The Webcomic Overlook #130: Ctrl+Alt+Del (Part 1)

I like Rob Liefeld.

It’s sort of an out there thing to say. Nowadays, when most people mention the name “Rob Liefeld,” they like to talk about pouches, no feet, ridiculous muscles on muscles, impossibly small waistlines on the women, and that one Captain America picture. I get that.

Still, if people were craving artists who drew in “How to Draw Comics The Marvel Way” dimensions, how come there’s no alternate movement to honor the likes of Dan Jurgens, Tom Grummett, or Jerry Ordway? What people are forgetting is that when Liefeld broke out onto the scene, the rigidly standard character designs were prevalent and, frankly, very dull. A style, though, that placed more value in the visceral over realism? The guy running the “I Love Rob Liefeld” blog summed it best:

I thought it was AWESOME. The energy, the power, the thrill of super-heroes beating the snot out of super-villains. I loved it.

I understand all the criticisms. I know Liefeld can’t really draw well. Look, you don’t have to send me that link to Progressive Boink. I’ve seen it. But I don’t care. Liefeld was one of the biggest reasons I started collecting comics, so he’s OK by me.

I mention Liefeld because, in a way, I totally understand what it’s like to be a fan of Tim Buckley’s much maligned webcomic, Ctrl+Alt+Del. Perhaps no other webcomic has been so widely mocked by critics and by fellow webcomic creators. Yet it still frequently pops up on a lot of people’s “Best Of” lists, including many people whose opinions I value.

Once upon a time, I called Tim Buckley “the Rob Liefeld of webcomics” … maybe he can’t draw, maybe he’s a bit of a hot-head, maybe a lot of his fans hate what he did to the genre … but if you ignore him, you’ll never get a full picture of what webcomics (or in Rob’s case, comics in the 90′s) were really all about. It’s been a long time coming, but it’s time to put that theory to the test.

I do get asked, from time to time, “What’s the big deal with Ctrl+Alt+Del? Why the haters? Is it as bad as everyone says it is, or is this just more internet drama from a field that isn’t exactly short on irascible, drama-hungry raconteurs?”

To tackle such a hefty subject, I am, for the first time, going to split a review into two. I think there are two big questions when it comes to CAD. The first being, “Is CAD as bad as everyone says it is?” and the second being, “After Tim Buckley retooled CAD, is it now worth reading?” For the first part, I’m going to run a sort of live review covering the years between 2002 to about 2008. The second part will take us to the present day.

What’s easy to forget is that Tim Buckley was not always the pariah of the webcomic world. I understand Jerry Holkins wrote the intro to the first CAD book. Ryan Sohmer, of Least I Could Do, was one of the people behind the pay-for-play CAD Animated Series. We also forget that CAD was once the darling of fans as well: in 2004 and 2005, CAD was nominated for the WCCA’s Outstanding Gaming Comic Award, while in 2005 it was nominated for Outstanding comic. The webcomic remains ridiculously popular. According to Compete.com, CAD had 418K unique visitors in June, which is below Penny Arcade (773K) and above PvP (114K).

But, yes, Buckley’s responsible for a multitude of transgressions. It’s unoriginal. The pacing is terrible. It’s preachy. Not funny. Not particularly well drawn. But let’s not beat around the bush and get directly to the elephant in the room: everything completely went to hell when he decided it was a good idea to turn a comic where the characters said “XBox” every three sentences into a miscarriage drama.

The controversy doesn’t end there. Just a few months ago, someone discovered that his latest character, Abby, was ripped off the first result for “punk girl” on a Google Image Search. (Buckley has since recolored the character to eliminate the similarities.) What made things worse was that, in the past, Buckley, had very publicly torn into someone with a long, angry rant for using his characters in a school project. These mistakes and more have been well documented in fine publications like Encyclopedia Dramatica (NSFW) and The Bad Webcomic Wiki.

But let me play devil’s advocate for a moment.

Let’s look at that case, for instance. The latter for instance. Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins have made no secret that they don’t like how Buckley, a.k.a. Franzibald, is basically ripping off their creations, either. However, when they get into hot water for depicting a “sexy” Strawberry Shortcake, they’re hailed as martyrs because they were being hassled by American Greetings. I understand they’re two slightly different situations, but consider this: if it were Buckley getting in trouble over the Strawberry Shortcake strip, would we be as charitable?

And, really, with regard to the infamous “Loss” strip: who in webcomics HASN’T made a bad decision by plunging into drama? Shortpacked!‘s “ironic” pulling of the drama tag or xkcd‘s creepy Megan strips are only a couple of examples. Buckley’s may be the most spectacular, but that’s because his comic is under a microscope full time.

