February 22, 2008


XKCD baffles me. It has a very large fanbase of people who consider themselves to be extremely intelligent, as evidenced by the fact that they like a webcomic that frequently makes "jokes" about high-brow, technical things like computer programming and science fiction. This would be an okay formula, I guess, because nerd humor is somewhat intrinsically funny. Dilbert had its moments, Futurama is one of the greatest TV series ever, whatever. Nerdy stuff is fun because humor often takes a lot intelligence anyway, and nerds can laugh at themselves if they're in the right mood. The problem is when nerdy humor is done incredibly poorly, like off-days Dilbert and User Friendly and, to bring it back to the title of this post, XKCD.

XKCD no longer tells jokes. It's a plain and simple fact. Just look at any of the recent comics. Can you guess the formula? It's pretty simple: Nerdy concept (typically something from science fiction, since Munroe exhausted his actual knowledge of science years ago and is coasting) + ANOTHER nerdy concept (if we're lucky) + sarcasm = High-brow hilarity. It's the same thing as PvP, only with Linux and velociraptors instead of the Dukes of Hazzard and Megatron. I would like to note that Dinosaur Comics has perfected the art of including raptors in webcomics, by the way. In any case, programming languages are hilarious things, Randall. Or IRC chatlogs, even better! That last link brings up something very special in the XKCD world: The romantic comic.

Yes, for XKCD isn't just about how much Randall just LURVES to nerd things up with all the actual humor of a brick wall. It's also sophisticated, deep romance, because Randall knows a thing or two about love. And so we get stuff that's unfunny, but on purpose! Or maybe it's not on purpose, because half the time it's combining these romantic encounters with more lame references to mathematics and how funny nerds are, what with their antics, and the laughing, with the thing, and the, yeah. But some of them are things of elegiac beauty and heartbreak. Or not, because XKCD is written with all the subtlety and tenderness of a shitty blog about webcomics. I'm pretty sure nobody cares about the emotional vulnerability of a guy defined primarily in terms of being a snarky asshole. Might I also add that that first strip there involves a psychological analysis so implausible that it would only fit into the Ender's Shadow series, topped off by a mind-bendingly arrogant cunt?

Mind-bendingly arrogant pretty much sums up the fanbase, too.

XKCD is for those of us who realize life is not all about happy endings and trophy wives and who is better than who and all that shit. It's for those of us who live in reality. It's for the intelligent. It's for the insane. It's not for fairytale douche-bags like [Sonty Mick]. --Anonymous

xkcd is for those among us who don't wallow in self-pity. It's for those of us who are filled with awe for the ordinary, not those who seek to fill emptiness with bland fiction.

It's for people with an intelligent sense of humor, not a chip on their shoulder.


My current theory is that XKCD's fanbase consists of people whose sense of intelligence is strongly entwined with their ability to appreciate this so-called "intelligent webcomic," and they're incapable of NOT liking an XKCD strip, lest it betray their mediocrity.

I haven't mentioned the art, and that's because if I did I would have needed to preface it with a "good writing can save bad art but XKCD doesn't have good writing" blurb. Now I can just rip into it, having established that XKCD has terrible writing.

Actually, there isn't much to say, since Randall fully understands that he draws expressionless stick figures that aren't good for conveying much of anything beyond quick bits of sarcasm and references to nerd culture, but then again neither are the characters so it's a good match. I guess he does think he can do landscapes and life drawing, but he wisely chose not to actually draw that crud outside of his math class doodles.

There's nothing more to say about the art. It doesn't fail to accurately convey the emotions with which the characters speak, since the characters never experience any emotions other than "puzzlement," "tragically beautiful romance," and "child-like wonder." It doesn't put off the comedic timing, since there isn't any in the first place. It gives us a cheap way to tell that the snarky guy is still being snarky and that the girl is still being female, and that's about all you could expect from a comic with such low standards.

This comic pretty much perfectly encapsulates everything that's wrong with XKCD. It's tiresome, it's formulaic, it's poorly-drawn, it's poorly-written, it's pretentious, and it's insufferably boring.

Okay, maybe that was going a bit too far. But seriously, these two sum it up.