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Insofar as a comic like xkcd can have main characters, that is...
- The Blank: None of them have visible faces – although they nonetheless manage to be surprisingly expressive.
- Noodle People: Well, they are stick figures...
- Odd Friendship: Why do the eccentric-but-decent Megan and “Cueball” still hang around with the downright-psychopathic Black Hat Guy and his girlfriend?
“Cueball” AKA RobProbably the most commonly-recurring character of the strip – although it's hard to tell because he's distinguished from the others by his complete lack of distinguishing features. Randall Munroe's Author Avatar. Used as the default character for any strips that don't specifically require someone else.
- Author Avatar
- Bald of Awesome: Presumably, since his head remains completely unadorned even after we start seeing hair drawn onto random bit-characters.
- Fan Nickname: Given because his blank, hairless, hatless head looks like, well, a cueball.
- The Everyman
- Ill Boy: Has some unnamed “disease” here which he has seemingly gotten over by eight strips later.
- Lovable Nerd
- No Name Given: Initially. Later his name was suggested to be 'Rob'. This was seemingly confirmed.
- Official Couple: With Megan – even though they are occasionally shown to temporarily be not together.
- Straight Man: Occasionally acts as this towards Black Hat Guy.
MeganCueball's girlfriend/wife/statistically-significant other. Distinguished by her shoulder-length dark hair. Used whenever a female or more sensible character is required, or as a sort of Foil to Cueball.
- Badass: THIS.
- A Day in the Limelight: The “Choices” story arc.
- Distaff Counterpart: Serves as one to Cueball in many ways, but she is eventually shown to have a few different personality traits.
- The Everygirl
- Ill Girl: Appears to have or have had cancer, much like her real-world counterpart.
- Nerds Are Sexy: Or at least, 'Nerds Are Found Sexy By Other Nerds'.
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl
- Official Couple: With Cueball. 'Megan' is also the name of Randall Munroe's Real Life Love Interest.
- Only Sane Woman: Easily the most well-balanced of the recurring cast. See here for a perfect demonstration.
- Straight Woman: Often plays this role to Cueball.
- Women Are Wiser: Despite her own nerdy eccentricities, she seems to be more down-to-Earth than Cueball, and she's definitely saner than Black Hat Guy or the Beret Existentialist.
“Black Hat Guy”Cueball's friend (and possibly onetime flatmate, since several early strips seem to show them living together). Distinguished by his unique, black, boater-like hat. Turns up whenever a joke requires someone to do something evil (or very very Chaotic Neutral).
- Affably Evil: He's quite nice to those he considers friends...
- Badass: The best example in the comic. When his future girlfriend stole his hat, he tracked her down and hijacked a nuclear submarine to get it back.
- To be honest, there are really too many examples to put here. Like when he rode a lightcycle belonging to Tron Paul to escape his hearing to become secretary of the internet. We don't know either.
- Beta Couple: With his girlfriend.
- Card-Carrying Villain: Self-identifies as a “Classhole” – an asshole with class.
- Comedic Sociopathy: His sense of humour runs on this.
- Cynicism Catalyst: Apparently something that happened in March of 1997.
- A Day in the Limelight: The “Secretary” arc.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: His relationship with his girlfriend (and possibly with Cueball and Megan).
- He does seem to be more benevolent towards Cueball than to the average person. He would even promise to pull a lever to save Cueball's life – for only a dollar...
- Even Evil Has Standards: The 'classhole' thing. Also, he has shown hatred for people who communicate badly on purpose, belittle women, park across two spaces or expect him to quarter troops in his house.
- For the Evulz: He usually gets nothing out of his exploits except a bizarre sense of gratification at making the world a more 'interesting' place.
- Humanoid Abomination: See the Reality Warper section. Also, one What If? entry has him encouraging people to drop a mountain from so high it causes utter devastation. I'M BACK. I DIDN'T DIE WHEN THE MOUNTAIN FELL. I WILL NEVER DIE.
- Jerk Ass: ...probably.
- Nice Hat
- No Name Given: His real name is never revealed. Even Randall just calls him “Hat Guy”. He even jokes about it at the end of the “Secretary” arc – no-one can take legal action against him because no-one knows his name.
- Number One Dime: He likes his hat.
- Masochism Tango: His relationship with his girlfriend.
- Person with the Clothing
- Pet the Dog: He was once caught speaking all lovey-dovey to his girlfriend – although he did immediately murder the guy who caught him. His version of White Knighting in this strip is also strangely cute. And he has a journal filled with things he'd say to girls “if he was nice like [Cueball]”.
- Though the Alt Text of that comic says that he burns it when it gets filled up. When asked why, he says "How can I not? It's like shooting lonely, angsty fish in a barrel."
- Reality Warper: As seen in this strip.
- Refuge in Audacity: Among others, he once turned a Senate chamber into a ball pool. While the senators were in it.
- Sickeningly Sweethearts: With his girlfriend (but no one must know).
- Slap-Slap-Kiss: He met his girlfriend when he tried to destroy her self-confidence and she retaliated by stealing his hat. He got his hat back by almost-hitting her with a nuclear submarine. She placed mines on her driveway before he arrived at her house. He moved them to her garage before she blew them up. Then they got together.
- Token Evil Teammate
- Unholy Matrimony: With his girlfriend.
Beret ExistentialistA possibly-insane philosopher whose connection to the others is unclear. Distinguished by his white beret. Turns up whenever a Cloudcuckoolander is required.
- The Anti-Nihilist
- Beware the Nice Ones/Beware the Silly Ones: Holy crap.
