Black Hat

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Black Hat

First appearance 29: Hitler
Appearances 175
For a list of comics, see Comics featuring Black Hat.
For Black Hat's girlfriend, see Danish.
The Men in Hats comic on which Black Hat is based on.
Black Hat is a stick figure character in xkcd. He is distinguished by his eponymous black hat, and, unlike other xkcd characters, he always represents the same character in every comic. In his talk at Dartmouth, Randall discusses his why he wanted to create a separate "asshole" character in his comics, or "Classhole", a term coined by his friend Beth and used in 72: Classhole. In his first appearance, 29: Hitler, Black Hat wore a taller top-hat style hat, that quickly evolved to have the current shape and style of a pork pie hat, already used in 45: Schrodinger.

The title text of 29: Hitler, his first appearance, says he's based on a character named Aram from a now discontinued webcomic called Men in Hats and, in the original caption, Randall directed the user to a specific Men in Hats comic about parenting. Like Black Hat, Aram frequently made judgmental, insulting, or controversial comments in a very emotionless manner. Aram wore a dark gray suit with a red bowtie and a black top hat with a white strip above the brim. Black Hat's hat clearly evolved from the top hat design later in xkcd.

Name

It is possible that Black Hat has a name that has been used in the actual webcomic, as opposed to the name "Black Hat." In the title texts of 29: Hitler and 493: Actuarial, Black Hat is referred to as "the hat guy" and "Hat guy" respectively. In 1139: Rubber and Glue a young Hairy also gave him the nickname "Hatboy". These early characters may also be a different persona.

It's not verified that Black Hat is a reference to Black hat hacking, but the character's personality is in line with the idea of a "black hat hacker" from the software engineering culture that Randall's comics are written for. Black Hat speaks from a place of casual power and safety, living in the luxury that many early hobby hackers found by being ahead of the tech curve or even actually hacking financial systems, hatching evil schemes often for no reason other than to cause chaos or go against the societal norms.

The title text also says Black Hat is based on a character named Aram from a now discontinued webcomic called Men in Hats and, in the original caption, Randall directed the user to a specific Men in Hats comic about parenting. Like Black Hat, Aram frequently made judgmental, insulting, or controversial comments in a very emotionless manner. Aram wore a gray suit with a red bowtie and a black top hat with a white strip above the brim. Black Hat's hat clearly evolved from the top hat design later in xkcd.

Characteristics

He almost always wears his hat and has short hair, as shown in the "Journal" series, 412: Startled, and 1401: New. Judging by 1139: Rubber and Glue and 1753: Thumb War, he has worn the hat since he was a child. He used to work alone, sometimes helped by Cueball, but he has found a female counterpart and partner in Danish, his girlfriend.

While no definite reason is given for how he became so sadistic, in 792: Password Reuse Black Hat says "since March of 1997 I don't really believe in anything" suggesting some traumatic experience made him this way. Some black hat hackers are simply so detached from the real world they don't understand that others suffer; others may have led rough lives and been through crime rings as a sole way to find community. In 1139: Rubber and Glue, the boys making fun of Black Hat as a child appear to be in elementary school based on one calling for his mom, so Black Hat probably is too. He is already sadistic by this point so the event would have happened when he was quite young; experiencing it so early would explain how the mystery event could have reshaped his entire personality. Unfortunately, no details are ever given.