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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: He is by far the character most likely to get Randall Munroe's own opinions put in his mouth.
- The Everyman: As a result of being used as the default character for strips that don't require someone remarkable.
- Lovable Nerd: He's a physics major and very enthusiastic about science and random trivia, in addition to being something of a Nice Guy and easy enough to get along with that even Black Hat Guy likes him.
- 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.
- Walking Techbane: Whenever bizarre tech issues and general mishandling of computers and their code happen in the comic, he's the one involved.
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.
- A Day in the Limelight: The Choices story arc.
- Ambiguously Bi: She's in a relationship with Cueball, but she's also apparently made out with a parallel version of herself, and seemed rather... enthused by her own idea for porn of women playing electric guitar in the shower.
- Distaff Counterpart: Serves as one to Cueball in many ways, but she is eventually shown to have a few different personality traits.
- The Everygirl: Essentially a female version of Cueball, so she ends up coming across as this.
- Nerds Are Sexy: Or at least, 'Nerds Are Found Sexy By Other Nerds'.
- 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 GuyCueball'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... and merciless to everyone else.
- 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: Whatever happened in March of 1997, it caused him to, by his own admission, "not believe in much of anything anymore."
- 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. The Alt Text indicates that not only did he survive, he's immortal.Black Hat Guy: My first memory is when we landed on the moon. My second memory is my Mom telling us we were moving to Earth instead, to blend in with the humans.
- Jerkass: He's a self-described "classhole".
- Laughably Evil: He'll recklessly endanger lives and manipulate people's emotions, but it's always in the service of comedy.
- 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.
- #1 Dime: He likes his hat.
- Masochism Tango: His relationship with his girlfriend.
- 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 pit. While the senators were in it. And proceeded to steal Tron Paul's light cycle and escape on Cory Doctorow's hot air balloon.
- 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.
- The Vietnam Vet: Apparently, he took part in the My Lai Massacre.
- Token Evil Teammate: Especially before his girlfriend turned up. His role in the comic is that, if ever a joke requires someone to be comically villainous, he is the one they go with.
- Unholy Matrimony: With his girlfriend.
"Beret Guy"A 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: His philosophy, apparently.
- Beware the Nice Ones/Beware the Silly Ones: Holy crap.
- Blithe Spirit: His Cloud Cuckoo Lander worldview seems to be somewhat infectious. Possibly due to his Reality Warper tendencies.
- Contemplate Our Navels: He likes philosophy, although he's unusually energetic about it.
- Cloudcuckoolander: It's contagious, too.
Cueball: I... is he playing revenge mind games?Ponytail: I genuinely can't tell if he remembers that we broke up.
- He also does things occasionally incomprehensible to other people. For example, when Ponytail broke up with him, he spent the entire night painting a key on the side of her car, and woke her up to ask her what she thought, beaming with pride.
- 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 smack you with an excavator.
- Eldritch Location: His business.
- The Fool: He is apparently quite successful as a businessman despite being completely out of touch with reality.
- Humanoid Abomination: Just reread the other tropes listed here. He's an immortal reality-warper with infinitely long concealed wings and a thoroughly alien mindset, who happens to look like a normal dude with a beret.
- Immortality: Going by the Alt Text of this strip.
- Keet: He's very energetic and literally enthusiastic about everything, whether he can understand it or not.
- 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.
- Monty Hall Problem: He happily took the goat, confusing Monty.
- Nice Guy: He's almost always the most optimistic and friendly person in the strip, if a bit off his rocker.
- No Name Given: He's never named in the strip.
- Person with the Clothing: Despite having No Name Given, everyone seems to have settled on calling him some variant on "Beret Guy" or "Beret Existentialist". Cueball just calls him "that weird guy with the beret".
- 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.)
- Apparently, he has infinite wings.
- He can inflate a laptop by blowing into the power cord.