- Blithe Spirit
- Contemplate Our Navels: He likes philosophy, although he's actually unusually energetic about it.
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Insult him once, he'll take your criticism on board and change his habits. Insult him a second time, he'll hit you in the face with a digger.
- The Fool: He is apparently quite successful as a businessman being out of touch with reality.
- Immortality: Going by the Alt Text of this strip.
- Literal-Minded: Often how his Cloudcuckoolander tendencies manifest (ie. "Keying" Ponytail's car by painting a very detailed key on the side of it).
- Missing Mom: “Pull harder, Mom. I miss you.”
- Nice Hat
- No Name Given
- Person with the Clothing
- Reality Warper: Several examples.
- His hat always stays on his head, regardless of gravity. (Well, that or he can staple things to his hair, as implied by the Alt Text.)
- He can do this.
- He can inflate your laptop by blowing into the power cord.
- And how else do you think he would make money, given this behavior?
- And he can draw soup from a wall socket. WE HAVE FOUND A NEW MOSES.
- The Bartender: Appears to have been his job early on in the strip, as he has been observed Obsessive-Compulsive Barkeeping on several occasions. That said, he has a far less common philosophy than other barkeepers.
- The Philosopher
- Trademark Favorite Food: Pastries.
- Winged Humanoid/Humanoid Abomination: Uh...
Black Hat Guy's Girlfriend / “Danish”The newest addition to the recurring cast, since she entered a relationship with Black Hat Guy. Distinguished by her long, wavey, dark hair. Essentially a female Black Hat Guy.
- Beta Couple: With Black Hat Guy.
- Bullying a Dragon: She tends to be the dragon. It's possible that she intentionally tries to make herself look vulnerable so as to attract assholes whom she can beat at their own game.
- In fact it's how she and Black Hat Guy met
- Dark Mistress
- Distaff Counterpart
- For the Evulz
- Masochism Tango: Her relationship with Black Hat Guy.
- Slap-Slap-Kiss: How she met Black Hat Guy.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: She ''excels'' at this.
- Unholy Matrimony: With Black Hat Guy.
Other Recurring Characters
The Boy in the BarrelThe very first character xkcd featured. A young boy inexplicably floating around in a barrel.
- Art Shift: It was only after the Boy in the Barrel's debut that the art shifted from 'semi-realistic' to 'stick-figures', making him the only non-stick-figure recurring human.
- The Bus Came Back: No really. In "Click & Drag" he's drawn as a bald stick figure like everyone else, but he's there, go as far right as you possibly can before you get to the flat blackness. He has a balloon now.
- Early Installment Weirdness: Seriously, what is his personal arc even about?
- Missing Mom: “None of the places I floated had mommies”.
- Robinsonade: He somehow survives drifting through the sea in a barrel on his own.
- The Woobie
The Flying FerretA ferret with tailor-made wings.
- Big Damn Heroes: Turns up just in time to save the Boy in the Barrel.
- Early Installment Weirdness
- Stationary Wings: But he can somehow fly anyway.
- Weasel Mascot: Presumably was one to the guy who built his wings.
White Hat GuyA figure occasionally seen talking with Cueball. Distinguished by his hat, which resembles that of Black Hat Guy but is white instead of black. Seems well-meaning but pretentious.
- Foil: Has so far appeared in four strips, and in all of them he pretty-much serves as someone Cueball can argue with so as to get across a point Randall wants to make.
- Nice Hat
- Person with the Clothing
- Wine Is Classy: Doesn't understand how Cueball can drink cheap wine.
Armchair NihilistAn occasionally-recurring character who turns up when the joke calls for some straw existential nihilism. Resembles Megan, but is distinguishable from her by both her personality and the fact she almost never leaves her chair.
- Contemplate Our Navels
- Cool Chair: She presumably thinks it's cool, since she spends so much time in it.
- Foil: While they have yet to appear alongside each other (except here), she's basically a perfect inversion of the Beret Existentialist.
- The Eeyore
- New Job Episode: When she eventually leaves the chair, she becomes a reporter. Turns out she's not very well suited to it.
- Straw Character
- Straw Nihilist
- Badass Cape
- Big Damn Heroes: Rescued Black Hat Guy at the end of the “Secretary” arc.
- And he joined forces with Richard Stallman to rescue Elaine Roberts from two thugs from the MPAA and RIAA in the 1337 arc.
- The Cameo
- Cool Airship: His hot-air balloon has a retractable gun turret.
- Information Wants to Be Free: His motivation, presumably.
Richard StallmanAgain, a fictional version of the real person. He lives in fear of Microsoft sending their lackeys to do him in. Distinguished by his long hair and beard, and the fact that he wields two katanas.
- Bad Ass
- Big Damn Heroes: He rescued Elaine Roberts at the end of the 1337 arc.
- The Cameo
- Information Wants to Be Free: The reason he and Doctrow were following the two thugs chasing the Roberts'.
Blonde Girl/"Ponytail"A recurring character. Used sometimes as a Recurring Extra, or a female companion to Megan. Is sometimes implied as Rob's ex.
- Blondes Are Evil: On occasion
- The Everywoman
- Fan Nickname: "Ponytail"
- Odd Friendship: With Megan
- Love Triangle: She has one with Rob and Megan in a few strips.
- Psycho Ex-Girlfriend: Is sometimes this to Rob
- The Smart Girl: Usually either she or a character who looks very much like her can be seen working on science projects, or even as Megan's doctor.
- What Could Have Been: Rob ponders what could have been if he were with her instead of Megan, and vice versa.