Two stick figures laying in darkness with a single window providing light.


You know, I have a soft spot for xkcd. I've seen a lot of webcomics in my day, some good, some bad, and I can say that no other webcomic has touched on the sheer depth–of–content as this poorly–drawn and now–ineffectual pile of white and black. Other webcomics are the best in their own world, like how Achewood focuses on the most farcical stories, or Penny Arcade on being congealed shit. xkcd was great because it managed to focus on so many aspects of culture — from romance to technology to politics to asshattery, while still making time to be silly. Some of its comics are almost child–like in their execution, and yet have a maturity that says so much about its creator.

Keyword was. The comic ran for about eleven years at the time of writing, still running, and for it to not go completely in the shitter during that time shows the versatility of the format. Because of the length, the earliest comics are indistinguishable from the latest ones in all but art style. Also because of the length it is incredibly difficult to characterise even a single year's worth of comics as being of different quality from any arbitrary year. But on the whole, there is a noticeable trend of, well, taking the xkcd out of xkcd.

Gone is the experimentalism that made the earliest comics great. I don't mean experimenting like adding in a flash game or a comic designed to be viewed over weeks; these are but dancing bears with no meaningful substance. I mean experimenting with themes that make you uncomfortable, scenes that leave you in wonder, and jokes that don't require you be a part of a specific culture to find them funny. Truth be told, it's always had duds, especially when it comes to confusing "wit" with "creativity". Now I find more of them more often.

The actual hacking was dead simple. Four colours worked well, but you know, you can always do with less bytes these days, so some loss of quality was acceptable. Plus you gotta have that sweet, sweet transparency, so you can treat webpages as a medium in themself as opposed to a means to dump information. You, too, can be a hacker! Just index an image, delete the stray pixels, and bosh. You'll be a really shitty hacker, but hey. You get what you put into it.

But the reason I bring this comic to light isn't because of the hacking. It's to express just what you can do with a limited art style if you decide to actually write with it. The humour comes from the bitterness of a man burned too many times, and yet never wants to show it. And yet it decides to be mature rather than be edgy like so many have fallen before. It's that restraint, that solemn understanding of the simultaneous joy and sacrifice inherent in the world, that made xkcd one of the legends of the Web. Fuck Time. This is Randall's magnum opus.

Date: 2017–02–02. Size: 7,941 bytes. Colours: One.

Upscaled Dimensions: 538×584. Original Dimensions: 538×584.