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16 July 2010


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This was possibly the most arrogant "critique" I've ever read. You apparently despise Weiner's subjective view of what's "right" but use subjectivity to make that point and every other. The difference is that he's making a webcomic, and not pretending to be objective, whereas you are. Your statements are sweeping an erroneous; for example, "no one but jilted English majors grooves on making fun of literary theory." I quite enjoy it myself, and happen not to be any sort of English major.

Many of Weiner's comics are popular not because of their average art or any nerd jokes, but because of the way he uses language. He approaches (if perhaps never reaches) the level of linguistic sophistication that Ryan North employs in Dinosaur Comics to great effect. I'm sure he values his English degree greatly. Overall, Weiner seems pretty well rounded - a physics student who understands engineering, has an English major, draws every day, dabbles in psychology and other disciplines - whereas you sound like an Arts major butthurt that you don't understand nerd jokes. Although apparently the reality is that you're a nerd getting butthurt on behalf of Arts majors; what a fine endeavor.

Above all, you're forgetting that it's a god-damned webcomic. If you need utmost respect for every discipline in the planet to be conveyed in every webcomic that exists, you need psychological help.


'hell, crossing out homeless and writing “Academic” would have been cute'

Erm... but not as funny. You see, a house is a structure. Now the professor is without the house he once had, he is a 'post-structuralist'. It's a pun, you see, the kind of play on words that getting an English degree allows you to comprehend. 'Academic' is nowhere near as clever.

Honestly, your arguments regarding that particular strip seem ridiculous. You can be a post-structuralist without being one of the original eighty-year-old post structuralists, or can no-one younger than the Sex Pistols be a punk rocker?

I think there is space for criticism of Weiner's comic (though I enjoy it) but, frankly, you have over-shot. It isn't an 'ad hominem attack' it is a pun. It isn't meant to stand up to rigorous analysis, it is just a bit of clever wordplay.


I agree with the commentary above.

You either are a real bad troll (with too much time on your hands, one might say) or, just really really dumb.
First of all, I think a webcomic author must write/create what he feels like writing/creating. If it isnt funny or popular, the readers will say by not coming back. 2nd, If you dont think a joke is funny, maybe it's still funny for the other billions of people who read it.

Someone taking their time to write such a thing about others work is shameful. As a reader of SMBC, I admit that some jokes I don't really understand, I even try harder to do so but they just go without a giggle. Thats ok, that doesnt make the author a dick just because he jokes about something I dont know. I'm not a physics/engineer kind of guy, but I can laugh about the physics and engineer jokes and whatnot. I mean, geez, its a webcomic, not the answer to life, the universe and everything. If you dont like it, dont read it. Simple like that.

T. Strunk

Hello everyone who hates us! I cannot respond in full right now, but thanks for stopping by (you too, Zach Weiner! Hi? I really like your early work?)

A few notes: I am not a troll; I'm kinda dumb in some ways, but probably not in writing; I'm not butthurt, nor do I define myself by my major; SMBC is not read by billions of people; and I'll respond to everyone promise.

We Love Pain,


PS -- Wasn't "learn stuff, think, write comics about it" Erasmus' general plan for education? Maybe I'm off on that?

Winslow Dalpe

As a refresher from some of these other comments, I have refrained from ad hominem-ing you.

You reach too far in this critique. In fact, your entire critique is founded upon an ad hominem against Weiner. Your attack on his character succeeds only in informing why he might, and I emphasize might, choose the subject matter that he does, and not on the issue of whether his comics are funny. Your argument amounts to, "I do not like SMBC because of a projection I overlay on its author, and neither should anyone else."

It would be one thing if you had said something like, "I dislike SMBC because I feel that Weiner overuses the awkward but successful nerd character," or, "I dislike SMBC's common usage of the humanities as a punching bag. SMBC should vary its content." That is a critique. Your argument is light on critiques and more heavy on perceived reasons for your own dislike of SMBC. You have seen what you believe to be a potential cause of SMBC's material and harp on that, saying, "Yes, yes! This is why I think SMBC is the way it is, and I don't like it!" OK. Great. As a personal opinion piece, that's fine, but as a critique, that doesn't fly. If you want to express your opinion, do so without roping the rest of us into it. I, personally, think he is funny even when he is, “petting his intellectual ego.”

I also have issue with your claim that the economist's, and other stereotypical, overly-rational figures, always have the opinion that matters in Weiner's comics. While they certainly may be rational, to suggest that their opinions are the ones that are raised up for us to behold is ludicrous. Often, the point of them expressing their opinion is, in fact, to illustrate that reason is not always the best solution.

Moreover, and this is not meant to be insulting to Mr. Weiner, I think you are digging WAY too deep into some of these jokes. In all honesty, especially in the case of the comic with the homeless professor, I don't think the joke is that complex. It's a standard mix of an unexpected and humorous twist that Weiner gives his own personal touch through subject matter.

