Why stick figures matter
I agree with a lot of what Neven Mrgan has to say, and hold his opinions in high regard. Case in point: his piece on “The Walled Garden.” However, his most recent post, in my opinion, requires a response. It’s a mundane issue, and so is this counterpoint, but I just couldn’t let it go.
Neven states that xkcd would be funnier if it were text-only, taking issue with the “bad art.” I’m not going to argue with his aesthetic sensibilities; it is crudely drawn. What I do contest is the idea that it would be funnier without the drawings.
The figures’ positioning and rudimentary expressions offer the absolutely necessary sense of timing, as does the frame-based nature of the strip in general. Without this rough staging, many of the brilliantly geeky jokes would fall flat. A plain-text version of xkcd would be about as funny as Two and a Half Men. That is to say, occasionally chuckle-worthy, but never, ever worth forwarding to anyone else.
Best wishes to Randall Munroe and his family!