Sunday, November 1, 2009

Comic 656: Treatery

October 30th
First off, sorry for being so slow with these posts, and not responding to e-mails etc as fast I would like. You know how life can be sometimes, that little bastard.

Anyway, let's do the best we can under the circumstances: Guy wants candy before halloween, so he dresses up as a well-known time traveler in order to justify asking for candy a day early. Mildly clever, but here is a case where Randall's terrible drawing just make life sadder for everyone. He can't just draw Doc Brown - because he is physically incapable of drawing a figure that people will recognize as the character. So he does his best - coat, glasses, wavy hair - and decides, no, that is really not enough for people to recognize (and he is right). So what can he do? He has the person in the house tell you: "NICE DOC BROWN COSTUME." There's another example of our favorite xkcd-unrealistic-dialogue, so stick that in your pipe and do it without a condom.

(update: some silly people seem to think that I am saying here that it is unrealistic for people to compliment a costume that a child wears whilst trick or treating. That's not what I'm saying, because yeah, that happens. What I'm saying is that in this case, Randall had to make the dialog far more stilted than would happen in real life, because otherwise we would not know what this person is dressed as, because the art is lousy. ok guys?)

Lastly we have the problems that only dawn on you gradually - if this person is clever enough to go and do all this, shouldn't he be old enough that "halloween" just means drinking excessively in costume? Is this really the most efficient way to use time travel to procure candy? Why has this fellow not been punched in the face yet? Etc.

In short, CANDY+BACK TO THE FUTURE does not always equal a great joke, SORRY RANDALL.

65 comments:

  1. 'There's another example of our favorite xkcd-unrealistic-dialogue, so stick that in your pipe and do it without a condom.' I think that might be my favorite thing ever writteno n this blog.

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  2. Thought it was mildly funny, but what you said was true.

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  3. I liked the blogpost, it was pretty funny, but I'm going to have to actually disagree with the first half of your criticism on the basis that it's not altogether uncommon to have a costume complimented.

    As for your second criticism, I didn't think it was legitimate either, but because Randall is so attached to his childhood that he probably would still go trick or treating.

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  4. ... Saying 'nice costume' is unrealistic?
    Normally I'd agree with you on his bad dialogue, but that's sorta bullshit.
    Further, half the damn fun of Halloween is doing goofy shit, so messing with a few people in costume - aside from drinking - is ... a fairly rational thing to do.
    Some friends and I did it this year, and we're in college (and, hey, we also had a party where a number of us got drunk in costumes!), so your assumptions about age are just sort of wrong.

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  5. ALSO!

    To overshoot means to go past. ie; to aim for October 31 and hit November 1.

    Unless of course he overshot by 364 days. In which case Doc Brown sucks at time travel almost as much as Randall sucks at comics.

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  6. This comic must've taken Randall so much work. The Jurassic Park is even clever in its own way for including dinosaurs as characters. However, it looks like he didn't include any jokes beyond "lol Primal is confusing."

    What the fuck is Primal?

    @Ben -- He went too far BACK in time. That is, he started in the future, and was aiming for a previous October 31st, and went too far. That's what I got out of this.

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  7. @Ben: Time doesn't have to be linear, so maybe he overshot while going back in time and ended up arriving a day early? I agree though, it's weird, and was the most confusing part of the comic for me.

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  8. And a perfectly valid idea would be that he was coming back in time from the future, and so ... overshot. Hurf.

    Also, I predict that you guys are going to hate today's, despite that it's fairly amazing.

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  9. @Femalethoth: I thought the inclusion of 12 Angry men was pretty funny, an unnecessary and absurd addition.

    Re: Today's comic, this is one of those non-comic comics, though. I think it's quite interesting to look at, but not particularly funny, no.

    In fact, I feel the addition of Primal seems a little too much like 'I am tacking on a joke because I feel as though I should.'

    Still though, I enjoy it.

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  10. Carl how come you didn't use the post I emailed you :( it wasn't that bad was it?

    Also, how come you didn't comment on the alt-text? It was kinda stupid what with that whole "if you don't have enough houses on your block" wtf does that have to do with it? You've got a time machine and I'd like to know what kids only stick to their block when they are old enough to trick-or-treat by themselves (even when I went with my parents we still averaged like 5-6 blocks)

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  11. Okay, yeah, the 12 Angry Men bit was pretty good. And like I said, it must've taken him an INCREDIBLE amount of work to make all this.

