Thursday, March 5, 2009

Comic 551: Etch-a-Sketchy

honestly my favorite part of this post is the title
The worst thing about this creepy-as-hell comic is that I knew, when I first read it, that xkcd fans were going to love it. It's so adorable! Look at how very lonely that man is; don't you just want to give him a big ol' hug??

No. I do not. I want to give him an informational pamphlet entitled "So you fall in love with tiny women inside toys: A guide for the fucked up." Honestly, how messed up is this guy? He's sitting with a kid's toy. He imagines that there is a tiny woman trapped inside the toy. And not even a normal looking girl, it's girl who looks scary as hell. And she is desperate enough that she immediately falls in love with him and he is so pathetic that he does the same.

How can you say that's an adorable thing to imagine? I don't know about Randy, but when I see old toys I do not immediately think "perhaps this item contains a potential love interest!" Well, when I see child's toys at least.

Anyway, I guess now I should just sit and wait for the anonymous commenters to tell me why I'm wrong and why this is actually totally sweet.


  1. Cuddlefish SupremeMarch 5, 2009 at 7:36 PM

    What ever happened to the xkcd that was smart, witty and not made of fail? This cartoon is as insipid and bland as all the other xkcd strips of recent and distant memory.


  2. I agree that this is lame, but not for the same reasons you do.

    It's lame because it's yet another "I'm lonely and relationships suck but if I found just the right girl who is nerdy and smart and also lonely and just understands me we would immediately fall in love with each other and it would be perfect" comic.

    The child's toy is irrelevant - that's Randall trying to create a "window into another reality" type situation using something which anyone who had half of a childhood can relate to - and any young "nerd" surely also tried to figure out the workings of an etch-a-sketch in this manner, or some similar way.

    In a way, this blog is falling to plague similar to the one which infects Randall's comics - you keep trying to invent new things, just like Randall does. Except Mr. Munroe is just doing the same thing over and over and over again, and it's gotten old, unimaginative, and predictable, not to mention not funny in the least. Similarly, this blog started out as an honest assessment of the failing nature of xkcd, and has slowly become more and more ridiculous in its accusations, like a high schooler trying to BS an English paper with analogies that even he himself doesn't understand.

    Yes, XKCD sucks more and more these days. But there's no need to invent crazy reasons for it sucking - it's much simpler than that. Randall has gotten lazy, run out of ideas, and is just reusing all the same lame, unfunny ones that the immature nerds on his forums seem to be able to relate to.

  3. Meh. I never really considered xkcd as a webcomic. At most, it's a blog in webcomic form. Just a bunch of ideas formatted into pictures and updated regularly.
    Honestly, the humor is scarse and fleeting. At best it's only slightly better than the humor in this blog, and xkcdsucks isn't even meant to be funny.

  4. Anon. I agree that some of the posts on this blog have gotten a little outlandish, but at least Carl/Rob/whoever is *trying* to find something original to say about every comic. The blog would be a lot less interesting if each post was just "sucked for the same reason last comic sucked"

    Also, *of course* Randall is creating something that "anyone who has had half a childhood can relate to." That's why it sucks! Rather than thinking of an original joke, Randall is pandering to his audience who mistake observations for humor. The etch-a-sketch is only irrelevant in the sense that it could have been replaced with any number of childhood toys (like a speak-and-spell). This is why we always joke about the "Randall get out of my head!" commenters in the forum. His audience only adores him because he says stuff that they already know. Unfortunately, this doesn't really constitute a joke, and it isn't really funny.


    Observation: "there are razor-blade slots in airplane bathrooms"

    Randall joke: "Why do they have razor-blade slots in airplane bathrooms? are people shaving in there?"

    Real joke: "Although I would have done anything to stop the air-sickness, I didn't exactly contemplate suicide until I saw the razor-blade slot in the wall"

    Not a great joke, but you get the idea. It takes more than a "window into another reality" for something to be good.

  5. I couldn't put my finger on what bothered me about the girl until I saw that she has a tiny, tiny hand. Attached to a tiny, thin arm.
    When it's just an oval attached to a stick (or hovering I guess), the relative thickness of the body parts doesn't bother me. But the addition of the hand makes me realize just how huge her head is. (you're about able to palm your face, for reference)

    I will give him "props" for doing something interesting in the art, though. We don't have to be chained to basic stick figures forever! Good work, Mr. Munroe! May your art branch like those terrifying little fingers!

    I find myself agreeing with the Anon. above re: XKCD being more of a blog than a webcomic at this point ;_;

  6. @emmer
    Well, I think the only real alternative for the hand would be a thicker arm... If he kept it as a stick-arm, it could've been mistaken for a line from the knobs. It's also arguable that he could have just removed the arm, but I'm honestly having a bit of trouble picturing that...

    Plus, she isn't all that creepy. It just looks a tad off because of the sketching on the screen. Otherwise it could just be another character.

    Plus, so long as we're discussing art and being more blog than comic; xkcd was never about art. Maybe at the very beginning of it ( Press |< ), but the 'art' it uses now is just another way of expressing thought. It is just using imagery instead of text, which might be why it's so accessable.

    Once again on the topic of blog and not webcomic- 'Comic' 552... It's irony, yes, but it's far too vague to be funny. Unless, of course, your mind was already on the topic, in which case it's only mildly tinted with humor.

