1511: Spice Girl

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Spice Girl
Haha, you'll see!
Title text: Haha, you'll see!


Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Anyone who can pinpoint a specific work with this scene in it?
If you can address this issue, please edit the page! Thanks.

This is a complex and challenging comic to understand, depending on the reader's familiarity with the Spice Girls, with quizzes about the Spice Girls, and with postapocalyptic dystopian fiction.

The Spice Girls

The Spice Girls are a British pop girl group formed in 1994. It consists of five girls who each have a "spice girl" nickname. The five girls with their respective nicknames are:

The letter in parenthesis are relevant for the interpretation of the title text

The internet quiz

This is one example of a trend of on-line quizzes that would "identify" the user with one person/personality of a group based on a series of personality questions. This will most often concern which member of a band, TV cast/film cast or character from books etc. the quizzer most resembles. In this comic it is specifically Spice girl quizzes that are the subject.

In this comic, Randall is suggesting that in order to cope with, what he probably considers to be irritating clickbait links to these quizzes, he imagines the link titles as being shouted through a door in a postapocalyptic dystopia. This is a reference to a trope in movies set in such postapocalyptic settings (which Randall presumably enjoys more) in which the heroes must determine whether an unknown agent is friend or foe, which in some such media occurs by shouting through locked doors. It is not likely that Randall would actually complete these quizzes, but if he did in this fantasy setting, the stakes would be higher and each answer would be fraught with dangerous meaning. It would thus also be much more fun taking the quiz and the result would seem to be important.

As can be seen, from the nicknames above, there is no Merciful Spice, and although Scary Spice may be the one you might at first associate with starting a war, that is not necessarily a reference to her. The Merciful One could be a reference to the song with the same name by Zohar, another British music ensemble. This song is very slow and easy compared to Wannabe.

Two interpretations

There are two ways of interpreting this comic, as it is not initially fully clear whether the "speech line" in the comic is coming from Cueball or through the wall adjacent to him. It leads to two very different interpretations!

Speech lines in xkcd

There is no discussion about the thumping on the door though. Everybody agrees that there is someone outside the door who thumps on it. The small lines on the door around the "speech line" for the Thump radiate in all directions.

However, the small radiating lines on the wall around the "speech line" for the shouting are less spread. This has led to some disagreement as to whether the "Which are you" line is coming from outside the room (through the wall) or from Cueball.

Speech that comes from on-screen characters is nearly always indicated without any radiating lines. In 1489: Fundamental Forces radiating lines are shown coming from someone on-screen speaking normally, but it only occurs once out of five though (vs. four out of four for those from off-screen characters in that comic) so this may be an unintentional inconsistency by Randall.

Speech that comes from off-screen is always(?) indicated with these radiating lines as can be seen in the aforementioned comic as well as in the last frame of 1507: Metaball and twice in 1493: Meeting.

The problem in this comic is that the speech line stops near the wall (it does not go off-screen), it points to Cueball's head and it stops close to it. Its distance from his face is similar to what Randall typically uses to indicate what a character is saying. They are often drawn a little closer than that, but it is not uncommon that there are some distance. So, absent the radiating lines, it would for sure look like Cueball was the one speaking.

Since the radiating lines are there, one interpretation is that the shout is coming out of the wall, just as the thumps are coming from the door. This would resemble when someone is speaking inside something. And in these cases radiating lines are used to indicate from where the speech comes, as can be seen in 1463: Altitude and in 1458: Small Moon.

However, it is common for Randall to indicate shouting (and all agree that this line is shouted) with the same type of radiating lines, which for instance can bee seen when Megan shouts in 1374: Urn and in 1360: Old Files. So another equally valid interpretation is that it is Cueball who is shouting.

The shout comes from Cueball

In this interpretation the four little lines from the speech line going to Cueball's indicate that he is shouting.

Cueball is shouting the question through a door at a charged time during a postapocalyptic war, in order to make sure the one he lets in is not some evil person but a merciful one. In this comic, Megan is preparing for the worst by loading her shotgun, while a, possibly dangerous, Spice Girl is knocking on their door. The line from the title text is said by the spice girl outside.

The shout comes from outside

In this interpretation the four little lines from the speech line are only stopping near Cueball's, but is actually comming from (through) the wall to indicate that the question is shouted from outside.

This would then indicate that Megan is the Spice Girl (remember that Megan is not the same character from comic to comic so this is not a problem for this interpretation).

The quiz questions is being shouted by an angry agent or crowd outside the door at a charged time during a postapocalyptic war. Cueball tries to protect "Megan Spice", who the crowd would be after. In case that she is The Merciful One there is not problem. But if she is the one that started this war they would like to apprehend her.

