Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Comic 789: Showdown

the ultimate showdown
[alt: The tumbleweed then tried to roll off into the sunset, but due to the Old West's placement north of the subtropical ridge, the prevailing winds were in the wrong direction.]

I was basically at a total loss for this one, not able to come up with anything beyond "this is so boring i can barely stand it." Luckily, the old adage that "every single commenter on xkcdsucks is smarter than Carl" proved true once more, as an Anonymous poster noted that this comic is much improved with the simple reversal of panels 3 and 4.

It's true - as it stand, panels 1 and 2 set up that there is a duel (that's fine), but 3 sets up the idea of a tumbleweed with a gun. What can possibly follow that that would be funny and subvert expectations, we wonder. Then we read panel 4: the tumbleweed shoots them.

The problem is that there's nothing in panel 4 that our minds didn't immediately assume based on panel 3. Far better to have them shot first, and have us wonder who shot them (or did they shoot each other?) and then have the reveal be the wacky twist - it was the tumbleweed all along! the tumbleweed! that mother fucker.

Anyway, that simple reversal isn't quite enough to make the comic right - for example, I think it would be better to have the tumbleweed appear far right in panel 1, and then a little more to the left in panel 2, and delete the awkward "TUMBLE!" sound effect in panel 2. You'd also want to get rid of that weird little vibrating effect on either side of the tumbleweed in what would be the new panel 3, as it draws attention to the surprise too early. Still, these are small changes, and would lead to a far stronger comic.

It's still not a great comic - I mean, it boils down to "hey guys! what if the TUMBLEWEED did it!" - but it's somewhat solid. Much better than the utter bore we have.


  1. You forgot the alt text of the xkcd comic, good sir.

  2. I saw the fix before I saw the original comic. So my opinion of this comic is forever tainted.

    captcha: dipicate. Your dog dipicated all over my lawn.

  3. RIGHT i will go add the alt text now

  4. for a second there i forgot that common was a word.

  5. How come after I start my anti-xkcdsucks blog, you give an honest and non-asshole review of a comic? It's not fair.

  6. My mind had some trouble resolving what was happenening in this one. For some reason I saw panel three not as "tumbleweed with guns" but as "both shooters have somehow become tangled up in the tumbleweed". Then panel 4 made no sense whatsoever. It took me a good minute before I could figure out what I was actually looking at.

    Yeah, yeah, complaining about Randall's art is not exactly new, but this isn't something I usually have a problem doing.

  7. I think the comic would be infinitely better if panels 3 and 4 were swapped.

  8. 790 seems pretty funny. Nothing new or exciting, but it's the pretty much the first XKCD that's made me chuckle since I started reading this blog. I'm sure you will ruin my illusions in a few hours and explain why it's actually terrible.

  9. Finally, back to comics which did not suck at least at some point in the past.

  10. MY HOBBY: Astoundingly unethical science!
    [insert picture of SHENANIGANS]

  11. Long-time xkcd hater here saying that this comic really isn't so bad.

    My biggest complaint against xkcd is that Randall's jokes (when there are jokes) are forced through so much contrived dialogue and a misplaced art style that they come out incomprehensible. This comic, unlike a few hundred of his most recent ones, doesn't do that; and for that alone I have to applaud the author for overcoming one of my biggest points of contention.

    What follows is definitely splitting hairs, but here goes:

    - I don't think the "tumble" in panel 2 is awkward, I think it's funny. I can see how you might read it as "Randall doesn't know how to use sound effects" which, given his track record for the use of comic strip conventions, might just be possible. But the absurdity of a tumbleweed making a tumble sound is enough to make me think it's a joke.
    - The twist doesn't take place in the last panel. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. The buildup and twist are still there, it's just that the punchline, as it were, takes two panels to carry out. Again, given Randall's background of post-punchline dialogue (which, incidentally, makes me want to strangle a baby every time I see it), I can see how this might be interpreted as "Randall once again fails at putting the punchline in its proper place", but I see it as a punchline that required both panels 3 and 4 to be clear, in whichever order.
    - Continuing that thought, I don't think it'd be much better with panels 3/4 switched. The punchline is "the tumbleweed is doing the shooting" and either order communicates that equally well. The only difference I can see is that the swapped panels would produce a moment of "wtf" when the men are shot before revealing the tumbleweed with guns. I don't think that moment of confusion improves the twist at all, just delays it, which is not in and of itself an improvement.

