The Webcomic Overlook #130: Ctrl+Alt+Del (Part 2)
The sum of Ctrl+Alt+Delete‘s early run can easily be summed up by one of the most notorious advertising campaigns in video game history: the ad for Daikatana. So, basically, creator John Romero thought it would be a good idea to sort of do a parody of gamer talk. So he put together a simple red poster with a very simple slogan: “John Romero’s About To Make You His Bitch.” This was supposed to be ironic, of course.
It went over as well as you would expect.
So far, Buckley’s put together a comic about gamers being moronic troglodytes, emotionally stunted man children, and gamer girls with no personality, while each parody needs to be explained over and over again while the violent punchlines are pretty much telegraphed since panel one. Meanwhile, Buckley’s Mary Sue, Ethan, becomes crowned King of All Gamers, pwns all the world’s religions, and envisions a story where video games can save your marriage. Ironically, of course.
That went over as well as you’d expect.
But now it’s different. Now that Tim Buckley has crossed the bridge from wacky humor to maudlin drama, we’re now reading a totally new comic. the upgrade that finally makes CAD a comic that deals with serious issues.
Welcome to CAD 2.0.
What’s CAD 2.0, you ask? Before, when Ethan committed violence, it was a punchline. Now, people threaten to press charges. In CAD 2.0, when Ethan tries to get wacky, his antics are frowned upon. In CAD 2.0, it’s wrong to make someone your bitch. CAD 1.0 was about playing video games. CAD 2.0 is about playing the biggest video game of all …
… the video game of life.
So let’s take a trip down the all new, all different CAD and see if things may have changed for the better. Prepare, dear reader, to have your heart torn.
6/04/2008: I’m not going to harp too much on the blog post that accompanied the “Loss” strip. However, it does reveal two key things about the storyline to come ahead: 1.) that it’s partially autobiographical, as Tim Buckley went through what a relationship that, in his his own words, “was toxic to begin with and doomed to fail regardless,” and 2.) that he’s going to apparently retcon everything and say that he’s had this particular storyline planned for a long, long time.
That explains some of the developments this story takes … and makes them a little creepy. Like a whole page explaining that the miscarriage happened because Lilah’s blood attacked the fetus? I mean, WOW. Let’s just say that the classy thing to do would have been not bringing that up in the first place.
9/01/2008: The Funky-Winkerbean-ization of CAD continues beyond the Passion of Ethan. Our big friend Lucas even goes through his own mini-torture. Earlier in the series, Lucas had been dating a girl named Kate (who had met him while dressed in a fat suit, but it’s best to block that stupid, stupid plot out of your mind). After sleeping with her, he discovers that he he doesn’t love her (and reveals his feelings after sleeping with her again). They entered a relationship of convenience.
Now, fast forward to the present day. He finally finds out that he does love Kate, but when he goes to pour out his heart to her, he finds out she’s been sleeping around. Dun dun DUN! Seriously, CAD 2.0 has swiftly morphed into a Telemundo soap opera here.
Ah, but fortunately for those of you who’ve been clutching at your hearts and on the verge of fainting from this particular twist, Lucas and Kate patch things up. Lucas’ monologue, which include such choice lines as “I’m mad … I’m hurt, and it will take me a while to trust you again,” is, quite possibly, a picture perfect template on how not to do an apology. Incidentally, this who theme where the guy is not wrong and women should feel bad for acting like women? This is not the last time we’re going to see this theme played out in CAD….
10/29/2008: What Lucas is going through is but a mere fraction to the absolutely impenetrable trials and tribulations that Ethan’s going through. Like the return of Christian, Lilah’s millionaire boyfriend, who buys up the Gamehaven as some sort of elaborate scheme to steal Lilah away from Ethan. (Seriously.) And the introduction of Shannon as an employee to Gamehaven, who for some godforsaken reason, tries to seduce Ethan. (It turns out that this was also part of the elaborate scheme to steal Lilah away from Ethan … which at least makes a smidgen of sense.)
It all looks really bleak for Ethan, who runs back home and doesn’t find Lilah there in what I like to call Loss, Part II. But all’s well that ends well. Lilah apparently only went to the airport so she could somehow have Christian hauled off by authorities. And she apologies to Ethan for not being there for him emotionally during this whole ordeal. (!!!!) OK, ending two storylines where two different women come crawling back to the author’s Mary Sue and the Mary Sue’s best friend (who may also be a Mary Sue)? DAMN.
Now here’s a great “What If?” What if Tim Buckley had decided to let Lilah run off with Christian in the end? Granted, that might be too dark, but we sorta jumped that particular shark after the miscarriage arc started. Maybe it would be too close to what the author really experienced, and perhaps he wouldn’t have wanted to go that far. Maybe it would have been just as terrible. Scratch that: it would have been just as terrible.
But you know what? It would’ve been far less of cheat. It would’ve made Ethan more sympathetic, since now he’s been through some real hardship that would’ve forced him to finally grow up. It would’ve ended a relationship that wasn’t too realistic in the first place. Lilah always acted more like Ethan’s mom … which was never more apparent than in the CAD: The Animated Series, where there’s a whole plotline where Lilah has to explain why she’s different from a mother (by, appropriately by CAD standards anyway, showing him her boobs). Uggggghh.
(And YES, I did watch the entire run of CAD: The Animated Series. The things I do for you people!)
