551: Etch-a-Sketch

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Surrounded by boring mysteries.
Title text: Surrounded by boring mysteries.


Cueball notices that if you draw a lot on an Etch-a-Sketch, the aluminum powder in it can be cleared from enough of the screen to allow a view of the interior (as seen here).

Cueball then proceeds to clear a window into the device, which shows him that there's a girl, Megan, inside whose job is to act as the stylus for the Etch-a-Sketch. She suggest that they be friends, and little hearts pop up.

As the dream fades, it then becomes clear that this is just a fantasy, and Cueball sighs at the rather more mundane reality that the lines get drawn by a stylus moving on a simple arrangement of rods. The comic ends with Cueball shaking the Etch-a-Sketch, likely in resignation at the reality of it, which resets it and will re-conceal the mechanism.

The title text notes that sometimes the mysteries surrounding us turn out to be much more boring than we dream they are.


[Cueball is sitting on a bench playing with a pink Etch-a-Sketch.]
Cueball: Hey. If I draw enough lines, I can see what's behind the screen.
[Close up on the Etch-a-Sketch's screen.]
Cueball (off-screen): Oh man, almost...
[Cueball looks at the Etch-a-Sketch.]
Etch-a-Sketch: Hi!
[Head of Megan appears in the black hole Cueball has drawn on the Etch-a-Sketch screen.]
Megan: You're cute!
[Cueball is looking closer on the Etch-a-Sketch screen.]
Cueball: Wha—
Megan (out of the Etch-a-Sketch): I'm the one who draws when you turn the knobs.
Megan (out of the Etch-a-Sketch): It's lonely in here.
[Cueball holds the Etch-a-Sketch further away from his head.]
Cueball: It's lonely out here too.
Megan (out of the Etch-a-Sketch): I'm glad you found me, then!
[Cueball holds the Etch-a-Sketch very close to his face. Panels start to break away into thought bubbles.]
Megan (out of the Etch-a-Sketch): Let's be friends
Megan (out of the Etch-a-Sketch): And never be alone again.
[The next panel is almost gone in the thought bubbles. In the remaining top left corner there are three pink hearts, the top one of these looks like it was drawn on an Etch-a-Sketch.]
[From the last two panels the above turns out to have been a fantasy of Cueball. There is a rather large break between the first three lines of panels to the last line. Between the previous line of panels (from the middle panel ) to the last line, there are three large circles, which then continues with seven more inside the next panel down to Cueball sitting with the etch-a-sketch.]
Cueball: *Sigh*
[Close up of the Etch-a-sketch where the black hole Cueball has drawn shows what is really behind the glass; just the mechanics of the machine, with a pin that moves on a cross and removes the sand from the screen.]
[Zoom back out to Cueball who shakes the Etch-a-Sketch above his head.]

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I always thought he was shaking the Etch-a-Sketch in anger at finding out what was actually inside as opposed to what he thought was inside. Zowayix (talk) 02:21, 23 December 2013 (UTC)

I just thought the same actually; and "proceeds to draw something else" is just plain wrong, because the story ends before that. 12:27, 12 December 2014 (UTC)

Did someone else notice Megan looks like being in 3D? 13:40, 7 October 2015 (UTC)

Randall is always clear about showing when a character is angry or frustrated, with either smoke coming off the head, or an aggressive pose, or clenched fists, etc. None are present in this comic, so read the "*Sigh*" in the panel two panels before the erasing and you can see he's just disappointed and now hiding the letdown. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

before reading i thought it was just a barred window like 'you cant go there' 05:22, 19 March 2021 (UTC)05:22, 19 March 2021 (UTC)~

Megan having hands is just creepy. Beanie (talk) 13:50, 31 March 2021 (UTC)

(Or indeed generally any character in xkcd.) Beanie (talk) 13:51, 31 March 2021 (UTC)

Sometimes it is better to leave the mystery unsolved. -- The Cat Lady (talk) 22:01, 16 August 2021 (UTC)

The device isn't really "pink", it's red like a new, fresh brick. In fact, #FF0000 is closer to real life pinks than the color featured in this comic is. 07:09, 11 October 2022 (UTC)

Why does he fantasize about having sex with an Etch-a-Sketch? Well if you look at comic #230 "Hamiltonian", you will realize that he wishes to jot down his ideas while participating in sexual intercourse. User:Earless Mimikyu (talk) 05:17, 18 March 2023 (UTC)