Thursday, June 18, 2009

Comic 598: Seeing Things Online

oh hey guys, look, randall just discovered sex for the first time again. I assume. It certainly explains his recent fascination with the topic. This one features, yet again, graphic stick figure man-on-woman oral sex, which seems to be all the graphic sex he can draw, oddly. Though he makes up for it by drawing it far more often than I am comfortable with. Oh my, Randall is so awkward about sex, and he doesn't want to be to be seen as so terribly un-PC that he would draw a woman blowing a man, because heavens that is sexist or something. Randall tries to hard to be unsexist, and it shows, so very clearly.

Oh what's that you say? This was a pretty good joke, so I should shut up and admit it? It actually presents a humorous situation with a well executed punchline? Oh well my friend I have something to show you:

Why, it's Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal! Specifically, the one from 5 days ago! Why, they are having awkward sexual encounters because of the poor technology on which they watched pornography a decade earlier. Go. Go on, xkcd-apologists. I know your strategy. Tell me why these jokes are better. Tell me that SMBC isn't popular and no one reads and so Randall doesn't read it so he must have thought of the joke on his own. I am not going to settle for a "Oh well xkcd did it better anyway" because that is not a justification for stealing. So give me your best defense.


  1. Now, I'm not XKCD fan, but I'm willing to bet that Randall had the joke planned further in advance than the SMBC comic was put online. One would think that he writes the comics a bit ahead of time.

    ...Or maybe he didn't. I don't know, but I would imagine that the comics are planned a bit ahead of time.

  2. As shitty as 598 is, I actually liked 599, even though I reflexively rolled my eyes like crazy at it. Of course I am a complete math nerd and have similar aspirations towards acquiring a minimal Erdös number. (And the alt text actually added to it.)

    I can understand people outside of math-nerddom thinking it's shit though, because it's still just stupid nichey reference humor.

  3. Carl I agree with you most of the time but it is possible for two different people to come up with related ideas separately.

    Also the post seems rather short today, you should perhaps try to ignore the SMBC comic and judge the comic on its own merits.

  4. I don't read SMBC normally and so I didn't know about the "convergent joke" thing and even then I still thought 598 was shit even on its own.

    LOL dude looks at porn so much he thinks real sex will be just like porn INCLUDING THE MPEG ARTIFACTING LOLOLOLOLOL XD XD XD

    Really it is also an old joke that was a staple of 80s sit-coms in a way, like a dude[tte] would be having a birthday party and a police[wo]man would show up and the dude[tte] would think they were a stripper because that is what happens in porn. I seem to recall that joke being used on Roseanne, Three's Company, and Perfect Strangers.


  5. First off: yes it is. Doing something better is a perfectly fine justification for imitation of the premise. Say someone makes a zombie movie. Then YOU make a zombie movie, except yours is better. (Hint: this has been done.) Does the fact that someone else had a movie based on a similar premise invalidate your better one? I say it does not.

    The same can be said for all sorts of things. Is HDTV crap simply because someone else already thought of forming moving images out of light? Is the internal combustion engine crap simply because steam engines already used pressure to drive machinery? "Xkcd did it better anyway" is TOTALLY a legitimate defense, assuming it's true.

    To be fair, I'm not sure it is. I greatly enjoyed both the xkcd and SMBC versions, and while I think the xkcd version was slightly better, I recognize that that's jsut a matter of taste. (The size of the screen seemed, to me, a more forced source of humor than video compression).

    I love xkcd and SMBC, and await updates of each with childlike glee. They both made a good joke, and I laughed both times. It's possible to have too much of a good thing, but I don't think 2 comics is enough to break that barrier.

  6. I agree with fluffy on 599. I know 99% of the world wouldn't get the joke, and so would probably hate it (and of course, the delivery could be better), but it got a genuine chuckle from me. I didn't see the last panel coming, and it was actually pretty funny.

  7. I think at best 99% of the world would have a third-order relation to someone who got it OH SNAP

  8. i think i need more booze

  9. I disagree with fluffy. I knew what he was talking about right away, since I'm a second-year math major. I just think it was an incredibly poor joke that he's done twice before, and with less waste of space.

  10. and i meant 1% would have a third-order relation to someone who got it

  11. well Malethoth what's YOUR erdös number, HM? mine's 3 if you count patents

  12. RE: Planning jokes ahead of time, I cannot believe that Randall does that. The fact that they're never edited, and frequently shoddy obvious mistakes show up in the posted product and are quickly erased when fans point it out... It seems that there's a pretty short time between a strip's conception and its publication.

  13. mine's infinity since i have not published yet

  14. but anyway yeah it's just dumb reference humor but it's dumb reference humor I like.

    maybe I won't when I'm sober again

    i swear i am not poore

  15. i mean I also like that Robot Chicken segment where the swedish chef is rhyming things with "bork" solely because it referenced Zork and robot chicken is sort of the xkcd of cable television

  16. to me it was dumb reference humor that i didn't like

    but seriously props to that first panel. it is really quite good.

  17. Like I said in the previous topic, I'm willing to give Randall the benefit of the doubt FOR NOW because it is actually possible that he got the idea separately, and SMBC isn't exactly of Penny Arcade fame or anything (like with the damned Google Directions comic or whatever it was), but it's still weird that it's the second time in a short while that he posted a comic that's the exact same thing as a competing comic posted days earlier. Three strikes you're out, Randall.

    The "I make the man go down on the woman because I'm not sexist" theory is good, but I still stick with the "I make the man go down on the woman because that way women who read my comic will see that I'm way into giving them head."

    I didn't get the Erdös one, but reading about the numbers it's actually pretty good, as far as recent XKCD's go. It's too long and everything, but still. That first panel is pretty great.

  18. Man, 599 startet out pretty good (That art! Seriously!) But unfortunately, similarly to 567, it turns into a joke about "hey, when something extraordinary were to happen, we could totally use it for something no one expected!"
    Due to a few wikipedia binges, I actually understood the point of this comic (being "lets get the lowest Erdős-Bacon Number, hurr hurr"), and I believe it is horrible. Come on Randy, you had such a good premise! Even 397 managed to deal with "resurrected science people" in a better way.

    I have absolutely no hopes whatsoever on monday's special 600th edition. The last few comics managed to destroy any hope for a "good one" here. But hey! If we're lucky, we will get a fake "epic" one , involving Rickrolling, /b/ and Firefly _at_the_same_time_!!!

