2573: Alien Mission

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Alien Mission
Fine, we can go search the Himalayas for the Yeti ONE more time, but keep a safe altitude over the Pacific and PLEASE watch where you're going. We can't afford another Amelia Earhart incident.
Title text: Fine, we can go search the Himalayas for the Yeti ONE more time, but keep a safe altitude over the Pacific and PLEASE watch where you're going. We can't afford another Amelia Earhart incident.


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This comic followed directly after 2572: Alien Observers where aliens use similarly looking flying saucer type spacecrafts to observe Earth. It is not specifically stated that these two form a series, but this comic could be seen as a direct follow up to the previous one, indicating that the aliens are the same in the two comics.

The comic portrays a conversation between the aliens inside two extraterrestrial flying saucer type spacecrafts, in which they discuss their long secret observation of Earth. It seems that the leader of the mission is in the right saucer, since the alien in left saucer begins by saying "Sir, can we talk". The left alien then continues to state the fact that they have been secretly observing Earth for almost a century (so back from the early 1930's or late 1920's would be a realistic guess at when they began, given that this comic was released in 2022, and the title text makes it they already were there in 1937). During almost 100 years they have flown over every inch of Earths surface many times, while trying to avoid being spotted by humans (this is a direct relation to the theme of the previous comic, about the type of cameras individual people have!).

All this lead up to the punchline which reveals that the leader in the right saucer has been hunting for Bigfoot. The left alien tells him that he has to face it, that if a Bigfoot exist anywhere in the universe, then he is not on planet Earth. So apparently even advanced aliens have been unable to spot Bigfoot. The alien leader continues his delusion by citing human videos with intriguing captures of something that looks like Bigfoot. When the other alien sighs the leader continues his arguments with the typical conspiracy line, "How else do you explain the..."

The first panel alludes to the fact that UFO sightings only became commonplace in the 1940s.

The humor derives from the fact that UFO enthusiasts and cryptozoology enthusiasts have a similar mindset: They both believe in phenomena that the scientific establishment declares to be baseless. Both systems are fully lacking in clear scientific evidence, but have an abundance of eyewitness accounts and vague/blurry photographic evidence. And both belief systems have existed for many years, but rapidly advancing technology, accumulating data, and ubiquity of high quality cameras have still failed to capture any clear and detailed evidence of either (a point which Randall seems to find particularly significant, and although his previous comic kind of explained the bad alien photos, he already made this comic 1235: Settled long ago, where he calls it settled that there are nothing unexplained with UFOs or similar phenomena since everyone has a camera handy at all time). But, while these concepts are so parallel, they're logically independent, as one deals with species that are presumably native to Earth, and the other deals with advanced alien species visiting the Earth. The notion of alien visitors being interested in cryptozoology is incongruous: to them, all earth animals would presumably seem equally alien.

In previous strips, Randall has suggested playing conspiracy theories off against one another (see 966: Jet Fuel). This has a similar theme: suggesting that UFOs are here to search for Bigfoot (and the Yeti) sounds ridiculous on its face. But any explanation of why it's ridiculous would apply equally well to the notion of Bigfoot and UFO's individually.

Some of the aliens clearly have a similar belief, at least in the Bigfoot, which is why they came to Earth. This implies that they had some prior knowledge (or suspicion) of its existence, and only then (possibly) narrowed it down to this one planet, because of the videos humans have made.

Whatever the arguments about Bigfoot, the title text reveals a separate discussion regarding the Yeti (a similar large hominid purported to reside in the Himalayas), and the tentative permission to conduct one last search for it. As the Yeti and Bigfoot are very similarly described, they could also be seen as the same, so the only difference is that searching for Bigfoot in Himalaya would make it a Yeti. In the discussion about this last search they caution about staying high above the Pacific and watch where they are going. This is because, as it turns out, they where the cause of the Amelia Earhart incident. Amelia Earhart disappeared while flying over the Pacific Ocean in 1937 and neither her nor her plane have ever been found. The title text explains that a crash with one of the flying saucers was the reason why she disappeared. She has previously been the main character in 950: Mystery Solved and has since been a recurring theme on xkcd.

That their clearly superior observation technology and methods have been apparently unable to resolve these issues at first seems like it shouldn't bode well for our own cryptozoologists, but since lack of results does nothing to deter them, and since it is always impossible to prove that something doesn't exist, they would likely not change their beliefs even if they heard of the alien results; cause "Bigfoot of course hides when the aliens look! And how else do you explain the..."