- He's somehow a businessman, despite the fact that his cards just say "This is my business card", his customers don't seem to exist, and his company literally doesn't do anything.
- 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: If a strip requires someone to wax philosophical, it will generally use the Beret Guy for that role.
- Trademark Favorite Food: Scones.
- Winged Humanoid: They're infinite wings, too. But he usually keeps them hidden for whatever reason.
Black Hat Guy's Girlfriend / DanishThe second 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: To Black Hat Guy. Their courtship mostly involved exchanging clever cruelties, and now that they're together they focus their cruelties on everyone else.
- Distaff Counterpart: Functionally a female version of Black Hat Guy.
- For the Evulz: Like her paramour, she never really seems to gain anything from her actions other than a sense of satisfaction at having beaten people.
- 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.
White Hat GuyThe newest addition to the recurring cast, a 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: In most strips he appears in, he pretty-much serves as someone Cueball can argue with so as to get across a point Randall wants to make.
- Know-Nothing Know-It-All: In one strip he's persuaded to look up what he's saying (that normal matter contains anti-quarks) on his phone, and immediately convinces himself that he hadn't been saying that at all, his actual point was...
- Only Sane Man: When he isn't being a strawman he's being this.
- Person with the Clothing: Again, he's known primarily by his hat because he doesn't have a canon name.
- Socialite: He has strong views on wine, art and culture, he has expensive tastes, and he spends all his time wandering around having high-minded conversation with no indication that he's ever had an actual job.
- Straw Character: His usual role in the strip is to make logical fallacies to help advance Randall's point.
- Wine Is Classy: Doesn't understand how Cueball can drink cheap wine.
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.
- Love Triangle: She has one with Rob and Megan in a few strips.
- 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.
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 Flying FerretA ferret with tailor-made wings.
- Big Damn Heroes: Turns up just in time to save the Boy in the Barrel.
- Stationary Wings: But he can somehow fly anyway.
- Weasel Mascot: Presumably was one to the guy who built his wings.
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: She spends all her time in a chair, musing about how dark and depressing the world is.
- Foil: She's basically a perfect inversion of the Beret Existentialist, and one What If? contrasts them against each other as 'the optimist' and 'the pessimist'.
- The Eeyore: Just as we've never seen the Beret Existentialist sad, we've never seen this woman happy.
- New Job Episode: When she eventually leaves the chair, she becomes a reporter. Turns out she's not very well suited to it.
- Stealth Pun: She's an armchair philosopher.
- Straw Nihilist: Her sole function in the strip is to be a comedic exaggeration of the more depressive brand of nihilism.
- Badass Cape: The main way he's distinguished from everyone else in the strip's art style is his cape. It's even in colour!
- 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: An actual real celebrity who briefly turns up in one or two stories.
- Cool Airship: His hot-air balloon has a retractable gun turret.
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.
- Big Damn Heroes: He rescued Elaine Roberts at the end of the 1337 arc.
- Information Wants to Be Free: The reason he and Doctrow were following the two thugs chasing the Roberts'.
The StargazerA woman who teaches a ... peculiar ... guide to the night sky. May or may not actually be an astronomer. Resembles Megan and the Armchair Nihilist, but is far too enthusiastic to be the latter, and probably too weird to be the former.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Most of what she actually says about the stars is right, minus her personal opinions. At the same time, she thought her career was over when dawn broke, because the stars were gone.
- Cloudcuckoolander: To almost the same degree as Beret Guy, but specifically for weird opinions about astronomy.
- Enmity with an Object: Says Betelgeuse can't explode fast enough for her, and yells at comets in the hope they'll go away.
- Phony Degree: In "Stargazing" she says she's "a doctor or whatever". The Alt Text to "Stargazing 2" reveals that when the FAA came to shut down the observatory, she stole a bunch of doctorates in the confusion.
- The World Is Just Awesome: "Holy shit, did you see that meteor?!? Space is awesome!"