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  12. It's Primer. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Primer_(film)

    It tries to treat time-travel in a non-stupid way, which means it's kind of convoluted and unintuitive.

    "Primer is confusing" is almost a conceptual meme. But it doesn't bother me that much. I think the 12 angry men thing was funnier and should have gone at the end.

    I kind of liked it best before hitting any punchline panels, though.

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  13. This is by far my favourite XKCD for a long, long time. It's suitably geeky without relying on overworked memes, it's drawn excellently, and it actually appears to have required significant investment of time and effort.

    The 12 Angry Men panel was the highlight; the Primar panel wasn't terrible, but it felt a little forced. I think I would have preferred an actual time-travel chart; Back-to-the-Future springs to mind for obvious reasons.

    Still, kudos to Randall! Apparently there are some salvagable ideas left in his brain!

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  14. On the new comic: clever, well-constructed, interesting, and unfunny.
    It's a big step up from bland, unoriginal, and unfunny though! So he's got that going for him, which is nice.

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  15. Damn, you are so wrong.
    Complimenting on someone's costume is really common.
    Also, it's supposed to be october 30th in the comic, not halloween, so he's not supposed to be out "drinking excessively in costume".
    And even if it was the 31th, trick or treating can be done relatively early, and after that you can go drink excessively in costume.

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  16. oh dear. they are going to sell so many posters of the new comic.

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  17. The latest is part of the "illustrated picto-blog" series. Judged by that standard, I think it works really well.

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  18. Latest comic is most excellent, a lovely break from a trend of okay-ness

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  19. Primer joke is just a nerd-cred reference: look at me, I'm so nerdy that I watched one of the most confusing movies ever and now I understand the reference!*

    The LotR one is cool though. Not funny but just wow.

    * I have not actually seen Primer yet, although I would like to

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  20. 657 is really rather awesome. The LotR one is totally incredible. The final one, Primer, seems a bit unnecessary -- I think it's OK if every now and then he makes a comic which is more 'interesting' than 'funny', if it's this interesting, but he seems uncomfortable to put something out there without an obvious 'joke'. In any case, the 12 Angry Men one is amusing in its own right. But yeah, the LotR one is fantastic.

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  21. Also, I think to some extent the Primer joke detracts from the rest of the comic -- it shifts the focus to this pretty weak punchline, almost as if everything before it is just to point out that it's a confusing movie, when the comic has more value for the rest of the content.

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  22. 656 had potential, but it was so poorly written I didn't even quite understand the joke for a while.

    And 657 is amazing.

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  23. The Primer joke is awful, and rather long in the tooth. Especially since proper Primer timelines have been around since shortly after the film was released. So it's about as funny as Randall eating some crayons, crapping them onto a piece of paper and labelling it 'London Underground Map'

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  24. I saw an actual Primer timeline once. Can't remember where, though.

    Well actually it was a bunch of timelines, and the characters' movements between them, but you know what I mean.

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  25. Also I was kind of hoping the 12 Angry Men timeline would show the changing of the jurors opinions from "guity" to "innocent" (and back, at one point) but still it is all good I guess.

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  26. I think that time travel is intended to be the premise of this comic - if not for the alt text I might otherwise agree that it's the "trick or treat early as a joke" - which to me would have been funny on it's own.

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  27. so i think what carl meant by unrealistic (and i agree) is that people don't usually say "nice _____ costume." pretty sure it's usually "nice costume," but ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE

    but to make it more realistic, couldn't he have just said something like, "wow, doc brown, real original. too bad halloween isn't until tomorrow"?

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  28. Ninja'd by Amanda, but I'm going to post it anyway:

    People complaining that people complimenting on a costume is PERFECTLY NORMAL: that's not what Carl is fucking complaining about. He's (rightly) saying that it's completely nonsensical for people to say "Hey, nice LET ME SPELL OUT EXACTLY WHAT YOU ARE WEARING costume."

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  29. fuck yeah i ain't never ninja'd no one before

    it feels nice?

