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).

Sunday, September 4, 2011

xkcd Sucks Less, Week 3

Hello, everyone. Four updates in four days? Preposterous! I expect this streak to continue, too, with another review tomorrow and possibly some bingo around the corner. In the meantime, enjoy these improved xkcds.

Comic 944: Hurricane Names


Hey guys, let's take a premise that might be humorous, suck all the funny out by overloading the reader with words, and don't let up until the alt-text has a paragraph all by itself! That's what Randall's done with this comic.

"Sucks Less" Version:

alt-text: I keep reading "Cyclone" as "Cylon" ... heh heh ... Cylon Steve is attacking Florida ... giggle.

This fix came from SinbadEV. It's amazing how many of these strips can be improved by just condensing the text. There's no over the top "the world is a hurricane" situation, there's no nerd pandering with Cantor's theorem, and there's a lot fewer words to convey exactly the same situation. All in all, a better comic.

Comic 945: I'm Sorry


As I said in my review, this isn't necessarily a bad comic. In fact, I think it's one of the better ones in recent memory. Still, let's see if we can't make this a bit better.

"Sucks Less" Version:

Ladies and gentlemen, THIS is how it's done. Take a recurring and recognizable character, quickly set him up with a plausible situation, and chuckle as he twists it around. It's relevant, it's punchy, it fits the character, it shows instead of telling, and overall it's a pretty darn good strip. Credit goes to Schnouk for making this one suck less.

Comic 946: Family Decals


This one wouldn't be so bad if I didn't hate Randall for making it.

"Sucks Less" Version:

Alt-Text: I've looked everywhere but I've yet to find one of these family decals for "Quetzalcoatlus".

SinbadEV helps me out again here. He submitted two corrections, but I like this one best. It's just another decal...UNTIL you pull up next to someone with those family stickers! Everyone wins!

We got a pretty decent batch this time around. Major thanks to this week's contributors. Remember, everyone, YOU TOO can be credited on one of these features! Just send me an email with your improvement, and I'll try to see that it gets put on the site (see the top of the page for details).


  1. Is that a flying ferret, or have the raptors learned to fly?


  2. I normally wouldn't say 'make your own webcomic' since being a "critic" is an activity in itself.

    But since you're doing something so easy and pretentious as taking what's already done and "improving" it and even giving LESSONS on how to make humor (quoting: 'Ladies and gentlemen, THIS is how it's done'), I really have to say it.

    You seem to believe you have lots of talent to write humor, and you seem to be someone who can handle criticism (since you make this blog), so why don't you just go ahead and do it? Isn't that better that being constantly attacking (sometimes even personally) those who actually create things?

    Heck, you might even sell a T-shirt or two... being so good at what others do.

  3. The point is not to brag about how much better than Randall we are, the point is that Randall often has good ideas that lack an appropriate execution. Yes it's easy to just take it and improve it, that's precisely why a common complaint here is "Randall needs an editor". Gamer probably doesn't claim he could come up with better set-ups than him to appeal to his supposedly nerdy audience, but we all noticed that Randall often traps himself in unnecessary features applied to otherwise adequate comic material.

    "THIS is how it's done" seems like nothing more than a formula to give this review some punch...

    For the record I'm making my own webcomic, but it's in French, which conveniently shelters me from criticism about the humor from English-speaking people. (And fortunately French-speaking people don't give a fuck either).

  4. "You seem to believe you have lots of talent to write humor"

    Yeah, okay. When have I ever claimed to be funny? When have I ever TRIED to be funny?

    As far as pretentiousness goes, I could understand that point of view if these were my edits and I said, "This is totally the best thing since humor was invented." But I didn't. These aren't my corrections. These are other peoples', and I'm complimenting them for their work.

    The point of this feature, as Lucas said, is to take the ideas Randall already has (which DO have the potential for humor) and develop them properly. We're not trying to come up with our own ideas here. We're simply taking what we're given and making minor tweaks. We're not saying, "Look at what great cartoonists we are." We're saying, "Randall could be decent if he didn't ruin all of his strips."

  5. "Is that a flying ferret, or have the raptors learned to fly?[/fanboy]"

    I know right... this SinbadEV guy can't draw Quetzalcoatluses for beans!

  6. Hmmm.

    I like xkcd, but the idea of a blog critiquing it amuses me. And if indeed your intent is to point out the potential for improvement - to build up, rather than tear down (like, say, the critics of Dominic Deegan), then more power to you. I don't think I'll stick around (got plenty of other stuff to enjoy), but I thought I'd at least critique your critiques a bit before I go.

    Firstly: When you've run across the same irritation so many times that you want to Just Do Something, well, it's pretty common to communicate the irritation online, at least for the reaction of "Yeah, I've felt that way too." You appear to be doing that with this blog; he was doing that with his "I'm Sorry" comic, and you seem to have overlooked that aspect of it.

    So the upgrade may seem punchier, but it's lost the original context. He intended more than just a joke: It's from a long line of comics that call attention to weird bits of human culture. In this case, the misinterpretation of intent behind a simple statement of empathy. When you take that away, you reduce it to *merely* a funny comic, and I don't think this change improved it.

    Secondly: The pterodactyl flying away with the kid is hilarious. I don't think the existence of a funny alternative makes the original less funny, but you did make me chuckle.

    Thirdly: The hurricane comic. Hmmm.

    You know, I've been told for decades that everything should be shorter, pithier, use fewer words and smaller words and in general get the point across fast without calling attention to the way it's said. And certainly I've tried to improve my "pithiness" over the years (it tends to make for better writing).

    I've also disagreed with the absolute nature of the idea. There are things that benefit from being said in longer form, or with fancier wording. Entire sonnets could be reduced to "love ya," entire songs to "gimme sex." Winnie the Pooh wouldn't feel the same without talking its way around things and calling attention to the words "he said."

    With this comic, I think your version sounds more like a joke; his version sounds more like a newscaster. In addition, although your version doesn't lack the idea that a lot of storms are happening, his version feels like a tiny glimpse into a dramatic story, and yours does not. Plus the use of "Hurricane Eggbeater" is funny to me as well.

    So I don't agree with SGirl (one can certainly critique without needing to "create your own"), but I don't think the changes here are necessarily improvements. Though I'm sure that you've got improvements elsewhere on this blog; his comic could certainly be improved in places. Anyway, good luck with the blog.