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 It's perfect for xkcd: An internet meme, five months out of date.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.


  1. Hahaha oh man I was so pissed at Monday! Right after Mr. Hat makes a good comeback he's like "HEY GUYS MR. HAT IS SO COOL LOOK HE IS GOING TO BE THE SECRETARY OF THE CLOGGED INTERTUBES AND I am so lonely, guys. SO LONELY."

    Ahaha this is terrible. Just teeeerrible. STOP BEING TOPICAL, RANDALL MONROE. WE GET IT, YOU ARE NOT FUNNY.

  2. Hang on, you're telling people to have independent thought, despite the fact their opinion of the comic is good?

    Hmm, maybe I'll go start * for every comic I don't like, because personal taste obviously doesn't come into webcomics.

  3. No, he's telling people that if they like the comic, find a better way of expressing it rather than sprouting random words and phrases that have filtered down from /b/ and have been overused everywhere on the internet.

    I can't handle reading the xkcd forums any more, they make me so angry and ruin what little I saw as being good or funny in the comic.

  4. the forums have got to be one of the biggest echo chambers on the planet. wank wank wank.

    also, these comics are killing my soul. they're amusing, i guess, but entirely unoriginal. and just the whole ron paul thing is so over. even the diggtards are largely over him now.

  5. Yes, Greg, the image of the forums being a giant circle-jerk is spot on.

  6. I think you're missing some fun because you're jaded.

    I loved the moat and the parody of media war zone coverage. Maybe this is just because I'm a pilot, but I'm still laughing at the blimp and then today's blimp versus balloon. I didn't even know who Ron Paul was. (I'm not American). I thought he was a porn star, so the joke certainly isn't dependent on the topicality of his candidacy.

    And you have to decide whether you're writing an "xkcd sucks" blog or an "xkcd forums suck" blog. Almost all forums suck. I won't tell you of the few that don't because they are my secret havens.

    If you want to make xkcd commenters look good, just read YouTube and Icanhascheezeburger comments for a bit.

  7. Yeah, Anonymous, you can like the comic if you want (though it means you have a shitty sense of humor) but being an idiot about it pisses me off. Especially because xkcd so often makes fun of people who are stupid on the internet, but he doesn't seem to care that his own forums do the same thing - he just loves those guys! they are so encouraging!

    Aviatrix - I assure you any humor you got out of the Ron Paul Blimp was not intended. Basically he was a guy who ran for president this year who was very libertarian, and he raised a lot of money and did a lot of activism online, so he kind of became an internet meme and joke as well. And then some people were like "hey, the best way to advertise this guy would be to get a blimp with his name on it and fly it around!" and they did. And again, this is all like six months ago and everyone but Randall had forgotten it.

  8. is the balloon supposed to be Cory Doctorow or what? I hope not...

  9. Oh boy, an xkcd story that relies on previous xkcd jokes! the best kind!

  10. So much fanwank over this one. It turns out drawing a stickman in a hat is now "epic."

  11. Wow, what a set of potentially amusing escapades. Mr. Hat is such a card. Being as this is a comic, i.e. a visual medium, I'm sure we'll see them drawn, as opposed to merely alluded to. Right Randall?

  12. I was going to read this blog in conjunction with the comic because I like to discuss comics as I read them, and I too find the xkcd forums unreadable.

    But telling someone he has a shitty sense of humour is not discussing the comic. I'll have to just read the comics and find someone who is willing to discuss what's funny and what's not without lobbing obscene insults at people who laugh at different thing.

  13. aviatrix, you'll find stupid people on the Internet everywhere. This blog is no exception. I generally ignore the comments, since they're as comically anti-xkcd as the forums are pro.

    That being said, I really had hope for this arc, I really did. The second comic deminished the hope a little (the moat gag was pretty good, but the rest? ugh...), but this third comic has destroyed my naive hope. It made me think "FORCED MEME" over and over again.

    Someone with this kind of comic would be ridiculed out of /b/. Randall, of all people, should know that.

  14. Oh god, here we go again.

    If you read through this blog's archives, you'll see plenty of times where we've had decent, reasonable discussions. I'm not Carl but I'd be willing to bet he'd have been less dismissive if anon had posted a more thoughtful comment. Anonymous didn't want a discussion, he wanted to Show Us Up by using the same tired argument that, believe me, we've seen many times before. Most of the people here are fairly receptive to dissenting viewpoints, but if you put no effort into your comments, you can't expect anyone to put any effort into replying to you.