I should state off the bat that I don’t have very high opinions of CAD, but I’ve only seen bits and pieces… basically the worst-of-the-worst highlight reel. So to formulate a fuller opinion, I’ve decided to keep a running blog as I read CAD from beginning to end.

10/23/2002: So. It begins. Two guys. A couch. Video games. “Random” gag. So far, so generic.

The zeitgeist among gamers at the time was that there was an all new console war going on. Once upon a time, we had Nintendo vs. Sega. Now we had Sony vs. Microsoft (with Nintendo becoming a threat later when the Nintendo Wii outsold both of ‘em). Enter Ctrl+Alt+Del, one of the many game-oriented comics popping up on the scene to feed off the trumped up faux-animosity between gamers … who, let’s face it, aren’t very well known for their social graces.

While “inspired” by Penny Arcade, CAD itself became the inspiration for many other webcomics out there, plenty of which have since become defunct. And thus the era of the video game webcomic entered its Golden Age. The rest of my these can be found in Part One of my hopefully 47-part series: “An Ode to Video Game Webcomics.”

But, yeah, this is the one with the watermelon.

4/07/2003: My guess is that one of the earliest criticisms about CAD is encapsulated in that B^U meme. If you’re unfamiliar with “B^U,” turn it 90 degrees clockwise to see the “B” form permanently frozen half-lidded eyes, while the “U” forms a slack-jawed expression. Now, I was prepared to dismiss it early on as part of a learning curve. After all, early PvP‘s and Penny Arcades look pretty rough, too.

However, the lack of expressions beyond “B^U” in certain scenes are just too ridiculous to ignore.

5/30/2003: You know, given that Ethan is a game-obsessed man-child (and quite possibly Tim Buckley’s Mary Sue character), I thought that Lucas, who’s set up as the straight man, would turn out to be sympathetic. But goddamn is he ever smug.

7/21/2003: I will say this, though. I do like Scott.

8/23/2003 – 10/03/2003: OK, this is the first storyline that really, really annoyed me. Basically it goes like this: Ethan gets all his “friends” together to ambitiously put together a video game. He’s supposed to be taking art duties. Ethan starts getting on everyone’s case to get their stuff done, while he does jack. Eventually, he alienates abuses everyone he knows, but Lucas realizes it was the tie controlling him all this time (which doesn’t even make sense, since he wasn’t wearing it the whole time). So, in the end, all is forgiven. Oh, ETHAN!

Now, I’ve heard fans defend Ethan by saying that he’s basically Homer Simpson. As in, Ethan is basically an idiot savant, he does stupid things, but in the end, we root for the guy. Sure, I see the point … if we’re talking about the “jerkass” Homer Simpson from Season 12 onward.

That’s the point former Simpsons diehards like myself typically think the show jumped the shark, plus or minus three seasons. But back to the analogy: the reason we put up with Homer’s stupid antics is that, in the past, there have been touching times when the Simpsons pater familias has proved himself to be someone who cares about his family.

Do we ever get a moment like that with Ethan? So far, the guy’s been portrayed as being utterly selfish and unreasonable. So Ethan makes life miserable for everyone around him, and that’s supposed to be funny? Maybe for a few toss off gags, yeah. But we’re entering the second year of CAD here, and I can tell you that cruelty without anything behind it just isn’t that humorous.

12/20/2003: CAD often gets slammed for being wordy. The first year has been relatively breezy, so this is the first time I’m really noticing it. One of the recommended reading techniques pointed out by haters is that the comic is greatly improved by reading only the first and last panels. I try this technique out. It works out surprisingly well.

1/03/2004: Great now that technique’s not working out too well, either. So the punchline here is Ethan does something wacky and Lucas goes, “Any explanation you could possibly offer will only further destroy my faith in the future of humanity.” Holy crap, was that the most unnecessary punchline to add at the end or what? I’m starting to think that a greatly improved CAD would be entitled CAD Minus Lucas. By they way, I’m pretty sure I’ve heard this exact same punchline repeated like ten times already.

3/05/2004: I guess this is as good a time as any to point this out: using the results of a Google image search for your backgrounds? Really obvious, and really lazy. And Tim Buckley does this every other page. The first couple of times, I chuckled. Afterwards, I just sorta put my head between my hands and sighed forlornly.

5/15/2004: Goddammit, I am seriously getting sick of these stupid “random” Chef Brian strips.

5/19/2004: Oh, boy, no sooner do I say that than we get the first of the Player One, Player Two strips. I’ll be honest with you, though… these don’t really bother me. When you have to slog through the utter wordiness of a typical CAD strip, the Itchy & Scratchy like antics of Players One and Two (and later Three and Four) are almost a blessing.

