Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Comic 500 Speculation

Guys - I'm leaving this up here for a bit - the Mr. Hat story arc post, which I'll still update, is just below - but what do you think is going to happen for xkcd's 500th comic? Something self-congratulatory and clip-show-y? By by count, the comic will run the day after the election - something relating to that, perhaps? Of course, it will presumably go up at midnight EST, as usual, so we may not know the winner - perhaps he'll make a joke off of that. Two comics, one for each possibility.


Monday, October 27, 2008

Comics 494-498: Mr. Hat Gets Another Story

Well hey hey hey it's time for another fun story about Mr. Hat! Didn't we all love the last one? why yes, yes we did. So I have very high hopes for this time.

I think I'll just keep this as one long post and update it each day. So what do we have in the first installment:

Day 1:
Well, not a lot, but who knows, this is just the first part! So...the tubes are clogged. I'll give Randall credit for good timing - his story about unclogging the internet happens to come on the same day that Senator Ted Stevens, the guy who first thought the internet could be clogged, is convicted on seven counts of making false statements.

So basically this comic has no humor besides the anticipatory humor of wondering what crazy thing Mr. Hat will do to unclog the internet! Will he tell people when their heroes will die? Will he complain about music services he doesn't understand? WILL HE STAND SILENTLY NEAR LINES???

Most importantly, will he be more than just a sad shell of his former self?

All this and more could be possible in this, the most exciting of all weeks! Keep checkin' religiously, gang!

Day 2:
ughhhhhhh of COURSE the Ron Paul blimp makes an appearance. It's perfect for xkcd: An internet meme, five months out of date. Hell, Ron Paul didn't just drop out of the presidential election, he already endorsed some dude so really, come on, find a new joke already. Seriously, this is so spring-2008.

I guess the only even mildly amusing moment is seeing that Mr. Hat has a moat outside his apartment. I guess. The rest of it is just the usual xkcd repeating other people's memes. Yes, Randall, we know you read 4chan. We know.

Day 3:
Act III of our Shakespearean Drama that is "Secretary" is essentially a list of Patented Wacky Mr. Hat Hi-Jinks and Shenanigans! Yep, no less than SIX such shenanigans! Of course, we don't get to see any of these, meaning that Mr. Munroe has done basically no more work than just....coming up with a list of Wacky Antics. With some Supreme Court and Constitutional Amendment name dropping thrown in. Heck, if all we're going to do is ask questions about stuff Mr. Hat has done, hell, any of us can do that.

"You set up ten thousand laser pointers to draw your name on a cloud?"
"You replaced your arch-enemies houses with realistic cardboard cutouts?"
"You somehow managed to make sending dollar bills to your house the most popular meme on the internet?"
"You tricked an audience of webcomic fans into thinking you weren't a washed up hack?"
"You disguised yourself as a nun for four years to embezzle from a church?"

But I digress.

Why does Ron Paul have a cane? He's a pretty sprightly fellow. He doesn't need a cane.

Anyway, the comic is like what the rest of the week has been - Excuses for Mr. Hat to showcase his usual wackiness. It just feels...forced to me. Too much of just a list of Wacky Things, desperately seeking the love this comic used to feel.

You'll all be glad to know that I am CLEARLY in the minority as there is no one more excited about this comic than its own author! Mr. Munroe writes on the forums: "Oh man I'm excited about the rest of this arc. I'm tempted to scan and post them right now."

Also, goddamn forumites- they have declared that this comic is "So much awesome" [honestly, you'd think a fan of a webcomic ostensibly about language would know a noun from an adjective], that is contains "like, 5 types of epic in it" , "made of awesome" "so much win" and "made of roflsauce." what the fuck, people. Try to have some independent thought, ok?

Day 4
Ok - I'm going to start by admitting that this has actually been my personal favorite comic this week. Only because I actually do like the projectiles hitting Cory Doctorow making a "boing boing" noise. And I see that the blimp makes a "pew" sound - if that is a reference to the Pew public research survey comapany which does presidenial polling than I have to say that I actually think that's clever too.

As I said in a comment below, it's really weird to read that "bloggers" watch out for their own - no blogger ever agrees with another so it's weird to think of them teaming up for anything. I guess the idea is that it's so preposterous it's funny? But it seems a little too crazy, even given that you have a blimp fighting a balloon.