  19. Randall has said he uses a 2-3 week buffer. It's not impossible that he's copied SMBC and stuffed the comic up early (he's overridden the buffer to comment on recent events before), but I don't see why he would. So I'm going to give him benefit of the doubt on this one.

  20. I linked that comic . . .

    Thanks for the mention.

    Anyway, today's comic, 599, features some decent art for once. Some frames actually have a horizon line.

    Unfortunately, the joke is really obscure, and after looking the guy up on wikipedia, it doesn't seem any funnier than it was to begin with. After a quick trip to the forums, and actually understanding the joke, it's no funnier than it was to start with. I think there are at least a dozen ways the comic could have parodied the dead coming back that didn't suck.

    The sticks are a bit less floaty on chairs, but they still aren't touching them.

  21. Bad thing you think of yourself as so clever, Carl, but I'm better than you! See, an underground Icelandic cartoonist made a comic strip for an underground Icelandic college paper that is barely, just superficially, marginally similar to the xkcd strip! And he did that just THREE days ago! And you know it's quite clearly a rip-off, because when you plagiarise someone's comic, you publish it JUST IMMEDIATELY AFTER the plagiarised work, instead of maybe waiting a couple of weeks!
    Bah, what does that Randall guy know about comic strips? Doesn't he know that any comic that touches the Internet porn topic will be mandatorily a plagiarism of that comic you posted? Oh, look, the newest comic features a cemetary (sic!), so it's a rip off of the Coldplay song 'Cemeteries of London', which came out JUST ONE YEAR ago! What a rip off.

  22. Randall is completely obsessed with portraying stick figure cunnilingus. I think that's an attempt to impress THE LADIES (Megan).

  23. I think it's just easier to draw without enhancing the stick-figure anatomy. After all, you complain about the chairs-not-touching thing, right?

  24. Wow, people are really hatin' on Carl today.

    I don't think Randy stole the joke, but I will say that the SMBC is way, WAY funnier than the xkcd on the same topic. Heck, I'm going to say that SMBC is way funnier than xkcd 100% of the time.

  25. From 2003:

    From 2007:

  26. @Anon 6:05: that is exactly the same. exactly.

  27. Not exactly the same. The SMBC version is punchier and more concise and not obsessed with making sure the joke is explained thoroughly when it doesn't need explanation.

  28. oh and now that I'm a bit more sober, yeah, 599 is dumb.

  29. I'm just here to say that you shouldn't hotlink images from other sites. It'll eat up his bandwidth.


    1) linking to the page actually takes more bandwidth than linking to the page

    2) at least in the case of xkcd, Randall ENCOURAGES hotlinking

    3) hotlink prevention is an utterly trivial process and SMBC doesn't seem to mind hotlinks either, and really most webcomic creators don't mind it because it's essentially free advertising for the comic itself. Copying the image makes it harder for people to find where it came from.

    4) bandwidth is goddamn cheap these days

  31. oh and 5) I am sure both xkcd and smbc have way more readers than xkcdsucks and so if a couple of hotlinks from here are a problem then maybe they should get better website hosting seeing as how that's an important investment into their respective businesses

  32. Woot, I got the joke of 599 without looking! I feel so smart. Therefore I won't be hating on it.

  33. Mal I'm a second-year math major toooooo let's be friends!

    Fred: Yes. He might also just find the concept of cunnilingus funny. I think it is more to impress the females.

    Fernie: Way to miss the entire point.

    fluffy: "1) linking to the page actually takes more bandwidth than linking to the page" What? (are you sure you are sober)

    Also from now on whenever you think xkcd is funny I will just assume you are drunk.

  34. I liked 599. It was pretty solid in my opinion.

  35. Randall both knows about, and reads, SMBC, just FYI. He and Zach have met before.

  36. I think 599 is pretty good. Yeah, it feels 'done before', but the Erdos number isn't really that obscure. Anyone who got the occasional math joke in the earlier ones would have a decent chance of hearing of it at some point or another.

    But the art is above average, compared to recent strips, the joke is entertaining (although probably too drawn out) , and there's no painful stick figure secks. Maybe it's just lowered expectations, but it's not bad.

  37. amanda: If you link to a page and someone follows that link, they end up loading not just the image but all the other stuff on the page (other images, HTML, whatever Javascript includes there are, etc.).

    Okay, so loading a page with a hotlinked image means that the image will definitely be loaded and just linking to the page won't be, but one would hope that people are following that link to the other page. Oh, and if they follow a link to a page from a hotlinked image, that image will already be in their cache.

  38. I think that you meant to say "image" instead of the second time you said "page" (in the part of what you said that I quoted)?

  39. Oh, yes, I see that now. Yeah, that's what I meant.

    Basically I was hamfistedly trying to point out that no matter how you decide to propagate understanding of a webcomic, you are going to be costing that webcomic bandwidth, and a visual propagation of that is better advertising for the comic anyway.

    Also, webcomic creators tend to prefer a link (hot- or otherwise) over, say, the image being copied to someone else's webhost, which is an actual copyright violation (since it's copying data) which also potentially strips away the implicit attribution per the server the image is coming from.

  40. Jokes do not always originate with that one thing you saw that one time, and everyone doesn't go through the same exact set of experiences as you do which allows you to be sure they ripped something off of what you think they did.

    If a joke is dumb just call it dumb, but people aren't as creative as you think and similar ideas are used all the time. When Kill Bill came out, an army of webcomic creators all accused each other of plagiarism because they all came up with the same tiny cut leads to massive bloodloss joke, none of them realizing it was just an obvious idea. Unless someone is tracing panels or doing 1:1 copies of dialog, drop the stolen joke criticisms.

  41. I will give 599 credit that it doesn't feature more painful sex jokes, but the joke is just so, so lame.

  42. As somebody mentioned earlier, the whole hotlinking issue is moot. xkcdsuck's footprint is far too small to be of any significance. This isn't like Penny Arcade, where a single link in a news post, hidden amongst multiple paragraphs of other links, can easily "wang" and crash a site with the influx of visitors.

  43. I honestly want to know what everyone bases their criteria for whether or not these comics are good.

    Does "good" mean in relation to his past 5 or so? Does "good" mean when he spends more than 8 seconds drawing a panel? Does "good" mean he uses a random math/science topic?

    This comic is not good. I challenge anyone who thinks it is to a battle of wits.