8/11/2004: Here’s something I don’t get. Gamers in CAD are depicted here as cruel, violent psychopaths, dangerous morons, and he-man woman haters. Yet we’re supposed to be tut-tutting when the media depicts them as such? I know what Buckley’s going for here … but, crap, way to give your tormentors an easy excuse, eh?

9/22/2004: Here’s a Chef Brian strip showing a fork having sex with a spoon. There’s nothing really remarkable here except for the absolutely perfect B^U face on that spoon.

11/15/2004 – 12/14/2004: OK, I’ll admit that this was funny. Ethan creates a machine that can freeze time. Why? So he can play more video games. He walks around the apartment and find Lucas and Scott frozen into place. It turns out they were messing with him. And they carry out the joke as long as possible. Perhaps I was just more than a little impressed that someone in the comic was allowed to put one over Ethan.

1/1/2005-12/31/2005: Overall, the comics put out this year aren’t terrible. They’re still far too many words to explain a punchline when less is more (especially in the last panel), the characters are still unlikable, and there are far too many instances of Buckley face … but compared to the stuff that came the years before, it’s, at best, inoffensive. Lucas and Ethan by an HDTV. Lucas finds a date (the running gag here is that every woman Lucas dates is insane). Zeke (the XBox robot) goes robo-crazy. For the most part, it’s been a 3 star year so far instead of the typical 1 or 2 stars. I imagine this is the year everyone remembers when they stick it on their “Best Of” lists.

10/12/2005: And then we get to the really awful Jack Thompson strips. Please, Buckley … I think I speak for everyone when I say never ever open your mouth about politics again. There tasteful ways to go after people who you disagree with … and then there’s implying that the guy you hate was raped as a child. I’m sorry, but if your argument boils down to drawing yourself as the smuggest man on the planet while railing threats like “We outnumber you, and the people who think like you. Don’t fuck with us,” I am strongly inclined to side with the opposition just on principle.

1/30/2006: I’m only bringing this up once, because I don’t want to make the same argument every year, but goddammit but I do so hate Winter-een-mas stories. Winter-een-mas stories come off as embarrassing exercises in masturbatory wish-fulfillment. It doesn’t help that Ethan wearing that stupid crown makes his smug-ass face 200% more punchable.

Winter-een-mas 2006 is especially infuriating because, at the end, Ethan is crown king of all gamers. I don’t normally use obscenities on this site, but fuck that. Unwittingly, Buckley highlighted the most awful element of this comic: Ethan as a stupid, worthless sack of crap, yet the audience is supposed to worship him. The excellent yet defunct Bonus Stage cartoon parodied this scene in its very last episode, putting into animation why this particular conclusion is stupid stupid stupid:

Speaking of Winter-een-man, here’s an excerpt from the wiki page on CAD: “The holiday, which began in the webcomic, where it was celebrated by the characters, has become popular in real life. Many gaming stores, such as EB Games, celebrate the holiday.” There is no [citation needed] big enough. Plus, there’s this: in 2005, EB Games was taken over by Gamestop, which then fired 800 EB Games employees (and keeping only 65). Coincidence? I think not.

2/13/2006: OK, since we’re apparently starting the long-running marriage arc, I think it’s fair to ask the question: what in the world does Lilah SEE in Ethan? Lilah has always been ill-defined, as if Buckley wrote down “Gamer Girl” in her profile but couldn’t figure out anything after that, but this attraction to Ethan? What the hell? Yes, gamers CAN have girlfriends, but typically there’s something a woman sees in the guy beyond ignoring her for hours at the time just so he can play XBox, right?

This plot, where Ethan meets Lilah’s parents, acts like a 12-year-old, and gains their love doesn’t help matters much. Reality check: when you ask someone about school and all they talk about is Everquest, you don’t merely dismiss the man who’s marrying your daughter as a “buffoon.” If you entertain the idea of disowning your own daughter, you would not be in the wrong.

4/14/2006: Laziest. Paris Hilton joke. EVER.

7/31/2006: I would say that now is the first time I’ve really gotten so tired of this comic that I dread coming back to it. I am typing the URL and cursing myself for getting into this. I am CAD fatigued.

Starting with the marriage arc, by the way, I’ve noticed a definite uptick of sappy storylines. Does Buckley pull it off? Imagine if you listen to a band that pumps out albums of novelty tune after novelty tune. And then, all of the sudden, they start introducing sincere love songs. Not only is it jarring, it’s really laughable in all the wrong ways.

