(From xkcd. Click for full-sized emotion chart.)
Randall Munroe is somewhat of a recluse. Oh, he has a “blag” that he posts on from time to time, but he almost never posts on specific strips there. It can be downright maddening to come across a comic and see it just sitting there, with nothing from the author beyond what’s there on the page, leaving it up to his sizeable fanbase to interpret the comic. Randall definitely belongs to the school that “my work speaks for itself”.
A year and a half ago, Randall’s fiance/wife was diagnosed with cancer. In the time since then, many an xkcd comic has reflected their ongoing struggles with the disease, especially since Randall posted some of the details in June of last year. Although the fanbase has been largely and rightly supportive, it’s been, well… interesting seeing Randall’s somewhat random, contemplative comic become affected by Randall’s having other things on his mind.
I think a large part of the fanbase’s support owes itself to the cancer comics not being any inferior in quality (or informativeness) to any other xkcd comic, and not completely taking over the comic at the expense of everything else they came for either. It’s not like xkcd has been turned into this. On the flip side, in fact, an interesting side effect of the whole ordeal has been to humanize Randall in the eyes of the comic’s fanbase, someone with actual feelings that actual things happen to, rather than some sort of comic-generating machine from outer space like the rest of the comic can seem like (even more so than David Morgan-Mar).
(Hey, I started writing this half an hour before the end of the day when it became apparent I’d have to wait another day to put up the next part of the College Football Playoff Systems series. Cut me some slack.)