It is not cool to make a high point of your story arc Cory Doctorow in a balloon if you were the one who invented that idea and are the only one promoting it. Look Randall, you have to wait for the meme to be accepted by the world and then mock it.

When did Mr. Hat become a blogger?

Now a note on the series as a whole - this is hard to phrase but the pacing feels wrong. For a five part series, it doesn't feel 4/5 over. The first panel made it seem like unclogging the tubes would be the focus of the arc, and Mr. Hat's KRAZY ways of fixing the problem. Now it feels like it's shifted to DR. R0|\| P4VL!!1 and his KRAZY adventures up in the air. So in theory, tomorrow, for the arc to feel completed, Ron Paul has to get to Washington and do whatever it is he's going to do and we have to see Mr. Hat get confirmed and solve all the internet problems. Now this is possible - these comics have been longer than usual anyway so maybe we'll have a comic that is actually epic and is way super long.


Here's what I think - I think it's a longer than 5 day story. I think it's going to end with a cliffhanger tomorrow, be continued on monday, and end with some massive 500th comic post-election insanity or something. Maybe he even has two different comics ready, based on which person wins the election.

And then Friday's is "Well, that's enough for me!" and he quits the webcomic business....

Day 5:
OMGZ it has been MORE THAN ONE HOUR PAST MIDNIGHT and the new comic is not up! oh me oh my whatever is happening? Maybe Randall was kidnapped by PIRATES oh no! All we have is a message saying "The comic will be up shortly! (within the hour)" better see how the forumites are handling it!

"I want my... I want my...I want XKCD"

"Me Want Part 5 Comic!!!1!"

bah, humbug. I'd say they were being ironic...but then, they are the ones checking xkcd at midnight...and commenting on it...of course, I'm in that camp too so I guess I'm a hypocrite. Except I don't really care when the comic comes out 'cause I won't write about it till tomorrow anyway.

Day 5:
Well I guess you all are probably looking for more than a commentary that points out that the US Senate has no authority to sentence anyone to death (or even act as a jury unless you are president). So here goes:

I guess with a story that was chock full of masturbatory references to his own HILARIOUS earlier jokes (Cory Doctorow in a balloon! Mr. Hat is just so UNPREDICTABLE!) I should have assumed the climax would be another one - in this case, a ball pit in the Capitol.

Yes, dear readers, it appears that the ultimate lesson of all this is that all that stupid fighting in Washington can be solved if we would just follow Randall's advice and put ball pits everywhere. I mean, do we really care that the original ball pit comic was all sweet and cutesy and here's it's being done by a dude who is essentially a terrorist? Of course we don't! It's just one of those crazy xkcd ideas that will always be funny and never be old!

As to the story as a whole, I think the biggest problem with the story arc is that the first four panels set up a whole bunch of stories and didn't go nearly far enough in terms of advancing a 5-part story. So the last installment is super-rushed. We have Ron Paul - who took up a full 1.5 comics and a little bit of another - basically serving only to accidentally help Mr. Hat escape. We have Cory Doctorow basically dropping out of the story in the middle of his plot, and the whole "oh noes the internet is clogged" turning into "ha ha, but we aren't going to do anything about it because Mr. Hat doesn't care."

So much for my brilliant theory about the story extending a few more days. I really shouldn't have been surprised, I suppose. Had the story gone towards "vigilante Mr. Hat is given free reign to do anything he wants to internet trolls" it may have been fun. As it is, we might as well just hit "random comic" a few times and enjoy some of these ideas the way they were first presented.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Comics 492 and 493 Double Feature

insert dirty, dirty words here!
I have a kind of biased reaction here, because my favorite math teacher in high school told us a story about playing Scrabble with her family that was basically identical to this (the word was "erection" though) so I personally felt a sense of "oh I've seen this before" when I read this comic but obviously no one else would feel that way (unless you were in my class). But hey, I laughed at the story my teacher told so I assume that had I not heard it I would have laughed here.

And at least he got the scrabble board details right, unlike SOME people I know, ahem, Mr. Douglas "the scrabble board I talk about is 13 by 13 squares" Adams! that's right I called you out, Adams!