8/21/2006: Also, the “wall of text” has grown to ludicrous levels. A transcript:

Lucas: Ethan, I think we should talk about this E4 thing. I know you’re upset that you never went to E3. I feel bad too. You would have loved it.
Lucas: But I’m not going to let you get carried away with this, and blow it all out of proportion.
Lucas: There will be other shows in the future, and maybe — Ethan? Are you listening?
Lucas: Ethan, your hair is on fire. Ethan, a kangaroo is eating your face.
Ethan: I hear talking coming from your vicinity, but I don’t think it pertains to helping me kill these zombies.
Ethan: And since your talk has nothing to do with zombie slaughter I deem i unimportant, and must ask you to keep the chatter to a minimum.
Lucas: Ugh, your brain changes changes channels faster than I can keep up, and every single one of them has poor reception.
Lucas: Whatever, I’m leaving before it flips to a channel that has you playing with scorpions again.

Good. Lord.

I’ve seen many parodies about the “wall of text” … but it doesn’t beat the real thing.

The worst part? This isn’t even the most extreme case.

9/02/2006: Oh, wait! Lilah does have a personality!

Lilah: So I think Ethan… scratch that, I know Ethan is upset that I got invited to this thing and he didn’t. He’s kind of being pissy about it too. I hate that he can’t get over it, because I want him there with me. On the other hand, I do feel like I’m partially to blame for the whole thing…. Maybe he has a right to be upset. I’d don’t know what to do.

So here’s the lesson from the day, ladies: stay far, far away from videogames. Or one day you may turn into a doormat like Lilah.

5/09/2007: Is it just me, or is every argument in CAD sound like a strawman argument?

7/05/2007: Yes, they do. I’d forgotten about the story arc where Ethan and Lucas pwn all the world’s religions.

It starts when Ethan starts his own gamer-based religion. (Ugghhh….) This somehow offends all the religions of the world. (UGGGGHHHH….) Never mind that religions are founded every day on shakier premises. The world’s organized religions form a summit to block Ethan’s new religion, but Lucas totally pwns all of them with perhaps the smuggest expression ever captured in webcomics: “He will completely shut down the Church of Gaming if you can provide an argument for why his gods don’t exist, that can’t also be used to disprove the existence of your gods.” To which the religious leaders stand agape and in awe at such unassailable logic.

Like that argument would ever work in real life. Still, you have to marvel Buckley’s construction of the world’s biggest strawman argument for something that no one in their sane mind would even argue for: a video-game based religion.

Hold up. Lucas, despite being a victim to Ethan’s selfish shenanigans multiple times, stand up for him. Ethan being proved right and can do no wrong. Ethan effortlessly defeating his enemies. Huh! It may be … YES! Ethan is the biggest Mary Sue of all time!

Congratulations, Tim Buckley!

11/03/2007: I have come to the realization that Ethan is not so much “wacky” as he is “wacky in the most belabored way possible by a person whose definition of ‘wacky’ comes from watching Family Guy episodes.”

1/25/2008 – 1/31/2008 : “It’s a Gamer’s Life” may be one of most sincere moments in all of Ctrl+Alt+Del … and that is so terribly sad. I’ve theorized that it might be a parody of Capra-esque movies (this is a Winter-een-mas story after all), but there’s very few hints that this is the case … especially since every other parody in CAD is explained in long, arduous detail. I almost feel bad for mocking it, but it’s impossible not to when the moral of the story is, “Playing video games is crucial to happiness.”

Seriously.

Incidentally, if anyone I knew ever told me that that was their life’s motto, I’d sit them down and tell them that they may be a tad obsessive. I mean, I love comic books, but I’d never say, “Reading comic books is crucial to happiness.” We begin our story with a lonely boy whose only solace in the world is video games. As he grows up, he drifts away from games, which may be why he’s feeling so distaff from his pregnant wife. But, lo, a kindly and apparently magical man thrusts a gaming system in our hero’s hands, free of charge. It apparently saves his marriage. What really sends this story over the edge to sheer madness is that Buckley includes an ending where an old man looks back at his life and reminisces about video games. Video games. Video games…..

And here I thought the Penny Arcade guys were obsessed with video games. This is just disturbing.

2/15/2008: Lilah tells Ethan she’s pregnant.

Brace yourselves.

You know what’s coming.

7/02/2008: Do I really have to say anything that hasn’t already been said a thousand times already?

It’s as terrible and as misguided as everyone makes it out to be. Just to give you an idea of how ridiculous it is, two strips ago Ethan was trying to repair a hole in the wall because he’d launched a rocket powered brick through it. And this happened after a lengthy “Choose your own adventure” story about space-faring Ethan entitled “Idiots in Space.” Which happened after Ethan tried to name his baby “Darth.”

Yes, it was that abrupt.

Plus there’s the added bonus of a terrible blog post rationalizing the plot development and the aftermath. But, again, it’s been talked to death. I don’t imagine there are that many people out there defending it. (If you are going to defend it, leave a comment here. I am genuinely interested.)