    He spent a few minutes drawing an apocalypse scene in the first panel, then farted out the same low grade art. He took a concept about some math thing and had the guy going around so that he could get his Erdos number at 1.

    So it becomes:
    Step 1: he heard about the erdos number and found out Erdos is dead
    Step 2: found out in the math community people want a low erdos number, 1 being the lowest and the only way is to get erdos to be in on a proof with you
    Step 3: found out Erdos is dead, the only way to get step 2 is to have him come back to life.

    Here's a proof for everyone: if math reference, then unfunny. if shitty art, then lazy illustrator. since xkcd = math references + shitty art, then xkcd = an unfunny cartoon with a lazy illustrator.

    This is not funny, this is not good. If your basis for judging this is his previous few cartoons, then thats like saying shit smells good compared to vomit.

  44. 10:16 anonymous, this isn't some big news or cultural event. This is so small it's something Randall would only have come up with if he saw it somewhere else.

    It has the exact same premise and punchline. He didn't even have the decency to wait a week.

  45. Randy is a known talentless hack and plagiarist. While he may have his comics queued up in advance, I highly doubt it--I suspect he does them at about 10 pm the night before unless he comes up with something really good before that. They are short enough he doesn't need a buffer to keep updating on time.

    BY THE WAY ROB FANS: 599 is the first comic you can legitimately claim that I didn't like because I didn't get it! I just kind of stared blankly for a while then was like 'uh, okay.'

  46. Mike G.: if you don't like math references or stick figures, xkcd is not the comic for you.

    I mean, for fuck's sakes, at least Carl has the decency to pretend to be part of the target audience. And to have liked some of the xkcd comics at some point in the distant past.

  47. Anon: I do like a lot of his cartoons. I have a poster of his internet map and a print of the ball pit. That stuff was solidly good. There have been few of these cartoons that I haven't understood, this being one of them but I was a fan of his.

    You're right about one thing, this comic is not for me. It WAS for me, but it is not anymore. Mostly because its unfunny and targets 14 year olds who think they're the smartest freshman in high school because they know a little python and researched mysql injection.

    and on a side not, no one likes stick figures. math references, i highly enjoy, i just don't see any humor in this.

    P.S. why are people commenting anon? leave a name or something to identify yourself.

  48. ... thus the term "Cuddlefish" was born!

  49. Rob: The fact that you think you are important enough that we would point fingers at you and mock you for not getting the joke shows at best a horrible amount of sheer arrogance on your part and at worst brain damage which may lead to death.

    Obviously, since you did not get the joke, you were not in the target audience and have no right to criticize the joke. IDIOT.

  50. Ok, me. Have it my way.

    And, BTW, I am not the ultimate authority on whether anyone likes or dislikes stick figures.

  51. Carl make this a forum. Carl make this a forum. Carl make this a forum.

    @Amanda: how was Cuddlefish born?

  52. lol two up is not me. i hate this, carl make this a forum so this doesn't happen.

    but you're right, doppelganger, i am not the authority. but i am awesome.

  53. I asked for this to happen.

    (ok, I promise, no more)

  54. CAD is a comic that targets mostly moronic fanboy "hardcore" gamers.
    Does that mean it's immune to criticism?

    Shredded Moose is a comic that targets mostly misogynistic frat members with no sense of humour or quality or morality.
    Does that mean it's immune to criticism?

  55. ahh thanks amanda.

    sometimes i wonder why i care so much about this stupid shit... yet i press on. i think i have a psychological disorder.

  56. Re "make this a forum" I have a forum at and there is a section for xkcd (inside the "comics" section, obviously). If people want to go there or whatever. I don't really care.

  57. 11:03 anon: um obviously I am referring to MY FANS not you, you big fatty fat fat

  58. and by 'referring to' i mean 'speaking to' SHUT UP

  59. Ideally yes fluffy, but it would be impossible to migrate the users here to that one. i think this site should be converted from a blog to a forum while somehow maintaining the url.

    carl's posts are good, but the infrequency that they update combined with a difficulty to follow conversations here makes this more ideal for a forum.

    @Tim: i'm not sure what you're argument is. Do you think there should be and Who said anything was immune to criticism (i'm honestly curious not trying to be mean).

  60. Well it is impossible to add a forum to a page, since blogger doesn't support anything other than simple blogging. So no matter what there would be a domain change involved.

  61. oh wow I just found out that actually exists and is even stupider than xkcd somehow

  62. Carl Wheeler waited. The lights above him blinked and sparked out of the air. There were fanboys in the blog. He didn't see them, but had expected them now for years. His warnings to Fernie Canto were not listenend to and now it was too late. Far too late for now, anyway.
    Carl was a blogger for fourteen months. When he was young he read the xkcds and he said to dad "I want to be on the fora daddy."
    Dad said "No! You will BE KILL BY FANBOYS"
    There was a time when he believed him. Then as he got oldered he stopped. But now in the base of the XKCD-SUCKS blog he knew there were fanboys.
    "This is Mike" the radio crackered. "You must fight the fanboys!"
    So Carl gotted his computer and mocked the fora.
    "HE GOING TO INSULT US" said the fanboys
    "I will call him a troll" said the cyberphile fanboy and he flamed him. Carl blogged at him and tried to make him look stupid. But then the ceiling fell and they were trapped and not able to kill.
    "No! I must kill the fanboys" he shouted
    The radio said "No, Carl. You are the fanboys"
    And then Carl was a Randall.

  63. fluffy where the hell have you been, didn't we discover that site like a month ago

    if not then woops

    11:30 Cuddlefish, you forgot to incorporate zombies into your story. It is thus a literary FAILURE.

  64. and are both available. carlllllllll.

  65. I don't read every thread religiously

  66. therein lies your greatest mistake ever. You SHOULD.

  67. @Mike G:

    "Obviously, since you did not get the joke, you were not in the target audience and have no right to criticize the joke. IDIOT."

  68. Not everyone reads these threads religiously? So there are people who DONT refresh this every 15 seconds?

    hah i kid i kid. thanks Tim, that clears it up. personally, as long as you're an educated human i think you have the right to criticize a joke. if someone doesn't understand something, its the author's fault.

    man i am fucking BORED at work, ready to start this weekend already.

