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xkcd sucks … no more!

Not entirely true… in more ways than one, depending on your opinion of the webcomic anyway. I’m talking specifically about Carl Wheeler’s site xkcd Sucks (formerly called xkcd: Overrated). The site is one of the most notorious agitprop blogs about webcomics, namely dissecting every xkcd strip and talking about how bad it is.

I’ve read a few. I guess I’m a little bit of a believer that even the worst webcomic creators have good days, hence I am not necessarily a fan of the format. (Plus the whole “If you hate it so much, why do you keep reading it” argument gains a lot of traction here.) Still, I am also in favor of honest criticism if something is bad, and the write-ups in xkcd Sucks were, for the most part, valid and well-argued.

But that changes now, because xkcd Sucks is going in a new direction. From the blog:

When I first started blogging here, I was doing it out of a frustration I no longer feel. That’s not to say xkcd has gotten better, of course – in fact, it’s gotten worse. But some things have changed: When I started, it was because I felt like no one else seemed to realize that xkcd was getting so terrible. It was just frustrating to feel like I was the only one who “got it”, which I know is a super pretentious thing to say, but it’s how I felt. I was hoping that someone else online had come to the same conclusion, so naturally I googled “xkcd sucks.” I didn’t find much. So I decided it was up to me. I had some brief experience with blogger.com, so I set up an account and started posting.

So here’s what’s different now: I’m not the only one who thinks xkcd sucks. There are you guys, certainly, and I love you all for it. But even elsewhere – it’s far more common to hear people say that xkcd is getting a lot worse. I no longer feel like I’m doing anyone a favor by having this blog. That alone, though, wouldn’t be enough to stop – I truly do enjoy this sort of thinking and this sort of writing, and the practice is certainly good even if no one is reading. And recently, that’s dropped off too – the overarching problem with most recent xkcd comics is not that they are terrible but that they are boring. It’s not fun to write about. A lot of the problems in the new comics are the exact same problems as in old comics, so to criticize them properly would be to merely repeat myself. That’s not fun.

At the same time, I’m reading tons of other comics. I link to them when I can, but usually the amount of time I spend on xkcd crowds out the rest of the stuff. I want to spend more time reading new comics and writing reviews of those, or writing more book reviews, or interviews. And I want to have a few more voices represented, not just mine.

But all this I had decided long ago – the problem was, I still felt like xkcdsucks should continue too, and I didn’t have time for both. So here’s my compromise: “xkcdsucks” is now going to be a weekly feature of the new blog. Rather than feel the need to comment on every single xkcd no matter what, this will let me be more adaptable – if only one comic is worth commenting on that particular week, then that’s all I’ll do. I always say that Randall’s problem (ONE of his problems) is that he forces himself to update constantly, regardless of quality. So I shouldn’t do that myself.

Hey! I still haven’t told you anything about the new site! And this is what I am super excited about, too. So! It’s a wordpress blog, right now it’s pretty basic visually but I hope to work on that in the comic weeks. If you want to help out that would be cool. I certainly want some nicer images around, and maybe some help with the general visual theme. My idea is that everything can be done through one blog, but that there would be links to only certain by certain features (like, “posts written by this guy” or “interviews,” etc.) so it would feel a little more organized than just “all posts here, read in order.” I have a few ideas for what to write about – actually a whole lot – so I’m pretty excited to get started. The URL is www.webcomics.me , so that’s a pretty nice place for it. I don’t have a name for it besides just calling it “webcomics.me” so if you think of a good name let me know. Actually if you think of anything at all let me know.

So there you go. The head prophet for the proposition that xkcd might not be the greatest webcomic in the world has gone and started an all new blog, scaling back xkcd Sucks duty to a once-a-week at best. Will Carl start talking about webcomics he actually likes? Maybe.

(h/t reader Dane Thulin)

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About El Santo

Somehow ended up reading and reviewing almost 300 different webcomics. Life is funny, huh? Despite owning two masks, is not actually a luchador.

Posted on October 6, 2010, in The Webcomic Overlook, webcomics and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 22 Comments.

  1. I used to read “xkcd sucks”; when I discovered it, I even went through its entire archives, even though I’ve never been a devotee of the webcomic it reviewed.

    Was Wheeler fair? I think he was. Unlike “John Solomon”, whose abuse was gratuitous, “xkcd sucks” pointed out precisely where “xkcd” went wrong, and Wheeler never hesitated to say that he liked “xkcd”, which is more than even I can say.

    But now comes the inevitable point where he is conceding defeat. People who liked “xkcd” weren’t likely to be swayed by his arguments, and people who didn’t like it probably never bothered reading a blog dedicated to criticizing it in the first place. So “xkcd sucks” was left with those who read it while dismissing it in advance, and those who already agreed with it.

    As for Randall, he’s just going to go on what he’s always been doing, impervious to criticism as always.