What the strip signals, though, is perhaps one of the biggest shifts the comic has seen. You know how video games are really a younger man’s game, best for people who have the luxury of time, i.e. between the ages of 12 and 30? This may be a sign that, for the first time, Tim Buckley is feeling his age. As the comic shifts to trying to give the characters a personality worth following, the video game references have felt more and more forced. It’s been six years, and you can’t talk about video games indefinitely.

Unfortunately, there’s a cautionary tale here, too: for the webcomic creators trying to follow in Tim Buckley’s footsteps, there’s no way to make a turn toward the maudlin without looking really, really stupid.

So where does CAD go from quite possibly the most embarrassing nadir in the history of comics? Find out next time, when the Webcomic Overlook powers through the aftermath of the miscarriage, the Ethan/Lilah wedding, Buckley’s new art style, and beyond.

Rating (2002-2008): 1 star (out of 5)



(Haven’t had enough of CAD? What the hell’s wrong with you? Anyway, check out Part 2 of this review… IF YOU DARE.)

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About El Santo

Somehow ended up reading and reviewing almost 300 different webcomics. Life is funny, huh? Despite owning two masks, is not actually a luchador.

Posted on August 2, 2010, in 1 Star, comedy webcomic, dramatic webcomic, The Webcomic Overlook, video game webcomic, WCO Big Review, webcomics and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 73 Comments.

  1. “I understand they’re two slightly different situations, but consider this: if it were Buckley getting in trouble over the Strawberry Shortcake strip, would we be as charitable?”

    They’re not slightly different situations, they’re completely and totally NOT THE SAME. The Strawberry Shortcake thing was a legitimate parody that should have (and had it actually gone to court, likely would have) fallen under fair use.

    Buckley just took someone else’s character design and used it as a legitimate character without noting that it was not his design. It was not a parody. It was not an homage. It was just theft.

    So yes, had Buckley made the Strawberry Shortcake comic and American Greetings told him to shut it down, I would have been sympathetic (admittedly not AS sympathetic because, well, I don’t read or give a crap about Ctrl+Alt+Del). But that’s not at all what happened.

    • The Strawberry Shortcake thing was not ok, since it was not a parody of Strawberry Shortcake and thus under fair use. And it was a matter of trademark, not copyright. Trademark demands rigorous defense where copyright does not, so American Greetings had to send a takedown notice or risk having their dilligence and the strength if their trademark challenged when Hot Topic decides they want to make their own Strawberry Shortcake t-shirts and not pay for the priviledge.

    • Also, to follow up on “No Name,” even Robert Khoo has said in the PA 11 1/2 Anniversary Book that PA backed down from a legal fight because the comic in question parodied American McGee using Strawberry Shortcake, and not Shortcake directly. Since it did not parody Shortcake directly, it does not fall under the fair use protections of parody or satire.

      I still agree that comparing the use of Strawberry Shortcake to Buckley’s theft of another artist’s design is unfair. For me though, it’s because Buckley tried to keep it a secret and actually steal someone’s work, while the PA guys were using a known character trying to make a point/joke, and never tried to pretend the work was their own. They were never “ripping off” or plagiarizing anything, though what they were doing was still illegal. To me, the situations are different to the point of being incomparable.

      • I think that the Buckley thing is just another sign of his UNBELIEVABLE laziness. The PA thing was different: Everyone knew they were making a joke about Alice, using another recognizable character, Strawberry Shortcake. They claimed neither Alice nor Strawberry as an original design or reoccuring character.

        What Buckley did was say, “I’m too lazy to even plagerize from multiple sources, let’s just take the first gosh darn result on google and just use that. Cool, that’s good enough, it’s just a chick anyway.”

        And as someone who worked with him at conventions, lazy and dickish is as I would describe him.

  2. BtC is STILL doing the miscarriage gags. and i still laugh.

  3. I love how you started off trying to defend the strip only to end up trashing it like everybody else.

    Now you’re a man.

  4. Can’t wait for the second part!

    I think you’re right though, CAD gets a lot of shit for being mary sue (which it IS), but I think part of it is because people just want to jump on the ‘something easy to hate’ bandwagon. After all, I don’t see anyone complaining about Least I Could Do’s equally as obvious Mary Sue-ism.

    But yeahhh CAD’s true downfall really was that serious turn it took with that…unfortunate story line.

  5. CAD might be on Geek Dad’s list, but for what it’s worth, I wouldn’t so much as wipe my ass with that list. And I used to read four of them, including CAD (ah, to be young and stupid).

  6. Least I Could Do bothers me more because it’s just more annoying than CAD.

    While I admit CAD gets way more hate than it’s even worth it doesn’t mean it’s any more than what it is. It’s just… Not very good. At all…

    • Agreed. I’ve never seen an LICD strip that hasn’t annoyed me. The amount of acclaim that comic gets baffles me to no end.