In this case it looks like Megan does not have any intention of answering, and she is preparing for when the people outside break down the door by loading her shotgun to defend herself. The line from the title text is said by the Megan Spice indicating that when they get through the door they will be in trouble.

The title text

The title text refers to the lyrics from the Spice Girls' debut single, Wannabe (Listen to Wannabe on YouTube) Here below is the relevant excerpt from the song where the letters in the last four lines refer to the spice girls as given above. This rap bridge is sung by Scary Spice except for the line with Easy V which is sung by Ginger Spice:

So here's a story from A to Z,
You wanna get with me You gotta listen carefully
We got Em in the place who likes it in your face
You got G like MC who likes it on an
Easy V doesn't come for free, she's a real lady
And as for me, ha ha, you'll see

These lyrics function as a little introduction to the then less well known girl group. The final line takes on a threat-like tone in this new context of the comic. And it doesn't help that it is Scary Spice who sings it.

The text may seem a little confusing to understand, especially the line that finishes on an. According to another lyrics-site, which also has explanations to some parts of the text, it means that G and MC likes it (sex) together with ecstasy - as "On an E" is slang for being on ecstasy (see it used in this discussion). They could not sing this directly without resulting in a PG rating, thus they inserted the "E" in the next line as Easy V, a line which is even sung by another spice girl, Ginger spice, where the rest of this bridge is sung by Scary spice.


[Cueball is trying to barricade a door with his own body (although it already has a bar in front of it). He is in a room that is deteriorating with Megan who is loading a shotgun while sitting behind some sort of box.]
Knocking on the door: Thump Thump
Voice (see interpretations above): Which Spice Girl are you?!
Voice: The merciful one, or the one who started this war?
[Caption below the frame:]
When I see those quiz titles, I like to imagine they're
being shouted through a door in a postapocalyptic dystopia.

Spice girl quizzes

comment.png add a comment! ⋅ comment.png add a topic (use sparingly)! ⋅ Icons-mini-action refresh blue.gif refresh comments!


Not being shouted (from without, at either cueball or his female companion) by a post-apocalyptic crowd, surely, but by Cueball (from within, at the post-apocalyptic person of whom he is currently trying to deny entry whilst possibly necessary weaponry is being loaded)... Or so I read it. If that makes sense. 05:43, 13 April 2015 (UTC)