  7. First Cuddlefish: I think the fact that it is a child's toy is only relevant because of Carl's second-to-last sentence.

    Man this one was totally creepers. It is bothering me that people are calling this "sweet" or "cute." I mean, really?

    Hahah. Here is a vaguely amusingly sad thread of comments by Randall-worshipers, and here is an amusingly mocking comment.

    I am wondering if it would have been funnier if the girl ended up rejecting him rather than falling in love with him too. But then that would be an "all my relationships end in despair..." And her name would have to be Megan.

  8. Not to much to say, as my sentiments have been expressed in general. So I provide my three word synopsis: creepy as fuck.

  9. So, this one was sort of weird for me. This will probably be a long, rambling response, you should probably just not read it.

    First: I have to take issue with the alt text. 'Surrounded by boring mysteries?' Really? When I was a kid, anyway, I really thought it was awesome being able to draw out the screen and see the little drawing devices. I felt like I was hacking the system or something.

    But at the same time 'surrounded by boring mysteries' is exactly the sort of thing a whimsical and imaginative person ends up thinking when confronted with the less-interesting realities of, you know, the real world. It's easy to imagine the world is filled with fascinating stories, but often the fact is people are provincial and uninteresting, and the stories behind objects are mundane.

    But the mystery is the interesting part--how often do you find out where the rusty crescent wrench you found on the streets of Spokane actually came from? Or the stuffed toy you found in a movie theater? It's the weird searches that find my blog that appeal to me most--I always feel a little disappointed when I actually find out what was going on there.

    Anyway, there's always many more mysteries--no need to focus on one let-down.

    Second: so, this is just not a comic that was meant to be told in XKCD's format. The stick figures are, for the most part, too comical in nature--when you're trying to portray something with this kind of thematic material, which while not quite dark is certainly not joking either, the medium fails. This, I think, is why it comes off as so creepy: not because of the subject matter, but because it's so drastically at odds with the art.

    Third: Thematically this sort of thing would be right at home in A Softer World, though it also lacks Comeau's punch and brevity, which is kind of the point. Also, the medium works better, and ASW is no stranger to the creepy and unsettling.

    In conclusion I'm more or less sympathetic to what Randy is trying to do here, but he's just not any good at it, and he should probably stop trying, because it leaves a sickly taste in the mouth.

  10. The reason this is sad is because Randall fails to provide the girl inside the etch-a-sketch with any character traits whatsoever, except for the fact that she finds Randall (or his alter-ego stick guy) attractive. This is enough to send him over the edge into infatuation. He never even stops to consider that -- given her menial job and location inside a kid's toy -- she's probably some seven-year-old sweatshop worker from Qinshai Province.

  11. But she's not the point, Jared. She isn't supposed to be real, she's supposed to be the self-absorbed fantasy of a lonely guy with an etch-a-sketch.

    Anyway, I actually really liked this one, but not for rational reasons. I just, personally, felt extremely let down when I looked inside an etch-a-sketch like that. I was a small child, and I expected, while not a tiny woman, at least a more complex writing mechanism. The simplicity was a huge let-down for my imagination, and as such I was really able to connect with this comic. It's not funny, exactly, it's more like "the Meaning of Liff," a book by Douglas Adams that provides alternate definitions for town names, like "That feeling you get when you are standing in the kitchen with a vague sense of purpose but no idea what that purpose was." It's not 'funny,' it's just a little "Hey! I do that too!"

    But, anyway, this comic isn't about loneliness and relationships. It's about the sense of disillusionment that accompanies the discovery that something at which you once marveled isn't quite as marvelous as you thought. And the Etch-A-Sketch is the perfect example. He could have used a TV and the illusion of tiny people inside as the illusion to be broken, but the real mechanics of TVs are actually pretty interesting. The etch-a-sketch, however, is boring even to a child.

  12. You know, looking at that photoshop, an "I'm watching you"-style joke actually would have been much funnier.

  13. I watched The Princess Bride recently and now I can appreciate how horrible 549 was. The movie itself is 1000 times funnier than that "parody".

  14. I never thought of that Etch-A-Sketch trick before. Holy shit. I am going out to buy one right now.

  15. i agree that this comic was subpar, but i'm interested to see your thoughts on today's... i thought that it was the cleverest xkcd in a while

  16. Well, for a change of pace, I basically agree with Carl and Rob on this one. There is the core of a good comic here, if only he had used something other than a poorly-justified romance as the alternate reality. Appearing here, it's a disappointingly simple and uncreative fantasy. As a result, there's no force to the turnaround. Instead of exciting fantasy to boring reality, we get boring fantasy to perhaps-slightly-more-boring reality.

    Which is a shame because he almost really had something here.

  17. Creepy? Not really. Creepy implies that it carries some kind of emotional import. Nope. "Insipid and bland" is right.

  18. This one sucks, no question. I have a suggestion for improving it-

    Xkcd man spends ages making the whole screen black, so he can see what's behind it; finally he discovers it's a message that says "You've just wasted ten minutes of your life, you sad twat."

  19. Vlad: I like your idea. He could also black out the rest and find the bodies of previous curious men. Or maybe a still-abusive boyfriend (she needs double the white-knighting!).

  20. Vlad's suggestion is great.

    Another view: I think the comic would not be as creepy/weird if there was no romantic tone. As in "Guy sees girl in Etch-a-Sketch, guy gets confused, guy looks to see if it's true".