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?


  1. this comment isn't about this post, but i felt like i had to say something.

    there's an article on networkworld about how youtube took the idea from the youtube comment idea from #481 and made it a reality. that part i don't care about. what i do care about is the part of the article that mentions some earlier comic where munroe recommended the use of a hilbert curve. and then the author of the article asks:

    "Has a comic strip creator ever won a Nobel Prize?"


    really? really? that idea was so good that you'd win a nobel prize? i'm sure the author meant it semi-facetiously, but.. come on. argh.

  2. It can get much worse than the intended "I had no idea..." effect Randall has in mind.

    How about scores of people using "fag" and "poopmobile" even more often than usual, just to hear the HILARITY of it read aloud?

  3. Why wasn't he speedy like a good ninja? Why did it seem so slow and awkward?

    Oh yeah, he's not a ninja, that's the joke. You know, I've found a lot of these "such and such" webcomic sucks sites, and, to be honest, a lot of them bring up really good points about the comic... this one seems more content to insult the author himself, which makes me think there's some other issue invovled. Jealousy maybe? I don't know, I have a hard time believing you're jealous of him.

    "All of the comics are about the same thing." Yeah, it's a niche comic.

    "A lot of the jokes are based on some obscure pop-culture trend." Once again, niche comic.

    "Not all of the comics are funny." You know, as long as there's some sort of observation made, I enjoy even a few of the "not-funny" comics, just because they present an interesting way of loking at the world.

    There are critiques to be made, this blog just fails to make them.

  4. ach, gotta disagree with you again. by the fourth to sixth panel it's pretty obvious already that the escape plan is abortive, from there the actions are pretty deliberative and awkward.

  5. Anonymous, he may not be a ninja, but he's trying to be one. But he's not being convincing doing even that. That's Carl's criticism.

    I actually mildly liked this one (though the wavy lines and the alt text were stupid). I'd never seen the gag before though.

  6. Yeah, this strip wasn't bad, although it still has that undefinable Randall Munroe ring of dorkiness about it.

    I'm more depressed by the Youtube audio comment thing, and what Greg mentioned above... now Randall is going to think he is the most influential webcomic artist ever. Oh God.

  7. I do consider this strip bad, as I was immediately reminded of Peter Griffin of Family Guy and his "crazy purple knock-out gas!". Don't get me wrong, I love Family Guy, but it's not original about.. anything, really.

    I KNEW I'd seen the knock-out gas used somewhere else too, and there you go: to quote 'General Disarray' (Dougie) of South Park, "Simpsons did it!!"

  8. Dear Anonymous #1: Hello and welcome! I am not the author of this blog but I feel compelled to respond to your little 'man you are just being jealous' comment because I feel it lacks insight. I do enjoy a good debate! Sharp repartee, exchange of good ideas, duels of wits... you are not offering any of this. So I'm going to make a few helpful suggestions.

    I'd like you to observe, first of all, that Carl (like myself) used to enjoy XKCD a lot. Then it sort of stopped being amusing. The jokes got stale, and the smell clings to your jacket like cheap cigarette smoke.

    It's a niche comic, sure--but now the niche seems to be 'XKCD fans.' It used to be a niche webcomic that appealed to a sufficiently broad aspect of geek culture that many people could enjoy it. Indeed, it made geek culture accessible to many people. I'm no mathematician but I used to enjoy the math jokes. I'm no scientist but I liked the science jokes. It used to be clever. It used to be fun. It used to be original and in touch.

    So what happened?

    Is jealousy really the best theory you can come up with? Allow me to go through a brief list of comics that I still think are utterly brilliant and would love to be responsible for.

    -a softer world
    -dinosaur comics
    -scary go round
    -questionable content

    I know that Carl at least still likes Dinosaur Comics and I'm guessing he has other comics he reads as well. So, do you really think it's jealousy? Just envy of people who are allegedly more talented?

    I think it's rather frustration that a formerly clever and talented individual has sunk to making bad ninja jokes, shitty poster comics, shitty chart comics, and dated pop culture references. Perhaps there is an element of jealousy there: Randall is still successful despite the fact that he is churning out utter shit. But that is a different kind of jealousy altogether. And it is rooted in the fact that Randall is basically churning out shit these days.