I was amused to see how the Spanish-translation of xkcd
worked on this one - see for yourself. It sees the need to change "hi" to "si" so there's a short word with an "i" but I guess there's no good way to get an eight letter word that will upset your family without changing the whole comic. Brings to mind interesting ideas about translating words vs. ideas.

update: A commenter writes, "
The Spanish word for "clitoris" is "clitoris", so there's no need to find a different eight-letter word." This proves, once again, that I am an idiot. Sorry gang. Still interesting to think about what they would do if spanish didn't have the word "clitoris"! right? maybe?

But moving on....

Finally, the Mr. Hat we know and love has returned, if only for a short while. He's got all his usual characteristics - nerdiness, meanness, and a willingness to do far too much work in order to get clever revenge. Hopefully we never hear about his terrible romance ever again.

That said - I can't say I like the way this comic was presented. Mr. Hat's scheme is funny, but why have him just telling it afterwards? Why not show him at his computer messing with the trolls himself? Just seems like Randall kind of crippled the humor potential by just showing the post-prank discussion.

Still, this whole week has had well above average comics - perhaps there is a glimmer of hope after all! I wonder how many good comics in a row it would take to convince me I've done my job and my mission was completed.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Comic 491: If you know both "Twitter" and "Burma Shave Ads" Raise Your hand

poem!I have never had a more complicated set of thoughts about an xkcd comic before, and they were mostly positive. I guess I should lay this out in terms of the various layers I thought about in the order they occurred to me and you can get a glimpse into the mad world of my mind comprehending this comic:

1. LAME we already know you love memes. Maybe old memes are brought up again because you keep bringing them up in your stupid comics.

2. Wait what the fuck ""burma shave" ? What is that, some stupid viral video from 2002? Ugh, if I don't get the joke no one will.

3. Off to wikipedia it is!

4. Huh. So...not really an internet meme, a kind of way-the-heck-long-time ago pre-internet meme. No way in hell most of his readers know that one.

5. So he's taken the Burma Shave meter and rhyme, and used it to talk about putting old memes on twitter, and in so doing has put an old meme on twitter. or did he just blow my mind

6. Wait a second. Twitter is probably full of burma shave jokes. That's basically the point of twitter for some people - come up with a meme (Sarah Palin facts!) and then spew out thousands and thousands of variations on it. So...he's basically just taking a meme on twitter and meta-ing it. Like rickrolling rick astley or, I dunno, having cats make lolhumans or something.


8. Forumites still suck, and they can't write poems for shit.

Anyway, while my head is still spinning, I still think this is a way above average comic...but maybe it's too circular and some of you hate it. You all?

update: Ok, what the hell - The Onion: McCain Blasts Obama As Out Of Touch In Burma-Shave-Style Billboard Campaign. This is dated October 22, so two days later than the xkcd comic - so either those ads are way better known than I realized, The Onion doesn't think we'll notice, or it's a hell of a crazy coincidence. I have no idea. For what it's worth I think, unsurprisingly, that The Onion's joke is way better. In part because there are just more jokes, but also that it makes a political point about John McCain being old and out of touch.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Frequently Asked Awesome Questions

Hey there, cool people. If you were wondering any of this stuff well then I have got some answers for you. If you have any other questions you suspect are frequently asked, tell me and I'll add them.

And remember - this list is only awesome questions. If you have lame questions, go to the Lame Questions Page.

#1. What's your least favorite xkcd ever?

Oh man, that's tough. I certainly got pretty angry with comics 432, 455, and 475. Look at the "angriest rants" bar off to your left to see the ones that have pissed me off the most. The most irritating, just because it was so close to being good but made one fatal flaw that caused it to suck, was 398. Also, 631 was pretty epically horrible.

#2. What's your favorite?

An easy choice - Search History

#3. I have the best idea EVAR for a post here what can I do with that?

oooooh send it to me send it to me send it to me.

#4. What else should I send you?

You should send me links to xkcd related anything - interviews, parodies, musings, etc. Also anything relating to the field of webcomic criticism. Or anything else. Examples of Randall having copied other people's ideas. Most anything.

#5. Does Randall Munroe know about this blog?


#6. Wait, what? He does?

More details can be found here. Spoiler alert: he's not a fan!

#7. Wait, are you Randall Munroe?

NO, and stop asking me that. If I were Randall Munroe, I would a) be at least a little nicer, b) advertise this site on reddit all the time (I am not, unlike Randall, a reddit user), and c) probably have a lot more readers. Look, if you guys can think of a way for me to prove I'm not Randall Munroe, I'll do it. But all I can say is that I know for a fact he knows about the blog, he doesn't like it, and he's very much not me.

