Friday, January 1, 2010

10 best xkcd comics 201-400

A million years ago, back in the first months of this blog, I wrote two posts, one each about about my favorite and my least favorite xkcd comics. I forget why I did this. The favorite one was to show that I liked a lot of comics; the least favorites may have been a necessary byproduct of having to sort through so much crap to get my 10 favorite.

ANYWAY the point is, I limited myself in both cases to the first 200 comics, which was then about half the total output of Randall Munroe. I figured I would get to the next 200 comics soon. WELL, it's far too late for that, but better late than never, and so here is my acclaimed follow-up to my acclaimed original, the 10 BEST XKCD COMICS, 201-400.
First, some notes: Unlike last time, I am a Trained Professional now, and so I am going to throw a little more commentary in there. And screw "no need to clutter the page with images," I am going to clutter the fuck out of this page. I'm leaving all the original alt-texts in, for uh, scholarly completeness? Let's get started!

On my first run through the comics, I found 16 stand out great comics (and, oddly, 16 stand out terrible comics. But I'll get to those in a few days). I narrowed it down surprisingly easily.

In chronological order:


I like it because he doesn't just complain that people are dumb, he gives us examples ("showing" in addition to "telling"). Of course they are made up, but they are funny: Both sides are total idiots, not just the side we all agree with. The extra effort of drawing in the video at the top is also a nice touch I don't think he'd do today. Contrast this comic with 481, which makes the same point ("youtube comments r dumb") but in such a terrible way.

Collecting Double-Takes
This is just great. This is probably the best of the bunch. It's a great example of what I love in comedy, which is having to figure out for yourself exactly what conclusion the author is aiming for (I usually call this "making the jump in your head or something"). Part of the fun of reading this is the moment - no doubt very soon after you read it - where you go "OH, that way people will this he's all pervy." And the alt-text does this again, with an even better, darker joke.

Tabletop Roleplaying
I'm a sucker for self reference, and the idea of escaping to a fantasy world in order to play a game - The very thing you are doing in this world! - is great. The added detail that the characters would have to "whittle" dice and make sheets on "parchment" just shows how much effort they are putting into this pointless exercise. Pet peeve though: "Recursing" as a verb bothers me. It sounds like you are cursing, again, and the change from the softer "zh" sound in "recursion" to the "ss" in recursing annoys me to. "Hey! No recursion!" would have worked fine. OH WELL.

Comic FragmentLink
Totally a noodle incident, which is usually a cop out for humor, but I'm making an exception: This comic is clearly trying to make as crazy a noodle incident as possible - constantly adding in more crazy details, right up to the final word. And dammit, the details he chose were funny.

Not sure I can explain this one, so I'll take a pass. Another comic that stands out just fine on its own, but with an alt-text that makes it just great.

Wikipedian Protester
I think this is one of the few xkcds that just gets better the more you think about it. The fact that "Citation Needed" is a sort of passive-aggressive form of protest on wikipedia, coupled with the fact that demanding a citation for a fact is actually a really good thing to do to a politician, AND another great alt-text makes this a great comic. Also, it's one of the first I ever read. In this case, minimalism works for Randall. That will not always be the case.

Nighttime Stories
I love this one even more now. Given the "love is wonderful!" tone that xkcd began to embark on around comic 350 or so, this perfect subversion of the expected is lovely. It is so perfectly set up for you to think that these two quirky people have found quirky true love in a quirky way that you are all ready to just vomit all over them, and then you find out no, this relationship is over before it began. So satisfying! If this came out now, I would think it was an xkcd parody. The colors and shadows feel a little too "just practicing my photoshop skills"-ey but it still helps set the tone nicely.

This comic didn't earn its place here for mailing bobcats - If I am a sucker for self-reference, I am an anti-sucker for random humor - it got on the list for the feedback. I love how casual and descriptive the feedback is, and how it is almost all overwhelmingly positive. The title - a place xkcd rarely finds humor - adds to this nicely as well.

Sometimes I write that contrast is a good source of humor. The contrast between the violence and chaos of what happened to the Buyer and the neutral tone of his feedback leads to Komedy Gold (this is the first time I have used that phrase non-sarcastically).

