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Stolen Pixels #102: Left 4 Dumb, Part 18

By Shamus
on Friday Jun 26, 2009
Filed under:


Guess who startled the witch?

For the readers who just can’t bear that one of their webcomics is running a series which doesn’t tickle their particular fancy, I am happy to report that your long period of agonizing not-finding-things-as-funny-as-you-would-prefer is drawing to a close. There are about 4 or 5 Left 4 Dumb remaining. And remember, if you don’t find a joke funny, it’s your duty as a human being to scroll down past a dozen comments saying, “This is hilarious” and leave a comment of your own informing the author that his work is stupid and unfunny and he should have quit ages ago. That’s a really important part of the whole webcomic process that far too many people overlook. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never commented before or have nothing invested in the series. The important thing is that you guide someone else’s work through hostility and degradation. If anyone gives you a hard time, just point out that you’re only trying to offer “constructive criticism”.

Thank you. I’m sure with just a little more work we can finally bring about LOLtopia. Don’t give up the dream.

Comments (56)

  1. RPharazon says:

    What about ignoring the bad strips entirely and instead going “Tsk tsk tsk” in your mind whilst reminiscing of better days?

    Would that also be supplemented by becoming disillusioned with the author? If so, to what extent is appropriate?
    How does this fit in with the aforementioned process?

  2. Factoid says:

    To hell with em. You can’t ever make everyone happy.

    Personally I feel like you’re just starting to hit your stride with Left 4 Dumb. The characters are becoming much more coherent and defined.

    I think the major limiting factor is the fact you’ve been unable to use the real L4D levels as backdrops.

    Can I make a suggestion? If that obstacle is eventually overcome, try doing a Left 4 Dumb: Versus comic from the perspective of the special infected. That could be pretty awesome as well, but you’ll need the real L4D environments to pull that off, I think.

  3. Avaz ( [d20]Teldurn ) says:

    They still all make me chuckle. Even though I don’t play L4D, I’ve seen enough of the strips to recognize their personalities, so I “get it”.

    Good stuff. :)

  4. Spider Dave says:

    Oh, whoops. I’ve been ignoring things I don’t like and only commenting on the good things, or things I have something to contribute to. Seems like I was doing it wrong, I’ll try to assist the webcomic process more!

    Seriously though, while I like Left 4 Dumb (a lot), I’m stoked on seeing some other stuff from you. Variety is the spice in the the box of chocolates of life.

  5. DmL says:

    his work is stupid and unfunny and he should have quit ages ago

  6. I swear to god that every time I play, Louis is the one that ends up startling the witch. And keep up the good work. I’d prefer a bit of a change too, but I’m still finding the Left4Dumb series funny, so I’m happy. :)

  7. Mike says:

    Shamus, I would love to see another hundred or so of these strips – they are hilarious, as anyone with a modicum of humor can see.

    Keep it up!

  8. mockware says:

    I’m sorry to see this end. I think they’ve been quite humorous. Reminds me of concerned which I enjoyed a lot.

  9. Al Shiney says:

    Loved ’em all Shamus, but this one really made me laugh out loud … which caused my boss, who chose that exact moment to pass by my office, to ask me what was so funny. Now I’m unemployed, so I hope you’re happy. :-(

    Kidding of course, but why so hateful to your vastly superior and ultra-talented Internet critics? Don’t you know that their opinions are all that matters in the universe? Geez, you’d think you’d have figured that out after DMotR. ;-)

  10. Abnaxis says:

    When are you going to deliver the promised commentary on Versus mode anyway? It’s my favorite mode and I look forward to calling you stupid and newbish every day, only to be disappointed :)

    Also, perhaps it is my twisted since of humor, but I find it funny that Louis is the whipping boy both in the game and the comic. Software people must have a mean racist streak…

  11. Dev Null says:

    I'm sure with just a little more work we can finally bring about LOLtopia.