One time guest-poster Dr. Horrible IMd us both at the same time, to prove we were different. He had a substantial conversation with Randall; I just counted numbers so he knew I wasn't also writing to him as Randall from some other computer. Decide for yourself.

#8. What is the best possible thing I, as a reader, could do to make your life better?

Well the answer to that used to be "Comment on the posts" but it looks like we have a healthy community of people writing both important and utterly absurd posts as it is. If you are going to say something insightful - either pro- or anti- xkcd - I'd still say go ahead. Other than that - just remind your friends that xkcd sucks no matter what they think.

You can also digg this site, and tell your friends and enemies about it.

#9. What's with the Cuddlefish thing?

oh man. Basically it started 'round Christmastime, with a comic about cuttlefish. We were being vexed by the fact that too many commenters were not signing their names, which made it hard to have real conversations with them, not to mention refer to them individually. So we started calling them Cuddlefish, not that that actually helps to solve the problem, but it's fun and it's our first real xkcdsucks meme, so yay for that I guess.

Frequently Asked Irritating Self-Righteous Questions

Hello, dear reader! Are you here for the first time? Do you think xkcd is just the most precious and lovely comic ever to exist? Well you probably think I'm a giant douchebag then, for saying that your favorite precious comic sucks. And you probably have some very profound questions that I am totally unprepared for and have never, ever once considered so I have taken the liberty of reading your mind, transcribing your thoughts, and answering them here.

If you can contain your bitter rage long enough, you can also check out a more general but also more thought out website, 15 Stupid Responses to Criticism. I wholly endorse its message.

#1. "If xkcd sucks so much why do you read it? Just skip it you turd, some of us like intelligent comedy and if you are such a stupid idiot that you don't get the jokes just leave it alone."

Ah, a common misconception here. I do not hate xkcd because the jokes go over my lowly plebeian head, rather, I hate them because they are not funny. I get the joke (or rather, often what the joke is supposed to be) and I don't like it. Usually. Basically the answer is that is pains me to see lousy humor, and, like genocide, I simply cannot ignore it and have the problem go away. See Rob's Explanation for a much more logical, less offensive answer to this question (and one with which I entirely agree)

#2. "Why are you criticizing such a brilliant comic when you can't do better yourself? LAME."

Also a good question. But the fact is that few movie reviewers are movie makers, few theater critics are directors or actors, and few book reviewers are authors. In any case, there are times when I could do better myself, and have offered Helpful Critique. See here, here, here.

Rob has provided a good answer to this question, too: right here.

#3. "Why are you so mean spirited and evil? What are you hoping to accomplish?"

I am hoping to either get Randall Munroe to shape up and make better comics, admit that he's lost his touch and stop, or make enough fans see the light that they stop visiting and Randall Munroe drifts slowly into obscurity like a shriveled leaf in an ocean of forgotten love. I'd also be more than happy if he switched from comic to Picto-Blog.

In the short term, I'm trying to have fun, analyze humor, and be a bastion of enlightenment for those people who see xkcd for the washed up shadow of its former self that it is.

#4. "Dude it's supposed to be a comic about math and relationships and stuff. So why do you criticize it for doing just what it pretends to do?"

I understand that xkcd is in theory "a webcomic of sarcasm, math, romance and language", in some order. Those categories are perfectly broad enough for a lot of diverse humor. The problem is when it becomes a webcomic of "python references, shitty breakups, memes and charts" which I think are a bit too specific and feel repetitive quickly.

I don't think I ever say "lame, another joke about computers," I tend to say, "oh lame, another joke about meshing the line between humans and computers, whoop de do."

#5. "Aren't you just jealous?"

No, I would be jealous of him if he wrote good comics. I am jealous of Ryan North, who writes Dinosaur Comics. Once more, see Rob's more thoughtful, detailed answer if you would like a longer explanation.

#6. "Why are you picking on xkcd? Aren't there like ten thousand shitty webcomics out there?"