      • Hmmm….how do you feel about this analysis on Websnark over Ryan Sohmer’s work (mainly LICD), including their strengths and flaws? Incidentally, though you apparently hate LICD, how do you feel about LfG?

        • I’ve never really read LFG so I can’t comment on that.

          Now, about Eric comparing LICD to a sitcom…. I guess I see his point, and generally I agree with his strengths and weaknesses. I think he overreaches by comparing LICD to The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Newhart, but that’s Eric for ya. (Heck, I do the same thing.) The Two and a Half Men comparison in the comments is more spot on.

          What Eric misses, though, is that sitcoms (and comedic dramas) are really very reliant on the comedic chops of its lead character. Like, Gregory House can be a jackass, but he’s ultimately redeemed by Hugh Laurie’s nuanced portrayal. Or Raymond’s dad could be pretty insufferable if he wasn’t played by Peter friggin’ Boyle.

          It CAN be done in comic form, but Rayne’s range is extremely limited. There’s no reason, really, to root for him. Even Charlie from Two and A Half Men can be sympathized with cuz Charlie Sheen is naturally charming. Rayne? Not so much.

          • As an example of something that’s like a good sitcom-y character, by the way, I’m point to Mort from KC Green’s Anime Club (from “The Gun Show” webcomic). He’s crass and bombastic, but KC’s art, with all the exaggerated expressions, goes a long way in turning the character from insufferable to comedic.

      • Oh, I almost forgot! This review. EET EEZ GLORIOUS!

      • The amount of acclaim that comic gets baffles me to no end.

        I blame it on the fact geeks don’t have any taste.

        Which I also use to explain the traffic numbers you cited in your review.

        • I blame it on the 100% wish fulfillment that that comic is. People like it because they want to BE Rayne. It’s also for people who think sexist/racist/fat jokes are funny.

      • I’ve given LICD a try a few times, which is more than I can say for CAD. And while I dislike every adult character in the strip, I generally liked the ones featuring the niece. ‘Cause cute lil’ kids are cute…

  7. On one hand, I wanna say, ” well, his comic is more popular than mine, so more power to him.” But I just can’t do that.

    I was indifferent to CAD until I stumbled across a video of him creating (and I use that term loosely) a comic on YouTube. And the fact that he has a pallet of all his characters with different heads and body types etc. Which he just drags to the comic template. That is not what I would consider cartooning, Its more like colorforms. And that’s why I hate the strip so much, because its just so completely and utterly boring to look at. The characters positions hardly ever change for all four panels.

    Buckley could learn a few things from Wally Wood. I dunno, in the end it just makes me sad that a comic like this got so popular, because I’ve seen more than a few comics that have tried to mimic this style.

    I’m not opposed to copycatting someone’s style, but mimic someone who actually has some talent.

  8. I decided to actually read the miscarriage plot and related events (skipping all the filler in between) and this is where I stopped reading: http://www.cad-comic.com/cad/20081029 Yes…she’s the one who has to apologize for being selfish. Ouch.

  9. I don’t think anybody thought the miscarriage plot was a good idea. I’m pretty sure Tim Buckley’s thought process was something like this. Oh shit why did I make her pregnant, babies are funny… abortion is not funny… I know Miscarriage!
    Genius.

  10. I don’t envy the task you’re undertaking, El Santo. I have a hard time making my way through years of even a DECENT comic’s archive. But I’m glad you’re doing it. And I’m glad you’re giving it a straight, honest look-over that isn’t painted by hate and internet drama. Now, when CAD gets its one star, we can be sure it’s not the stereotypical internet overreaction.

    I really look forward to that second part.

  11. I honestly cannot remember when I stopped reading CAD. I think it was maybe around 2006-2007. I don’t think it was for a specific reason so much as never really enjoying it past my initial archive trawl. That being said, I’m kind of glad I bailed when I did. I have enough guilty pleasure webcomic reads, and I don’t think I could justify it to myself at this stage.

  12. The best part of the actual “gamer” side of things is how Buckley likes to say that console fanboy-ism is bad… But almost all of the fanboys he shows are Sony or Nintendo fans. Yet he takes every opportunity to make fun of Sony and Nintendo consoles and say how much he loves his Xbox (one of the main characters is made out of one, for fuck’s sake).

    It’s all kinds of pathetic. Even Penny Arcade doesn’t bother playing favouritism all that much (other than a few jabs, like towards the size of the Xbox’s original controllers).

    I have to commend Buckley for trying to drag his comic out of the gutter by answering the demands of his detractors and doing more original artwork for it, in a way proving that he CAN draw if he actually puts in the effort… But he’s still got a long way to go.

