happened enough times, and have been called out enough times, that Randall should just acknowledge the similarities and move on. No hate.

  14. I agree. That's why I wrote "He probably forgot about the original, I'm guessing at most he felt the idea was vaguely familiar and decided he was just being crazy and it was all his. Maybe he entirely forgot about PA's comic. He should still acknowledge the similarities and take his comic down." So...yeah. But he didn't do that. Not at all.

  15. I know this is a bit late, but Carl, if he forgot about the original comic how could he possibly have acknowledged it?

  16. If someone informed him, say by e-mail, as I did. He tried to convince me they weren't the same at all.

  17. I do agree the two comics are rather similar, but I thought Randall did it better because his juxtaposes the formality of auto-generated directions with the absurdity of their content. Penny Arcade's version is just too informal, sounding more like an individual person made up the directions as opposed to them being generated by the algorithm.

    In essence, the directions in PA's version seem more like something that someone would have just typed in to screw with the reader, but those in xkcd's sound more like the system was programmed to incorporate directions such as those, which increases the absurdity, which I find increases the comical value in this particular case.

  18. Penny arcade just did this exact thing with shortpacked. Mummies in twilight to be specific. Penny Arcade has referenced shortpacked before so...

  19. ...so I will be sure to mention it on my penny-arcade-sucks blog.

  20. For history's sake, the difference is that Google Maps will actually tell you to take that ferry.

  21. For history's sake, this is the comic that Randall and I spoke about in our one e-mail exchange, and he said the joke wasn't about that at all, it was about trying to convey the creepy weirdness of a trip he took with his brother in New York.

  22. It isn't the same comic. If it were the same comic, the xkcd one would start with
    "1.Start on 6th Avenue.
    2. No wait.
    3. Did I say 6th?"
    When really it is a completely different comic, with an entirely different joke.
    The only criticism you seem to have for it is that they both make fun of the same thing. That doesn't mean that this comic isn't funny (it is, in fact, way funnier than the PA one), or that he plagiarized it.
    That would be like saying a student in school should fail, because he chose to do his project on robotics, which another student was also doing it on.

  23. The jokes are: "what if Google Maps gave CRAZY directions??" and "what if Yahoo Maps gave CRAZY directions?"

    Granted, it's not as bad as some of his other plagiarism - but it is still pretty lame and again, all I want is for him to acknowledge it! He doesn't have to change anything!

  24. It's so great to actually talk (if you read this) To someone who designs these things... That I am so passionate about it... I love the "stance" you give all of your characters.

  25. Oh shut up Rob. At least Carl doesn't resort to NAME CALLING for fuck's sake.

  26. i don't have to, it's just more amusing when people get all butthurt about it

  27. So, going to try for a better comparison than 'paper about robotics' or the sudo joke about burritos, because both of those suck. It is entirely acceptable, in writing papers in high school, to write about exactly the same thing as your classmate, after getting the idea from him. The burrito joke is a single-word change, which this is not.
    The similarity is that both comics make jokes about an online services being... different than usual, amusingly.
    I'm tempted to say 'jokes about facebook,' but facebook has multiple, separate features.
    The best comparison I can think of is, what if two different comic artists made jokes about how much translation software sucks? One would have the thing say "Hell, man, I don't know what a 'sombrero' is in english." and then the computer user argues with the computer.
    The other has it translate "Do you want to go on a date with me?" to "Come to my house so that I can feed you to my snake," followed by the user using the 'translation' in the meat-o-sphere.
    The reason these comics look so similar is that the physical shape of the two services are almost identical. The two comic artists, using the same medium, came up with similar-looking comics. The jokes are not similar.
    The joke in PA is about how Yahoo is actually a drunk fratboy-type who's trying to convince the travelers to drink in mexico - not their intended destination. The joke in xkcd is about how strange a non-anthropomorphized google maps set of directions is.

    Yeah. Wall of text. Hope you like it.

  28. your point seems to boil down to the idea that Google Maps and Yahoo Maps are totally different, unrelated entities, and that their only connection is that they provide a service to the user. But I think it's clear that they are far, far more similar than that.

  29. Penny Arcade used to be pretty good, and they occasionally still make funny comics, but all in all they've really gone downhill.

    Still way better than xkcd though.

  30. I found that the video series they just did made me see the comic in a whole new light. Try it.

  31. "yeah, rob, you shit head"?

    *sigh* It sucks so much when your enemies have a sense of humour.

  32. that must be why it's so much fun to make fun of you