    I'd like you to take the time to rethink your little complaint about this blog, and come back when you have something useful and insightful to say. Instead of just saying "you're just jealous" maybe you should take some time to explain why you think the comics are still funny, or why some of the complaints are invalid? Participate in the comment threads for a few posts, discuss the merits of the comics.

    Basically what I'm saying is you are neither clever, productive, nor insightful, in case you missed that.

    And for fuck's sake, people need to stop posting anonymous comments and pick a name. It lets conversations happen.

  9. Greg, that is an irritating fact about youtube. I do not see why, exactly, a nobel prize is needed here. However, knowing that the author used the phrase "Web comic" rather than the more conventional "webcomic" amuses me and makes me think he is very out of touch. Better than "Web blog" I suppose.

    Randall blogged about this feature, by the way. Why do I think it will not help youtube comments at all.

    Thomas - quite possibly. Don't think there'll be a way to tell. But it would make me happy if this backfired.

    Anon 1 - Are there really that many "such and such webcomic sucks" websites? I know there's "your webcomic is bad and you should feel bad" which never talked about any comics I read. What else is there? I must meet and or greet my colleagues in this burgeoning field of webcomic critique. Eventually the New York Times will give me a weekly column.

    Also there's a difference between a niche comic and a shitty comic - Penny Arcade is a webcomic generally about video games, and yet it manages to be pretty good, I think. Not as good as all the attention it gets, but good. Even xkcd occasionally varies, but it's just too many "oooh look they are breaking up tear tear." I guess the difference is that xkcd is becoming too specific.

    Which critiques would you say should be made?

    Anon 2 - How abortive could the plan be? He tries to open the window, presumably to get out (maybe he's just trying to let some air in). But whatever.

    Rob - what would I do without you.

    If I were jealous of a webcomic artist, it would probably be Chris Onstad, who draws Achewood. He seems to be getting the most money and fame from his comic while having fun. And Rob's second to last paragraph reminds me of a great insult my friend created the other day - "You! Fool! You serve only as an obstacle to those who would better themselves!"

  10. Okay, that was my mistake for posting a comment without proofing or editing. It kind of came out stream-of-consciousness, and it's clear I didn't make my point. I was wondering what caused the blog's author to attack the WRITER so often as opposed to the comic itself. I honestly don't think it's jealousy, and please don't assume I was making the "if you can't write a decent webcomic, then you have no right to critique them" argument either, because somebody can recognize shit without being an award winning artist.

    My problem is the fact that you have this constant need to project the inadequacies of the comic onto the author, as if making a comic about a breakup automatically signals relationship issues, or a comic using a lot of technical jargon is just the writer showing off.

    My personal favorite part of the blog is where you point out that the comic's writer tends to use similar themes over and over again, like computers, crazy relationships, and programming jokes. It's almost as if the comic is based off of that sort of joke.

    I enjoyed the comic today. I know it's an overhashed idea, but something about the sheer awkwardness of the situation, the fire alarm, the locked window, and then at the end where they're just standing there looking embarrassed (well, I guess they weren't really looking embarassed, they're stick figures, but it seemed like they were).

    I haven't been as big a fan of a few others lately... the posters especially. But if people like them enough to buy them, good for everyone involved. I'll just scratch my head and go on my merry way. I don't really think of them as "suckers" or "Randall worshipers" just because they enjoy something I don't.

    The first site that comes to mind as far as other comic critiques is though I've seen others.

    It's always nice to see a different opinion on what could make a comic better, so long as the opinion is useful somehow. Just bashing the comic doesn't help the fans or the author, so I just have to wonder what you're hoping to accomplish.

    I'd sign in with an actual name, but Google hates me today.

  11. I think it would be great if the New York Times started running an "OMG Ur Webcomic Sucks" column.

  12. Point A. The part where the male character creeps backward is for the effect of disappearing into the smoke, and Point B. I don't think that any of you red the Alt. Text. (by holding your mouse over the comic for a second, but some of the comic's humor comes from there, like this comic.

    TLDR: Get over yourselves

  13. You can use a not-quite-real-name I think. It is hard to talk to Number One. I'm a fan of The Prisoner, you see, and I've never actually known who Number One is. And I am not a number. I am a free man.

    Now we are getting somewhere!

