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Web Comic: Ctrl-Alt-Del

July 14, 2008

After last week’s diatribe against sprite-based comics I’ll be moving on to hand drawn comics.

This week starts off with a look at Ctrl-alt-del, a web comic that has gained quite a bit of popularity. Wednesday I’ll continue my look into the X series with the next installment, Universe X Vol. 1, and I, honestly, haven’t figured out Friday yet. I’ll have something by Wednesday.

Background: Surprisingly, I could not find a lot of information about Tim Buckley, even his website does little to provide some kind of biography of the man, unless you want to sift through his monotonous news posts. I don’t. What I could find is that a lot of people think that Mr. Buckley is a giant, arrogant ass. I haven’t personally met the man but his news posts, those I did read, do make him come across as a bit egotistical.

I did find a lot of information about the singer/songwriter Tim Buckley who is dead. No correlation between the two as far as I know.

The comic itself has made Tim Buckley enough money that it has become his career similar to Penny-Arcade, PvP Online, and Megatokyo. Like PvP, Ctrl-alt-del (I refuse to call it CAD, is there any other way to make your comic sound more worthless than by calling it CAD?) also has an animated series made by the same company that does PvP’s series. Interesting…anyway, CAD: The Series is currently in its second season.

The comic was started in October of 2002 using the cliché two guys on a couch who play video games plot. Since then Buckley has added several characters and unlike other comics, apparently, rather than just having the two guys cliché Buckley actually has a lot of continuity and long story arcs in his comic. It has evolved a bit since its early days. In general though, it does stick to its tried and true formula. Currently, there are three collections of Ctrl-alt-del out and an offshoot comic series featuring the two main characters as gamer/super heroes.

The Comic: Like I said above, Ctrl-alt-del started with and mostly sticks with the cliché two guys, a couch, and video games formula of web comics. However, he does do long story arcs and does have continuity. For some reason every where that I looked acted as though those two things were unique to web comics. I can list 4 web comics that I’ve reviewed on this blog that feature long story arcs and continuity along with their stand alones, PvP Online, Something Positive, Real Life Comics, and Megatokyo all of which are funnier, better written and drawn, and generate enough revenue that the creators do not have to work. It’s a weird argument that I do not understand.

Anyhow, the comic mainly follows two friends that are loosely based on the creator and one of his friends. The character Ethan is based on the creator while Lucas is based on his friend. There are several other characters that have become recurring since the debut of the comic. Ethan dates a “hot gamer chick” (more cliché of course) named Lilah, and Ethan and Lucas have a third roommate named Scott who has penguin named Ted (a joke based around on Scott’s use of Linux which Ethan hates, ha, ha…). There are also store employees at the places of work for Ethan and Lucas and a group of ultra-violent gamers who are different colors. The last reoccurring characters is a man named Chef Brian. Why his character is in the comic I don’t know. He never interacts with the other characters and is usually just seen in his 4 panels spouting off the most random things. For example:

Ever wonder why fresh socks taste so fresh?

This is followed by a series of panels with almost nothing to do with the first one. It’s so funny that I die laughing every time, mostly because I’m burning my eyes out after reading such crap.

Oh, I forgot one other character who has become important, Ezekiel the X-box robot who is sentient that the character Ethan made. I’m just going to ignore that story line.

Recently, Tim Buckley has come under a lot of fire from other comics, reviewers, and fans because of a story-arc that he ran. In this arc the character Lilah suddenly has a miscarriage. Because I really enjoy Zero Punctuation I’m going to link you to a “review” of this story arc by Yahtzee. It’s hilarious and basically says what fans are feeling. Buckley did take the time to defend himself but it comes across as a bit weak in my mind.

The most amazing thing about this miscarriage is the suddenness of it. The comics previous to it don’t hint at all to the coming “drama” and there are several instances during this arc where comics interspersed in it don’t mention it at all or try talking about it while still attempting to keep to the formula. It is a very awkward and unfortunate turn. The comics that are supposed to be funny aren’t and the weird mix of miscarriage comics and random other comics severely reduces that tragedy that might have been felt by readers. Instead you just end up feeling weirded out and thoroughly confused since nothing is really explained either. Again, check out the Zero Punctuation video, Yahtzee’s critique is hilarious.

The biggest complaint that I read from others is that Ctrl-alt-del has a copy past feel. I think that it has grown past that a little bit but the beginning was very copy paste. It seems like the characters are drawn once put in all four panels and dialogue is thrown in. In more recent comics it hasn’t been as bad but it is still there.

Following up that one is the one that Buckley can draw much better than the work he shovels out for his comic. If you take a look at his art website it shows that to be true. There are some wonderful drawings on there and after looking at them and going back to Ctrl-alt-del you feel a little bit cheated, at least I did.

The final complaint, and this is the one I agree with the most, is that Buckley tends to put way too much dialogue in his comics and it really feels like he’s name dropping video games. For a pretty good explanation read this VG Cats comic that pokes fun at Ctrl-alt-del.

See?

Exactly. His comics are very much like that VG Cats comic and it does not mean that he is creating good dialogue either. In fact, sometime it’s hard for me to get past his dialogue. That and similar to Bob and George and 8-bit the jokes aren’t funny or you feel like you’ve heard them before from someone better.

His dialogue and lack of funny is my biggest complaint, which leads me to…

My recommendation: If you like the tried and true formula then Ctrl-alt-del has everything that you’re looking for in a web comic. If you want better art, dialogue, and plot than I suggest you look elsewhere because you will not find it there. This one gets 2 clubs mostly because I haven’t given anything 2 clubs yet and the fact that Ctrl-alt-del wasn’t so atrocious to deserve a one but not mediocre enough to split even.

♣ ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣

Scyo.

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