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Insofar as a comic like xkcd
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 Rob
Probably 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.
- Bald of Awesome: Presumably, since his head remains completely unadorned even after we start seeing hair drawn onto random bit-characters.
- 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.
Cueball'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
- 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 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... 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.
- Nice Hat: And if you steal it from him, heaven help you.
- 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.
A possibly-insane philosopher whose connection to the others is unclear. Distinguished by his white beret. Turns up whenever a Cloudcuckoolander
Black Hat Guy's Girlfriend / Danish
The 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.
- 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 Guy
The 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.
- Nice Hat: Just like Black Hat Guy's except it's white.
- 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.
A recurring character. Used sometimes as a Recurring Extra
, or a female companion to Megan. Is sometimes implied as Rob's ex.
- 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 Barrel
The 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 Ferret
A ferret with tailor-made wings.
An 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.
A fictionalised version of the real person, who lives in a hot air balloon in the blogosphere. Distinguished by his red cape and black goggles.
- 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.
- 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.
Again, 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.