    I think attacking Randall is what happens because he is pretty transparently part of the comic. Looking at Scary-Go-Round as an example, John Allison distances himself from the comic itself. Nobody suspects, when the characters in SGR are having bad things happen to them, that it is John Allison venting. The comic is very clearly separate from his views and opinions.

    XKCD, on the other hand, has always felt like Randall is in many ways expressing himself directly. Like bad angsty poetry, when he makes bad comics it is easy to attack the poet because the poem does not serve as a filter. I am not entirely convinced Randall is having relationship problems but it certainly seems like he is.

    I object to what appears to be an assertion that if you dislike something you should merely scratch your head and go on your merry way. That is fine, and I respect that, and it's possible I'm merely misreading you here. But I don't think they are suckers/Randall worshipers etc. merely because they like something I don't. A lot of people like things I don't.

    I do generally feel that Randall is running based on inertia. He started as a niche comic that had a broad enough appeal that (almost) anyone could read and enjoy. Now his target audience has become "the people that still read XKCD." And while I'm not saying that XKCD is utterly bereft of humor these days, there is no denying that if you already like something you're more likely to give it a pass. It's one of our mental shortcuts. So he is running on inertia.

    If you assume someone is a genius, you will interpret what they say to be brilliant. If you assume someone is always wrong, you will find a way to disagree with them. You see it in politics--your guy is always right and your opponent is a big jerkface jerk.

    This isn't a unique phenomenon to XKCD, either, or its fans. There are comics I continued reading long after I stopped enjoying them. Sometimes people asked me why I did; I usually just shrugged and said "Inertia." Or "it's like that kid you knew in high school who used to be really hilarious, but then you all got older and started to change but he never grew up and his jokes started getting stale and he started being more annoying than fun, but sometimes he's still hilarious and he's still your friend." It took something completely ridiculous to turn me from "eh, it's all right I guess" to "wow, this comic is horrible." (Bonus points if you can guess the comic I am talking about here. It is not XKCD.)

    I like to hope some people will read the blog and come to realize that XKCD is in a state of decline. I say this not out of spite for Randall, but in the hopes that a drop in traffic, or an increase in criticism, will inspire him to the greatness we all once knew and loved.

    Oh, by the way, thank you for acknowledging that you do not need to be a brilliant artist yourself to criticize other art. So few people do this.

  14. Oh anon, it's so much harder to take your criticism when you are rational and reasonable like that...

    In addition to agreeing with everything Rob said, I would also point out that I try to keep irrelevant personal attacks on Randall to a minimum. Usually when I get mad at him it's for something he has done with the comic (for example, when he writes a lame thing like Comic 436 that totally copies Cyanide and Happiness), I don't blame the comic, I blame the writer. Surely that is sensible.

    As to the issue of whether a stream of sad relationship comics means he's having a tough breakup, I am not sure I ever said for sure that I think this. It's just something I wonder. It is worth noting that I know for a fact that the Google Maps comic was based in part on a true story that happened to Randall. So we know there are some connections.

    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.

    My problem with the poster was that it seemed like it took all of 10 minutes for Randall to decide that there was this genuine grassroots demand for a poster version of the comic. It just felt too commercial, even if it wasn't. And I'll note it was a commenter who first pointed it out to me.

    I will have to start reading pvpmakesmesad as well as pvp, so I can learn the delicate art of webcomic critique.

    Occasionally I do offer suggestions for how a comic could have been better. When it would only have taken a small adjustment (see here, here and here)

    Anon 2 - yeah I think one or two of us have figured out the alt-text thing. Also it's technically called a tooltip, with the text itself being called the title text. Alt text is what would show up if the image couldn't load (and in xkcd, is just the comic's title). I did, in fact, like the alt-text for this one (oh yeah I call it by the wrong name because I am stubborn). xkcd will often disappoint me but the alt-text is still good.

    Reb - YES.

  15. I have a hard time believing that this blog is simply an effort to rekindle the excellent comic xkcd used to be. I agree that the comic has been lackluster lately. However, if I had a huge problem with that (which is clearly true in your case), I would write the author directly. Have you written to Randall at all? Or have you simply resorted to this smarmy attack site? And to be honest, it seems your disdain for the comic has gone even further than simply desiring higher quality: your original alt-text for 474 is "I hate it when I like it". This does not sound like someone who simply wants the old comic back. This sounds like someone with a grudge. So really, what is the purpose of this blog? And I guess my biggest question: If you hate it so much, why do you continue to read it? Do you enjoy being angry?