  13. I am really surprised there aren’t very many comments on this one, I expected a total fiasco of supporters and haters duking it out here. Or at least a bunch of dudes jumping on the hate wagon. It IS fashionable to hate CAD after all. I personally don’t think it deserves all the hate. It is quite solidly mediocre. It deserves nothing, good or otherwise except to perhaps be quietly ignored. Our intrepid reviewer reminded me of every flaw in the comic (I stopped reading it ages ago when I developed a bit of taste in webcomics) but mostly these are compounded for him by having read through them ALL in a very short timespan. Flaws tend to snowball this way.

    There are SOME occasions where the comic will make you laugh and this makes it all the more sad. I think this is why the comic is so reviled, at least among the webcomic artists’ community: Buckley never tries to improve and always rests on his laurels. He has a dedicated fanbase to keep churning out money and praise to him, and if anyone questions him on his site he bans em as trolls. Which I guess is another reason people hate on him so hard, or even two: they have no real forum to point out the problems with the comic in a constructive manner so it spills out onto the internet at large, and the fact that the man has such a fragile ego. On the internet, that means MAJOR TROLL TARGET. Especially if you deserve it in ANY WAY. I eagerly await the part 2 to this thing, cause quite frankly most of it will be new to me. I guess I’ll get to see if he really did put an effort into improving and whether or not it actually worked.

    Oh and one last thing, I don’t think the miscarrige plotline should serve as a lesson to webcomikers to never add drama to a humourous comic, I think it is a lesson that you cannot go from zero to abortion in ten seconds flat and not have the whole thing be contrived and hideous.

    • The regular readers on this blog are, by and large, a good, reasonable bunch. Plus I imagine the haters have their own echo chamber to go to, while the supporters are getting pretty tired of getting trolled.

      • I think that’s why I like this review so much. You went in trying to be even-handed about it. Amongst all the trolling, it’s hard to get real critisism through to the CAD fans I imagine.

  14. Something is missing from these comments…

    Oh right:

    YOUR JUST JELLUS OF TIMS SUCCESS! STOP TROLL BLOGGING TROLL!!!

    • Yeah, I’m wondering about that too. It’s interesting that no one’s coming in here to say how awesome this comic is as a work of art and bla bla bla, like with several other comics El Santo found deserving of a single star. Like, for sake of example, Jack.

      • Here’s my theory: I think before the miscarriage arc, there was a very good chance people would’ve defended CAD. I’d say after, the people who stuck around sorta know the drama stuff is pretty bad and won’t defend it, but will hold out for the random video game related gag. Like I said, I don’t think that there are many people out there who will actually defend the miscarriage arc, even if you are a fan.

        • The Jack comments thread was the greatest comment thread ever. The guy who decided he would rather believe that every single commenter on the site was a sockpuppet for el Santo than that people might dislike his precious furry rape comic was priceless

  15. (Back from conventions followed by moving house! Didja miss me? ;p)

    I can’t say I even ever tried reading CAD. I do remember being shocked when a contemporary of mine wondered why I hated it. I was like “um, what’s to like?” His answer was that it was sometimes funny. I backscrolled 25 strips, found none of them funny (or even tolerable), and he conceded the point. Still…I had respected his tastes. All that hard earned respect, dashed! He told me Dominic Deegan was my guilty pleasure. Sure, that comic isn’t the best, but it never pretends to be anything more than a little harmless fun, so I enjoy it. I think if there were something about CAD to make me like it, I’d be embarrassed to admit it just because of Buckley’s attitude.

    I hate the miscarriage strip. I have a special reason for hating it, too. It went live not long after I myself had suffered a miscarriage. The strip itself didn’t bug me (although it took place in no gynecology ward I’ve ever heard of…and why is she in a hospital bed?) half as much as the author comments did. Buckley may not think he made light of a terrible ordeal like miscarriage, but…hell yes he did. I found those comments so offensive that I was instantly on the Buckley hate wagon, when I had never cared before.

    /shrug

    • Hey, welcome back!

      Thanks for sharing about your situation, by they way. I’d hate to imagine what the miscarriage strip and the aftermath would be like for someone who had to go through it in real life. Tim may have been quite honest about his own experiences through the situation, but — after reading his blog post and some of the CAD strips following the miscarriage one — his feelings towards the emotions that women have to go through are pretty appalling.

      • I never much cared for the comic and after the big changes (a la miscarriage) I was just so confused and weirded out that I backed away slowly. This was a change in narrative that I was not prepared to see with these characters.

  16. Tick Tock…

    It’s been five days already. Where’s part 2?

    Tock Tock…

    j/k Great idea to do a year by year breakdown.

