Nitpick Your Battles
Order of the Stick comic
Comic no. 778
Date published 26 February 2011
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An intricate debate about proper gladiatorial gesture conventions gets settled by means of dinosaur.

Cast Edit

Transcript Edit

Panel 1

Vermillius swings his sword at Ceruleaus, disarming him and knocking him down.

Panel 2

Tarquin gives a thumbs up.

Panel 3

Ceruleaus: Thumbs up! That means I get to live!
Vermillius: Actually, that's a common misconception with no basis in historical fact.

Panel 4

Vermillius: While it's true that not all gladiators fought to the death, the thumb pointing up actually meant that the losing gladiator should be stabbed upward, into the heart.

Panel 5

Ceruleaus: No, no, I've read about this. The sign to kill was the thumb turned sideways.
Vermillius: Are you sure?
A soldier runs up.
Soldier: What are you doing? You're both wrong! Pressing the thumb and forefinger together means that he should live, and covering the thumb with the other hand means he should die.

Panel 6

Vermillius: So... what does the upward thumb mean?
Ceruleaus: Recite bad poetry to the loser?
Guard: Only if he wiggles the thumb.
Vermillius: ...Teabag him?
Guard: That's DOWN and wiggling.

Panel 7

Elan: Wouldn't it just be easier to tell them what you wanted?
Tarquin: I have to do something to get the crowd excited again.
Elan: I don't think people standing around arguing is going to work.
Tarquin: Just wait for it.

Panel 8

Ceruleaus: No, pointing the thumb up means to cover the loser in hot maple syrup.
Vermillius: That's only if the other thumb's pointing sideways.
Guard: Which side? Right or left?
Vermillius: Right, obviously. If it was left, then you'd have to—

Panel 9

An Allosaurus head suddenly cuts in, chomping all three in its massive jaws, "CHOMP!"

Panel 10

The Allosaurus raises his head and swallows the victims, "gulp."

Panel 11

The crowd goes wild.

Panel 12

Tarquin: See? And you thought the helmets with no peripheral vision were just for style.
Elan looks at his hands.
Elan: Hold on—are we even sure we HAVE thumbs??

D&D Context Edit

  • Vermillius uses a Disarm attack in the first panel.

Trivia Edit

  • The ancient Romans did use a hand gesture or thumb signal, called Pollice verso in Latin ("with a turned thumb"), to determine the fate of a fallen gladiator. However, the subject of exactly what the gesture was is unclear and is the subject of much scholarly debate.
  • The names of the two gladiators aren't revealed until #782, Not Yet Met His Match.
  • This is the first appearance of Bloodfeast the Extreme-inator, the allosaurus.
  • This is the only other appearance of Ceruleaus and Vermillius. The names Ceruleaus and Vermillius are based on cerulean and vermilion, which are shades of blue and red, matching their respective armor colors. They first appeared in the previous strip.
  • This is the final appearance of the Gladiatorial Spectators; the very same members of the crowd who appeared in #776.

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