  16. Man, anonymous, we've been through this before (and I'm sure we will again). Can we please stop using the "if you don't like it, don't read it" argument? It doesn't make any sense - it's just something people say when someone criticizes something they like. Carl obviously sometimes exaggerates his hate for xkcd, because the point of this site is entertainment just as much as criticism. I think you'd see that if you thought about it some.

    And do you really think writing Randall would have any effect, at all? Even get his attention? This is an honest question.

  17. Heya Jay,

    Well, I think if you gave it some thought, the "if you don't like it, don't read it" sentiment is sound. For example: I think that the tv show Survivor is a waste of time. I don't like it. And so I don't watch it. Not even to rant and rave about how terrible it is on the internet. I'm sure if you thought hard enough, you'd find a few examples of this concept in your own experiences.

    Secondly, if this site is a source of entertainment for you, I suggest you get out more.

    I, after reading Mr. Carl's most recent posts today (for the first time) will choose to avoid this vitriolic and bitter collection of unwarranted nastiness about a silly and harmless comic.

    Have a good one!

  18. Man, we're grumpy today. You need to chill out - no one is actually angry on this site. Except you, apparently.

    The "don't like it, don't read it" response to criticism is stupid - seriously, think about it for a moment and you'll see why. It's because criticizing things you don't like can be fun. The closest comparison I can think of is Mystery Science Theater. We can ignore bad movies, or we can make a TV show where a dude on a spaceship and two robots mock them. Which sounds like more fun? Most everyone here is someone who used to enjoy xkcd, and now that it's gone mediocre, we get our webcomic fix by making fun of it (at least, that's what I'm here for). There's no real malice here. (I do like the implication, though, that everyone who visits this site is a pathetic dork - that is a clever strategy that I have not seen used before)

    Also, I think the secret hope of everyone here is that Randall will stumble across this site, read everything, realize "wow! I've been an idiot these past few months" and begin the process of making his webcomic not crappy again - but of course that won't happen. Still, we can dream.

    If this site really bothers you, you're welcome to take your own advice and ignore it. Personally, I'd rather you don't - dissenting voices in the comments are always a good thing. No one hates Randall, and no one is genuinely angry, even if it seems like it sometimes.

    Hey, is this our first legitimate flamewar? xkcdsucks is all growed up!

  19. Also, I never realized it before but I start like 80% of my comments with "man". Randall and I should get together and discuss being in a rut.

  20. Man (copyright 2008 jay, used without permission because I am a thieving bastard and have good lawyers), I still enjoy reading some of XKCD. I might stop if I had nowhere to go to complain or wax pretentious about the comics. Or I might continue but without enthusiasm. Sometimes I get a chuckle out of them. And then I get to enjoy making fun of it! And making fun of people like our anonymous posters, who believe that there are secret motives behind the blog of resentment or bitterness. When someone suggest that perhaps we are doing it for fun, he attempts to get us to dismiss the notion ourselves by saying 'if you are doing it for fun you are all stupidheads.' ZING. I am going to go start up a livejournal and fill it with emo posts about how badly my feelings are hurt.

    Did I just make fun of livejournal? What is this, the year 2002?

    Look, most internet-aware people know that blogs are generally useless. The bulk of bloggers are blogging in a void, or to a small group of friends or people who have found it. (How did I even find this blog? I have no idea. I didn't even dislike XKCD at the time.)

    When people talk about having 'too much time' on your hands or whatever--this is not occupying a great portion of my day. I'm doing other things while writing this. But it entertains me, and as a human I like human interactions. We can talk about common interests, sure--or common disinterests! We can philosophize about why XKCD sucks. It's part of what's wonderful about being human. You can talk about the same subject more or less endlessly, especially if that subject is actively doing stuff.

  21. No I'm not THAT anonymous.

    My one criticism of this blog is that you seem to have developed some sort of habit (commitment?) to hating xkcd. Your fair points are sandwiched by "rants for the sake of ranting". For example, the ad hominem nature of the "he must have relationship troubles" comment is not a criticism of the comic itself and so is irrelavent. Comments like these damage your credibility.

