It is possible, certainly, to appreciate webcomics – or any type of story – by oneself.
However… webcomics are a story that unfolds over the course of time. New developments every week. Constant changes, speculation, excitement – all elements that breed discussion. Even strips that aren’t anything more than a punchline a day still bring out the need to chat about them. To share the joke, have others recognize the humor.
I read quite a lot of comics. It seems inevitable that I should do my best to try and foist many of them upon my friends.
That latest in this vein has been xkcd. Hardly the most typical of comics, it describes itself as a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language.
A simple description? Not so much. But it may be as accurate as one can get. The comic waxes from philosophy to parody to gaming references. It deals with Science. With Math. With Velociraptors.
This is not an easy comic to categorize. This is not even a comic for everyone – it will consistently have jokes that I just don’t get. (And I consider myself a rather bright individual. Humble, too!)
But I still read it. For every comic I don’t get, there is another brilliant one that I do.
When I first read the archives, I didn’t like it. I started at the beginning, which was the real problem. The early strips are relatively weak and unfocused, and somewhat… tainted my reading of it all. But I kept my eye on it. There had been a few gems, and his parodies of other webcomics were picture perfect.
Sometime later… I returned. This time I started at the latest strip, and went backwards one step at a time.
The grin never left my face.
There are comics where even if you don’t get the references, the context, you can still generally find humor in them. A good example of that would be Penny Arcade (which xkcd seems to have an extremely creepy love/hate relationship with). For myself, contrary to the strip’s opinion, I’ve found that I can certainly appreciate PA strips about games I’ve never heard of. I may not get the full meaning, but there is more often than not some extra punchline to keep the smile on my face.
xkcd, on the other hand? I’ll probably scratch my head, shrug, and wait for the next one. Someone, somewhere, is rolling on the floor laughing at it.
It just isn’t me.
(This, by the way, is one of the reasons I most desire infecting my friends with love for this comic. Our knowledge base – like that of many geeks – covers many and sundry topics. It is almost a certainty that no matter what we are discussing, one of us gets to just sit back, smile, and pretend they know what the hell is going on.)
(Anyway. Back to the show.)
I like the unpredictability of xkcd. I like how easily it oscillates from horrifying to humorous, from uplifting to surreal. But no matter what it does, it does it well.
So I’m doing my best to share it with my friends. If they do start reading? Well, there will be days when I laugh at a strip that leaves them shrugging, and days when they nod sagely at wisdom I just don’t see.
But just maybe, every so often… we’ll both get it. And even if there isn’t much to discuss, even if there isn’t anything we can do on our part aside from acknowledging it – it will be nice, just having someone else there to say: “Yeah. It’s not just you. That strip really was simply awesome.”