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  30. Can we perhaps just ask randy to draw us something incredible? Just to prove he can at all? Frankly, I'm losing respect for this stick figure business.

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  31. Just so this post remaing mole-less, I'll mention how "but it's October 30th" surely enters the "xkcd Gallery of Stilted Exposition Dialogue". Seriously, "you're one day early" would be much better. I think someone actually proposed this on the last post.

    So, yeah. Just saw today's comic. To the placeholder!

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  32. I guess Carl always had shitty costumes

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  33. No one pointed it out, but I have a friend who is a big BTTF geek. A subtle joke that could have been made IF Doc Brown hadn't said Trick or Treat would be the fact that the dates that they travel to and from in the trilogy are almost exclusively around October 26th. Therefore having overshot to October 30th would be a good, if not hella obscure, joke.

    Him saying trick or treat kind of cancels out that possibility though.

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  34. It's totally normal to compliment a costume. It's totally normal to say what costume someone is wearing. Adults do this to trick-or-treaters all the time. I've seen adults explicitly say what every kid is wearing when handing out candy to groups of ten or more.

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  35. Goddamn, I actually read "Nice costume, Doc Brown", which made the comic completely nonsensical. That's what you get for not paying attention, I guess...

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  36. Get the fuck over the art. YES, IT'S BAD WE KNOW THIS VERY WELL THANK YOU, YOU DONT NEED TO TELL US THIS NEARLY EVERY GODDAMN TIME HE MAKES A COMIC. YES, THIS DETRACTS FROM THE COMIC. YES, HE HAS TO MAKE ALLOWANCES FOR THIS LIKE ANYONE ELSE WOULD. What the hell would you expect him to do? Like a smart person, since he knows not everyone will instantly guess Doc Brown, he has a character say his name in reference to his 'costume', which normal people would do anyway. You say a comic is visual medium and berate Randal for failing to utilize that, yet you say you're a fan of dinosaur comics. A COMIC WHICH USES THE EXACT SAME VISUALS EVERY SINGLE TIME. Esentially getting rid of the whole "visual" aspect, and closing the guy in, making him use that exact same 5 panels.

    If anything it proves you don't need a visual medium to tell a joke.

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  37. Dinosaur comics uses art to represent simply exactly what ryan North wants to represent, which happens to be the same thing every time. In this case, Randall was not able to use art to represent what he wanted, because he lacks the skill. So he had to do his best and then just tell you. That is the difference.

    I'm not faulting him for failing to use the visual medium (some of his comics, after all, are pure text), I'm berating him for trying to use it and failing. If the whole comic had just been text ("My Hobby: Dressing up as Doc Brown and going trick or treating on October 30th") I would probably still have problems with it, but not of an artistic nature.

    oh ps dinosaur comics is 6 panels, u r dumb.

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  38. Stop referring to Randall's drawings as "art". It isn't.

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  39. MY HOBBY: GOING ON FIRST DATES AND PRETENDING I LOVE MAROON 5

    guys I thought of that at lunch today I'm a genius

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  40. "oh ps dinosaur comics is 6 panels, u r dumb."

    I figured I would get that wrong. Just proves I don't read it often.

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  41. I don't understand why you go on about his drawing skills. He can draw pretty well. Examples:
    http://www.xkcd.com/59
    http://www.xkcd.com/77
    http://www.xkcd.com/133
    http://www.xkcd.com/87
    http://www.xkcd.com/127
    http://www.xkcd.com/56

    He is capable of drawingm he chooses purposefully to draw linear. It is the style of the comic. Besides do you realise how long it would take for every comic to be drawn as a work of art. This comic is not the only thing he does.

    Notice he does take a lot care with his linear drawings, everything is neat an tidy, much effort is clearly put into this. Comics 'cynide and happyness' and 'another random day' and others have bad drawing, no care take. That is their style though (they are still good).

    His comic is not always meant to be lol funny. It is meant to be light satire, plays on words, maths, events etc

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  42. no, the comic is his full time job. it is quite literally the only thing he has to do

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  43. The fact that Randall can draw just makes his opting not to do so in instances like these (drawing a costume that is visibly identifiable as Doc Brown) where it would enhance the comic even worse. It's like "yeah, I could take an extra 30 minutes to take this comic from average to pretty good, but my fans will just lap this shit up anyway. I'll just spend that extra drawing time on "Movie Narrative Charts" so I have a new poster ready for the Xmas season."