Yes, there are, but few seem to have the popularity of xkcd. I could always find stupid things to critique, but for the most part, I wouldn't feel like I had accomplished anything (HEY GUYS THE SIMPSONS KINDA SUCKS NOW just thought you should know ok cool we all agree great). It is not so much how much xkcd sucks as how overrated it is - the blog was originally titled just "xkcd: overrated" though that has since been changed to the punchier "xkcd sucks." In short: No other comic seems to combine the same amount of popularity and crappiness. Most popular comics are good, and most bad comics every can agree are bad. XKCD manages to escape that, and I want to change that.

For a related discussion, see my essay here.

#7. "Why are you so freaking humorless?"

I dunno. Childhood accident? I am a Trained Humor Analyst and everyone else in the world seems to think that analyzing humor destroys it, so perhaps there is some answer there. I, of course, being an Trained Humor Analyst know that this silly idea is false. If you want to know what I think is funny, try the following webcomics -

Perry Bible Fellowship
Dinosaur Comics
Married To The Sea

#8. "Isn't the whole point of this blog stupid, because humor is entirely subjective?"

OK. here's how it works. Obviously, different things are funny to different people. We all have different experiences and can relate to different things. Person A might laugh at a really great joke about the French Revolution and person B will have no idea what the point is because he never learned about the French Revolution. Or something. Anyway the point is there are clearly some things that people don't think are funny. I'm not talking about terminal diseases, where someone like Cyanide and Happiness makes a joke about it and people go "NOT FUNNY." I'm talking about plain old boring things. A man eats an apple. A yardsale gets rained out. A waiter is particularly friendly. Basically no one (Rob excluded of course) would laugh at those, right? There is something about those situations that is less funny than, say, a funny situation on Arrested Development (or whatever you happen to think is funny).

So there has to be some element of humor that is objective. If you can't agree with that, you are not going to like this blog, and you should probably leave. I'm not trying to be a dick (well, no more than usual) but it's just that we are a community that tries to discuss humor and get at the heart of it, and as a prerequisite, we think there is actually something to find. I don't think it's unreasonable, but then again, I don't think any of my opinions are unreasonable.

#9. "How long to you plan to continue this infantile blog?"

Until it stops being fun.

#10. "Aren't you predisposed to hate every xkcd because you write a blog that relies on them sucking?"

This is a very good question and a point I worry about a lot. I try as best as I can to be openminded, and not just say "eh that sucks" with no particular reason. I read the forums to see how people predisposed to like the comic think, and I encourage people who think I'm totally wrong to comment and explain why, and I have been known to admit that certain comics are better than I give them credit for.

#11. You motherfucker, it's not supposed to be funny. Lots of "comics" aren't funny, like Watchmen or Mark Trail or stuff. So stop saying it's such a problem that it isn't funny.

Man, I hate this question. Yes, I know that the medium of sequential art panels can be used for stories other than humorous ones. I wouldn't call those "comics" because that implies "comic" as in "comedy" etc. That's why nerds like me are so quick to point out that Watchmen is a "graphic novel."

But the point is this: xkcd is clearly trying, nearly all of the time, to be funny. He sets up the stories to have punchlines, in a way that only makes sense if it is intended as a joke. Look at his store - every item description has a joke tacked on to it. There are a tiny handful of comics - here are three examples - that don't even try, but usually what happens is that he tries to be funny, fails horribly, and then defenders claim that "well it wasn't supposed to be funny anyway." But it was.

See Rob's Rant on the subject.

#12. How come you don't know the difference between alt-text and title-text? Is it because you are a giant moron?

I still don't know why people care about this. Yes, yes, I know that the text that pops when you hover over an image is described, in the html, as the title="" whereas the text that appears in place of an image is alt="". So yeah a lot of people call the hover text the "title text" but I don't like that. For one thing, lots and lots of people call "title="" " the "alt-text". It's especially logical in xkcd, where the hover over text is alternate text for the comic; and the "alt="" " is the title of the comic.

"alt-text" also has a much nicer sound.

So I am sticking with that.

#13. "GRRRRR!!!!!"

Yes, yes, I know this makes you angry. Try to calm down, post a comment, write me an e-mail, and we can talk. I appreciate actual critique (I may be a douche but I'm not a hypocrite) and me and the regulars around here are startlingly rational. Let's be friends.

xkcd takes over Dinosaur Comics

So here we are - the much anticipated Randall Munroe guest stint at Dinosaur Comics. And I will say first that it was not as bad as I had feared. With xkcd, there are those comics I don't particularly like and there are those that actively make me mad (and, if go to the old ones, the third category of those I actually like).

