13: Canyon

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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They're standing at the lip of the canyon, which isn't clear at all.
Title text: They're standing at the lip of the canyon, which isn't clear at all.


This is one of the early comics that explores a theme xkcd returns to often: the wonder around us, if we would just look.

Cueball and his friend (who also looks like Cueball) are having a discussion. After the friend asks Cueball what the time is, Cueball simply states that it is "now." Then there is a beat panel showing the two standing at the lip of a great canyon drawn in detail and color.

The friend claims that "now" is a boring answer, since it's a tautology, a functionally useless answer, and a bad joke all at the same time. Cueball, however, asserts that "now" is the least boring answer he could give.

It is typical for human beings to focus on mundane concerns, like a meeting they might be late for or a bus they have to catch, and take their familiar environment for granted, no matter how fabulous it might have been at first sight.

The title text explains that they stand on the lip of the canyon, which may not be clear if you do not look very carefully at the color drawing. There are two tiny stick figures at the edge of the canyon, near the center of the panel. On the other six panels, there is just a ragged line, which thus obviously is this lip of the canyon.

The inspiration for this might be Calvin and Hobbes, something which Randall is very fond of.


[Two guys, both Cueball-like, are standing at a cliff's edge.]
Friend: What time is it?
[Cueball looks at his watch in silence.]
[Cueball looks up.]
Cueball: Now.
[The full scene is shown: the two men (barely visible) are standing at the lip of a huge canyon in a rocky, barren landscape. A pock-marked moon and a ringed planet are visible in the burgundy-colored sky.]
[The two guys are again seen standing at what is now known to be the lip of the canyon.]
Friend: That's a pretty boring answer.
[Same scene as before.]
Cueball: Is not.
[Same scene.]
Cueball: It's the least boring answer imaginable.


  • This was the 7th comic originally posted to LiveJournal.
  • This comic kept its original title: "Canyon"
    • This is the first of the original comics that kept its title unchanged after transfer to xkcd.
  • Original Randall quote: "I'm not sure where they are, but they should be more excited! I would be."
  • This was one of the thirteen first comics posted to LiveJournal within 12 minutes on Friday September 30, 2005.
  • This comic was posted on xkcd when the web site opened on Sunday the 1st of January 2006.
    • It was posted along with all 41 comics posted before that on LiveJournal as well as a few others.
    • The latter explaining why the numbers of these 41 LiveJournal comics ranges from 1-44.
  • One of the original drawings drawn on checkered paper.

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Lined paper, why was this comic drawn on lined paper? Blegh. Davidy22[talk] 14:09, 8 January 2013 (UTC)

Most early xkcd comics were literally scans of doodles that Randall drew in his (presumably) graph paper notebook while bored in class(?). Zowayix (talk) 21:25, 18 January 2014 (UTC)

An often used phrase is "The future is now", in reference to futuristic gadgets etc that one can see in todays world... what more furistic is an alien-planet vista with two humans in it?Squirreltape (talk) 23:32, 3 March 2014 (UTC)

This may also refer to the problem of timekeeping on another planets. STEN (talk) 22:59, 11 August 2014 (UTC)

. . . Tidally locked planet, no spin, no appearence of the planet's star moving across the sky. Thus, the time, as judged by the placement of the sun in th sky, is always "Now." 13:11, 28 August 2014 (UTC)~

There is a community portal discussion of what to call Cueball and what to do in case with more than one Cueball. I have added this comic to the new Category:Multiple Cueballs. In this case there is no reason to call one Cueball and the other friend. It could easily be the other way. So I have changed to remove Cueball.--Kynde (talk) 17:23, 15 March 2015 (UTC)

After having looked at several other Multiple Cueballs comics I have regretted this change as it is clear (to me now) that the one I have now, again, named Cueball is the protagonist of the story - i.e. the one with the interesting remarks. But still I make it clear that they both looks like Cueball. --Kynde (talk) 13:34, 24 March 2015 (UTC)

Anyone else think this looks like the alien landscape from Calvin and Hobbes? Danish (talk) 16:58, 30 December 2020 (UTC)

I love those! --Char Latte49 (talk) 19:00, 11 March 2021 (UTC)