    You might say you still enjoy the occasional joke but I'd prefer it if you were more specific than that. If you want to be taken seriously then learn to admit when and how xkcd does things RIGHT. Otherwise you'll only attract the bandwagon culture that you seem to be disgusted by.

    I personally still enjoy xkcd. If you were complaining about the new episodes of The Simpsons THEN I'd probably agree with you...

  22. Wow. this is by far the longest and most intelligent debate we've had here. I don't think I even need to get involved that much because Rob and Jay are doing a great job speaking for me, so I'll just say a) I think we've established that I don't actually have any reason to think Randall's relationship comics necessarily have anything to do with his real life, b) new episodes are of the Simpsons are indeed disappointing, but everyone knows it so I don't feel like I have anything to add.

    And c) I now have a new subtitle for the blog. "...a sarcastic, bitter, and generally misunderstood critique of comics that you don't need to critique" was nice but I think a "vitriolic and bitter collection of unwarranted nastiness about a silly and harmless comic" is better. Sweet.

    On another note - It's always bugged me a little that my url was xkcdsucks but my title was xkcd: Overrated. Do you think I should change the title at the top to "xkcd sucks"?

  23. I am a few days later here, but I just wanted to say/remind people that our right to critique, and even complain, about various texts should not be stifled!

    Say a director who has previously been GREAT, SUPERB and ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL put out a horrid movie that makes your brain sore to watch it (and no, I'm not saying XKCD is this bad, it's just "in a rut" to use Jay's term). Now, you really love this director, and part of you may find it hard to bitch about his film. He's like a child you love who one day brings home a crappy drawing done in neon yellow and orange. It's an eyesore, but you won't love him any less because of it. And you don't want to feel disloyal by bitching on the internet about how crap it is.

    On the other hand, you may not hold the director up as some sort of demigod, and as part of a larger crowd of disgruntled viewers, be quite willing and able to constructively criticise him in the hope that in future films, he makes a better effort. You want to make it clear that if he keeps churning out crap, you're not going to watch it. Hopefully, as a result of negative reviews, he DOES improve his craft.

    This is why critique (and yes, even complaining!!) can be a great thing.

    With Randall, his comics generally aren't horrible, more just "eh" in my view. I don't want to see a previously interesting and talented comic writer draw himself into oblivion.

    And just because I can't NOT ramble, I want to add that in high school I got very annoyed at having to critique films, feeling that they were being ruined for me by being forced to study them. But now, I feel like I can grasp a slightly deeper understanding of certain films, and enjoy them a little more. Not often though, my brain is a little slow. Oh, and even my quite-intelligent, A+ grade friends still can't read or watch the material they were forced to study. I never had to study Dead Poets Society and I love it. I've had friends who are thrown into a rage by the very mention of it. Oh and it was awesome to discover it had a young Dr. Wilson of House! Haha. I love Robin Williams.

  24. Hey Nonny Nonny MouseOctober 10, 2010 at 4:40 PM

    I'm a few years later here, but I'm a sucker for bonus points.

    Rob wrote, "There are comics I continued reading long after I stopped enjoying them. Sometimes people asked me why I did; I usually just shrugged and said 'Inertia.' Or 'it's like that kid you knew in high school who used to be really hilarious, but then you all got older and started to change but he never grew up and his jokes started getting stale and he started being more annoying than fun, but sometimes he's still hilarious and he's still your friend.' It took something completely ridiculous to turn me from 'eh, it's all right I guess' to 'wow, this comic is horrible.' (Bonus points if you can guess the comic I am talking about here. It is not XKCD.)"

    Okay, so a meh-turned-horrible comic with juvenile humor where something completely ridiculous turned you away from it... I'm gonna go with either

    (a) Ctrl-Alt-Delete, with the infamous "Loss" miscarriage, or
    (b) Dominic Deegan, with Orc Rape to Save Lives (TM)

    I'm leaning slightly towards (a), since the event in question was fresher on everyone's minds at the time you posted.

  25. Hey Nonny Nonny MouseOctober 10, 2010 at 4:44 PM

    Man, I should have started that comment with "Man" in retrospect.

  26. hey nonny nonny: that is correct! your bonus points will be in the mail shortly.