Wednesday, December 12, 2007


I'm an xkcd man myself.

A couple wise friends--former residents, actually--once told me that there's a webcomic out there for anyone. Doesn't matter who you are, what you're into, what your style of humor is. If you're on the internet, there will be at least something that you can throw your support behind. Or fifteen somethings, if you're a few friends of mine.

My immediate reaction to most webcomics is that, while they're generally amusing in most cases, they're also not something that I'm going to expend effort to inspect every day in most cases. Several have distinguished themselves to my friends and colleagues as "awesome" and things that they think I'd "really enjoy if you gave it a chance." Probably true. The thing is, I don't necessarily want to have to give something that much of a chance. I want to be stricken, right away, with "wow, this is legitimately funny, I will make a concerted effort to keep reading this comic three/five/seven times a week from now on."

It's odd, too, because most of these webcomics deal with topics and inside humor that anyone who knows me halfway would think I'd be rolling in laughter over. RPG jokes? Video game jokes? I should be all about that sort of thing, right? In general. I think the main sticking points are these. First, I was never really into comics, as such, especially ones with recurring storylines. I much prefer my comics to be witty one-panelers, in the general style of Rhymes with Orange, or Non Sequitur at its funniest. (I don't care much for graphic novels at all. Nothing against them, really, just not my style. And I've yet to see a film adaptation of one that I've enjoyed in the least. Exempli gratia, 300.) I can take some week-spanning stories in my comics, but anything that requires me to follow something like a plot over many weeks has lost my attention. It's no longer comedic; it's become a chore.

And many of these webcomics touted as "hilarious" by my friends require that same sort of dedication. It's why I don't like WoW, except maybe on a much smaller scale: if you miss one day, you can't really enjoy the next without some make-up work. For example, I generally like the Order of the Stick that I've seen. It makes for an entertaining and generally amusing read. But it's often long, has a lot of words, and requires explicit knowledge of all the characters and past several comics to understand why it's funny. I actually really admire something that relies on contextual character interactions to drive humor. But that seems more like a novel than a comic.

Second thing I'm less than enthusiastic about is some manner of implied knowledge of all things esoteric that the webcomic author deems it necessary that I know about. Take this recent Penny Arcade. It relies on you knowing not only what Kane and Lynch is but also Jeff Gerstmann and his review. Perhaps I'm simply not the target audience for this comic, then, but I find it hard to believe that half the people exhorting me to read Penny Arcade got the joke either. (As for Mr. Gerstmann, the review isn't all that scathing, at least compared to half the user comments.)

I mentioned earlier that I like xkcd. There are a few things about it I do not like so much. It's "1337" week of comics was perhaps the least funny I've ever seen xkcd, because it combined both of my gripes over webcomics: a story that I'm supposed to follow, and supposition that I know who Richard Stallman is. Here's the thing: that strip was immensely successful to the xkcd hardcore. They know who Stallman is, and probably have lararia to him next to their computers. (I read the Wikipedia about him, and rolled my eyes more than anything.) Oddly, though I'd consider myself a fan of xkcd, I like it the least when it's truest to its most loyal audience.

Still plenty of science jokes to go around, though, like in the latest one. No knowledge of idealistic internet-rights movements implied here, just good old fashioned making fun of physics.

Currently listening: Messiah, Handel

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