[Two 'classic' Flying Saucers type spacecrafts are hovering in the sky with speech-lines indicating communication between the crew on the saucer. The right is bend a bit down, like it is looking at the left.]
Left Saucer: Sir, can we talk?
Left Saucer: We've been observing earth for almost a century.
[Same setting but both saucers are level.]
Left Saucer: Hovering and zooming from place to place, trying to avoid being spotted by humans.
Right Saucer: Yeah.
[In a Frame-less panel only the left saucer is shown. The right saucers reply comes from a starburst next to the frame of the next panel.]
Left Saucer: By now we've flown over every inch of the surface many times.
Right Saucer (off-panel): Yes? And?
[Same setting as in the first panel, with the right "looking" at the left saucer.]
Left Saucer: Face it: If Bigfoot is real, he's not anywhere on this planet.
Right Saucer: But humans have captured some intriguing videos!
Left Saucer: *sigh*
Right Saucer: How else do you explain the...

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hello from Anchorage, AK!New editor (talk) 19:24, 26 January 2022 (UTC)

Hi, but do remember to sign your Talk stuff, however otherwise meaningless. ;) 19:21, 26 January 2022 (UTC)
oops forgot, just fixed it.New editor (talk) 19:24, 26 January 2022 (UTC)

I wonder whether they're also looking for Little Green Men, these aliens being themselves more of the 'bug-eyed monster' type. 19:21, 26 January 2022 (UTC)

Although they follow each other there is no clear indication that the two aliens are the same. --Kynde (talk) 09:10, 27 January 2022 (UTC)
They bought their UFOs from the same dealership..? 13:55, 27 January 2022 (UTC)
Bob's Saucer Repair: Power by Ozzie, Handling by Taz, Paint job by Topper/Pierre.Seebert (talk) 00:19, 28 January 2022 (UTC)

I question the current Analysis "The humor derives from the fact that UFO enthusiasts and cryptozoology enthusiasts have a similar mindset: They both believe in phenomena that the scientific establishment declares to be baseless." At a deeper level that may be true, but the primary humor comes from (a) us not being the reason for the alien presence (we tend to assume it's all about us) and (b) the sudden absurd realization that aliens have cryptozoology enthusiasts too.-- 23:41, 27 January 2022 (UTC)

"Every inch of the surface"

Should it be "every square inch of the surface"? (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Yes,....yes it should.-- The Cat Lady (talk) 20:03, 26 January 2022 (UTC)
...but the surface of the Earth isn't square! :p 20:06, 26 January 2022 (UTC)
Insert that one story of the founding of Carthage here :) 22:27, 26 January 2022 (UTC)Bumpf
It should be "every square meter", because who on earth (and beyond) is still using imperial units? Kimmerin (talk) 08:33, 27 January 2022 (UTC)
Maybe it is "every linear inch" because they have an advanced technology allowing them to scan an infinity of lines and add the results to create a surface? 12:19, 27 January 2022 (UTC)

I would hate myself if I didn't put in a plug for a friend's book series, Sci-Comedy genre. In Jerry Boyd's Bob and Nikki series, Bigfoot aren't native, they were dumped here by a different group of aliens that occasionally used them as slaves. They also love garlic and you can effectively trade with them. There are also Starfoot, who are used as slaves by the Commonwealth but have a planet of their own. Since DB Cooper speaks their language, he and his grandson left earth to settle there and raise garlic fields. All in all a rollicking funny series. Seebert (talk)

today the random button goes to https://c.xkcd.com/random/comic/ -- 02:57, 28 January 2022 (UTC)

seems complete, deleting tag.New editor (talk) 16:58, 28 January 2022 (UTC)

why has what if? not been updating lately? anybody know? New editor (talk) 21:06, 28 January 2022 (UTC)

I suspect Randall got bored of that project, or got tired of doing new research for it. The What if? page hasn't been updated in a few years, though Randall had written several books that seem to be similar: what_if#The_book and How To. 22:56, 28 January 2022 (UTC)
yeah, but did you see the Countdown in header text? could be a possible what if? 2.New editor (talk) 08:26, 30 January 2022 (UTC)
t.rex on a plane...New editor (talk) 08:26, 30 January 2022 (UTC)
wow, i predicted it. i'm as surprised as you are.