Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Comic 578: More buildup


My initial reaction on reading this was, it's not as bad as it could have been. I was expecting something like the leet series, which I maintain is the worst thing Randall has ever written. This comic is not as bad as that, but it is not good.

First off, thank you Mrs. Stick Lady for expressing exactly what I was thinking in the first two panels. I wrote about this before, so all I'm going to say is that yes, Firefly was years ago, and you should no longer be making jokes about it. You are a remarkably astute observer.

In the third panel, we get the first joke of the story arc. Unfortunately, it's not a very good joke, "celebrities take themselves too seriously, haha," and we've all seen it before. In such exotic places as xkcd, for example. See Richard M. Stallman in the leet series, Ron Paul in the secretary series, and Cory Doctorow in the leet and secretary series. Randall does this pretty much any time he uses a celebrity.

I'll admit I'm distracted by the fourth panel. Randall apparently ran out of space while drawing it, and instead of redoing it decided to stick the dialogue outside the frame. Unfortunately, it seems to be encroaching on Nathan Fillion's personal space, and it looks incredibly awkward, like they're both saying "come again?" simultaneously.

This comic is basically fan fiction, and that it's about actual celebrities instead of Harry Potter doesn't change that. I think fan fiction is pretty icky just on principal, but what pisses me off is that I know a pretty sizeable portion of xkcd's audience would claim to hate fan fiction in all its forms. And yet here they are, reading it without even knowing.

Why does Randall do this? I could understand it if he wrote an actual fan fiction, because Firefly ended pretty quick, and you know 14 episodes could never be enough. And I could understand it if he was writing this about Summer Glau (who I fully expect to make an appearance, by the way), because Randall has one hell of a crush on her. But it's about Nathan Fillion and his skateboard, and it's not as if either of those things are ripe with jokes, because to date we have not had an actual punchline.

Long-form storylines seem difficult for any webcomic writer to pull off. Even the Penny Arcade guys have trouble with them, and they're a notch better than Randall, or three. I don't know why he feels the need to insert celebrities into all of his stories, but he's not doing himself any favors.

29 comments:

  1. Aw, you're psychic! Summer Glau has made her appearance. (Although I would seriously doubt anyone actually didn't think she would.)

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  2. 14 episodes is plenty. Most series go on for too long and end up becoming shitty and terrible, mere shells of their formal selves (The X-Files comes readily to mind).

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  3. The first 3 frames by themselves would make a very funny comic, the rest is just bleh.

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  4. I mostly agree except:

    Penny Arcade three notches better? Now, I have no idea how much a notch represents, but come on! As you say, "Xkcd could be better," but it could also be worse. One way it could be worse would be if it was penny arcade.

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  5. That is a very good point. This would have been so much better if Randall chopped the bottom off it.

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  6. poore: Any number of episodes, be it 12, 26, 52 or 4398 can be fine so long as the story is planned to run for that length of time. The issue is that since all television is merely a method of delivering advertising, shows either get cut off before the point they can wrap things up (such as Firefly), or they prove to be enough of a ratings hit that the executives decide to keep it going until the advertising is no longer profitable (Stargate SG-1, The X Files). Either way, you get stories with beginnings and middles, but no ends. Though at least SG-1 was allowed to make conclusion films. Eventually.

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  7. @ Chris

    The one thing that can be said for PA is that the comic is never _bad_. It can be mediocre, or not entirely funny, but Gabe's artwork and Tycho's truly excellent writing keep it afloat.

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  8. HRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGHGHHGHG

    that is the sound of me vomiting from these comics.

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  9. You probably need to see a doctor if it isn't blargh.

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  10. Oh great, 3 comics in a row that completely alienate anyone who didn't see a short-lived cult sci fi series that was only broadcast in North America...

    Anyone else reminded of http://xkcd.com/50/ ?

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  11. Great. Not satisfied to bastardize Nathan Fillion, Randall has seen fit to make two MORE cast members of Firefly boorish caricatures of the roles they played. Hey guys, I bet Adam Baldwin is actually kind of simple-minded but strong!

    Seriously, what the hell, couldn't he think of better jokes than "Haha, these actors are really just like their characters, uh, yeah, that's funny, mmmm Firefly"

    Also why are they hanging out together anyway.

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  12. And why is Jewel Staite sabotaging Nathan Fillion's skateboard so that Marty Munroe can leave him in the dust like a true Randy Stu oh goddamnit Randy just WHY?!

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  13. I will admit to one "oh, this is funny" moment. The line Fake Nathan Fillion gets about his charity is good.

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  14. Malethoth. Can I call ya mal? No, Adam Baldwin won't be like that. It's much more clich├ęd and trite to have the simple-minded character played by the genius, Shakespearian actor. Thus, we all know what Randall will go for.

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  15. Penny Arcade might not be funny all the time, but it's leaps and bounds better than xkcd. There's something to be said for actual art and effort.

    Comic 3: Terrible.

    This is easily the worst multi-part series in xkcd yet, and I thought the other ones were bad too.

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  16. "This comic is basically fan fiction, and that it's about actual celebrities instead of Harry Potter doesn't change that."