    (The 'you' in that last sentence was meant in a general sense - your comment was fine. Though I do wish people wouldn't get so goddamn offended over every little thing... I wouldn't really consider "shitty" to be an "obscene insult")

  15. Aviatrix - sounds like a plan! tell me how it goes.

    Grande - sorry about the comments. Something about how you phrased the idea of xkcd being laughed out of /b/ gave me the image of this young kid trying to hang out with his older sibling's friends and trying so hard to act just like them but it's just kind of sad. That's what xkcd is to the rest of the internet.

  16. Jay - thanks. Yeah, I was amused that that last time I called someone "shitty" was really the one that put Aviatrix over the top...but just so no one is surprised later, shit! fuck! goddamn cock goblin!

    craptastical! asshole shit fucker!

    and just so You Personally are insulted: I meant all that about you! yes, YOU!

    There, sensitive readers should be gone now. What were we saying?

  17. Look. This is a place for snark. We have variously enjoyed XKCD in the past. We discuss things reasonably. We also like making fun of people. And seriously. The only people who still like XKCD that I am talking to are crazed fans.

    We're thinking of staging an intervention.

    In fairness, though. These are just too bad for me to care about discussing them.

  18. I'm only anon because I can't be arsed to create an account or whatever.

    I don't like the forums, I agree it's full of very silly people, but the comic is still funny (at least, some of them.)

    My point is, it's a niche comic, if you don't find it funny, you shouldn't read it, for instance, I don't like dinosaur comics, so I don't read them.

  19. Ah yes, just when I thought Randall hadn't done anything so bad for a while, he serves up this piece of grade A crap.

    What I find funniest is when he writes things like "Mr Persident, the bloggers are restless", as if he thinks bloggers are some mighty political force in the world.
    Most bloggers are complete dorks who post half-baked, poorly researched opinions and shit jokes. But because it's on the internet they think they're ground-breaking social commentators.

  20. Anon - this is exactly why I wrote the FAQs for people who think they know better than me! You get to be the first person where I just say, hey, go read that instead of writing it myself. i am so efficient

    Vlad - and I think it's funny that he assumes all bloggers think alike when it's clear that no blogger has ever once agreed with another.

    This blogger, for one, is certainly restless. Doubt Randall will help with that.

  21. In Randall's defense, I think he is joking about how bloggers are kind of ridiculous but people like for some reason take them seriously. DEAR CNN.COM: I HATE EVERYTHING ABOUT YOU. Randall has a history of thinking blogs, and things like "blogosphere," are silly, I think that's basically what he's doing here.

    PS anon sux delux

  22. For a five part series, it doesn't feel 4/5 over.

    Actually, where in the canon was it stated that this is a 5-part series? It only says "this week xkcd updates every day", so couldn't it conceivably go up to Sunday and become a 7-parter?

  23. Oh absolutely. I forget to mention that. It's just that the last two story arcs were five comics long. Though I guess Journal the story kind of kept going but he didn't number them as such, and it was more like "ok, end of story, Mr. and Mrs. Hat are together, now I can use them together in future comics" but anyway. Hey, it doesn't have to stop at Friday either - it "updates every day this week" doesn't mean it won't also update every day next week or forever.

    Of course, my crazy post-election scheme is tied to comic 500 as a big celebratory fuckfest so if 500 comes on sunday god knows. Maybe it will just be the word "VOTE" or maybe "VOTE, GODDAMMIT". I should say comic 499 - we all know what happens if you look for comic 404.

    Anyway, the site says "The comic will be up shortly!" so soon we'll see if I'm even close.

  24. The pew pew thing wasn't a reference to the survey company, it was a reference to this site, which is another internet meme. It could be that Randall is being slick and referring to both at once, which would be impressive, but I am not sure I would attribute such slickness to him.

  25. It is possible for writers to accidentally refer to something and then decide it's so perfect, they keep it. It is pretty much a law that you never admit when you have done this, but I wrote a poem once where I made this line which could be read in about five different ways and they were all awesome, totally unintentionally. It was my crowning moment.

  26. Uh. I think that was a conclusion. What the Jesus kind of conclusion is that?

  27. Wait wait wait what? Did that just actually happen?

    Did Mr. Hat just fucking fill the room with playpen balls? Is that what just happened? That is what this whole thing has been leading up to all week? The brilliant and evil Mr. Hat just attacked the senators with playpen balls. That is such a dastardly plan oh my, that is right up there with such evil acts as smoking pot and making necklaces out of flowers. xkcd the hippie version.