It does look like that, but the caption states "through a door". -- microslayer
The little lines around the origin point of the speech "bubble" is usually used in XKCD to indicate that the sound is coming through the surface or offscreen (see Writers Strike (360) and Time Vulture (926)). -Pennpenn 06:52, 13 April 2015 (UTC)
Except that I read the caption as meaning "through a door" by our Cueball, i.e. what someone like him would be shouting out, plosively. (It's "through the wall", anyway, if that's a 'through something' speech-bubble-originator-indicator (like the "THUMP"s are) rather than 'rather loudly' emphasis that I'd expect to be associated with Cueball. They are shown differently, with the non-THUMP indicator not really having the same appearance as all the other ones otherwise mentioned. Even in the very same panel.) Anyway, just my POV. Needs an Official Transcript to be sure, I suppose. 07:12, 13 April 2015 (UTC)
The speak line clearly shows it is Cueball who shouts this quiz title through a door. No question is it like this, so I have corrected the transcript accordingly.--Kynde (talk) 08:54, 13 April 2015 (UTC)
I disagree. It's not that clear. The marks around the end of the speech line indicate the question is being shouted from the other side of the wall, and I think - but can't be certain - that the line terminates near Cue Ball's head looks like to me like ambiguous drawing by the cartoonist. That, and the "through the door" make me think that Cue Ball is just silently holding the door shut against the rampaging hoards, who are doing all the shouting. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
I agree that it is unclear. See comic 1493. Randall has used those little "blast" lines USUALLY to denote off-screen speech, but in that comic (the first example I found going backwards), he uses it directly on Cueball. That said, most uses are for sound effects or off-screen/through wall speech. I expected to find it used for "shouting", but Cueball isn't even shouting in that comic. Not sure why Randall used it. Another example is 1393. I initially read this comic as Cueball speaking, otherwise Randally would have drawn the line over Cueball's head to the door, but I don't think the other interpretation is necessarily wrong. I do think the third one had to go though. Cueball shouting to Megan doesn't line up with the caption of "through the door". TheHYPO (talk) 14:28, 13 April 2015 (UTC)
I also find it to be confusing. I first thought it was Cueball that was doing the shouting but after reading this page I now see that the little marks around the speech line are usually used when the speaker is off panel or inside of something (car or coming from PC, etc). I went looking through back comics to see if any yelling was indicated differently and found one where the character was not yelling but the speech line has the same little marks (First panel of Fundamental Forces http://xkcd.com/1489/). In that case it looks like a small mistake, but in this comic it just leaves me unsure who is speaking. 14:39, 13 April 2015 (UTC)Agent0013
I am satisfied with the two different explanations currently being shown, given the controversy. However, to continue to support 'my' interpretation, do note the difference between the *THUMP* origins (unidirectionally starred lines, definitely on the door) and the question's origins (splayed lines, and an origin on the surface of a wall... coincidentally in the right place to be confused with originating from Cueball's mouth?). I'd accept that there's argument (before anyone else gives it) that because of Cueball's head being where it is one might not see the leftward-sloping asterism lines, but I don't think it's close enough to have obscured this (and could have been easily drawn to avoid such an illustration problem, as might a way to have drawn it to be unconfusingly not associated with Cueball's head at all). Tell you what, let's see if we can get it via the 3d.xkcd.com interface... Then we might know... ;) 15:26, 13 April 2015 (UTC)
I agree that it is clear it is Cueball shouting. The caption says through a door, not through a wall. The lines (different from the "through-door" lines) indicate he is shouting it with stress in his voice, through the door at a Spice Girl on the other side. 23:06, 13 April 2015 (UTC) and are correct, the shouting is coming from outside the room. Randall/Cueball imagines he is hearing quiz titles "being shouted," he is not imagining shouting them himself. Pesthouse (talk) 11:56, 13 April 2015 (UTC)
Furthermore, "in order to make sure the one you let in is not some scary person but a merciful one" makes no sense because the Spice Girl in question is clearly meant to be the girl loading the gun behind the box. She's already in the room. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
Hmm, or maybe not. I thought the hair was too different from Megan's usual style, but it could be her. So now I'm about 50/50 on this one. 12:28, 13 April 2015 (UTC)
There is no such character as Megan. Please see Megan. I quote ""Megan" does not necessarily always represent the same character from comic to comic. She is essentially the female equivalent of Cueball, representing the every-woman to his everyman.". 13:08, 13 April 2015 (UTC)
I agree that it is difficult to determine from the small lines where the speak comes from. I have added several changes to the explain, but kept most of it in. I still believe that it is Cueball that shouts, but I'm not 100% sure anymore. --Kynde (talk) 08:06, 14 April 2015 (UTC)

I don't know much about the Spice Girls, but the comic seems to be referring to two; Is there a "merciful" Spice Girl? Is there one likely to "start a war"? And is there a "war" that is specifically to do with the Spice Girls? - 08:01, 13 April 2015 (UTC) What about Camp Spice?? (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

The comic is clearly inventing new Spice Girls: the original Spice Girls didn't have a merciful one, or an evil one. 13:10, 13 April 2015 (UTC)

Disagree. In real life, there has not been a war started by ANY spice girl. This is clearly fantasy. It is just as likely that Randall is imagining the Spice Girls rise to power and in their newfound power, become associated with new traits (e.g. one is a merciful and one starts a war - in Cueball's fantasy scenario, there are only two spice girls left, or two who could possibly be at the door). There is no basis to assume this is a reference to invented new spice girls.
I also think that if Randall intended to have the quiz's answers make sense, it would have to be the latter, since the quiz won't have an "evil" or "merciful" spice. That said, given Randall's comment about needing to make the link titles less irritating, it's unlikely he would actually do the quiz. He just wants to be less annoyed while skimming his, Facebook feed (for example) TheHYPO (talk) 14:33, 13 April 2015 (UTC)
You are wrong when you say 'the quiz won't have an "evil" or "merciful" spice'. Here you can see Baby Mummy, Sporty Mummy, Scary Mummy, Posh Mummy, Ginger Mummy, and also Old Mummy, Oracle Mummy, Supercalifragalistic Mummy, Drop and Run Mummy, Hover Mummy, Boring Mummy, Disaster Zone Mummy, and Baby Factory Mummy. 17:15, 13 April 2015 (UTC)

Why are we all ignoring the fact that this is not just this quiz title? It extends to things like "Which Harry Potter Character are you?" and other stuff like that. The Goyim speaks (talk) 00:15, 14 April 2015 (UTC)

Because the comics name is Spice Girl!--Kynde (talk) 08:06, 14 April 2015 (UTC)

That's some Waste Land level shit of complexity right there. Boerder (talk)