    Is LOLtopia your next comic? Because if you start putting cutesy misspelled captions about fast food under HL2 images, I’m outta here…

  12. krellen says:

    Excellent punchline.

  13. Volatar says:

    I have found all of these strips funny, yet I would like a change. I like L4D, I like funny, but I always seemed to think that Stolen Pixels was meant to laugh at a bunch of different games, rather than just a few. I have ZERO problem with a series of comics from one game, but I think it would be best to keep such to half a dozen comics max in the future.

    Though, I still like all of these :D

  14. Yerameyahu says:

    You’ve been feeding the trolls a lot lately. :/ Just ignore them.

    • Shamus says:

      Yerameyahu & Volatar

      I’m not nearly as organized as you might imagine. I haven’t had any complaints in a few weeks, but I wanted to announce the coming end of L4Duh and I was in the mood to be snarky, so we wound up with the post above.

  15. Volatar says:


    I don’t think he is feeding the trolls here. I think that, since he came down hard on a couple, he thinks people may be too scared to give negative constructive criticism. He does not want everyone to just chant his greatness, he wants advice on how to improve.

    I think. Shamus is the only one who knows what he is really thinking. ;)

  16. Yontan says:

    I liked the break from the left for dumb series only because it made the return of the left for dumb series all better. I am fully expecting a left for dumb 2 series when l4d2 comes out…

  17. Osvaldo Mandias says:

    Its constructive criticism you want, eh?

    Shamus, you suck. Please rectify this failing immediately.

    Hope that helps.

  18. Nyaz says:

    Aww no, Shamus! I’m going to have to disappoint you. I actually love Left 4 Dumb to the point where I have started to think that the characters in Left 4 Dead as you have portrayed them (for example Zoey being the only sane person in the group, Bill being a total crackjob etc.)


  19. Conlaen says:

    “scroll down past a dozen comments saying, “This is hilarious” and leave a comment of your own informing the author that his work is stupid and unfunny and he should have quit ages ago”

    *looks at the post number above to ensure it’s been over a dozen posts*
    Your wish is my command!

    I wish to inform you that your work is stupid and unfunny and you should have quit ages ago!

    What? You asked!

    But really I love the Stolen Pixels, keep it up. I will look back fondly on the Left 4 Dumb comics (but I am also looking forward to them finally rounding up! ;))

  20. fester says:

    There are a lot of things that come to mind, I’ll list a few.

    1) Comedy is hard
    2) People aren’t as funny as they think they are
    3) Webcomics are notoriously bad when it comes to #2
    4) Fanboys will jump to your defense even if the comic in question really isn’t funny

    And finally

    5) There are a lot of webcomics out there where the author really, really needs to listen to the people saying “this is not funny.” CAD is the biggest offender when it comes to this.

    Now please don’t get me wrong, I’m not making any judgments on Stolen Pixels (I honestly don’t pay close attention to it, I tend to avoid webcomics for the above reasons), but I think you do yourself a disservice by discounting criticism even when it’s delivered poorly by ill-mannered Internet asshats.

  21. Pickly says:

    You guys are doing it wrong. What you should say is:

    “Shamus, your comics suck, you are a worthless human being, and should have been aborted had your family not been religious.”

    See, not only does this insult Shamus’s skill at comics, but also insults his religion, family, him as a person, and brings a highly charged political issue into the mix. It’ll be impossible for other commenters to resist. :)

    (On an unrelated note, the Team Fortress 2 servers have been going well, and I’m hoping to find some more opinions on Anno 1404, and of course future comics.)

    (and please do not take this comment as an excuse to argue abortion, religion, etc., for the above mentioned reason. and hopefully I got the “religious shamus family” correct and was not responding to something nonexistent.)

  22. Ergonomic Cat says:

    The price you pay for being an internet asshat is having your opinion ignored, even if it’s valid.

  23. Rutskarn says:



    also i’m pretty sure u smell



  24. Pickly says:

    The price you pay for being an internet asshat is having your opinion ignored, even if it's valid.