    Finally, there's the criticism that the comic isn't anything special, just pretty wacky. I know that I've tired of wackiness in xkcd because that's what so many of Randall's comics are dependent on nowadays - "look, these two stick figures are doing something WACKY isn't that WACKY?"

    Yet, I think there's a difference between wackiness and absurdity in xkcd. In the beginning, the comic was absurd; recently it's grown to be wacky. Absurdity doesn't call attention to itself. It doesn't say, "hey guys I'm being ABSURD isn't that just SO ABSURD," it just is absurd, and you can take it or leave it. This is a brilliant, absurd xkcd. Classic xkcd. The days I wish we could have back.

    This, on the other hand, is a wacky xkcd. It feels the need to be overdramatic and ridiculous. There's no absurdity behind it. It's purely obnoxious.

    What I'm getting at is this: the xkcd I liked, and I'm pretty sure it's the xkcd you liked too, was absurd. And I see this comic as an absurd xkcd, which made me smile. No, it's not genius, but it's not WACKY RANDALL (TM) either. I like it. I wouldn't mind seeing more of this sort of thing, an absurd situation played straight.

    But we'll probably go back to WACKY COMIX (TM) on Friday.

  12. the study's blind, right? so they'll just assume their anti-rash thing causes psychosis and ditch it


    wait is medical research not real science, randall

    is that why you don't get it

  13. Anon 10:20 i think you nailed it. "haha those soft sciences," laughs randall, "aren't they retarded?"

  14. I was so busy ranting about 789 that I totally did not realize there was a new one up today.


    I hate everything about it

  15. They know which subjects got the placebo and which got the anti-rash thing. Otherwise, there'd, um, be no point in even having a control group? In fact, if they didn't know, the control group would be not only pointless, but misleading.

    Anyway, I would've liked this comic if he'd picked a drug that actually fit the image. I mean, come on, LSD? A type 2 (out of 5) hallucinogen, the strongest likely affect of which is subtly perceiving things as slowly transforming into other things. Why not, like, meth, or DMT?

    Yeah I know that sounds incredibly pedantic, but it just irks me that this comic doesn't really make sense, when if you changed one word, it would make perfect sense. If you ask me I'm a lot more justified than anyone who got bothered over his use of primitive a few dozen comics ago.

  16. The first paragraph was directed at Anon 10:20.
    Femalethoth has since then also said something dumb.

    Stop saying dumb things guys that's Randall's shtick.

  17. Anon 10:20, even in a double blind trial someone knows who has taken each drug, just not the doctor making observations, otherwise what the hell would be the point of a study. So maybe the people watching shouldn't be confused, but the general idea of the comic works.

  18. "In a double-blind experiment, neither the individuals nor the researchers know who belongs to the control group and the experimental group."


  19. "the people watching shouldn't be confused"


    is why the comic was dumb

    and Scott too

  20. "so they'll just assume their anti-rash thing causes psychosis and ditch it"

    This would not happen, was my point. Not even in a double-blind trial.

  21. Also single-blind trials do exist OK I AM DONE POSTING FOREVER NOW.

  22. Long time hater, first time poster.

    Is the XKCD author aware of this site? If so, how does he muster up the courage (or stupidity) to write another panel?

    He's just so bad, and this site proves that pretty much everyone on the planet thinks XKCD sucks.

  23. @ Anons 10:20 & 10:30#2:

    No. Even in a double blind study (and most medical studies are double blind), there is always someone who knows which group is the control group, otherwise, as a poster already pointed out, the experiment would be COMPLETELY POINTLESS. The person is usually an advisor or someone who plays no role in the experiment, only informing the experimenters after data have been collected.

    @ Anon 10:31.

    No. The people watching should be confused about why people in their control group are hallucinating (they are unaware that sneaky Randall has slipped them acid).

    Scott McTony seems to be the only other person who knows what a "blind" experiment is.

  24. Guys, Randall is a genius and the comic was obviously intended as a sliding puzzle. Get this: swap panels 3 and 4, then swap panels 1 and 3, then swap panels 1 and 2, then swap panels 1 and 4, then insert that drawing of Megan's vagina as the last panel and start fapping away. Bliss.

  25. she obviously saw her freakish spider hands, and justifiably freaked out

    or she's a self-hating misognyist. see my thesis explaining that the red spiders represent randall's view of women.