So the first thing that jumps out at you, if you've been following the other guest week comics, is that Randall did not re-draw the traditional Dinosaur Comics panels in his own webcomic's style, as the other four did. I was actually really looking forward to this, but apparently he was perfectly happy to just type some words into the ordinary template and hit copy and paste and resize and bunch of times.

This is a tiny point that probably only bothers me, but - it really irritates me that T-Rex refers to telling a "dinosaur comics story." None of the characters ever refer to they are in a comic so it doesn't sound like "T-Rex" as much as "Some dude impersonating T-Rex" but since no one else probably noticed this I'll move on.

Let's see - we have the traditional "my concept of 'the sexy' is filled with sadness" that we've come to know and love so much, so that's reassuring. We have the odd notion that T-Rex "got closer and closer to" telling his story when he did no such thing (I mean you never get closer than 'It starts like this' which you just get to read over and over again) and just in case you missed it you are reminded that Randall has channeled Zeno's Paradox which is a mathematical concept that Randall knows about, you see. Even if this comic only relates to the paradox in terms of the rectangles getting smaller and smaller each time; the story does not, I think, get closer and closer to anything. Or lose a race to a turtle.

on a totally unrelated note, I love the current chainsawsuit comic.

Update: Reader Ariel points out that this comics recursiveness is rather reminiscent of the very first Abstruse Goose. Not saying Randall copied it, just something to remember when all the Munroe Fanboys are all like "ooooh that's so creative no one has EVER thought of that it has like literally infinity jokes omg omg omg" and then also I would add that this comic does, actually, approach an ending in a Zeno-like fashion, unlike the xkqwantzcd comic.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Comic 490: Shouldn't #2 Be "Write Shitty Comics" ?

doesn't matter
Like comic 432, I feel that a comic that took this little effort from the artist hardly deserves that much more effort from me. I mean, this could have been a quote, and a below average one at that.

I like how Randall pretends that the only thing people do on computers early in the morning is see how friends are doing. Certainly no one reads any form of news, or plays any games or anything. No, it's just about being social....

Also, the last line is 100% unneeded. A, you can do that without laptops, and B, once we see that you are still in bed, we know you are using a computer from bed, and that's where most of the joke is, as little of a joke as it is. Imagine it for yourselves - same comic, minus last line, = slightly better.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Comic 489: Look Harder

Firstly and unrelatedly, the other day there was, very briefly, a link to "New merchandise in the store" but there was, alas, no new mockable merchandise (or non-mockable, for that matter). The link was soon removed. If there's new stuff soon - then I totally called it. Now, where were we? Oh yes -

insert today's xkcd right over here
While there is nothing particularly unfunny here, I find the joke pretty forced. Still better than most of the recent comics, but the whole thing is a kind of long set up for a "ha ha, google maps is taking over this person and also they can't keep zooming in all the time! they lose detail." Ha, all those people who try to zoom in to far on google maps have we got the comic for you!

Say, you know what this is that we haven't had for a while? A comic conflating humans and computers. Join the club, 489.

But it looks like even some of the forumites are unhappy with the recent comics.

On another note, a comment on the last post here pointed me to this New Yorker Cartoon Lounge interview and cartoon competition with everyone's favorite cartoonist, Randall Munroe. It has some interesting nuggets in there - for example, he says the comic is "about three-fourths autobiographical" hopefully ending that little debate we occasionally have. It also is full of irritating little not-quite-name-droppings but like, concept droppings. "Look Sarah Palin is stupid, isn't that funny?" "Look, I still mock Ron Paul that's the kind of joke all of you guys make all the time!" "cough cough ahem youtube took my audio preview idea cough" etc. But read it for yourselves, and decide what you all think is good in there.

PS - Tonight, we see the dreaded xkcd guest comic on qwantz...

Monday, October 13, 2008



from the Dinosaur Comics Blog...noooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!

My favorite webcomic, being VIOLENTLY OVERTAKEN by my least favorite, and four days of warning in which to panic! noooooooo!!!!

I will admit that I liked xkcd's previous parody of dinosaur comics, but that was way back before xkcd started sucking.