    I was thinking of launching an “Order of the Stick Sucks” blog, but I’ll wait until the speech bubbles take up 95 percent of the screen. Getting close to that now…

  2. While I am far from a xykd fan I will give it props for getting a page rank of 7 for that type of web comic. That was where was when I last reviewed it.The creator must promote like crazy, or gets so much hate it has pushed his comic to new hights.

  3. The whole xkcd sucks thing is just ridiculous. Yeah, you don’t like it, yeah it’s not always great even for the average person that does like it, but isn’t creating a blog dedicated to something like that a little extreme? I can’t stand bananas and can give you a detailed and well written explanation of why I think that they should be wiped off the face the earth if you asked me to, but that would just be silly now wouldn’t it? Even if I have a logical reason for why they are so terrible what would be the point? And isn’t it true someone could just as easily come up with well written reasons why I myself am wrong?
    Even if this were something as godawful as twilight we were talking about, and not a webcomic made specifically for a select audience, then the writer of the blog would still be just as ridiculous and come off just as annoying as the obsessive fans. What I mean is that even the majority of people who don’t like xkcd still roll their eyes at xkcd sucks, a blog that itself caters to an even more select audience.

    So stop the hate people, it’s bad for your health and stuff.

    • Yeah, you don’t like it, yeah it’s not always great even for the average person that does like it, but isn’t creating a blog dedicated to something like that a little extreme? I can’t stand bananas and can give you a detailed and well written explanation of why I think that they should be wiped off the face the earth if you asked me to, but that would just be silly now wouldn’t it? Even if I have a logical reason for why they are so terrible what would be the point? And isn’t it true someone could just as easily come up with well written reasons why I myself am wrong?

      That sounds a lot like a little something I like to call “politics.”

      EDIT: Also, on that last point: while it wasn’t well-written there was a xkcd Sucks Sucks, which lasted all of five entries. Which sort of means there is an unwritten limitation on how far these things can go.

      • They’re like those pictures where someone is holding a picture of the very picture they’re in. In theory it could go on forever but really you can’t put up too many without the original being really, really big.

    • you don’t like bananas?! freak!

  4. you know, I can only dream to reach a level of success that inspires someone enough to put up a Spy6teen sucks site.
    (kidding, of course…)

    Granted, I haven’t been to XKCDsucks– nor am I a huge fan of Xkcd, I’ve seen a few, they’ve made me chuckle…I move on.
    I suppose there’s a level of valid criticism that a “sucks site” is providing, but really, when it comes to webcomics, why?
    The webcomic audience/creator community is niche, at best– It would seem to me that breeding negativity is fairly cancerous to a medium that’s just starting to come into its own.

    I don’t want to get all flower-power/hippie, but at this point it does seem more important to concentrate on the positive aspects of webcomics– and perhaps shine a light on those that are doing exemplary work.

    …then again, this is the internet– and if there’s one thing we do well, it’s hate.

    • What he said, only with a car chase to make it extra awesome.

    • Webcomics has always been too much of a circle jerk. It needs someone who will point to the bigger comics and mention the emperor has been running around with a distinct lack of clothing far too often and getting away with it.

      Yes, no force on Earth or in the heavens will convince a fanboy they have shitty tastes. (Look at Joss Whedon’s continued employment.) But if the bar could be raised a bit, it would be good for the medium all around.

      • which is to say: If there was more balance and less ass-kissing when the “press” talks about webcomics, you’d have stop having sites like this or Solomon rising up in reaction to it.

      • El Santo has been very good I think at pointing out the pantlessness of a few kings, but the Xkcd Sucks author is more like a reverse fanboy. His dislike of the comic is so great that he has to talk about it every day and find other people to talk to who share his disinterests. As I said before, this sort of thing is just as annoying as a fanboy if not more for the shear ridiculousness of it.

    • Spy6teen,

      Your question is a common sort of one, especially when it comes from creators, as no one wants their work torn down. Even the threat of the work being cast negatively has been enough in the past for some of the bigger names to jump down hard on people who would even try to reveiw. I think those of us looking at the medium in the late 90’s – early 2000’s can remember the rabid fanbase vs fanbase wars and people tearing down each others work.

      Here’s the thing; reviews aren’t meant for the creators. Any faults in their own comic are probably known already and really, they should be getting advice from their peers in this regard. Trying to please anyone and everyone with what you do is a case for mediocraty. Also, there is a difference between a negative review and bashing a comic, or indeed, its creator (something I consider a big no-no when reviewing myself).

      Reviews are for the audiences. I mean, if no one ever said a negative word, or even something like “Hey this strip sucks for the first 200 pages, but then really picks up the pace later on, read from there.” Then how could one know that a good comic was nestled in between the bad starting pages? Or indeed, whether a comic like Schlock Mercenary, with stands near 4000 comics these days, is worth the time to go through the archives? (IMHO, it is.) A movie is over in two hours, a print book in a shorter amount of time, but a webcomic that has gone for a while would take a person many hours to get through.