  26. Nobody in particularSeptember 7, 2010 at 11:54 PM

    These comics blew. Blah blah blah you are forever endangering people's lives just so you can screw with a perfectly harmless test blah blah double blind blah blah

    Though I'm going to have to defend the two most recent alt texts. They weren't just the joke repeated, they added their own little thing, they were realistic conclusions based on the situation presented. I thought the LSD placebo thing was almost a little funny.

    And the tumbleweed alt text was exactly the kind of nerdy the comic SHOULD be. Knowledgeable about subjects that don't matter, and pointing out the inconsistencies in things, while still sort of making the joke "Yeah, I really am nitpicking, but just saying".

    ANYWAYS I found it weird that Randall could take a step in the right direction with one part of his comic while take five steps back in the comic part.

    Seriously? The Tumbleweed had a gun, and shot
    them? That is about as clever as a Robot Chicken joke.

    Seriously? The joke is that people sure wouldn't act normal if they were on LSD, and that would ruin Randall's beloved science? Weak man, totally weak.

  27. "the study's blind, right? so they'll just assume their anti-rash thing causes psychosis and ditch it"


    "The joke is that people sure wouldn't act normal if they were on LSD"

    no (or at least, not all)


    I thought latest 789 was actually a decent comic. The idea is pretty clever, and the alt-text actually helps instead of adding absolutely nothing worthwhile at all to the comic. And yet, it feels like Randall had a nice idea in his head and just drew out the first comic that came to mind without really trying. The set-up is just far too vague. Also, "OH GOD SPIDERS" is quite possibly the least creative thing he can come up with for somebody who is high to say. Could've been an awesome comic, is now just meh/heh-i-guess comic.

  28. There you are - all xkcd haters - but not being able to even notice a grave continuity mistake in the comic [789 which that comment thread should be about - that goes to all you early posters - can't you wait until Carl has posted something about 790?].
    Anyway what's the mistake that nobody seemed to notice?
    In panel 1 & 2 the two people are basically standing in line with the viewers line of vision, i.e. they are standing in the front and back with the sun in the far back.
    Now look at panel 4.
    The viewer sees them left and right which suggests that he/she is watching the scene from the side now which - granted - makes it easier to depict the simultaneous shooting of both people.
    However, may I now draw your attention to the sun. It is still in the far back.
    Now, either between panel 2 and 4 some 6 hours have passed - to have the sun move some 90 degrees on the sky - or we have a continuity mistake. You be the judge.

  29. There's some kernel of truth in the above - the alt-text for the new one is actually pretty funny. The actual comic isn't really.

    That aside, two minor niggles:

    1) that thing like what whoever said about it being crystal meth you associate with SPIDERS and stuff

    2) surely one of the trained medical professionals carrying out these experiments would be able to recognise that the control group were blissed out of their heads? (Is 'blissed out' a phrase you can only use for E? Stupid drug language).

    This review OTM, anyway.

  30. Both gunslingers look at the tumbleweed when it enters panel 2, so you already know something is bound to happen, usually it would be suicidal in a gun duel to look away...

    It's like Randy was so excited by his "witty" joke that he had to push it...

    Once again, GoatKCD proves superior.

  31. This one made me smile, but now that I've heard about the 3/4 switch deal, I might have actually had a hearty chuckle at this one. DAMMIT RANDALL!

  32. RE the comment about swapping the panels:

    I also took the liberty of altering the "tumble" text, as per blog suggestion.

  33. OH CRAP!

    I'm actively avoiding the newest comic, so fuck you guys, I'll talk about this tumbleweed one.

    Now... the incredible thing about this comic is that... it really is a very good strip... IF YOU SWITCH THE LAST PANEL WITH THE PENULTIMATE ONE! Now, you look at this man, who is 5 years doing webcomics and you realize the guy doesn't even have a grasp of, you know, humor. I... I'm speechless.

    And there's the point that it has little to do with everything else xkcd(the math, the geekiness, the quirky-quirky relationships, the vaginas). It sort of looks like a chainsawsuit with even less detail. It's not a real complaint, but it's sort of... nagging me in a corner of my mind.

    I'm still baffled at how simple it'd be to make this comic so much better, and yet Randall just can't see it. Clearly the man doesn't care. Maybe he's way too busy basking in his GOMMHistic glory and counting wads of money he makes from selling stick figures on t-shirts to try and improve his work...

    That's sad, people!