Another great subversion, AND another great contrast! This comic is full of lessons for us all. The lovey cutesy comic ends with a totally unexpected, non-cutesy visual punchline, thus avoiding pukes a-plenty, and the contrast of Love on top of the mattress and War below is also lovely. WELL DONE!

(i have to remember "pukes a-plenty", that is a great, Ryan North-type phrase)

update: well, looks like this is the one people disagree on, or at least, disagree the most with. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that one of these gets vehement opposition from the blog regulars. I should clarify: Yes, this is usually the sort of irritating "i love love!" that I hate in xkcd, but the fact that it ends with the Quirky Couple fighting (or rock 'em socking whatevering) in addition to their love nonsense is at least a bit of a change of pace. BUT NO MATTER, we must simply disagree on this comic and try to agree on (most of) the rest.

And Last,
How it Works
From only a few weeks before I started this blog. This one got lots of links from feminist-type websites, and I think it carefully toes the line between making a great point well and making a good point badly. This comic is making a point about society and how it treats women in mathematics; in that sense, I think it is unlike any other xkcd. There are others that try to do this (like the one about being nice to furries) but they also try to make jokes; what's great about this is that it presents the double standard as the joke. In other words, rather than doing something funny, this comic holds up a mirror to us as says, you, you are being funny. In the sense of "stupid." Well done, Randall - it was tricky to pull off, so be careful before you try again.

WELL that brings us to the end of the list! Before you go, you can check out the honorable mentions:

GOOD, BUT NOT GOOD ENOUGH: The 6 that I had to cut:
238 (I like the jagged text on "Saturday Night"; I think it does a good job of conveying the exact tone that the person on the other end of the line is making)

SO - tell me why you think I'm wrong - which of these comics suck, and which ones did I unfairly leave out?

(10 worst comics of 201-400 will come in a few days, *hopefully*)



  2. I have yet to read this post, but since the previous post was unrepliable: Aloria, thank you for choosing Wikipedia for this month's charity, because I applaud anything that gets rid of those fucking gigantic Jimmy Wales banners at the top of every page. Honestly, if they just put some Google ads or whatever on each page it'd be less annoying than this.

  3. Jimbo Wales needs that money for his new yacht. We should all pitch in, folks.

  4. Fred, you do realize you can hide the banners?

  5. Anonymous, are those comics you listed supposed to be the 10 worst? Because they certainly ain't very good.

  6. I liked comic 96 if only for the fact that I found the punchline amusing.

  7. The only thing that I heartily disagree with on that list is the inclusion of 335. It has just the right ingredients of what would make a terrible xkcd of today's time: a "quirky" idea that would be more fit for a picto-blog, lovey-dovey-yuckiness, the need for a contrived joke to make it into a proper comic, etc. I think he was just lucky to get a decent joke. And pardon me if I sound to cynical, but I think the contrast you speak about in the last panel was not really intended as that: it looks more "quirky" than subversive.


    the third/final row of:
    would've been good by itself, anyway. It is, admittedly, niche humor: even with computers available, public key encryption is computationally expensive (practical implementations work in 2 steps, but you would still not do it by hand), and yet, xkcd has mentioned the most obvious way of making sure only that character can read it. If you know that *ahead* of time, it's funny. ...and I've never read either set of books he refers to, so it still works.

    I can't help but point out the one that is most desperately missing from the first 200, since I wasn't here to comment on it back then:

    I'd go through and point out a list of the ones that suck, but that would be about 50% of them.

    Also, 254 isn't funny, even after looking up who he's talking about. That is all.

  9. You can hide the banners, but they'll always come back when there's a new Wikipedia fundraising thing going on. Which is every wednesday.

  10. "...having to figure out for yourself exactly what conclusion the author is aiming for (I usually call this "making the jump in your head or something")...."

    Cognitive disonance or something.

    A thorough analysis of the last several year's audited financial statements of the ASPCA would preclude any thinking person from ever giving them money.
    Trust me.
    As one who has made a very, VERY, good living from NGOs and various other 'Charities' in my short life to date, I know of which I speak.
    Most of the donations go to Administrative salaries - little is left for the puppies and kitties.


