Died in a Blogging Accident has lived up to its name and died... in a blogging accident. That is to say it has concluded. You can still re-live the magic by clicking here to start at chapter 1. For genuine criticism of XKCD, please click the top link to the right (XKCD Isn't Funny).

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Comic 954: Classic Hat

I'm sorry to all of you who came here expecting hate. That's not going to happen, because I really enjoyed today's strip.

Title: Chin-Up Bar; alt-text: Those few who escaped found the emergency cutoff box disabled. The stampede lasted two hours and reach the bottom three times.

Maybe I'm up too late. Maybe something in my brain snapped., I don't know. All I know is that I'm going to gush about this comic, so be prepared.

Ask and you shall receive, right? Not two strips after we complain about how dull and stupid Mr. Hat is getting, Randall posts this!'s perfect. The pacing is just right, Mr. Hat is obscure and quirky with ultimately sinister motives (that go well beyond making "stud finder finder" jokes), the joke is held off until the last panel, and the alt-text does exactly what an alt-text is supposed to do. This honestly might be the best xkcd in HUNDREDS.

This, in my mind, is classic Hat. We reference Comic 169 here a lot, where he just friggin' shanks a guy, but the Mr. Hat that I remember is a bit nutty, a bit random, and more than willing to go to extreme and convoluted lengths just to cause a little (or a lot of) chaos. And the thing I love about this is just how nonchalant he is about everything. In Comic 952, he might be nonchalant, or he might just be a massive dick. It's hard to tell, because anyone making that response would do so in the exact same way. Not so in this one.

It's also nice that Randall sets the scene naturally through the flow of the strip. Of course Mr. Hat would pick the longest escalator in the country to do this on, but the way we learn that is very smooth and elegant. The guy behind him is trying to make small talk on a tedious ride, and Mr. Hat responds in kind. It's logical. It makes sense. It's realistic dialogue. As the exchange progresses, we begin to feel the hesitation and awkwardness of the second guy through judicious use of beat panels. As I said above, the pacing is perfect.

And finally, his mission accomplished, Mr. Hat leaves. He doesn't stand there watching. He doesn't look back as he descends. He's sown his chaos, and now he's done. It just underlines how utterly senseless the whole act is, especially to him.

Now, the one thing I don't get is why the second guy follows Mr. Hat down the other escalator. But hey, if that's the worst I can say about a (10 panel!) strip, that's not bad. This comic made me laugh, and I'm not going to criticize just for the sake of criticism.

Of course, if one of YOU feels critical enough to write a guest post, my email's at the top of the page...


  1. We don't know if it's the same guy following Mr. Hat down. It might be a different anonymous stick figure.

  2. Mr. Hat should have his own webcomic, no matter if written by Randall himself (he did just prove that he can write a good Mr. Hat comic once in a while) or anybody else (hint hint?). Black Hat Comics... *dreams*

  3. I liked 954 too, so it's not just me.

  4. I might be wrong, but I was under the impression that Mr. Hat usually has an anonymous-stick-figure buddy who goes places with him to be his straight man, which explains (sort of) why it seems to be the same guy behind him all the way.

    It mars this one a little, as ASFB apparently didn't bother asking about the chin-up bar before now, nor does he seem to know or care why they are going up the escalator at all, as he then blindly follows Hat back down.

    I guess you could say he realized what was going to happen and decided to let himself be swept up in the whirlwind that is Mr. Hat, with at least the solace of witnessing such a spectacle.

    But if we accept that, now it's ASFB that's out of character, rather than Hat.

  5. My only problem with this comic is the second panel - I read it across as "This is 70 metres a long longest in escalator. the country." It could do with spacing the text out a bit. Otherwise, it's pretty good.

  6. I feel like we can't honestly criticize XKCD if we are not willing to give credit where credit is due when a particular comic doesn't suck.

    The blog is not called "every xkcd comic sucks".

    I enjoyed this comic. These rare rough-cut-gem comics just makes me realize WHY I still get annoyed by the bad ones rather then just moving on.

  7. My favorite thing about this strip is that while Randall clearly looked up the longest escalator in the country (and in fact the Western Hemisphere), but did not feel the need to name drop the Wheaton station of the Washington Metro, where it is located.

  8. Pull-up bars don't install fast enough for that

  9. People in DC don't stand on the metro escalators. They walk. Standing marks you as a tourist (especially if you stand on the left side). What kind of lazy ass wants to stand for 3 minutes waiting for the escalator to bring them to the top when they can walk and cut the time in half?

    BHG is a tourist, sure, but all those other people on the elevator have do be residents (Wheaton doesn't really have any tourist attractions). BHG shouldn't have the same people on either side of him throughout the trip; they'd be walking past him.

  10. The idea of everyone falling down is funny, however, the attempt at humorous banter made me cringe. He could have gotten rid of most of the panels and still told the same joke.

    You're going soft.

  11. This time, the stretching out of the strip contributes to the comedy. The talk is not that funny, though. Overall although this was an ok strip, I'm still not sure if the black hat guy is played to the best effect here. We've seen him as disproportionately vengeful, or take extreme measures to get what is "rightfully" his. But would he do a random act of dickness just like that, to a mass of people who had in no way aggravated him?

  12. He could have gotten rid of most of the panels and still told the same joke.

    I thought that too, at first. However, as I turned the idea around in my mind of how to condense the strip, I realized that I just really liked the lead-in. Remember, when you put Mr. Hat in a single panel strip (952), he's just kind of a dick. I think it takes those seven panels to really let out the real Mr. Hat.

  13. At first I thought 'Why would people still get on at the bottom?' but then I realised: it's such a long escalator, that people would barely see what was going on at the top.

    In fact, the idea behind this comic is remarkably sound if you think about it. Obligatory TVTropes link. But really, I've noticed a lot of xkcd comics recently where the joke is based on a blatant logical flaw. This isn't one of those.

  14. Isn't the point of Mr. Hat usually that he makes a point? Escalator-trolling seems a bit too random for him…

    I liked the comic, but then thought, "Oh boy, the haters gonna hate…" simply because it seemed too random. But now I realize that character-driven situations make sense out of chaos. It's cool that way.