Instead, we learn that Ethan is never wrong and his “friends” should do everything to tolerate him and make his life better despite getting nothing in return. Appropriately enough, Lilah and Ethan steal Christian’s tickets so they can go to Italy and get married, because, you know, everything comes to Ethan for free. This signals the blessed end of one of the worst story arcs in the history of webcomics. I know I’m missing a lot of things, such as a subplot where Ethan sadly puts away a tiny controller he had been building for “Darth McManus,” but I’ve got home renovations to get to.
By the way, in case you were keeping a running tally, despite the marriage of Ethan and Lilah it’s still not the end of the marriage arc.
11/26/2008: Ooh, the second out-of-continuity Ethan McManus in space story arc. I’m starting to understand why these are so popular. They’re perhaps the most interactive a webcomic creator ever gets with his audience (except maybe MS Paint Adventures), they give Tim Buckley a break from having to try to stay current with video game jokes, and we the readers get to take a break from the forehead-slapping uber-drama. And you know what? It’s still just as wordy as hell, but, you know, reams of exposition have always been par for the course in sci-fi novels. The fact that Buckley actually hand-draws his backgrounds for once is a definite improvement. I mean, sure, the spaceship is basically an obviously modified X-Wing, but STILL!
And… here’s the best thing about it… it managed to kill the increasingly turgid Winter-een-mas stories! Glory hallelujah!
2/16/09: Tim Buckley seems to be expanding his scope beyond video games. There are now pop culture strips are about guys from infomercials, the UFC, and older games? But let’s answer the most important question: is the punchline still really, really unfunny? YES.
3/16/2009: You know, I kinda like Ethan as the manager.Oh, sure, everything about this situation is contrived as hell. Ethan only gets the store because the previous owner had bought it from Christian and didn’t want to buy it back. And Lucas forgoes his dreams of going back to college and signs on to help with the paperwork because ETHAN ETHAN ETHAN. But, it’s nice to to see Ethan go crazy for legit reasons for a change, and not because, I don’t know, there’s not enough buttered toast sticking on the walls or some “random” crap.
8/12/2009: Just when I thought we’d turned the corner on CAD, apparently Ethan is always right and everyone should feel bad for making him feel bad. Also, this storyline gets rid of that XBox robot, one of the last vestiges of CAD 1.0, as he leaves the house so he can travel the world with his new lady love. As many have pointed out, Ethan seems to be more broken up about this than his wife’s miscarriage.
9/07/2009: Huh. Nice offensive imagery there, Tim.
9/25/2009: Let it not be said that Tim Buckley doesn’t listen to criticisms about his art. Today marks the day that he finally changes his art style. The “B^U” jokes end here, people. Now, it’s not perfect. He still struggles with giving anyone much of an emotional range, which really stands out now that he’s put more work in the detail. The Player comics look… kinda creepy now, to be honest. But I think it does look better than what came before, and the more mature style meshes well with the all-new, all-different CAD 2.0.
12/07/2009: And now we get to the wedding arc and … it’s really very, very boring. Which is a surprise, considering Buckley throws everything he can into it, including a subplot about dealing with a douchebag brother and running from the Hawaiian mafia. (Seriously.) Perhaps CAD wants to preserve the solemnity of marriage? Eh. Doubtful. I mean, the marriage vows somehow include gratuitous references to video games in a pale attempt to conform to CAD‘s original mission statement. I have a feeling that Buckley’s getting petered out on the entire thing, and he’d rather be back to writing those “Ethan McManus in Space” stories.
3/10/2010: Ethan has to draw up a contract to see his wife’s boobs? Is he that unfamiliar with the concept of marriage? Also, this panel was apparently re-edited from the original, which contained no boob jokes. Because no one would recognize it was CAD if he didn’t.
4/30/2010: We end our Tour de CAD on the Abby storyline, a.k.a. that girl he created using Google image search. Basically, Abby’s cheating the system and using Gamehaven’s policy against them for her own personal benefit. So… basically a female Ethan. The limited facial expressions from Abby and Ethan, by the way, register as “mildly flirtatious” rather than “thinly veiled contempt,” which is what I think Buckley was going for. (Or not. Abby does complain that Ethan was sending out mixed signals, so point to Buckley I guess.) Anyway, Ethan and Abby patch things up, Lilah somehow doesn’t go into a flying rage that he husband is spending so much time and passion over another woman, and everything turns out well and fine in Ethanland.
I’ve spent something like 6,000 words ragging on Ctrl+Alt+Del, so I think I’ll close this out with something positive: Tim Buckley is probably one of the top reasons people get into webcomics at all. Maybe video game humor isn’t exactly Oscar Wilde, but there is an audience and they appreciate that someone’s got jokes about their hobby. And those fans? They started writing their own comics about video games. CAD even got CAD haters to start reading webcomics, because when you’re devoted to hating something, you have to eventually ask yourself what you like. I’ve seen more than one message board thread devoted to hating CAD evolve into discussions about where the good webcomics are.
Also, I like Rob. He seems like a cool character.
So if you’re reading this, Tim Buckley: your webcomic is bad, and you should feel bad … but it’s so spectacularly bad that, in a way, it does come right back to entertaining, in a way you definitely never intended. Just when we thought we knew CAD, there are crazy new alleys just around the corner. Congratulations, Tim Buckley, you are the Rob Liefeld of webcomics.
Rating (2008-2010): 1 star (out of 5)
Posted on August 9, 2010, in 1 Star, comedy webcomic, dramatic webcomic, slice-of-life webcomic, The Webcomic Overlook, video game webcomic, WCO Big Review, webcomics and tagged Ctrl+Alt+Del, ctrl+alt+delete. Bookmark the permalink. 45 Comments.