    Is this a direct response to me, or just a general point? (As looking back on the post it does seem it could come across the wrong way.)

    • Shamus says:

      Pickly: Wow. That is a nefarious demonstration of thread sabotage. That’s like a thread suicide bomber. If you dash into a discussion and set that off you would be banned, but the thread would never recover.

      When forum mods go to hell, they are no doubt tormented by people just like you.

  25. midget0nstilts says:


    Like you, I’m not into SP. I think you bring up some good points, but I feel there’s no point in complaining about anybody’s work (when it comes to art, anyway).

    Take comedy stand ups, for example. Usually, if the audience doesn’t find the comedian funny, they’ll just keep quiet. Saying “you’re not funny!” doesn’t do anything other than make former Seinfield cast members shout racial slurs at you.

    And so it is with SP. Personally, I find hardcore gaming to be boring. But that’s just me; more power to those who love it. I simply don’t comment on videogaming topics because I don’t see any point; I’m apathetic. So, really, it is feedback of a sort; if nobody commented on videogaming posts, then Shamus would probably take that into consideration. But I’m pretty sure if I said, “Hey, Shamus, stop talking about videogames and do some more posts on roleplaying/anime/whatever”, it wouldn’t do anything other than start a flamewar.

    And finally, how can you really hate a webcomic? If I don’t like it, why would I bother reading it and complaining about? If you stopped liking SP, wouldn’t it make more sense to stop reading it and commenting on it?

    EDIT: Also, now that I think about it, we’re all friends here, right? So, we should all act friendly.

    • Shamus says:

      midget0nstilts speaks the truth.

      Someone brought up CAD, which is a great example of this sort of thing in action. I used to be into it, and I still think community-voted “space” stories were clever in a lot of interesting ways. But look, the guy has a huge audience. Way bigger than me, I’m sure. (He lives off the comic, so I HOPE his audience dwarfs mine. :) His stuff doesn’t entertain me, but it’s obviously working for SOMEONE. What kind of ass would I have to be to demand an artist turn his back on the people that do like his work so he can make something more to my taste? What could I hope to accomplish by wading into his forums, surrounded by his fans, and then insult his work? It would carry with it an implicit insult: “The rest of you are stupid for liking this guy.” No good can come of this exchange, and there is nothing I could say to Buckley that would turn him into Bill Waterson anyway. He is what he is. He’s making what pleases him, entertaining (other) people, and paying the bills. He’s a success, even if his work fails to entertain me.

      I don’t mind when people say “I prefer some other comics you’ve made” or “I think your Travis-based material is better”. That’s actually useful because I can at least see what they like and see where they’re coming from. But a comment from a total stranger telling me that I should stop doing X has no value. Do they like my work? Any of it? What is it about X that they don’t like? A gentle nudge from a Strangeite, Rutskarn, or Ergonomic Cat can be useful. But there is no value in a random jeer from a stranger. I judge my success by how many people “LOL”, not by how many people boo.

      Some people say I should just ignore them, but I’m only trying to give the critics more constructive criticism. I just want them to be better critics. (Innocent look.) Is that so wrong?

  26. Graham says:

    Um… passive aggressive snark much?

    Back when you stated that the L4D comics had a ways to go, I voiced my disappointment in that fact. Nowhere was I hostile, nor did I tell you to quit. I didn’t see such a comment in that entire thread, though my recollection may be faulty.

    I even made the constructive suggestion of possibly having the L4D comics as the Friday comic, as it was obvious that you wanted to do them, and that would have allowed the comic to not be a solid 2 month block of L4D comics, for those of us who don’t care for them.

    I even asked for a response as to what you thought about that idea. I’m pretty sure that never happened, and I assume you ignored the comment as “hostile” or “degradation.”

    There were probably people who were hostile about it, though I didn’t see it. This is likely directed at them.

    But I resent being lumped in with hostile trolls merely because I didn’t enjoy the L4D comics.