  69. Mike G stfu some of us get email updates okay

    I am bored as well =(

  70. Since you didn't think it was funny, you have no right to criticize the joke. IDIOT.

  71. Amanda stfu some of us don't okay


    and if you don't get email updates you should to join the ranks of the extremely-bored-and-obsessed

  73. I get email updates on threads I'm paying attention to but lately a lot of (i.e. most) threads have just degraded to HURR HURR FARRRRT and so I stop subscribing to the updates

  74. oh yea amanda, every anonymous post since 514 has been me. every single one of them. ive even tirelessly maintained conversations with myself to convince others that it isnt me.

    i also killed carl 4 months ago. his body is lying fetal position in my closet. i've been maintaining this blog myself actually.

    jesus i dont even know what im talking about anymore. i need beers.

  75. I got to "i also killed carl 4 months ago" and immediately thought "so that's why the blog hasn't updated!".

  76. Shit -does- smell god compared to vomit, dammit!

  77. Anon 11:03: Not being part of the target audience does not mean you can't criticise the joke. Criticism isn't limited to whether you like it or not, it can also factor in the merit of the target and the quality of execution. Of course, I also don't see Rob actually criticising the joke in 599, just saying he didn't get it. I did get 599 (if you count my undergraduate senior project, my number is either 3 or 4) and it's still not very good. My thoughts on 599:

    I laughed a bit at the reference to Paul Erdos and beret guy, but that's just like laughing at an inside joke or running gag. The thing about an inside joke or running gag is that it's not a joke in itself, it's funny because, man, wasn't it funny when it happened the first time? So, the pleasure of a reference comes in three parts:
    1) The humor of the original (not your copy)
    2) Being part of the inner circle (appeal to pride)
    3) The wit in coming up with it spontaneously, which only applies to a comic if it actually happened (cf. 597 being funnier if it actually happened)
    So, a reference can be icing on the cake, but isn't enough if the cake itself is bad.

    And the joke itself isn't very well done. As pointed out by others, it's dragged out too long. Keep the first four panels, then have panel 5 or 7 for a beat, then the last panel. Alternatively, have the drawing out be part of the joke (e.g. as in the Achewood parody, 141), but that would require at least 2 more lines worth of frames.

    The joke is also essentially the same as 567 and similar to 593, but I don't know if that's frequent enough to criticize the repetition. I also won't say that the general theme of taking something far too seriously is over used in xkcd because that's part of xkcd's schtick so liking that is more a matter of whether you're the target audience or not. However, the whole idea is so much a part of xkcd that you basically knew what the joke would be by the third panel at the latest, the only thing left was to guess exactly what he'd reference. So, I will say that it seems like a sign that Randall is running out of ideas. It's like shows on TV: after a few seasons, you just get the feeling that the writers have explored every aspect of the characters and they either need to introduce something new (change their schtick) or recognize they had a good run and move on.

    In 599's favor, I did really like the art in the first panel, and have no problem with the stick figures in the rest of it. That's actually very classic xkcd (cf. 59, 77).

    As for 598, it would actually be good if it weren't for the long chain of sex jokes and the SMBC connection. As for those who think SMBC isn't relevant enough to be copied by xkcd, I was first introduced to SMBC by an ad on, so it's only 2 steps.

  78. Way Walker: wow. A big response to a clear troll post. I put in a massively transparent piece of irony in it, and you totally missed it.

  79. Thats a pretty damn good summary Way. There's actually not much left that can be said at all about this cartoon after reading that.

  80. Holy crap guys, SMBC turns out to be awesome. Why did it take until a crappy XKCD comic for me to come across it?

  81. SMBC gives me a "Far Side" vibe, if Gary Larson was drunk, and had absolutely no limits on what he put in his comic.

  82. Since SMBC was originally a single-panel comic... Yeah.

    I generally like Zach Weiner's stuff. Heck, I even thought Captain Excelsior was okay.

  83. Generic Xkcd FanJune 19, 2009 at 3:15 PM

    Zach Weiner

    Hack Weiner

    Hack the Weiner


  84. 599 is awesome. It's absolutely awesome.

    1. The art in Panel 1 is great, and the rest is standard xkcd.

    2. The joke is original and unexpected, and the alt text fits well.

    3. If you're unfamiliar with the concept of the Erdos number (and Erdos-Bacon number, re:alt text), that's fine. The joke involves knowledge of not math per se, but rather of the culture of mathematics. And no, it isn't the kind of thing Munroe would just have learned; it's the kind of thing you know about if you've ever had even a passing interest in math.

  85. 12:53 anon: for what it's worth I thought your 11:03 post was kind of hilarious.

    Way Walker: well articulated (apparently I am feeling nice today)

  86. Not only was that "do you take [name]" joke done before in SMBC, but I'm finally reading SMBC's archives and he did that joke twice.

  87. anyone else have a problem with the kid in the first panel? who the fuck sits like that, especially when they are watching porn?

  88. @PAtrick:

    My degree is CS with a heavy emphasis on mathematics. I took physics for my science credits. I'm pretty much xkcd's core demographic to a tee. I still didn't know about the Erdos number. It's not funny at all if you don't know about the Erdos number, and it's still not funny after you look it up.

    I can understand that it would probably be funnier if I knew beforehand, but your argument is flawed.

    On another subject, "cemetery" was originally misspelled in 599. It's been corrected since. Shocker! Randall needs an editor. (We should meme this. RNAE.)

  89. Generic Xkcd FanJune 19, 2009 at 4:57 PM



  90. I'm with Jay on this one.

  91. Declaring yourself to be "part of the target demographic" just to be able to claim that xkcd has somehow "failed" to reach that demographic is silly.

    Xkcd is and has always been an extremely niche comic. I imagine the only person who finds every single comic side-splittingly hilarious is the author himself. If your mentality, knowledge and sense of humor happens to be close enough to the author's for you to find a majority of the comics funny, lucky you! If others do, lucky them! But xkcd has never promised to be a comic for everyone, and is in fact quite unashamedly the opposite.

    Xkcd is not published in a newspaper. It does not take up space that could be better used to accommodate a more generally appealing comic. If nobody but the author and his roommate find the comic funny, so be it. There are hundreds of unpopular webcomics that attract no more than a few dozen regular readers. Apparently, many people do enjoy xkcd, and that's great. But the author has no obligation to a certain audience. No one is paying him to view his work and no one else is harmed by the existence of his website. So you like the old comics but not the new ones? That's nice--some people may like the math jokes but not the sex jokes, or the single-panel comics but not the sequential ones, but the author has no obligation to any of them.

