Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Comic 705: Held Hostage

Devotion to Shitty

Oh dear. As I see it, there are two giant horrible problems with this. I don't feel like writing too much so I'll go through them fast:

1, total nerd service. This is literally promoting sysadmins to actual heroic levels, making the anonymous admin a superhero, walking across glass, risking death, etc. In other words, not something a nerd computer dude would ever actually do. But how better to make your nerd fans happy than to suggest that many of them are heroes? After all, someone who does what the sysadmin in the comic does will probably get to have sex with people! people who are impressed with him or her.

2, holy lord, Randall! show don't tell! this is such a blatant example of it. Look at the story in this comic: A bunch of hostages are being held somewhere, a dude crosses over broken glass, kills his enemies - that's exciting. But what are the images we see to go along with it? A dude on a cell phone. That's...not as exciting. Instead of seeing the interesting events, we hear a guy talk about them with words. I'm not going to say it's because Randall is lazy and didn't feel like drawing something that complicated - wait, yes I am. Randall is lazy and if he had tried harder this comic would have been better.

3. I guess I lied, there's 3 things: The phrasings and pacing is real bad. Why does the guy on the other end of the phone not say the important stuff first? Why does he go "well it was all well and good, la dee da, do doo dooo, oh wait actually we're screwed cause of this one guy." Also, why does the on screen character act so panicked if the superhero sysadmin isn't actually trying to rescue the hostages? If he's just reconnecting the internet, why is that a big deal? Lastly, "muttering about uptime" should be enough of a clue that the character they are talking about is a sysadmin, coming out at the end and saying it takes a lot away from the impact of the joke.


  1. also annoying: everything in this comic that isn't sysadmin glorification is just a recap of die hard. thanks, randall, for reminding us that you like movies we like.

  2. The pacing was bad? You're suggesting that Randall turns this simple 3-panel strip into a comic-book page full of explosions and action scenes - which would be thrilling, sure, but hardly funny.

    Rather, I'd assert the pacing was excellent. A one-sentence exposition (panel 1), a one-sentence climax (panel 2), and the punchline (panel 3). The only interruptions were the telephone prompts, which only served to enhance flow by breaking up a monologue.

    Sure, I'd love to see beautiful graphics of Die-Hard-esque action, but for the sake of a simple joke (sysadmins = sociopathic & uptime-oriented), brief is better.

    Furthermore, it seems everyone on this blog thinks that going through extreme measures to prioritize technology over human lives means glorification. Did you miss the part where the sysadmin ignored the hostages? The sociopathy is half of the joke.

    "Also, why does the on screen character act so panicked if the superhero sysadmin isn't actually trying to rescue the hostages? If he's just reconnecting the internet, why is that a big deal?"

    I'm sure there was a reason for initially cutting the communication lines. You're angry the punchline ("we're dealing with a sysadmin") was so outright, but you're complaining that the details insignificant to the joke weren't expanded?

    Suggestion: Use your new blog challenge to conduct an experiment. Take a sample of people unfamiliar with the comic and have them compare the original comics to the redone ones. Use that new font you guys developed to ensure that the participants can't tell which came first, and find out whether your suggested edits are actually worthwhile.

    You could even survey the participants on which comics they enjoy in order to gauge people's variation of humor (seeing as how you seem to think there's only one type of quality-"funny": Dinosaur Comics).



  4. What! This blog isn't new! It's almost two years old! it has more than 400 posts!

    That said, I agree with a lot of what you said - I don't think the comic needs to be any longer; the length is fine. I'd just like to see what is happening in each panel rather than be told it. So, maybe we'd need 5 panels or so, but nothing crazy. He's done plenty of action sequences before (see here for one example and and the beginning of here for another.)

    Your point about the sysadmin ignoring the hostage is good, but still: I think it's implied that he probably could have saved them if he wanted to, the point is that he just wants to reconnect the internet.

    The experiment you propose is very good, I personally don't feel like doing it (though once I did it with a dinosaur comic I wrote) because it takes work but I would be happy if someone did, and I'd like to know their results.


  6. I have to address one part of your first point, Carl:

    After all, someone who does what the sysadmin in the comic does will probably get to have sex with people! people who are impressed with him or her.

    You might as well just say him, because we all know the only woman who ever reads xkcd is Megan, or to be more precise, her lawyer, to see if that restraining order should be extended.

  7. I picture a sysadmin as an ass who tells you how stupid you are because something isn't working right. Well, that's mostly from snl sketches... but I think it would be funny to see the sysadmin telling off the guy that cut the line. In a round about way, this comic is funny, in the same round about way that a car is an airplane.

  8. I think it would be funny if Randall came out as gay. Everyone would be like, "Whaaat? Megan, what?? Whaaaaaaaat?"


  9. You're reading it wrong, in terms of who's saying what. The guy on the other end of the phone is speaking with the jagged lines.

  10. 1. No, it's not heroising them. You seem to keep on reading really dumb subtexts into these comics to justify your hatred. This is clearly a man who doesn't have his prorities right. He's selfish and hugely concerned about his uptime, less bothered about the loss of human life. The joke is how ridiculously much he cares about that damn uptime. Imagine it were Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons - that's the kind of image I got.

    2. I agree with this. A pretty picture it ain't. Doesn't take anything away from the joke, though.

    3. He mentions the good stuff last 'cause he's reluctant. Divorce himself from responsibility. Show the guy on the other side that he's been doing his job well, before announcing the problem. "Hey, we did all the good stuff you asked us to! Exactly as you said."

    Besides, who wants to tell their boss there's a massive problem right off the bat? Of course he's not going to plunge straight into it. That's not how human beings work. For all you go on about stilted dialogue you don't really seem to understand human interaction very well, yourself.

  11. 4) Also I wonder why the boss cares so much that they're dealing with a sysadmin. The guy ignored the hostages!

  12. Regarding point 1!
    This and this xkcd in particular was the reason why I started to actively dislike xkcd rather than just ignore it and its fans.