Jeremy Freeman

You "even" like engineers? You posit that reason and abstract thought are different things?

Methinks you've said a lot more about yourself here than you've said about SMBC.

Kurt Jensen

I personally love the economist Monopoly one. I also love how it doesn't fit into your argument at all, but you had to include it because there's an economist in it. His reasoning is clearly being portrayed as ridiculous, which is the case with most of his characters. That's where the comedy is made.

Luckily for you, your "critique" is so ridiculous, it's similarly comedic, the only redeeming factor of this blog post. Zach should write the entire thing into a single panel in angry lettering. It'd kill.

I don't think you read the comic very much, or else you are very prejudiced against all webcomics. Stick to Hagar the Horrible. He's hungry. Silly.

Kurt Jensen

Oh, sorry to double dip, but you should thank Mr. Weiner for sending your blog the most traffic it has ever gotten.


I think Winslow Dalpe hit this one on the head.

You've cherry-picked a few comics and coincidentally I think many of them betray your points. The economist comics seem to be lampooning tunnel-visioned rationality that is short in capacity for empathy. Really, you can find obvious instances of the author parodying the rigidity and short-sightedness of strictly rational thinking in many of these comics, and to his credit this never seems to devolve into a cheap hate-fest on scientifically minded thinkers...these comics seem to alternate between obvious follies and unintended benefits to rationality.

On the flip side, I think there's a lot of love for the humanities prevalent in these comics. My read of this comic is that there's a cutthroat competitiveness in science academia that undercuts the sometimes poetic beauty of that research: http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=1928#comic . The joke here seems to be more about the disparity between the public's perception of scientific achievement and the actuality, with a slight against said competitiveness, than "look how stupid and pointless this marriage of science and humanities is". You seem to backpedal on his hatred of myths and religion (you're right, neither are very vitriolic and I'm not sure I understand how the comic supposedly about religion has anything to do with it, it seems to be commenting on the temporary satisfaction of masturbation for men...the fact that the "spirit" is reminiscent of darth vader doesn't really lead me to believe there's a comment about religion here). The comic about the professor can be interpreted as a slight against literature academics...my initial read was just that it was a silly setup for a literature joke (again, there seems to be love and appreciation for the humanities here), but your interpretation is obviously valid. But again, scientists, engineers, and economists don't get by unscathed...so why cry foul?

I think you may be projecting the tone of other less ambiguously smug and humanities-bashing web comics onto this one. Particularly, I think XKCD has gotten pretty smug with its last few iterations. These are some good examples of that:


In short, I think your criticism here is misguided. Perhaps try reading these again without the expectation of an attack on the humanities.

Chris LeBeouf

I find it difficult to respect the negative views of a critic if they've not already positively and intelligently introduced me to at least 5 awesome things, or if they are already the creator of at least one awesome thing. You're doing less than half the job of a decent critic if all you can write about a fascinating and myriad subject like webcomics is "why Zach Weiner sucks," "why Jeph Jacques sucks," or "why Scott Kurtz sucks" and have nothing to say of what interesting directions you feel webcomics are moving in. It's lazy writing, it's boring, and it doesn't even try contribute anything of value to the advancement of the medium or the knowledge of the reader.

In obeying my own standards, here are a few critics who I feel do a good job of balancing negative and positive constructive criticism and make a point to educate the reader about the subject at hand. (They are also all creators of the medium they theorize on.)

Animation - Michael Sporn

Comics - Scott McCloud

Comics and Animation - John K

Now, its alright to be a bit scathing in your critiques, but you give your readers zero evidence that you are even vaguely qualified to write on the subject. Basically, I trust the opinions of Zach Weiner, Jeph Jacques, and Scott Kurtz before yours not because I think they are always right, but because if you do anything for an entire decade you're bound to have more interesting things to say on the subject than the guy who occasionally takes a few self congratulating pot shots at people way more famous than him in hopes of getting noticed.

someone with a clue

What the fuck did I just read? Who is this no-talent ass clown?
Why am I even still here writing about this?

Nobody cares dude. I don't care. My friends don't care. Everyone I have ever sent one of his comics to does not care. They just laugh and enjoy them for what they are.

P.S. I will happily not be reading anything else of yours in the future.


You did completely miss the "post-structuralist" joke, yes. Besides that, I thought your critique of Weiner's strip was reasonable.

I really disliked a lot of the comments here, but I'm not going to address them individually. With a couple of exceptions, they were condescending and didn't really evince an understanding of what you'd actually written. Some people also seem to think that you don't have the reason or even the right to make such a critique, which is idiotic.