OK guys, let's hear your predictions: Will it suck? Will be be good? Will it parody Dinosaur Comics or will it insert shitty nerd jokes in? Will T-Rex have a sad break up with Dromiceiomimus? Will Friday's regular xkcd refer to it? WHO KNOWS but you can expect hard hitting humor analysis right here on xkcdsucks.


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Comic 488: The joke has apparently been stolen

instead of reading this comic about DRM, just read and you'll get the same point
OF COURSE xkcd would follow up a pretty good comic with a piece of shit one.

OK - so apparently Randall Munroe has become outraged over copyright law. This is ok. Nothing wrong with that. But if you are going to make it into a comic, at least try to make it....comical. Basically we have a mini lecture about copyright law, an unneeded flow chart that may as well be labelled "Hey guys, if you don't want to read this waaaay long comic just check out the summary over here", and...that's basically it. Oh, and you have Mr. Hat, just kind of sitting there not being funny, as though his mere presence is enough to instill greatness upon the comic. Amazingly, this does not work!

How is this for a way to try to make this comic something more than just a lame piece of anti-DRM propaganda (not that I'm opposed to anti-DRM activism, I just don't like it right here): Some kind of comic with a guy at a computer, and a police officer warning him not to download music illegally. So he buys music, and then later he's at a new computer, and tries to copy his music, and the officer warns him that that's illegal, so he figures he'll download music illegally because he already bought it once legally, and the police officer warns him against that, too. So he goes over to his old computer and just starts playing the music there and listening to it while he's at his new computer, and the police officer tells him that's illegal too, and then warns him against humming the music, or thinking about music, or breathing, and then arrests him just to be sure. And then there's a tagline like "Pirated Music: Because DRM Is An Annoying Little Bitch"

Update: I forgot to mention last night, but commenters reminded me: iTunes does offer DRM-free music, it's just a little bit more expensive. So this comic is like saying "Boooo, Pop Cap Games suck because it's impossible to access the full version of games." Because you can, you just have to pay for it. So it's even more whiny than I realized. Commenters also point out that burning a CD removed the DRM. So....comic is like two to three times lamer than I first realized. See comments for more details.

Comic 487: Numbers numbers everywhere

The first thing that struck me in this comic was that it was a little disturbing. I believe - though I could be wrong- that this is by far the most graphic xkcd we've seen. Panel 3 in particular seems a bit jarring.

But the second row is pretty good. I like the interaction between the narrator (so to speak) and the characters and the fact that the comic starts off being a sex joke and ends as a nerd joke. I approve heartily of this, especially given the tendency to go the easy sex joke (hence the ubiquity of "that's what she said," for example.) Perhaps a little more of the characters responding to the narrator, not just the sort of passive quitting, but still, this is probably the best attempt we've seen in 20 or 30 comics, at least.

I'm not sure we need the "xkcd presents a guide..." Seems a little like "woo!! look, it was my comic that did this! just try to copy it and not include attribution NOW! ha ha."

Can anyone think of a more graphic xkcd? I don't think we've seen one.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Comic 486: You Are Also Not A Comedian

Christ. Where to begin. I guess I might as well get out at the beginning: Stop it with the break up comics. All your characters are ending relationships. We get it. You have some horrible relationship problem - it's been a damn long time since you had a happy relationship comic.

But this comic, I am pleased to say, has so many other flaws that I am happy to overlook the same tired old "woman breaking up with dude" thing that I'm so sick of. The problem is the joke here, if you want to call it that, is such a tired old gag that I hardly believe Randall stooped to it. The one that jumps to mind is Krusty The Clown trying and failing to look like he's appearing in a puff of smoke in Treehouse of Horror 9, story 2. Youtube is being uncooperative but it's there somewhere, I tell you. And it's close to this.

Moving on: Even if the window had opened, the man doesn't even try to run. He just stands there, kind of floats backwards with these wiggly lines (where do I remember those from?), and then he kind of calmly tries the window, fails, and stands there. I was at least expecting to see the awkward moment afterward but we don't get to see the consequences so it feels like only part of the story.

There's also no energy. Besides the third panel, there's hardly any movement and it's all careful and slow. This situation completely calls for hectic energy and being insane but it's just not there.