    Because you KNOW it will become a poster. I'm willing to bet on it.

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  44. Well it would make a good poster. People on the xkcd forum already have asked for one. I liked that particular comic so I saved it but wouldnt buy it.

    I say good job to him. Unlike the majority of people in the world he has found a fairly relaxed, easy way to make money doing something he likes and is self employed. You all complain about him then go to work for 40 hours a week to make someone else rich whilst getting paid a balanced amount which will keep you happy but isn't enough that you are able to leave. Or you will do later if your still currently in education. Who is the winner here.

    Completely free to look at his stuff. No force to buy from his store, its up to you, do or don't.

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  45. I don't go to work to make other people rich. I WORK FOR A NON PROFIT AWW YEAH

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  46. hahaha. Yeah, there are only two types of jobs out there: (1) making webcomics (2) corporate slave.

    They are literally the only ones available! You just literally can't work in social work or education or politics or academia, nor can you work at a nonprofit organization, start your own business, work for the government in a non-political capacity...

    Nope! You can literally just only make webcomics or work 9-5 at a corporate cubicle farm.

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  47. Dood! Does a webcomic have to have 'realistic dialogue?' And people really do say "nice ___ costume" in real life. Srsly.

    Also the XKCD for today is out. I really don't know how you're gonna criticize that, because that's just being a bitch because it prolly spent like a week to do that. Maybe that's why all the XKCDs are sucking recently!

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  48. lol I didn't mean it like that. I was emphasizing that most people get trapped in jobs that they don't want to be in. He has a degree of freedom and I assume is enjoying himself.

    Social work, education, politics, non profit, teaching and academia can all still have long hours for not massive amounts of pay which is fine if you are happy there.

    I'm just saying that while you are all busy complaining about him, he has managed to break free from work to an extent. There are several ways that you can do this but most people just don't, they accept things the way they are instead and just carry on. In the meantime he has time available which work takes from you.

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  49. I wouldn't say we're /busy/ complaining about him. It just provides me amusement for a few minutes every day.

    Successful webcomics people are definitely an interesting economic phenomenon. Some of them have reached a point where they are no longer even shackled to their webcomics: Penny Arcade could probably get by comfortably at this point, closing the comic down and moving on to their own thing. They have vaulted their way into celebrity.

    Others are still just living day to day. I haven't heard of a webcomics person giving up and starting a day job up again, but it feels like it has to happen eventually. How long can you make money on internet fame? Is it sustainable? Does it translate to anything beyond that?

    Perhaps more to the point, is it relevant? Certainly it indicates that a merchandise-supported free content model is viable. I don't think there's really anything else to be said for it, though. Some webcomics have produced or introduced me to some really excellent writing. Others are tired and hackneyed, and anyone who is decent with writing and humor could do better, except that the niche is already filled.

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  50. A small thought... a repeated complaint is that he spells things out too much in the dialog and/or titles and/or alt-texts. But I think if you're absolutely fair, you have to admit that nearly every person telling a story (whether it be a comic strip, a TV show, a book, a joke, whatever) has to do this - in comic strips, to a greater degree because there is such a limited amount of space to work with. Virtually every comic will have an example of - whatever - "Why are you wearing a toilet seat, lampshade, tablecloth, half of the pinata from Cinco de Mayo, and all of last year's Mardi Gras beads?" instead of what any normal human would say, which is, "*squint* What the HELL?"

    There has to be some degree of exposition. Rob above mentioned Penny Arcade, and I think I've seen people compliment it in the comments here - out of the ten comics with dialog I just looked at, at least 9 of them had some sort of "stilted dialog" to set the stage. It's part of comic-making. The only comics I can think of that *don't* routinely use at least a little bit of stilted, "unnecessary" dialog to establish the strip are along the lines of Marmaduke and Family Circus.