    The comic isn't "for" a certain set of people, who can then fail to be served. The comic is for people who like the jokes xkcd tells. If you don't like the jokes and observations, then you are not a part of that audience. You're free to explain why you're not a part of that audience and how the comic could change to please you, but don't pretend you've somehow been cheated, let down or betrayed. Don't pretend that you're "part of the target audience." The target audience for this type of media is anyone who likes the jokes, not some predetermined socio-economic group.

  92. Memes are not niche. Squashed ya.

  93. So what you're saying, Chris, is that "the comic's intended audience is people who like the comic; if you don't like it then you aren't part of the intended audience, which is why you don't like the comic."

    Isn't that a little circular?

    Aren't you a little stupid?

  94. I wonder if Carl will have anything bad to say about 599. That one was one of those memorable xkcd comics.

    And with that, I must ammend my zombie survival plan.

  95. And, of course, just because the comic doesn't go out of its way to appeal to a target demographic doesn't mean it's not bad.

    If we just say "We can't fault a comic for only appealing to its target demographic" AND "This comic's target demographic is people who like the comic," then the comic is completely immune to criticism.

    Just because something is free doesn't mean that it's on some golden pedestal of critical immunity.

  96. At Malethoth.

    Dawg, if you're running a webcomic that comes out at set times every week, you probably have several comics written before the actual day of the comic. Otherwise, if anything came up (and it does), you'd miss a day.

    Randall hasn't missed a day as long as I've been a fan.

    @Rob. I'm sorry but that made no sense. How are you going to call him stupid? His statements made perfect sense.

  97. Also, sorry for replying to such an old post. I mixed up the way these posts were ordered. (I thought the newest were on top)

  98. They have the times and dates right under them. Seriously.

  99. @Onyebuchi:

    Consistency != quality. If Randy updates three times a week, but it's shit, then all he does is consistently make shit. And even babies do that. Zach Weiner updates SMBC every fucking day, has real art, and is usually funny. Randall is a lazy hack.

  100. @anonymous--And yet the people who enjoy jokes that are little more than an acknoledgement of the meme are few. Hence, niche comic. No squashing involved.

    You've added that last bit to my argument in order to make it circular. Never did I say, "...which is why you don't like the comic." I said that claiming to be part of the "target audience" in order to somehow lend your criticisms more weight is silly--the comic is shared freely so that people who like it can enjoy it. Acting cheated or betrayed in this situation is disingenuous.


    I never said we can't fault the comic for only appealing to its target demographic. I was, in fact, trying to imply that the very concept of "being part of the target demographic" as a means to increase or decrease the validity of one's criticisms is absurd with regard to this type of media. The author draws things he finds funny or interesting for the benefit of anyone who also finds them funny or interesting. There's nothing wrong with explaining why you disagree that these things are funny/interesting; all I'm saying is that the author has not betrayed you or failed you. If you don't find it funny, by all means explain why, but don't act as though the author has somehow failed in his obligations to you as a member of some group. He has no such obligations--even though a commercial author might.

  101. Christ people you fill up the comments fast.

  102. Re: Apocalypse

    What a long buildup for a really lame joke.

    I'm just glad I read Erdos's wiki article a few months back. Come to think of it, for a Liberal Arts major with practically no training in math, engineering or computer science, I still "get" even the most nerdy of xkcd strips.

    So really, I think accusations of the references in xkcd being too obscure are a bit unfounded.

  103. Jesus Christ I am so fucking tired of the stupid niche comic argument.

    xkcd is not a niche comic and here is why:


    Source: Alexa and that shit.

    The word 'niche' means it is targetted at a small and specific demographic. That is what it means.

    xkcd is targeted at geeks. That is it. That is its target demographic.

    Geeks are not, and HAVE NEVER BEEN, a small demographic on the internet. Which is, as you might be aware, where xkcd appears.

    If xkcd were a print comic, in say a real newspaper along with shit like Garfield, then you might have a legitimate argument.



    Please never say those words again.

    Carry on.

  104. My point is that xkcd HAPPENS to be the most popular webcomic because many people like it--good for them. It wasn't contracted or commissioned and many people liking it does NOT imply that you can feel cheated if you don't like it too. As I have been saying, it represents what the author finds interesting and/or funny. The fact that many people agree with him changes nothing. There is not some predefined group of which one can claim to be a member that obligates the author to appeal to you. The comic is shared for the benefit of whoever likes it. How many people that happens to be makes no difference. If you're not one of them, you can certainly explain why, but don't pretend that you somehow "deserve" to be critical more than someone else who doesn't like it. Someone who doesn't like the comic simply doesn't like the comic. No one is more or less 'qualified' to dislike it, and people should stop pretending they are.

    Also, why are you so mean to me, Jay?

  105. I never said we can't fault the comic for only appealing to its target demographic. I was, in fact, trying to imply that the very concept of "being part of the target demographic" as a means to increase or decrease the validity of one's criticisms is absurd with regard to this type of media.

    Well, see, there are a bunch of Cuddlefish who say that people just don't like xkcd because they're not in the target audience, so they couldn't possibly get it, and so their criticisms are irrelevant.

    The logical response is to say "No, I'm in the target audience, it's just that the joke sucked balls."

  106. Also I wouldn't trust Alexa rankings, especially if they say that xkcd is more popular than Penny Arcade. I know in my gut that no webcomic has superseded its titanic status.

  107. Onebyuseless: "Dawg, if you're running a webcomic that comes out at set times every week, you probably have several comics written before the actual day of the comic. Otherwise, if anything came up (and it does), you'd miss a day."

    you really think that?

    (I am calling Chrissy stupid because he is an idiot, though technically you asked me "how," I assume you meant "why," because "how" is the dumbest question you could possibly be asking right now.

  108. Rob: I'm not sure why you've so quickly come to have such a violent hatred for me, but I hope we can work past it.

    In any case, the 'cuddlefish' you reference, Maletholth, are probably also wrong. My argument is that you are both trying to base your arguments on a distinction, being a part of the 'target audience' that simply doesn't exist. Xkcd is shared for whoever might take pleasure from it. Were it published in, say, a magazine, the author would perhaps have an obligation to please the readers of that magazine--but no such condition applies. The cuddlefish are making a stupid argument by saying that "only those in the target audience will get it" because the 'target audience' for something like this IS whoever gets it. If they claimed "all geeks would get it and love it" then you would be right to contest that point by claiming to be a geek yourself. But the 'target audience' claim is stupid, and should be attacked for that reason rather than undermined by claiming membership in the group.

