Monday, June 8, 2009


Today I want to talk with you about Ctrl+Alt+Del. On this blog, we always talk about what I want to talk about--except when there are guest bloggers. For better or worse, this is pretty much how blogs work.

Ctrl+Alt+Del is a popular comic--but it's also an infamous comic. Offline, I've found several fans, from my friend Dave to the guy at the Micro Center customer service desk, but on the internet, CAD is the subject of scathing criticism. I was first introduced to it by John "Your Webcomic is Bad" Solomon's characteristically vitriolic review, and thread topics at the Dinosaur Comics message board include "justify CAD's existence" and "Christmas Miracle: [CAD Creator Tim] Buckley Somehow Becomes More Terrible."

I personally don't think all the CAD hate is merited. Beyond the obvious fact that I'd much rather celebrate and share good comics than talk smack about bad ones, I simply don't think it's a terrible comic. I could defend specific charges against the art, the writing, the overall comic craft, and I could accede the validity of other charges...but I'm not interested in convincing or refuting anyone.

Comics are a communication medium, whether for stories or jokes or webcomic reviews, and I recently had an insight into just what CAD is trying to communicate. Buckley has described it as "a gamer comic, not a gaming comic," and I believe that he's simply trying to present a cross-section of life as a gamer. The humor isn't the tightly-paced three-panel comedy of Penny Arcade or the consummately-crafted "art of the comic strip" of Sheldon. Sometimes the funniest moment occurs in the first or second panel. It's the humor of gamer culture, for better or worse: the sarcasm, the needlessly verbose insults, the snarky elitism, and the occasional bursts of genuine wit that make you lol, even lyao.

CAD has its problems, to be sure. It's wordy, and even if it means to present a slice of gamer life, it needs to make some concessions to the comic format in order to communicate effectively. It doesn't always have to be funny, but its characters must develop beyond one-dimensional caricatures if we're going to take Ethan's game-store business and his relationship with Lilah as seriously as Buckley would like us to. His art is known for inexpressive character expressions and copious use of copy-paste, but over the past year, the art has grown more varied and less static. Honestly, I think the interactive Ethan McManus: Space Archaeologist adventures have been the most successful CAD undertaking yet. With crisper sci-fi artwork and more dynamic panel layouts, they just look better, and the non-canonical, reader-influenced storylines allow for such repercussions as the death of significant characters. Buckley puts forth effort and takes risks on these things, and I think it pays off.

But fundamentally, I'm not most interested in making pronouncements or justifying CAD. I seem to be the only person on the internet who simply thinks it's "sometimes not bad," and I want to know your opinion. I don't just want to talk to you about CAD--I want to talk with you about CAD. Is it a good comic? A bad comic? You tell me. I want to hear what you think.


El Santo said...

"It doesn't always have to be funny, but its characters must develop beyond one-dimensional caricatures if we're going to take Ethan's game-store business and his relationship with Lilah as seriously as Buckley would like us to."

I think you hit the nail on the head as to why CAD gets hated on so much. There are a few times when Tim wants up to take his characters seriously (the miscarriage arc, the wedding, the relationship stuff), but his characters are so undeveloped that any attempt feels really inappropriate.

I'll be honest, though: the storyline that bugged me most was the one where Ethan founded the Church of Gaming. The set-up is that it's a really bad idea, and Ethan is wrong for even attempting it ... but at the end we're supposed to take his side? Because of Lucas' ridiculous strawman argument? Ugh.

Luke Surl said...

CAD is just one of the hundreds of comics I don't like enough to read, so I can't offer any particular critical opinion on its content.

However it is interesting that CAD has become very successful whilst remaining completely outside the 'webcomics community' - I can't think of a single large/medium comic that links to them. Perhaps CAD is an easy target as artists can critise Buckley without endangering any personal relationships. If someone was to attack Dinosaur Comics (for instance) Ryan North's network of friends and colleges would leap to his defence. Buckley - probably through choice - doesn't have that.

Anonymous said...

Just read today's update. Ethan pulled his wang out. Scintillating as the last time I read the piece of crap.

Yeah, Buckley, maybe I'll try again in another five years.

Abbey Grace Yap said...

I tried reading CAD after a blogger friend suggested that it was a fun read. Personally, I just felt that the plot gets old at some point. But that's just me. :D

El Santo said...

@Luke Surl: I'm pretty sure the Applegeeks guys are CAD fans (there's CAD fanart on their site). Also, I think Ryan Sohmer of Least I Can Do helped with the animated CAD.

Jay said...

CAD is pretty much the poster child of "Perfectly Acceptable Comics" to me.

I can't say I'm a fan but it does entertain me from time to time and will read the comic when I've exhausted the ones I really like.

Jay said...

Oh and one more thing, I think a portion of the CAD hate isn't aimed at the comic but Tim himself.

I have a lot of friends involved in different conventions (anime, comic, sci-fi, etc.) and if you bring up his name to anyone of them who has dealt with him as a guest, they will spit on the ground. They HATE him.

Crack Dracula said...

I used too read it once in a while until the whole miscarriage deal.

It was about as appropriate to his created universe as it would have been in Garfield.