    • Dude, relax! I had a busy week. Plus, those first few pages of the miscarriage arc are killing me. The are KEEELLLINNGGG MEEEEEEE

      • Incidentally, I have been rewatching old episodes of the Bonus Stage webtoon to retain my sanity. Surprisingly, there’s a lot of webcomic references in it that I hadn’t caught the first time.

  17. Art by definiton is the expression of the artist’s soul and personality. Comics are a form of art. Is it surprising that as the artist ages and matures the strip should do the same?

    Picasso had his periods- his style and focused varied throughout his life. If Tim Buckley is slowly growing out of the age when he hought about nothing but video games and is now reflecting on lifel, loss and relationships, I say kudos to him for growing up.

    The only problem of course is that while the artist (and the strip) are growing up, the audience remains as puerile as ever.

  18. I have stumbled across CAD before although I didn’t go further than a couple pages since I never got into it that much. However, after I saw it in your review, I went to read the miscarriage page and I was so over-consumed with rage. What is worse than a shitty webcomic is a writer with shitty attitude!

    (This is a bit unrelated but Buckley reminds me of the kind of guys who makes light of feminine problems. I used to know a guy who complained that he ‘understands’ that being raped or being sexually harrassed make women feel ‘bad’, but he wishes that ‘feminist bitches’ would stop complaining about these ‘general’ issues…)

    Sometimes I read a comic that is kinda shitty, but it expresses that the writer seems like a genuinely nice person, and I just can’t bring myself to really dislike the comic. This, however, is the opposite of that. Even if CAD is kinda good, Buckley’s attitude would be enough to prevent me from ever liking it. I know comics should be considered based on their own merit not their creators’ personality, which makes me a bad critic, but still…

  19. I defiantly think there are certain strips that cad does like for exaple that Tomb raider stip you have posted …are very funny :-p

  20. I didn’t know that there was so much drama in the webcomic community. I’m just getting started through using drunkduck and smackjeeves. I’m writing more like a webcomic novel rather than a punchline strip.

    CAD is a strip I could never get into because I’m not into gaming.It seems to be able to get away with its mediocrity because it does well with targeting a very specific audience. Which makes it a smart comic even though its not all that good.

    • Well, considering that webcomics are online in nature, and online communities tend to be drama magnets, there is actually a considerable amount of drama that goes on in webcomics. CAD gets a brunt of it — probably moreso than any other webcomic out there. Pretty much every one of the most read webcomics (like Penny Arcade, PvP, Questionable Content, and xkcd) had a dedicated group of critics. Then you got the simmering feuds between print comics and online comics. I a way, you need a pretty thick skin to be either a webcomic creator or a webcomic reader.

  21. I just read all of CAD over the last week. And I liked it. Including the miscarriage arc.

    The criticism that it was sudden… well, that’s kind of the point. In real life, you don’t see it coming either. And it created an emotional state in the characters that almost led to Lilah leaving with Christian.

    So things always work out for Ethan? Yeah, it’s a comic strip. I hold it to the standards of comic strips, not of novels. I like that things always work out favorably, even ridiculous things like everything connected to Winter-een-mas. I like that Lilah and Ethan are together; I like that Kate and Lucas are together (although I thought the fat-suit thing was kind of ridiculous and made Lucas seem shallow).

    I don’t care about the art, really. I read it for the story, not for the pictures. (I don’t read comic books anymore for that reason — I don’t care enough about visual art to make them worth the money for the amount of story.)

    The criticism about it is overblown, especially all the parodies of the miscarriage panel. I find it really easy to dismiss it all as people who think they’re too cool, and are trying to prove it.

  22. I can’t get over how people even care. I read CAD, chuckle sometimes, and move on. Saw the miscarriage strips. I shrugged and figured he realized Ethan with a kid wasn’t a good direction so he amped up the drama. So what? When I heard there was a furor raging over it, my hope for humanity died just a little bit more.

    Comedy is one of the most subjective things there is. I trust someone trying to declare absolute good or bads in comedy far less than any web comic author. People just hate Buckley, so they hate on his creation. It’s as simple as that. All this deep analysis is just rationalization and a waste of time. Don’t like CAD? Done read it. Cliche response? Yeah, but some things are cliches because they are truths. There a sea of things out there that don’t appeal to me. I ignore them. Period.

    • I think we all generally ignore it as well and don’t really care about any development the series may have. It’s still however very fun and entertaining to occasionally poke fun at it and tear Buckley a new one, just because it’s so fulfilling to get in on the mob mentality and gang up on someone or something so universally hated.

      Even though we all may have different taste and come from different parts of the world, our shared distaste for CAD has brought us all together. Thanks Tim!

  23. I keep coming back to read this review every few months… not sure why! Maybe because it’s just the impressively well-written/researched coverage this unfortunate comic both needs and deserves.

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