  34. Charles Augustus FortescueSeptember 8, 2010 at 6:22 AM

    All the people saying "this comic just boils down to WHAT IF A TUMBLEWEED SHOT SOMEONE" are wrong. No it doesn't work when you just say it like that, but it does work as a visual gag. Different jokes work in different media.

  35. The new one is pretty funny. Not OMG I WILL QUOTE THIS FOREVER (that honor goes to Caveman Science Fiction alone among webcomics), but pretty amusing. Alt text sucks though.

    On the tumbleweed, the fixed version is _so_ much better.

  36. Man, the most common form of study is the double-blind study (open sided or single-blind doesn't hold much cred in the scientific community), where-in none of those who actively participate in the experiment (researchers as well as subjects) has no clue about which group is the placebo. Now sure, someone must know, but that is probably the "experiment leader" or some other person not doing anything. When the study is over, they break the seal of an envelope and find out which group did what.

  37. I created an alternate take and posted it at http://www.flickr.com/photos/puerexmachina/4971134384/

  38. Why would Randall want to interfere with real American science?

  39. Yeah but anon 6:42 if I were into doing this I would probably favour doing this to single-blind trials.

  40. You know what, it's actually a good thing Randall didn't reverse the two panels, because he probably would have just done this:


  41. I'm just happy that this one has a horizon line.

  42. Jacob: not Grand Theft Auto. Red Dead Redemption.

    Bonus xkcd mashup, which is completely unrelated to anything above, and which is not very funny, but I decided to post it anyway because I'm such a media whore.

  43. I also thought that it would be better with some changes, like switching the panels, but when I first read it, I was still like, "This is an improvement over a lot of the comics lately. It needs a lot of polishing up. You know, something an editor would help with. But the core joke is decent, and that's better than usual."

    Then I read the alt text and I was like, "What the FUCK was that, Randall?!? Man, you sure did prove to me that you know things about meteorology THAT IS SO HILARIOUS."

  44. Nobody in particularSeptember 8, 2010 at 1:26 PM

    The more I think about it, the more "There was a Tumbleweed with guns" is a terrible terrible thing.

    The more I think about it, the more "Ahhh Spiders" is the stupidest thing to have somebody say to convince readers that they're high.

  45. I thought the spiders thing was a reference to the "Spiders on Drugs" experiments. In fact, I think Randall came up with the idea of his comic right after watching this video.

  46. The tumbleweed thing made like zero sense to me. I had to reread it to even figure out what the fuck was going on. And then when I did, it wasn't funny. I am stupider for having seen this comic. Part of my life, which I will never get back, is expended because of it.

    Fuck you, Randall Monroe.

  47. "OH GOD SPIDERS" would make sense for someone on meth to say, since apparently a common symptom of meth is the sensation that bugs are crawling on/under one's skin. But he used LSD, not meth, so I dunno what the fuck.

  48. christ your over thinking it
    its funny ok

  49. haha, drugs make people act weird

    it's inspired

  50. @ScottMcTony What's this 5 category hallucinogen schema you're talking about? I know of various ratings for experiences (Shulgin's scale, etc.), but not for substances.

    Randall has clearly never taking acid. He should stick to writing about stuff he knows.

    I started college as a huge nerd (probably would've liked xkcd had it existed then). I spent the first few weekends of college hanging out with other nerds who'd play Magic, watch bad sci-fi on TV, and have polyamorous relationships with a whole bunch of unattractive people (I wasn't getting laid though).

    Then I realized that spending my weekends getting really drunk, smoking lots of pot and taking something stronger from time to time was more fun and lead to more interesting social interactions (still wasn't getting laid though).

    The nerds would complain about being outcasts, but it seemed self-imposed. Everybody at my small liberal arts school was at at least somewhat nerdy, and an outcast in high school. Most of the students figured out partying was better for their social lives than a Dr. Who marathon (although I can see the temptation of polyamorous sex with unattractive people). Randall seems to belong to the group that never got the partying thing down and settled for Dr. Who and sweet ugly nerd love.

  51. ACTUALLY, as someone who knows an actual something about double-blind experiments...

    Most of the time NOBODY knows which participant is in which group... DURING the study. The only "person" who knows is the computer, which might assign a participant to be given pill A or pill B, or to be shown stimulus I or stimulus II. The coding of which participant is in which study might then be encrypted, so no one can know who is who without unlocking the results.