      On another point about the fanbases, what if you have an opinion that was against the grain and could show intellegently why? I can think of over a dozen webcoomics out there in that if you sauid anything negative on the forums, you would be hunted down for it. While I’m not defending the attitude of the xkcdsucks site at points, you can read from his blogpost that the creator of it felt that he had nowhere to express that. A well written negative review lets people know “Hey, you can actually think this and you’re not a hater for it.”

      Plus, there is the ultimate review: Word of Mouth. Letting people know, hey this is bad for this reason, or hey, this is good for this reason, increases traffic. I personally have had a few webcomics pointed out to me because a light was shed on it and from there I made up my own mind.

      TL:DR For webcomic readers, well written reviews have a place, even when they are negative. Sometimes especially so.

      • To add:

        I always thought xkcd was more popular than it should have been. (The fact it *is* = props to Mr Munroe and what I assume to be clever marketing) That’s not a bad thing; but the whole thing comes across more like a blog with pictures than anything else. Enjoyable at times, but at times felt like it was trying to be funny and at other times he explains his jokes in his alt text, which I feel ruins it.

        I think Randall’s popularity currently is reminiscent to PA’s several years back, before it was really grabbed a hold of with the business plan of Robert Khoo. Speaking to an audience that hadn’t really been caters to yet = bazillion hits. Carving a niche: Something the big names achieve.

        Whether Randall does anything with it like PA did with PAX and Child’s Play is anyone’s guess.

  5. Why?

    Because you cannot work or belong to the field that the ‘target audience’ is made of without it being rammed down your throat at every turn. Aspies only understand one thing, being thoroughly disproven over and over again, until they become part of the chorus. xkcdsucks helped save my sanity because now I can just do things like this:

    http://xkcdsucks.blogspot.com/2009/12/no-one-is-forcing-you-to-read-it.html

    • If you haven’t got it in you to ignore a 3 panel comic when it comes up in a news feed then you’re a fucking failure as a human being. Stop demanding that everyone elses tastes be dictated by what you do and don’t like.

      • I will ignore what Capn said about Aspies for the sake of preserving poliet discourse and just say: Damn, that’s a mean and pointless blog. I respect his opinion, but I think that writing [B] an entire damn blog[B] about how much he hates it and also insults everyone who reads the strip is going to far, and makes him come off as even worse than what he’s critizing.

  6. Poor to mediocre art and cheap geek sitcom humor are still the bane of webcomics in general.
    Still, there are a lot of good webcomics out there, so there will always be hope for the medium.

    • Funny, I always thought that a certain segment of overly vocal web comic fans were the biggest impediment to the medium. The twin attitudes of “I only liked it before everyone else did” and “fill in the blank is the dumbest thing ever because blah blah blah”. Of course one hears those sort of quotes in other places. Anywhere someone wants to show how superior they are but don’t have anything to show.

      *sucks sites can be quite funny, but they are much like a Saturday night live skit or any joke where the premise IS the joke. It gets less funny the longer it goes on.

  7. Bah. There is no webcomic out there, or movie or book or anything that does not have flaws. Only because something has flaws does not mean it sucks. Avatar sucks because its flaws far outweighs its strong sides(mainly awesome graphics). The Lord of the Rings movies doesn’t, even if their flaws makes me like the book a bit more. And xkcd doesn’t because while it might just be a webcomic with geeky science humor, it’s still a neat little thing that makes me chuckle. And saying its annoying that so many people like it… that is to bad I guess? Having to exist in a world with webcomics that have become unfairly popular. Maybe we should create a comitte. Though of course I’m just another rabid fan so my criticisms must be invalid *rolls eyes*. Honestly the whole premise of the blog seems to have holes all over it, and I do not buy it for one second. Even picking apart individual comics. You want to give xkcd a serious critical review? Review the comic as a whole. Nitpicking at each comic to bring out its flaws is not clever, it’s just a matter of perspective. I could make a blog about how any damned webcomic I want sucks with that type of strategy. And of course the more popular it is, the more justified I am, because I am fighting against the evil hordes of its fans. Sighs. So to summarize: He has utterly failed me to prove his criticisms outweight xkcd’s strength. His entire blog is themed so he can sit in a position where he do not have to take nay-sayers seriously, which might be necessary to protect himself against rabid fans but yanno, screw that, and the entire thing seems to me to be rather meanspirited. Oh? You’ve been moderately succesful in a niche media? YOU SUCK! I will not stand for this! And before people make insipid remarks about fandom, I’m not particular into xkcd. I like it but it is far from my favorite webcomic, and if it ended tomorrow I’d be sad for maybe five minutes. I just don’t like the premise nor structure of the x thing sucks blog, cause you can pretty much apply it to anything and feel justified. It itches my dumb thing nerve.

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