  109. Yeah, to be honest Chris, I only skimmed what you wrote, so we might not even disagree. I just know that you (and some other people) said two of my least favorite words.

    Rob seems to know what's going on, so I will now leave you in his capable hands.

  110. @malethoth i just got back from a party where i had too much to drink so i can comment here atagain

    and i forget what i was going to say

    wait i mean uh

    yeah do a google search on 'webcomic' and tell me what the first few hits are because for me it is:

    1. Ctrl+Alt+Del
    2. wikipedia's article on webcomics
    3. xkcd
    4. a site about webcomics
    5. webcomics nation (like keenspace for people who aren't 7-titted dicknipple wolves)
    6. google chrome (what)
    7. some gneeric webcomic cms software
    8. irregular webcomic BECAUSE LEGOS MAKE EVERYTHING BETTER and fuck you i will call them LEGOS not LEGO(TM) BRICKS
    9. some piece of shit star wars fan comic thing

    okay fuck you internet you make me angry

  111. okay Chris because I am feeling generous today I will explain what is wrong with your reasoning here, apart from being misdirected.

    Let's look at Penny-Arcade for an example. I think we can all agree that the target audience for PA is gamers. Now, there are those who dislike Penny-Arcade. Those who dislike it because they are not gamers, simply fall outside of the target audience. They most likely dislike it simply because it focuses on video games too much. (Rather like my experience with 599, where I just was not familiar with the material in the least, and chose not to comment on the joke.) Those who dislike it and are gamers, however, must take issue with some other aspect of it.

    Your definition is not so much target audience--ie, who he is trying to reach--but the 'hit' audience--ie, those who he has already reached.

    Now, a criticism that is frequently leveled against the good people of xkcdsucks is 'you just aren't part of the target audience.' This is sometimes a legitimate claim. I once knew someone who watched the movie 300, knowing full well it would be nothing but cheesy battle sequences, who dislikes movies that are nothing but cheesy battle sequences and wants there to be a deep plot with vast political intrigue. They didn't go to mock, but in the expectation they would enjoy it on its own merits.

    In sum, this person was (a) a dumbass for going to the movie in the first place, (b) not part of the target audience. The criticism he leveled against it was essentially that he didn't like the genre. In some cases you just need to find another movie.

    A common subset of this accusation is that if you dislike a joke, you simply don't "get" it because of not being part of the target audience. This is an obvious sham of a claim that needs to be torn down. And it is true that xkcd's target audience is very broad--it is basically just "internet/nerd culture," and everyone who comments on this blog easily qualifies as part of that. But nevertheless, refuting specific claims, even when they are utterly baseless, is helpful in making the fanboys look even dumber than they already do.

  112. (by the way it isn't violent hatred it is just general abuse because I think I thought I probably maybe remembered you being an xkcd fan in the past.)

  113. Thank you. (I'm not being sarcastic.)

    Now, I don't know about Penny-Arcade. I don't like it much, so I don't read it and as such can't really come to any conclusions. But as to xkcd:

    Xkcd is extremely eclectic, and no one specialty or subject is the focus of all the comics. 'Computer nerds' are not the target audience--they would not necessarily get the jokes about physics. Physics nerds might miss the jokes about Erdos, mathematicians might miss the ones about language, linguists the ones about engineeering, and any of the above might miss the jokes about firefly. The observations about floor tiles require the reader to have constructed similar rules. To fully appreciate, the comics require knowledge of certain memes and internet phenomena, recognition of certain people and a specific level of knowledge in a variety of fields. But there is no predetermined connection between the various subject matter except that they are things the author knows and finds interesting. Xkcd's "target audience" is, if anything, people with the same particular interests and knowledge as the author.

    It happens to often be about "geek culture" because that is something the author enjoys, but sometimes it's something else. Computer science enthusiasts happen to enjoy the comic because they tend to share many of the same interests that fascinate the author. But the comic has never been "meant" for them, not the way Penny-Arcade is meant for gamers.

    Xkcd is a comic many "geek culture" people enjoy, but it is not targeted to a particular group. It is meant for whoever happens to find the same things interesting. That this author's particular collection of interests happens to draw a large following doesn't change this. You're absolutely right that the xkcd apologists claiming that 'You are not the intended audience and not being part of said audience invalidates your criticism' are ridiculous. A 'target audience' assumes that a work was made with a particular group of people in mind, with an aim to please that group--xkcd is simply the author's whims shared on the internet. That other people enjoy reading them is entirely coincidental (and quite unusual, as far as this style of web comic goes). Instead, if the people think that a particular bit of knowledge is a prerequisite to understanding the joke, they could point out that you lack that trivia. But the point is that even if they were right, that would not invalidate your objections. "I didn't like this comic because I didn't know what firefly was" is every bit as valid as "I didn't like this comic because I thought the characters were totally unrealistic."

    But you are right-- the "target audience" claims of the xkcd apologists are silly. And I'm all for refuting them. My only point is that not all refutations are created equal, and striking down the base of the argument is generally better than accepting the premises and making an argument there. An analogous situation would be this:

    A racist man comes up to you and says "Black people are inferior to white people because their hair catches fire more easily." While you could argue against the specific claim of relative hair inflammability, you'd be better off explaining that a person's worth is not derived from the inflammability of their hair. While they MAY be objectively wrong about the hair-catching-fire-thing, they bigger point is that it doesn't matter.

    Such is the case here. The apologists may be wrong about whether or not you are part of their notion of the "target audience," but they are more fundamentally wrong about whether that somehow disallows criticism. Even if it's true that people who fit their definition all like it, that doesn't change the fact that you don't and that other come here to see your reasons why.

  114. So chris, where does the value of a web /comic/ come from, if not the quality of its jokes? And in the case of xkcd the quality is often poor, if the joke even exits.

  115. *exists, dumbass

  116. Dude, no commenter should be required to be concise. It is the motherfucking intertoobs, after all.

  117. Ok, can I just say something?

    A comic that is as immensely popular as xkcd is not a niche comic. Clearly there are plenty of people reading it, using that as universal argument is bullshit.

  118. I agree with Malekoth about the erdos comic - why the panels of running with a piece of paper?

  119. 6:08 anon: That's... kind of the joke?