I hadn't been aware of Weiner's career trajectory, but I *had* noticed the tendency in his strips that you talk about. I would agree that it's not nearly as pronounced as in XKCD, but it is definitely a specific manifestation of this general tendency on certain parts of the internet to privilege the (generally white and male) programmer/engineer nerd viewpoint and denigrate others. It's not a horrible problem, but it is a problem, in part because that general mindset comes with other kinds of problems. Try to find a front-page Reddit post that *in any way* involves women without some instance of sexism in the comments; it's completely normal for college-educated people to casually say really misogynistic things, and nobody cares because they're all embedded in a weird nerd-world where that's ok. Individual actors in creating this consciousness may or may not be misogynist, but the whole certainly is. So when there is an instance of someone perpetuating "XKCD-esque Bachelor of Science pornography," it *is* important to publicly call it out; the mindset that it creates is ugly and it leads to ugly things.

This could have been better written, and your examples could have been more carefully chosen, but I think your concept is sound.


Wow, you really didn't like that homeless comic did you? It's clearly a little "tongue in cheek", as the votey indicates (though I'm gonna guess you aren't aware of them, I only realised the little red dot did something the other day ^_^, just hover over the little red dot bellow the comic) - http://www.smbc-comics.com/comics/20100626after.gif

While you may think it is CLEARLY obvious to EVERYBODY who reads smbc that the homeless comic is a knife in the back to english majors, until I read this article I wasn't even aware that post-structuralist was a thing in english circles. I thought the comic was just a cute pun. I have no idea why you think academic would be a funny substitute though.

As an engineer and (many of my friends would probably say) a nerd I didn't enjoy being told I am unattractive and angry. I could also take offense at you inferring that engineers can only stave off loneliness by using masturbation and video games, however I understand that you were joking and having fun with the stereotype of engineers. I probably wont start a blog and write an article about your soapbox antics telling everyone how the arts are great and engineers are scum (which is how you come off in this article).

I'm also quite interested to know why you wrote this article. Was it simply to rant about something? Why not write about something you like instead of saying that something other people like is terrible? And why not put some of the other webcomics you mentioned under the same scrutiny? Try XKCD next time, Randall is almost offensively pro-science, for instance that homeopathy comic (http://www.xkcd.com/765/) I found to be in very poor taste, seeing as only a short while ago acupuncture was thought to be a placebo, but since has been proven to incite a real physiological response of pain relief.



I know too well and am similarly annoyed by the nerd boys club attitude you describe, but I think you're either being too easy on this critique...either because you know something I don't (I'm not an avid reader of SMBC) or because this comic is unfairly being roped into the same corral as comics that pretty obviously typify that attitude.

As an essay, this is very weak simply because the examples are not convincing...the most objectionable thing I found in any of the examples was the comic about the difference between male and female engineers, where each seemed to play into typical gender stereotypes. And like I said before, the author of this critique seems to be whitewashing or glossing over everything in these examples that seems to contradict his points.

A critique of this comic may be fair, but the examples simply aren't there. Does anyone have any examples of strips that clearly show the pompous alpha-nerd attitude?


@Chris: This one is very pro-engineering http://www.smbc-comics.com/?db=comics&id=1797#comic

There is probably some examples of a pompous alpha-nerd attitude in his comics, but with a backlog of nearly 2000 you could probably pick out a couple to make any argument :P

Chris LeBeouf

@Andrew: If the author had a genuine concern about the "boy's club" nature of the internet, he would have addressed it in his article. As it is, he is simply measuring his literary dick against Weiner's bachelor of science dick. The author apparently makes it a habit to produce diatribes against webcomic creators far more famous than him in hopes that will get him the attention he craves and cannot achieve based on his own creative merits.

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Account Deleted

As an unatractive nerdy engineer with a superiority complex, I still very much enjoyed your text, and I think Weiner's attitude of "this is just webcomics, don't diss it" is immensely arrogant, Jon Stweart style ("I can criticize you, but you can't criticize me, because, you know, I'm just an artist").

Weiner's latest stint was picking a fight with NOM because they linked to one of his webcomics. The man couldn't bear that his work could be used to illustrate a position contrary to his own.


I majored in linguistic philosophy, with a specialty in analytic philosophy (a cross between cognitive science, computational linguistics, English literature, linguistic anthropology, pure logic, and questions like "What do we mean by 'knowledge', exactly?").

I also draw, paint, and sing jazz, and I make my living by writing fiction. I am female. I love video games. I have a significant other, the most serious of... many. (Nice work, me.)

My background matters because:
a) I am getting really, really annoyed at the "Englishy people must be into mysticism," bollocks I keep seeing everywhere. Why *can't* an English major go back to college to get a science degree? Are interests in literature and comp sci mutually exclusive? My degree title says, "No".
b) What the shit? Unattractive? I will admit I am a little angry at the moment.

Also, why does this Englishy person take offense to a joke that an English degree doesn't pay bills? It's true. It's like taking offense when someone says, "People who work the late shift at the all-night burger & chip shop are usually poor."

My significant other linked me to this as I was writing Chapter 22 of a manuscript that is due in two months. He is in so much trouble right now. This has been twenty minutes I will never get back. Mlah.

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