    I will give Randall credit here, I did not think he still had the power to shock me. I mean what the fuck man. Next comic: Mr. and Mrs. Hat and all the bloggers and senators sit in a circle singing kumbaya.

  28. You know what would be a better conclusion? If the balls turned out to actually be landmines. In the end the senators are all happy, and then wait there is one more panel, and then BOOM! They are all dead! Ha ha ha!

    I am so fucking confused right now.

  29. I am not confused. Just cripplingly depressed.

  30. Re: Pew Pew Pew
    So...basically he used a gun shooting sound as a way to reference a gun shooting sound. Lame! I'm sticking with my Pew Research joke, even if it was not meant to be that. My comments on the final installment of the story will be later, but much in the vein of what you have going here now.

  31. WOW, what a ego-masturbatory piece of shit this turned out to be. And did someone just make an Al Gore internet joke?

  32. I am not sure that I enjoyed this arc. Kind of, and kind of not.

    Was it just me, though, or did his delivery sound different? I don't really know how to phrase what I am thinking. But I feel like the "humor" wasn't really Randall-humor.

    If you don't know what I'm saying, nevermind.

    Dude, a giant ball pit like that, though, would be awesome.

    Even awesome-er would be what Jay mentioned, with the landmines. That would have been GREAT.

  33. To Rob and Carl: yeah, I do understand that Randall's comments about bloggers are meant to be silly and ironic- but I still find his use of the word "blogosphere" annoying rather than funny.

    I laughed when I read "I want my... I want my... I want Xkcd".
    It made me think:

    Now look at that yo-yo, that's the way you do it,
    You draw the stickman on Xkcd,
    That ain't workin', that's the way you do it,
    Money for nothin' and your chicks for free.

  34. Re: Pew

    Maybe the blimp is a Polish Jew, and the nickname stuck in college?

    Now there's a webcomic reference.

  35. Basically my problem with this storyline is this: instead of making jokes, he just sort of inserted things which he thought were awesome. Just because you put something awesome in a story/comic/movie/song/box turtle, does not make it awesome.

    What do you get when you put a star in a crap movie? Crap with a star.

  36. "Crap with a star" sounds like a horrifying celebrity fundraiser event.

  37. My quick two cents:
    Fairly amusing overall, with media reaction to bloggers and "Tron Paul." The point of concern to raise here is that it is rather self-referential. The question is whether we're looking at a pretty good "clip show" type of arc, or a general downward trend of decreasing originality.

  38. poore, that is awesome. "Take a shit with MR. JON VOIGHT! Buy a ticket NOW!"

  39. Thank you Randall for ruining the sweet and romantic ballpit strip and the idea behind it. Hmph!

  40. greg said... "the forums have got to be one of the biggest echo chambers on the planet. wank wank wank."

    Bunnie said... "Yes, Greg, the image of the forums being a giant circle-jerk is spot on."

    I find this to be hilarious.

  41. Hello, I just wanted to comment, when I read it I was thinking that the play-pen balls were what was clogging the tubes. I then came to this forum and no one else had that idea, I was astonished.

    And as to where I am on the funny/not funny debate, I think some of them he tries to be funny, and he's actually quite funny. I'm sorry Carl, I think however hard you try, this blog has made you biased. A good many of them, however, he obviously tries to be funny and fails pathetically. And then there are others, where he is obviously not trying to be funny, he's making an emotional appeal, or an artistic statement.

    Next on the agenda, I have a few friends who read xkcd. I do not read it, per se. I read this blog, and I find this much more entertaining then the actual 'comic'.

    I apologize for my long rant, and I will be fascinated to read and responses, if there are any.

  42. It seems one or two thing I said have been said already. I'm sorry, I'm reading through the blog from beginning to end, and I had only gotten this far when I made my comment.

  43. Anon, please get a name. You dont even have to register! But as is, how the fuck are we aupposed to be able to tell which Anon is you?

  44. I don't know how to do that. Could you explain it to me?

  45. Well certainly, Anon! So where it says "Comment as:" click on the drop-down menu and select "Name/URL" instead of "Anonymous." Then just type in a name in the "Name" box! Yayyy.

  46. amanda is the friendliest and most helpful commenter we have. yayyy.

  47. which is saying something because amanda is a monster

  48. Well that's good to know, thank you Amanda

  49. amanda is the best. unlike that fucker rob.

  50. aww. =)

    i love you all

    (except rob, of course)