    Thanks a lot. You’ve lost a bit of my respect with this post.


  27. Graham says:

    By the way, I’d also like to tell you that your “Home” header menu link isn’t working on post pages (in the Lawful Good theme).

    On the main page, “Home” links to the main page. On this post, it brings you back to the post.

    The link under “Home” right now is:


    Just thought you should know.

  28. BarGamer says:

    Having never played L4D, nor any horror game ever, I only find these comics funny from a pure narrative standpoint. I can’t wait until Shamus picks a game that I’ve played to parody.

  29. SatansBestBuddy says:

    You really nailed the “guy looking guilty while trying to defend himself with words” look on Francis.

  30. Jabor says:

    I judge my success by how many people “LOL”, not by how many people boo.

    Quite honestly, more people booing means your work is being exposed to more people. And thus is probably doing better.

    It’s when people stop booing that you have to start being worried.

  31. RTBones says:


    Of course, when the witch called Zoey a bimbo, I half expected Zoey to go Laura Croft on her, get mauled, then get saved by the Reaper. :)

  32. Mari says:

    Just to beat a dead horse: Your work is unfunny and you should have quit ages ago.

    Now, to the real point: You brought about coffee spewage again. I’m going to have to sue you one of these days for monitor and keyboard damages from all the “coffee through nose” moments you’ve given me. In the meantime, thanks for being a bright spot in a rainy, crummy day.

  33. Graham says:

    Problem is, Shamus, the only critics you pay any attention to seem to be the trolls.

    A troll posts something inflammatory and hostile, and he gets a post about it, directed at everyone who has expressed criticism.

    I post something civil and constructive, and I’m ignored.

    …yeah. Something seems off here.

    • Shamus says:

      Graham: Actually, you weren’t ignored. I took the advice of a lot of people who weren’t crazy about L4Duh and inserted those breaks in between chapters. That was a suggestion that came from critics, and I did it. It was a good move, and the comic was better for it.

  34. Joshua says:

    I’ll also agree that I don’t really find the Left 4 Dumb very funny, but have been posting here for several years with mostly good comments. Sometimes, it’s really hard to give constructive feedback about what’s “funny”, as I’ve found the Stolen Pixels I’ve liked and disliked are not related to whether I’ve played the games.

    For example, I’ve played Left 4 Dead, but not Assassin’s Creed, for which I’ve found your work pretty funny.(Also, I liked the comic(s?) on that GTA-Light game for which I can’t remember the name pretty good too. I have played Portal, and thought the 100th comic post spot-on and hilarious. I(like most people) came here because of the awesomeness that was DMotR but didn’t like Chainmail Bikini.

    I think the best suggestion is to not spend too much time on any one game, and definitely keep up with the variety. Spacing them out like you do with the EA Guy ones keeps jokes from getting stale.

  35. Graham says:

    Well, thank you for that, Shamus.

    But it is difficult to be a constructive critic when the most visible response/acknowledgment goes to the hostile ones. And posts like this just make it seem more like being hostile gets you noticed.

    I’m glad that you listen to us, but it would do a world of good if you did fewer snarky posts like this at the idiots. All this does is show that you see them and are paying attention to them.

    • Shamus says:

      Graham: The secret: Sometimes it feels good to step on something that annoys me. It’s probably self-indulgent, but its also cathartic. Do be patient with the occasional excesses. I try to keep them funny and / or relevant.

      Although, if they aren’t funny, and someone criticizes my rebuttal to their criticism that my work isn’t funny for not being funny…

      Then I think the thread will collapse into a singularity, from which no jokes can escape. So I’ll have to be careful to avoid that.

  36. Osvaldo Mandias says:

    Graham, I lost a little respect for you with that middle comment.

  37. Pickly says:

    Pickly: Wow. That is a nefarious demonstration of thread sabotage. That's like a thread suicide bomber. If you dash into a discussion and set that off you would be banned, but the thread would never recover.