    There's a whole genre of fan fiction that's written about celebrities. It's called "Real Person Fic" or "actorfic" or whatever. There's also "Mary Sue fic", where the author writes a character that is basically the author's conception of him/herself, and that person has all kinds of adventures where they date N*SYNC or save Brad Pitt from an evil Angelina Jolie. That is exactly what this strip is, by the way.

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  17. Wow, I've been an xkcd fan for a long time, but the latest (part 3) was a huge let-down.

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  18. Mike: Of course you can. And now that you bring it up, you're completely correct. At least portraying Adam as a sophisticated genius won't be insulting the way everything so far has been.

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  19. I agree, randall is just pulling a mary sue and putting himself chilling out with people he... admires? Anyway, the whole point is basically probably just to make randall see what it would be like to chill out in the firefly universe (I haven't actually seen firefly, so I don't know to what extent, though)

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  20. This, like far too many XKCDs, is creepy and unfunny. He needs to stop.

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  21. @poore: Going to have to disagree - 14 episodes was not enough here. As Hans said, the show never got a real ending. Serenity did a decent job tying things up, but I get the feeling it wasn't quite what they originally planned.

    @Malethoth: Adam Baldwin's current role as Agent Casey on "Chuck" is essentially just Jayne all over again, so I don't think he minds being portrayed that way.

    @Ramsey: Jewel's not sabotaging Nathan's skateboard. She accidentally set his throttle to Randall's skateboard's frequency. That's why Randall's screaming and veering all over the place. That panel should have been much smaller to make that more clear.

    But! That is actually one of my only complaints! Otherwise, I liked comic 3 a lot. The portrayals of Summer and Jewel didn't bother me nearly as much as the one of Fillion - my initial feeling as to why is that they are actual extensions of River & Kaylee's characters, unlike last comic's not-at-all-like-Firefly's Reynolds, or like any of the celebrities he has featured previously. Like I said in yesterday's comment, I think caricatures like these can be plenty funny as long as they're not pulled out of the artist's ass (okay maybe I didn't phrase it exactly like that).

    It might also be that the portrayals weren't the punchline this time: they were the set-up to the joke about Morena Baccarin, which (although easy), I thought was both clever and well-done. Of course, there's also the possibility that I'm less bothered simply because I haven't seen either Summer or Jewel in another role, so this comic doesn't feel as much like it's belittling their talents. But I don't think that's it: I really do think it's the combination of the portrayals being accurate to the characters, and their not being the entirety of the joke.

    This comic is actually my favorite in a while. Kudos, Randall, and thank you for not giving us parenthetical explanations of who everyone is this time. I had to Google Morena to remind myself, but I'm totally okay with that!

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  22. @Steve:

    Really? I thought that Morena joke was easy, lame, and telegraphed well enough (if you're familiar with the show at least, but then it wouldn't make sense if you're not).

    I hope Randall is going to take this to more than just lame references to what the characters are like in the show BUT THIS TIME IN REAL LIFE.

    I'm getting really tired of xkcd being "x... BUT IN REAL LIFE".

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  23. Also, I can't get over how lazy the art is in the last panel of the third comic.

    I mean, LOOK AT THOSE MOUNTAINS.

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  24. Steve, Summer's been in the Sarah Conner Chronicles, unless I'm mistaken, and Jewel was on Stargate: Atlantis. I haven't seen SCC, but in SG:A, Jewel was pretty good. Started off similar to Kaylee in the whole "shy" bit, but she's just got that kind of face, I guess. Grew quite a bit as a character though.

    Mal: Thanks. I thought it was funny, based on the current arc. :D And Adam does basically play the same character all the time. Even when he had a quick role on CSI: NY, he was the guy who knew about obscure, experimental guns. He'd probably be the only one who actually would fit being portrayed as his stereotype, and play it off as "just can't get out of character, he's played it so much."

    But then, that would be clever.

    As for this comic taking place in the salt flats, isn't Fillion a Canadian? Why would the guy travel to Canada, challenge him to a race, then they all fly out to the salt flats? Annoys the snot out of me that when he's trying to use "real people", Randall never bothered to set the setting!

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  25. In SCC, Glau's character was basically River with a little less screaming and a bit more hyper-literally interpreting everything, and about the same amount of detachment from reality and vague proclamations about things that are going to happen.

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  26. Plus, Fillion **has** moved on. He's playing a novelist in the eponymic "Castle". There's some elements of mal, but mostly because seeing Fillion **not** do a flirty guy would be baffling. But he definitely **NOT** Mal.

    For that matter, Caleb on Buffy wasn't very Mal-like either, and would be much more intriguing to race against.

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  27. 14 episodes eh? You said 11 in the previous post.

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  28. Damien. It was 11 aired on TV, 14 on the DVD collection. Read a little, since someone already said that.

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  29. so I agree the leet series sucked pretty hard but compared to this storyline? Okay I clicked on the link and was wowed by his art because I was fully expecting the art to have been comparatively worse back then, but NO I was wrong.

    I'm just totally bored with this storyline. The top right panel ("no, use my /space/ name!") was pretty amusing though.

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