- Posted by Johanna on September 21, 2009 at 5:25 pm
- Category: Digital and Webcomics
- CREDITS: by Randall Munroe
- PUBLISHER: Breadpig; $18 US
I’m a big fan of webcomic print collections. You can see the whole strip at once, regardless of your monitor size, and it’s nice to read away from the computer. Especially in this case, where there are all kinds of details added that contribute to the experience. For example, on the Creative Commons (not copyright) page, where most books have a line of numbers (“1 3 5 7 6 4 2″) to indicate which printing it is, this volume has the Fibonacci Sequence (“0 1 1 2 3 5 8 13 21 34″). And page numbers are in trinary (using only the digits 0, 1, and 2). In case you haven’t figured it out, this is math geek humor — where better for it to thrive than the internet?
Yet it’s not that exclusionary. I passed the book to non-math-user KC while I was working on his computer, and he started laughing at the second cartoon in the book. The comics of that type, those about human nature, are my favorites too, although some of the geekiest (be sure to read the tooltip) are also hilarious. Note that the contents are not in chronological order, nor is this a comprehensive collection, just a selection by Munroe of some of the best. There’s plenty of great strips here, though, including early work drawn on graph paper. The book is alternately puzzling, thought-provoking, heart-wrenching, and mind-boggling. As well as misleadingly simple-looking, with the stick figures, but there’s real skill behind it.
There’s also a brief but valuable introduction where Randall Munroe explains how the strip got started, when it became his career, how the book came together, and how it’s influenced people in real life. The rollover notes (the tooltip text you’d see attached to the comics, which add a new level to the joke) from the site are included as small captions. Plus, red ink doodles add new marginal notes or, in some cases, ciphers. I’m hoping for an annotation site once more people start receiving the book. I solved the first two through simple substitution and ROT-13, but I was soon out of my league. (One depends on QR codes. Yay for an Android phone to figure that out.) Google does come in handy for figuring out the references I don’t know, both in captions or cartoons, which means that maybe I don’t get as far away from the computer with this book as I hoped. Regardless, highly recommended.