    When forum mods go to hell, they are no doubt tormented by people just like you.

    Don’t worry, I don’t actually do anything like this. (I’ve been a forum mod before, and lesser political arguments still bring up a lot of attention.) It was meant to be kind of a goofy example of extreme trolling, though it seems to have really come off differently.

  38. tourist.tam says:

    Keep them coming; I always knew Francis was a little punk. XD

  39. Graham says:

    @Osvaldo Mandias –

    Good for you. Now, would you care to explain why, as I did to Shamus?

    Please, I’m interested why a civil comment and critique that expressed my own opinion on the sate of affairs resulted in a random internet stranger losing respect for me.

    Or maybe I should just assume you’re a troll, until you say something with more substance.


    @Shamus –

    I definitely understand the desire to mock the idiots. As was mentioned above, however, you seem to be doing it a lot lately. The only thing I would have you do differently is make sure that you acknowledge the good commenters as well. A note, when you decided to take the between-chapters break, that it was at the request of the fans, for instance.

    All we want is to know that our comments aren’t getting drowned out by (or lumped in with) the trolls.

    It’s a difficult balance to achieve, I think.

    Regardless, I do highly enjoy your work, even if L4D got tiring. Thanks for taking the time to respond to my comments. It means a lot.


    (I should add, I enjoyed this comic. The joke was general enough that I don’t need in-depth knowledge of the game to understand it. Though I have no idea what “startling the witch” means in the context of L4D.)

  40. mookers says:

    I really want to see a thread singularity.

  41. ima420r says:

    This is hilarious!

  42. Caffiene says:

    I was all set to write this week’s strip off as “Ok I guess, but not my favourite”… until I hit the comments link and found your line: “It’s never good to startle the witch, but you really don’t want to startle her with strippers.”

    Now Im going to complain. You made my sides hurt.

  43. Rutskarn says:

    Oh, yeah–on a serious note, I’ve got to remember the “I promise I’ll regret this for the rest of his life” line. That’s a perfect amoral-mercenary-who-screwed-over-his-teammate line, and would go perfectly next time I have to shove an NPC to the wolves.

    In my view, you’re not doing it right unless some character the DM liked and had plans for is being unjustly and childishly backstabbed.

  44. gabs says:

    I wasn’t sure whether to write anything, but since you practically ‘demanded’ it..

    I like your webcomic series, I really do. On top of that, I’m about as geeky as they come, in regard to understanding the L4D jokes. But really.. I didn’t like them as much as the other ones. You wanted an opinion, here it is. It was like watching a formerly hilarious Sitcom just because it used to be really funny, not for the jokes in the episodes themselves. Please, give yourself a break from the L4D comics and work on something else for a while, it looks like it’s lost a lot of “flow” since it started. The feeling is.. I’m smiling a bit but not really laughing, like, for example, while reading DM Of The Rings. So, to summarize, take a break from the L4D comics and do something else for a while. I’ve not paid for anything, and would never write anything remotely resembling criticism, but hey, you asked for it ;)

    p.s.: I loved your Pixel City project

    p.p.s.: As I just noticed, a “go back to the comments page” button would be really helpful for those who don’t notice the “required”-comment next to the email adress. Gave me a bit of a fright for a second thinking my whole comment was gone.

    p.p.p.s.: Why did I get this weird triangle-thingy and how can I change it?

  45. smIsle says:

    No comment on the comic for today – but what’s different about these L4D comics is that quite a few of them have required the reader to know something about the game. Your explanatory paragraph was totally meaningless to me until I read the comic and thought about it a while – but by then it wasn’t funny any more. You usually do such a good job of making things funny even for the unwashed masses is all :-)

    Regardless – I’ll still read everything you write, because 90% of the time it’s awesome.

  46. Graham says:

    @gabs –

    That is a very good way of putting my own feelings as well. Thanks for taking the time to do that.