    Massive buildup to something that is unexpected and seems like a rather strange reaction to something as big as the Apocalypse, which we all know is going to happen very soon.

    Aaaaaaaanny second now... Just you wait.

  120. For my comment on 599 I think it's reasonably decent. The Erdos number isn't particularly obscure and I feel the idea is executed well. I am glad that the comic actually has a punchline for once. Art in the first panel was decent enough and I noticed that he actually drew the border between wall and floor in panel 7. This is good, Randy! Do this more often!

    Things that could be improved:
    - Too many useless panels. Join panels 3 and 4, remove panels 6 and 9.
    - I don't see why he would be shouting 'the dead return' in the start of panel 7. It's the apocalypse so you would assume people would be at least slightly aware of this.
    - The comments made by the people in panel 8 seem unnecessary and detract from the fast-moving nature of the comic.

  121. Also I was wandering around in the store today (Thanks for your incessant reminders that there are signed prints in store, Randy! We never would have noticed any other way!) and he states that he is offering the prints 'Radiohead-style' as in you choose what you pay, the problem with this being that I'm pretty sure Radiohead didn't have a really large minimum price. Sure there is a difference between digital and physical pieces of work but either only charge for materials + shipping (as a minimum) or don't claim that it is Radiohead-style when it in fact isn't.

    That may sound extremely nit-picky of me and that is because it is. What are rant blogs for, eh?

    (also thank you Randall for guaranteeing I will never buy any of your prints ever since you are apparently charging $21 for postage to Australia. Unless the single sheet of laminated plastic or whatever weighs over 1.13 kg there is no reason to be charging that much)

  122. Super Sam: I guess I can agree about panels 3, 4, 6 and 9. However, I feel like panel 7 serves to emphasize the point. I don't think panel 8 detracts; you could tell that stickman was in a rush, so if your brain was functioning at all in the least, I'm thinking you should have automatically read the comments in a hurried tone.

    But that's just me.

  123. @fluffy - The first result for me for "webcomic" is XKCD D: but at least the first result for "web comic" is Penny Arcade.

    I actually like Penny Arcade. I think the comics are consistently... if not funny, then at least competently executed, since they're relatively savvy guys who've been doing this for a decade and know how to have fun with themselves. I also think the newsposts are generally either funny, interesting, or about PAX or card games or stuff I just sort of skip. So generally I think they're good as well.

    Anyway, I also think it's probably worth distinguishing between the "target audience" (who does Randall want to read xkcd?) the "hit audience" (who already likes xkcd?) and the "ridiculously small subset of the Internet who likes every single fucking one of the jokes" (the group you've been discussing, Chris).

    Well, it WOULD be worth distinguishing if we gave a shit about any of those audiences.

  124. Here is my idea:
    A stick-figure webcomic about Randy Monra by Randall Munroe.
    The characters so far:
    Randy Monra: He's childish and smart and sarcastic but he gets all the women. He wears a black-hat.
    Megan: The sassy female friend of Randy. She has not had sex with him but finds him attractive.

  125. Someone tell me if this is a good idea for a parody comic.

  126. Parodying Least I Could Do is unnecessary since Smug I Could Do already exists.

    (Mostly I wanted to link to SICD.)

  127. Yes but this would also be a parody of xkcd.

    And other terrible/over-rated webcomics.

  128. Carl I just realized your thumbnail doesn't actually link to xkcd.

    Chris, Jay is not mean to anyone. At all.

    Also do black people's hair really catch fire more easily than white people? This calls for an experiment!

    And xkcd's target audience has now changed to "people who like to feel like they are smart because they can wiki something that a comic referenced and then go OH HO HOOOOOO I GET IT ha ha so funny now I shall link this to everyone I know." So I guess I am not insulted if you tell me I am not in the target audience?

    Super Sam: edit the comic! Post it on xkcd: Could be better! You will reach internet fame in no time.

  129. I think every artist has a target in mind when they create a work of art. This target could have been chosen to fit a particular target audience, or we can define the target audience as those who could reasonably be expected to like a work made with that target in mind. In either case, we have our target audience. The hit audience is then largely determined by the quality of the execution.

    I think part of criticism is discussing the merit of the chosen target, but its main purpose is to discuss the execution. In other words, the main purpose of criticism is to discuss in what ways a particular work succeeded or failed in reaching the target.

    To do this, you don't need to be part of the target audience (i.e. someone who could be expected to enjoy the work) but you do need to "get it" in the sense that you need to have the right target in mind (e.g. you need to understand why this joke would be funny, even if it doesn't fit your style of humor). Being part of the target audience helps because it means you "get it", but isn't necessary.

    Also, I think there's a mistake in saying the people here at xkcd sucks aren't part of the target audience of xkcd. I think many of us came to xkcd sucks by first enjoying xkcd, which is a pretty good argument in favor of us being part of the target audience.

    cf. = confer, "compare"
    I think I maybe used it incorrectly there and e.g. may have been more appropriate.

  130. Okay Amanda I have done this YOU BETTER START WORSHIPPING ME

    In addition to my already listed changes I removed the second last panel just because I could and changed a few minor things (such as actually attaching heads).

    fear my mspaint ability

  131. I would just like to say that it is hilarious to see the xkcd fans trying to DEFEND PLAGIARISM. Sorry, guys, but this is absolutely fucking pathetic. Even assuming that this is a coincidence, and that Randall did not steal the idea (the joke has been done before plenty of times), I still find his execution to be lacking, and his version of the joke a bit overlong.

  132. Oh also, I noticed that this blog has about 5x more comments than normal after the xkcd forumites caught wind of it. The thought of a bunch of self-righteous nerds quivering with rage as their RSS feed updates with the newest xkcd sucks post is enough to make me giggle with glee far more than xkcd itself has ever made me!

  133. And you're not a nerd, Eric?

  134. WW: cf. is best used slightly ironically anyway

    Chris: you are not going to convince anyone that xkcd's target audience is the people who like the jokes.

  135. Thought I give 599 a shot at an actual edit (for the lulz)... I got slightly carried away.

  136. If it wasn't for the fact I'm not in it, I could love you.

  137. Rob: Yeah, I think most people use it ironically, but I picked it up in academia so I'm not used to using it ironically.

  138. sam, that comic is probably the most accurate depiction of me I've ever seen. holy crap. that was awesome.