The discussion has convinced me my initial interpretation is wrong, but I still like it best: Cueball is shouting, in a panic, at Megan Spice, who he thought was innocent until those at the door came for her. 16:40, 14 April 2015 (UTC)

The whole idea that the shout is coming from Cueball is nonsense, utter nonsense. Megan is loading her shotgun, and saying "Haha, you'll see!" So Megan is the merciful spice girl or the one who started the war. The shouted question "Which spice girl are you?" is directed at Megan. And Randall is saying that he likes to imagine questions like this as being shouted through a door. Cueball and Megan are on the same side of the door. Ergo the shout is coming from outside. --RenniePet (talk) 18:58, 14 April 2015 (UTC)

Known Comics Iconography for Outside

Everyone who thinks it's Cueball should read "Understanding Comics" by Scott McCloud. The radiating lines at the start of the stem (for both the THUMPs and the shouting) indicate that the sound is coming from off-panel. Randall has used this technique before, in 1154 for example. See also "Emanating Dialogue" at http://blambot.com/articles_grammar.shtml - Frankie (talk) 21:32, 14 April 2015 (UTC)

Known Comics Iconography for Shouting
It is common for Randall to indicate shouting (and all agree that this line is shouted) with the same type of radiating lines. See when Megan shouts in 1374: Urn and in 1360: Old Files. There is actually a clear difference between the Thumps line and the speech line. So this is no argument. Also the "wall" is not off-screen and thus comic 1154 or the other referened in the explanation has nothing to do with this comics speech line. And as the comment below notes, when something is coming out of a box/wall then the "thumps" version is used as can be seen in 915: Connoisseur. So once again we are back to square one. Randall has not made a clear comic here!--Kynde (talk) 11:21, 15 April 2015 (UTC)
As an evidence-based person, I thank you for the disappointing counter-examples. Yes, Randall has used this symbol ambiguously. However, in standard comicsography, small radiating lines at the base of a speech stem (henceforth called [email protected]) is a known and accepted convention for an occluded speaker. When radiating lines are used to indicate emphasis (which is already rare, since volume is usually demonstrated via thicker lines and other symbols) the lines are typically larger and encompass a substantial fraction of the speaker's head.
TL;DR version: Randall might be doing it wrong. - Frankie (talk) 21:33, 15 April 2015 (UTC)
p.s. It's certainly his right as an artist to do so. The confusion might even be intentional. -- Frankie (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
The comment below is not about "thumps," it is about how we are a bunch of people locked in a box arguing about something stupid. Pesthouse (talk) 00:07, 18 April 2015 (UTC)

I think I just realized what 915: Connoisseur is really about. Pesthouse (talk) 01:45, 15 April 2015 (UTC)

Is "Duck Soup" the answer to "Anyone who can pinpoint a specific work with this scene in it?"

Regarding the incomplete tag that asks "Anyone who can pinpoint a specific work with this scene in it?":

It vaguely remains me of a scene in the Marx Brothers movie "Duck Soup" but I haven't seen it in many years. Anyone who has copy of the movie (or remembers it well) and can verify this? 06:49, 3 May 2015 (UTC)

I've been leaning more towards "The shout comes from Cueball". But the officcial transscript now clearly states, that the shout is coming from "A cruel interloper, external to the scene".

I agree with the official transcript. Does anyone else think we should keep the other explanation now? (Although, without the transcript, I would be pretty on the fence about it.) Zman9600 (talk) 00:53, 27 May 2015 (UTC)
It's a bit late but I disagree. The official transscript refers to cueball as a terrified figure, and after the bit about the cruel interloper it says: "Terrified figure: WHICH SPICE GIRL ARE YOU?! (...)" - which clearly makes the terrified figure, cueball, the one shouting the question. 08:12, 27 July 2018 (UTC)

Oddly enough, my interpretation is that the girl is a Spice girl, and Cueball entered a known Spice Girl residence in order to escape the hostile entities outside (I watch/read a bit of post-apocalyptic zombie fiction, where it is a common scenario to choose between seeking refuge with a "dangerous" person or contending with a zombie horde). -- Username (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Not believing that no one said it, it needs to be said. Phyllis Diller once claimed that she was the lost Spice Girl - Old Spice. Cosumel (talk) 03:01, 11 August 2020 (UTC)

Anyone else think "The Merciful One could be a reference to the song with the same name by Zohar, another British music ensemble." is just a coincidence? Danish (talk) 19:28, 11 January 2021 (UTC)

Note for an editor who thinks they know what to do about it: The links inserted into the Transcript no longer have the named anchor to jump to in the Explanation (haven't tried to work out when it got changed/merged out of existence)... 23:07, 15 September 2022 (UTC)