  11. #285 lead to so many "Citation Needed" comments on reddit that I can't look at the comic the same way again. For a few months you couldn't make an argument without throwing in a dozen links to wikipedia for "citation." Saying "Citation Needed" was a lazy way to pretend to be clever and critical without actually doing anything.

  12. "THE CAKE IS A LIE lol!!!" - typical faggot nerd who runs things into the ground

  13. 221 is my favorite xkcd of all time, although I'm admittedly biased since I get paid to think about that sort of thing.

    292 is also fucking wonderful, and the last panel is the best thing to put into any edit ever.

    Others I liked: 217, 241, 257. 271, 276, 293, 386, 398 (yes I realize that it doesn't QUITE work as written, but I just pretend it doesn't say "ass" in any of the first three panels).

  14. I agree with Fernie about 335. I think it's just quirkiness all the way through, and what else really bothers me is the sycophant in panel 3.

    325 is still awesome though. As you said, it's the fact it's so studiously formal despite the chaos that surrounds him.

  15. "The only thing that I heartily disagree with on that list is the inclusion of 335. It has just the right ingredients of what would make a terrible xkcd of today's time: a "quirky" idea that would be more fit for a picto-blog, lovey-dovey-yuckiness, the need for a contrived joke to make it into a proper comic, etc. I think he was just lucky to get a decent joke. And pardon me if I sound to cynical, but I think the contrast you speak about in the last panel was not really intended as that: it looks more "quirky" than subversive."
    Absolutely 100% agreed. I like most XKCD, and this one I was very "meh" about.
    However, I really really like, in part because of the fan reaction. That comic isn't about how good it is that the guy wants to be friends, it's about how fucked up and creepy he is. It makes fun of the "nice guys", it doesn't encourage them. It's an excellent joke, and I really liked that one. I was surprised at the amount of hate it has, because it really is Randall making fun of the fans of his. It reminds me of a certain Doctor Horrible's Sing Along Blog analysis (, that I fully agree with.
    Also, the "Nice Guy" syndrome, as well as people who have it, should be shot repeatedly, and I think that comics like this are the way to do it until we have guns that fire through computer screens.
    However, I agree with the rest of your list, even if it's for different reasons. Heh, bobcats.

  16. Aquarians:

    Don't be such a pretentious twit by making uncited accusations. Just because you can make money by working for NGO's does not make it wrong to work and earn a salary from them.


    Programs: 77% Fund Raising: 21% Administrative: 2%

    But then again I bet you think the BBB is part of the phallic NWO and that it actually stands for Bangin' Bootylicious Bitches!!

    pre/peri/postmortem precipitous anilingus coitus and other unrisible permutations of dullardry.

  17. Bangin' Bootylicious Bitches is a charity I can definitely get behind.

  18. Heh, reading through all those comics, I have a pretty good idea of which ones will be making the worst ten. Anyway.

    249 was already mentioned, but I really love it. I also really like 286 as well (and have occasionally fallen into that habit of thinking ashamedly).

    I kind of want to say 393, kind of...but it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Death should be the DM there, and speaking as a guy who's been under some sadistic DMs, if you want to kill a party in no time flat you can do it. Hell all he had to do was run Gary through Tomb of Horrors. He couldn't possibly remember EVERY trap right?

  19. poore:

    The exclamation points are part of the name, obviously. Butt the pun makes up for that.

  20. 286 is kind of a Funny Aneurysm Moment, since basically the next four hundred XKCDs are Randall doing exactly what the guy he mocked in 286 does, except he doesn't even bother to wait a couple decades for the memes to become retro.

  21. Actually, I really liked comic 157. It's not in the 201-400 range, but it's still really good. It took me a while to realize it was a parody of other webcomics who put up charcater art in lieu of legitimate comics, as well as a lampshading of the fact that his characters are only stick figures...

  22. 157 is fine. I gotta agree with the people who hated that mattress one, not sure why, something about it's just ugh. Also, I HATE 254, it's so incredibly forced.