  139. That was great, sam.

    hey carl why are wasting time commenting when NEW PAGE ARGH I DEMAND TO KNOW YOUR OPINION FOREVER

  140. @Mooseman: you can be the guy in the beret if you like. That's the wonder of non-descript stick figures!

    Also I don't know why I made poore a short angry man but it just seemed to fit him perfectly.

    CAPTCHA: clasi (which is what my comic was)

  141. @ Last Anonymous: No, I don't deny it one bit, but I certainly don't try to defend plagiarists, nor do I sweat with rage when someone provides a legitimate argument against something I enjoy.

    Why are the xkcd fans even posting here if they disagree so vehemently with Carl's/Rob's/etc. opinions? They level the same argument towards the xkcd detractors yet seem to fail to realise that it works the other way around. The whole point of this blog is to poke holes in what is largely (and incorrectly) seen as one of the untouchable bastions of the webcomic scene, as well as to offer some advice for Randall to improve his comic, advice he increasingly needs as the comic has become more and more cringe-worthy over the last year or so. You may continue to argue, but your arguments are falling on deaf ears, because the supporters of xkcd sucks have already made up their minds. Do you expect your measly defense of Randall's pandering and thievery is really going to change any minds? It seems to me like the goal is really to constantly reassure yourselves of his reign as Webcomic God.

  142. If on Monday, Randall posted a picture of a child's penis as the update, he would lose exactly one fan.

  143. Also do black people's hair really catch fire more easily than white people? This calls for an experiment!

    Awesome idea.

  144. Super Sam: Holy shit that was awesome.
    I too thought of the recent SMBC when I saw's fishy, very fishy.
    I also felt that the format was a lot like A Softer World.
    But it was shittier than both of those comics.

    Talking of fishy, I'm really getting sick of this recent move into...I'm dubbing it sexkcd and I'm hoping 599 means no more sex "jokes".

  145. Call it licd.

    (Least I Could Do or LICD for short is an unfunny, very popular Mary-Sue comic about sex)

  146. I love xkcd! It is the funniest website ever, plus Randal's blog is great as well. I hope you all find the good side of xkcd one day and learn to laugh at the images on your computers.

  147. Super Sam, am I to assume you are Clamburger's alter ego?

    Oh wait I guess so HAHA I LOVE YOU

    Also: MSPaint is class. Heads can be connected to bodies, Randall Munroe.

    Dammit Dan, you beat me to dubbing it sexkcd. Raahhh!!!

  148. I love your depiction of poore.

  149. Super Sam's whole comic is fantabulous

  150. Sam if you feel like making it even more accurate, give poore a bottle of wine or something. Or a martini glass with NOT A CHERRY in it.

    what did i tell you about internet fame in no time, was i right or was i right

    i was so right

  151. Okay guys completely off-topic but I found this today and it made me throw up a little

  152. Dude, WHAT THE FUCK.

    Randall Munroe is NOT Chuck Norris.


    never has a website so filled me with rage tinged with a bit of horrified pity.

  153. Randall is Chuck Norris just as xkcd is "brilliantly funny."

  154. "(#140) God displayed favoritism when he chose Jesus instead of his lesser known but equally great brother Randall Munroe to die for the world's sins instead. Today Randall Munroe is trying to save the world with regular expressions."

    Are you fucking serious

  155. Is it supervised or can we just add negative facts about Randall?

  156. "(#170) Randall Munroe is neither a big truck nor a series of tubes. He is both."

    My head a splode.

    If there's a vetting process we could just subvert the site, submitting extremely stupid but potentially acceptable facts...

  157. OK, I just submitted one:

    Back in the old country, RANDALL MUNROE took on CHUCK NORRIS and MR. T in a 1-on-2 fight (teams according to order presented) and won because it was a COMPUTER FIGHT and nobody knows more about computers than RANDALL MUNROE. Ceiling Cat is witness.

  158. Factoid: Randall's so awesome that a blog devoted to how much his webcomic sucks has only increased in traffic in the past year. he's a winner and a loser, in that context.

  159. "(#129) There is a 100% chance that Randall Munroe is smarter than you."

    just... no.

  160. p.s. Sam Horn = Super Sam = Clamburger okay

  161. I'll give it a shot:

    Randall never makes a mistake, EVER. No verifiable evidence has been found of him making even a spelling error in his webcomic.

    Randall is a master of the rhetorical arts. Only Megan is safe from his cunning linguistics.

    Randall exists beyond the reaches of time. For him, there are no old memes, all memes exist in an eternal present.

  162. "Randall is a master of the rhetorical arts. Only Megan is safe from his cunnilingus."


  163. Thanks "Generic Xkcd Fan", we wouldn't have gotten that without your help

  164. what the fuck is wrong with you

  165. #600 is probably the creepiest XKCD I've ever read. The image title text makes it worse.


    It's literally just name-dropping!

    Only instead of names, sex toys!

    Exclamation point!

  167. Oh my god what the fuck you guys, six hundred is pain.

  168. There is nothing new under the sun.

  169. that's a nice thoughtless way to defend randall without having to come up with an actual defense. clever.

  170. Chris: A zombie movie is a very broad genre. This is a very narrow premise for a joke. Good comedians acknowledge inspirations for their material. Hacks pilfer. That's the difference between Dave Chapelle and Carlos Mencia.

    Sure, Randy could have and almost undoubtedly did think of the idea independently. So then just say that. How hard is this:

    "EDIT: Looks like SMBC Comics has noticed the same thing! Maybe there really will be some pernicious effects on society from portable porn... [Link]"

    Easy, clean, done. Cites the other artist, gives them their due, and lets SMBC reciprocate. Readership gets shared, people get exposed to new material, everyone wins.

  171. Actually, according to Rob's rant on the subject, it IS okay to copy an idea if you add something to it and make it better.

  172. "So give me your best defense."

    You're paranoid!

  173. "I am not going to settle for a "Oh well xkcd did it better anyway" because that is not a justification for stealing. So give me your best defense."

    I don't need too. Rob already did.

    "Bad poets borrow. Good poets steal." "It's very possible to lift the story from something else and make it your own, and make it excellent." And so on.

  174. that's not how it works, dude. to say nothing of how carl is using "steal" differently from my little quote's intended meaning (there is nuance there--I'm sure you've never heard the word before but you should probably ask someone literate to explain it to you, it's an important concept).

    and you have to explain how someone has made something excellent. randy does not do so, ever.