    Only AFTER the study might the researches be able to unlock the groups, and so learn which participant was in which study.

    ... or, occasionally, as others have suggested, a third-party might know the groups. This isn't usually considered as sound, though.

  52. Tumbleweed comic: proof that randy needs an editor, part 789.

    LSD comic: proof that randy needs to fucking quit making comics because he can't write for shit and his jokes are awful, part 790.

  53. Do people really have to make such a big deal?
    It's not like Randall Munroe killed your parents.

  54. I pity the fool who doesn't recognized comically exaggerated fury when he sees it.
    He must spend a lot of time getting butthurt at other people for no reason.

  55. yes he did anon don't say such things if you don't know if you're right it gets really awkward

  56. :( My grandmother died reading an xkcd comic.

    captcha: ovenine. Horrific beast with nine ovaries. 62 hp, 24 AC, 24 Fortitude, 22 Reflex, 23 will.

  57. Randall's drugs of choice are Sleep Deprivation, Caffeine, and maaaaaaybe small amounts of Alcohol [no large amounts any more, after the New Years Incident....], so give him a break for not actually knowing what hard drugs are like. As we all know, "write what you know" has hardly stopped him before.

  58. Timofei, that was brilliant. I love you and your work.

  59. "Scott McTony seems to be the only other person who knows what a 'blind' experiment is."

    Nope. How does that make you feel? Pretty dumb, huh?

    Way to jump on the bandwagon of the St. Louis Rams of this comment thread, bro.

    Because this is the internet, even people proven wrong will continue to argue, because, hey, why not. Beats going outside, right?

  60. The newest XKCD is funny if you assume the alt text is the punchline

  61. Yeah I chuckled at 790s alt text.

    Thing is, that isn't where the 'main' punchline belongs, you know? He should have made that the panel joke.

  62. Sepia I actually meant the experiences and was just saying LSD typically causes a category 2 experience.
    It turns out I am a little bit horrible at trying to say things.

  63. There is no try, Scott, only do.

  64. Nerd bait: Incorrectly quote a Star Wars character on the internet and wait for someone to correct you.

  65. So, wait. Would an experiment where nobody knew who was in what group be a triple-blind test, then? This concept excites me and I wish to attempt it immediately. Someone fetch me a blotter-page of acid!

    Also, I have to admit that I always feel a little weird when I'm aware that a joke won't work because the writer chose the wrong drug reference. Like, normal people shouldn't know what effects different drugs have. I worry a lot about being normal. Maybe I should drop some LSD to help me relax.

    ...come on seriously somebody's gotta be holding X(

  66. Nah it's cool Randall gets so ridiculously nit-picky in his comic I think it's justified to make fun of him for getting things wrong.

  67. i read a few of yours (including the QC one below) and have come to a conclusion. You're a boring bastard and hate comics. Read (and complain about even thoug people like them) my comics if you will!

  68. i read a few of yours (including this comment above) and have come to a conclusion. You're a boring bastard and hate review blogs. Read (and complain about even thoug people like them) this blog if you will!

  69. kingrandom: your site is bad, your comics are bad, your blog is bad and you should feel terrible.

  70. The last two comics for me have been unintentionally funny

    I thought tumbleweed was meant to be sorta circular, so it y'know , tumbles.
    Because of this, the first thing I thought of when I saw randall's meaningless bundle of squiggles was a tangle of pubic hair.

    so it appears the two gun slingers, were naked all along! we could not tell (because we were not zoomed in on their vaginas)
    In their quickdraw, their revolvers get caught in their short and curlies, and fly out their hands, clashing in the middle and forming a boyant horrible mess of personal fuzz.

    On hitting the ground the guns in the pubic hair go off, killing the naked cowboys in a fit of incredible irony.

    The newest one was fucking freaky.

    When I saw it, I was immediately reminded of the mutation arc in the animated series of spider-man (click my name) where peter parker sprouts an extra set of arms.

    I thought "holy shit this is going to be absurd and hilarious, she's clearly been bitten by a radioactive spider and shit's gotten real"
    then I read the punchline and laughed myself shitty.

    The punchline is that ranDUll can't draw.

    capcha: rofts. These comics made me rofts.

  71. i can't believe how many people here do not understand how a double blind experiment works

  72. Oh god this comic is hilarious if you think she grew two extra pairs of arms.

  73. holy jesus fucking shit kingrandom that is so horrible