    Thought all the other ones on this list were good.

  23. Poore, I didn't understand that you were making a pun the second time :(
    But then I rearead it.

  24. The problem with 262 is that people can't come "from the internet." The internet is not something you can just climb out of. It's not a big truck.

  25. Anon 9:31: Mario has clearly taught us that you can climb out of a series of tubes.

  26. Sometimes I like to eat bangers and mash. Other times I do not.

  27. Agree with the hate for the mattress one. The lower arm is a real problem that anyone who cuddles with their loved one for the first time discovers, but the overall thing is just ugh. And a sad sign for things to come. While the one about 304 has some nice art and the overall joke is funny, the contrived setup of a girl walking the street reading with a flashlight really annoys me. Was there nothing else he could think of? She's sitting at the bus stop reading with a flashlight? Who goes for a nighttime stroll around the block to read a book?

    I'd say my favorites from this bunch are the bobcat one, because that's simply perfect, the Janeane Garofalo one, because I like the way it's not just "AWESOME IDEA #32:" but leads it in with a neat note from the editor (alas! If only that bit about the editor was true), and then piles on absurdity upon absurdity, and the youtube one, because it's a funny observation that immediately rings true for everyone, presented in a funny way with nice art.

    A lot of the other ones seem worse now than they did at the time, no doubt that's bias due to having hated the new XKCD for so long and hanging around here too much, but they seem to lack the punch they had before.
    The cat captions one is still okay, I guess. The Wikipedia one is also okay if the whole concept of XKCD + Wikipedia didn't leave such a bad taste in my mouth.
    The girls suck at math one makes a great point and presents it well, but Randy's white knighting just pisses me off.

  28. I think I like this Aquarians person. Assuming her latest comment wasn't just a weak troll, she's either a crazy libertarian who's really cynical about charity (but at the same time insists that, left to their own devices, corporations do more good than harm) or she's so leftist she's too cynical to think even charities do any good for the world and thinks the single most enlightened humanitarian act is to bitch about how much white people suck on the Internet. Both of which are adorable.

  29. I did not realize how infuriating a single word could be until ALTF's innit.

  30. Based on ALTF's latest comment, I assume it worked for a time canvassing for an NGO like Greenpeace, and then got fired for failing to meet quota, and was subsequentially bitter about it and did some half-assed research by googling "greenpeace sucks" and read some bitter ex-workers who are also conspiracy theorists make up numbers about where the money really goes. Naturally it believed this without question or a flicker of doubt.

  31. I went and added a note to my description of 335.

    Fred: I think part of why I liked the girl-reading-outside-at-night comic is that there's a part of me that thinks she is reading outside entirely to make a quirky guy like Randall/Main Character notice her. So, she wants to seem quiet and interesting etc, but she can't just sit at home, she has to make sure he knows that she is all of those things. See also: How excitedly she answers his question in Panel 5. Because she was hoping to be asked it all along. Anyway, it just makes it that much better when their relationship ends immediately.

    When I write it out like that it seems like quite a stretch, so maybe I imagined most of that stuff about her character, but that's what I think.

  32. I'm curious as to why you cut 231. What didn't you like about it, Carl?

  33. I did like it, I just didn't like it enough. In the end I went "well, it is just another graph, and even though I think it's very true, maybe not everyone does." the more i think about it the less I like it though, so I am going to stop thinking about it.

  34. Regarding 236: I'm actually surprised you like this one, I would have thought that at one point or another anyone who has ever bought condoms or KY or whatever at a supermarket has thought about what might be funny to buy with it (as the comic points out: produce being one of the most obvious things). This is the main reason I take issue with the recent one about "Physicists don't like working in frictionless vacuums" joke, I feel like everyone who has ever taken physics has thought of that at some point.


    My personal favourite is 303. But then, I'm reeeeeeeeeally biased, being a programmer myself >.>

  36. 231 and 252 do something that Randall seems to have forgotten how to do effectively: they couple a graph with an eloquent visual representation of the graph's data. The graphs on their own would not be funny at all, but I especially like the "graph as escalator" thing. Nice visual pun.