On so many levels, this comic disappoints.

extremely late update: Also, it turns out the Simpsons did it - the fortune teller at the very end of Lisa's Wedding also drops some kind of smoke device, but when the smoke clears, she's still sitting there, looking tremendously awkward. Guess it's kind of an obvious joke, huh?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Comic 485: Not Actually That Deep

eh, not worth reloading

I was going to write something about Comic 484. I really was. Something about how it was a really kind of pithy observation and how obviously in-browser flash games are addictive, hence websites like But then this "Depth" thing came along and I just lost the will to mock anything else.

update: Thomas wrote a guest post about 484! I posted it below this one to keep the chronology right, though it was in fact written later. Read it!

and now back to this "depth " comic...

So obviously it's playing off of last week's Height poster/advertisement. But like so many sequels (I'm looking at YOU, matrix reloaded!) it sucks hard compared to the original. And the original was not good.

It's jokes and references are even lamer ("ha ha, Vista sucks! no one has made this obsevation before!" "Ha ha, a computer mouse is called the same thing a mouse that is an animal is called!" "ha ha, rickrolling is still funny!"). It feels tired at this point (wooah, are we really zooming in as we get closer? again? awesome! and it's only been three whole comics since last time!). You can't help but wonder how long it will be before a poster goes up for sale. Looks like someone is hoping for some more cash flow...

Also, the whole thing is far, far too reminiscent of the film Powers of 10, which not only zooms in on the world from the farthest reaches of the universe (Height) to the tiniest (Depth). Heck, it even uses a log scale! And we certainly know Randall is a fan of Powers of 10...

Also the name doesn't even make sense. It's not like the stuff at the bottom of the comic is farther from anything; at least height vaguely measured the heights of things in some way, at least at the end. You aren't getting deeper into anything here.

Ok poll question: Is this the last we've seen of these comics for a while? And what's next ("new poster: Width!" and then later, "Duration!")

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Comic 484: Only Suckers Pay For Games

lousy comics sold here

Well, I said I didn't have much to say about this comic, but luckily for us all regular commenter Thomas did. And through the magic of the internet, I can make it look like I posted this in a timely manner. So here's his guest post, with the usual stipulation that I do not have to agree with what he says. Also, the title of this post is his.


Comic 484, "Flash Games," leans on a very fun truth: that free games made by hobbyists are often more entertaining than multi-million-dollar productions made for high-end consoles. I agree, and so do the xkcd forums, that there are plenty of great flash games out there.

But xkcd is a comic, not a public service announcement. Let's look for the wounded joke.

The bottom caption spells out the joke, in case Stickman sitting at a small computer enjoying a puzzle doesn't clue us in to the fact that he's ignoring his monstrous gaming setup. Speaking of monstrous setups, why does Stickman own one if he's going to spite it anyway? Giant speakers, a TV so large it requires a steel reinforcement -- if flash games are more addictive, consoles must be doing something right to sucker hundreds of dollars out of everyone who agrees. What's next, does Stickman buy a McMansion and then revel in the joys of having a small garden? Which is better, having your cake or eating it, too?

Stickman appears to own two or three consoles, depending how you look at the grey boxes. The only visible controller is a motion-sensor and what appears to be a wiimote. Hey, wait a minute, I thought the Wii was known for appealing to casual gamers with the sort of simple fare that flash games use? And that there are flash-based sites that take advantage of using the wiimote's pointer as a mouse cursor, so if you wanted the best of both worlds -- nevermind. Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft are only selling millions of consoles per year because people are blind to open-source gaming. More physics-based puzzles, please!

The alt-text doesn't help the smarminess. Does Randall actually look forward to head-tracking, or is that a shot at the idea that paid-for games will ever be fun, that the "next-gen" will always promise what the current consoles fail to do?

Randall's already shown that his next comic doesn't make up for this one.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Comic 483: Number of Boring Chart Comics:Shittiness of Webcomic

Fiction Rule of Thumb

This comic is pretty pathetic. Obviously there's no art of any kind, and it joins such illustrious chart-comics as 290, 231, 418, 252, and probably a bunch of others.

Also it's patently false. The forums are full of counterexamples, some of which I read and some of which I didn't, some of which I liked and some of which I didn't. The king of word-making-up is Shakespeare I understand, who in addition to the word "eyeball" made up tons of other words and also, in a Lord of the Rings coincidence, "the crack of doom" at least according to my high school copy of...I want to say...macbeth?

Anyway, this was lazy, phoned in, and a disappointing attempt to mock the fantasy / sci fi genre in a pretty standard way.