    The triangle thing is based on the email address you use to comment. Use a different address for a different image, or go register your email address for a Gravatar to choose your own avatar.

  47. Malimar says:

    …Is there really alimony after a common law marriage in [location L4D takes place]? Or is that part of the joke?

  48. Joshua says:

    Graham- the Witch is the strongest monster in the L4D game. Under normal settings, one hit from here will automatically disable a character, and then she will begin to start tearing into them. If the rest of the team doesn’t put her down fast, their comrade will be killed in short order. I’ve heard in Extreme mode, the first HIT from her will kill the character who startled her instantly.

    The thing about her is that she isn’t *supposed* to be fought. Creepy music starts playing when you get within a few hundred yards of her, you can hear her crying, the characters start commenting about how they hear her crying, and you can generally just walk around her unless you:
    1. Get too close(say, within touch range).
    2. Attack her, or start shooting around her.
    3. Shine a light in her face.

    *”isn’t supposed to be fought” is somewhat conditional, as sometimes the AI Director will deliberately place her in the way(such as on a staircase or narrow corridor) where you have no choice but to “startle” her.

    “Startling the witch” is a special phrase not only because that’s what you’re doing to get her to go into attack mode, but because the game will actually state ” X startled the witch!”, and if you die as a result of doing so the game will state “Next time you shouldn’t startle the witch!”.

    That’s the joke explained. As I said above, I’m in the crowd of not finding Left 4 Dumb that funny, and wish Stolen Pixels would move on to other games. It probably doesn’t help that I only found the game moderately enjoyable to begin with.

  49. Steve C says:

    Shamus said: The important thing is that you guide someone else's work through hostility and degradation.

    Shamus I want to think that your original post was snarky sarcasm but I really don’t know for sure. That could be a serious request to belittle your work. Most of this website is Shamus Young’s attempts to “guide someone else's work through hostility and degradation.” You even have a post as to why the hostility is important. Your own hostility and degradation is generally accurate and highly amusing. It’s one of the reasons why I read your site.

    I’m not going to ask if the above post is a request that should be taken at face value, or a snarky scarastic attempt at reverse psycology, or an example of hypocracy (purposeful or otherwise). I’m not going to ask because my money is on that you don’t know for sure yourself. Whatever the reason, I was amused by your post so… good job!

  50. DaveMc says:

    @Steve C: Most of this website is Shamus Young's attempts to “guide someone else's work through hostility and degradation.”

    This is a very interesting point, and it cuts to the heart of the issue, here: what’s the distinction between trolling and constructive criticism? Or even more tricky, between criticism expressed in a posture of exaggerated hostility, and mere carping? I’m pretty sure these distinctions exist, and I imagine most of us have a sense of when we’re reading a troll vs. a thoughtful critic (even if he’s cranky), but it’s not obvious to me how to articulate that difference. To make some sort of stab at it, I think it’s related to the amount of context provided: offering a comment that consists, in its entirety, of “you suck”, then claiming this is constructive criticism doesn’t fool anybody, because clearly there’s nothing useful to be derived from that. Shamus, even at his most cranky, has clearly thought about the issues he slams game developers (or whoever) for, so I think this puts his comments in a different category than forum trolls. I read his comments, above, as being mostly directed at the trolls on The Escapist boards, many of whom are in the “this sucks” category, clearly just trying to disturb the cacky rather than engage in any meaningful dialogue.

    I every confidence that this group will be able to pin down the differences between valid criticism and trolling. Talk amongst yourselves, I’ll check in later to read the answer … :)

  51. Otters34 says:

    Easy, constructive critics want to guide something into something good or out of something bad.
    Trolls simply wish to sow chaos, confusion and anger through their words.

    As for the comic, I found it bitterly amusing in regards to the Witch screaming for money. A much more serious problem than is often realized is greed causing divorce far more often than simple mutual dislike. The rest was really funny, though, even though I hate Left for(Why ‘4’?) Dead.

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