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  51. Elayne - your point seems good, but I don't think it stands up. Bad sitcoms do that a lot, but not good comedies. In fact, that's one of the hallmarks of good comedy, I think, the fact that it shows you something without also telling it to you (like your english teachers used to say, perhaps). Which comics (besides penny arcade, which I disagree on) do you think do this? I'm sure there are many, but I suspect that I think they generally suck.

    me: Note the comics you linked to - the highest number was 133, several years old. There are a tiny number of newer examples, but not many. I think this only serves to show how sad xkcd is now.

    also: "others have bad drawing, no care take." No take care, no take care indeed.

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  52. "Dinosaur comics uses art to represent simply exactly what ryan North wants to represent, which happens to be the same thing every time. In this case, Randall was not able to use art to represent what he wanted, because he lacks the skill. So he had to do his best and then just tell you. That is the difference.

    I'm not faulting him for failing to use the visual medium (some of his comics, after all, are pure text), I'm berating him for trying to use it and failing. If the whole comic had just been text ("My Hobby: Dressing up as Doc Brown and going trick or treating on October 30th") I would probably still have problems with it, but not of an artistic nature."
    I always thought he could actually do art, but chose stick figures because it's a certain style.I dunno. Not that I liked this comic. I got the joke, and I have no real complaints other than "Meh not funny"
    Regarding this latest post by Carl:
    Perry Bible fellowship is considered good comedy. I know I love it enough to spend good money on a book that's 95% stuff I could get for free online, and 3% of the new stuff was bad, and admitted to be bad by the author. But he uses stilted speech in his comics to elaborate as well. "It's my birthday today!" opens one I can remember pretty well. Nobody wakes up and says "It's my birthday today!" unless they're next to someone having a birthday.
    On the other hand, there's Order of the Stick, which is in my opinion great comedy, which has fairly realistic dialogue even though it uses stick figures. Although its stick figures are more advanced than Randall's. Not much else to say other than WOO I'M BACK BABY.

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  53. Retroactively editing now that I re-read: Nobody wakes up and says "It's my birthday today!" unless they're next to someone who doesn't KNOW they have a birthday.

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  54. i feel like most PBFs are supposed to be this sort of childlike fantasy type world, usually with some type of evil twist to it. The characters there are more parodies of people in fairy tales, in some ways. Does that make sense?

    From another point of view, the characters would never say "That's a nice blue hat you are wearing" because Nick G. would just draw the damn hat, you know? And then you would see it. The problem is not so much randall telling you things he should be showing you, the way I phrased it above (though that is a problem), in this case it's even worse: He's telling you things that he is showing you, because his showing is crappy.

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  55. I like Penny Arcade but I was not mentioning it as an example of good humor, only an example of people who sleep on mountains of money.

    I am not seeing the same stilted "no human would ever say that" dialogue you see from time to time in XKCD, however. These are not the days of Elayne.

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  56. Most PBFs are fantasy world. I don't think the one I was referring to was one. http://www.pbfcomics.com/?cid=PBF032-Todays_My_Birthday.gif is the comic I was talking about.
    But here's the problem in what you said.
    Randall also wouldn't use "That's a nice blue hat you are wearing". A nice blue hat is easy to draw. But even if he drew like Gurevitch, I still wouldn't be able to tell the difference between Doc Brown and Albert Einstein. Sometimes it's necessary to have bad dialogue to explain the joke, and I didn't think the dialogue was that bad. When I was a little kid dressed up as a turtle for Halloween (I was a very boring little kid) people told me "What a lovely turtle costume!" People state the obvious many times. G'night now. I can't believe it's 11 AM somewhere, it's so dark out now...

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  57. I still think that particular PBF is trying to evoke a sort of childhood innocence and joy. And keep in mind that he isn't talking to anyone - he might as well be thinking "today's my birthday," which I am sure we can agree most wide eyed happy children do sometimes think on their birthdays.

    Ok, "blue hat" was a bad example. But maybe Randall could still have used visuals to show that this was Doc Brown - perhaps a DeLorean in the background? That's pretty closely associated with Back to the Future. That plus at least a better drawing of Doc would have been nice.

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  58. I think http://www.halolz.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/tardy-slowpoke.gif is a much better delivery of pretty much the same joke.

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  59. Don't know if anyone noticed, but bizarro did pretty much the same joke one day later.

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  60. Okay, never mind, actually it didn't.

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  61. Wait...since when did Doc Brown wear sunglasses?!!

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  62. they are safety goggles, can't you tell from the photorealistic art??

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