Webcomics You Should Be Reading: Ctrl-Alt-Del
Years ago, I was at a comic convention where Jimmy Palmiotti told a story about the most vocal fan he ever encountered: A fellow who apparently was constantly sending letters and posting to message boards about how he read the latest thing Palmiotti had done and it sucked, sucked, sucked. At first he was annoyed, but then Palmiotti realized, hey, this guy buys and pores over everything I ever write or draw. This guy is my biggest fan. So he sent him a Christmas card that year.
Ctrl-Alt-Del follows the misadventures of Ethan, whose hobbies include gaming, slacking, completely misinterpreting normal human interactions, flashes of engineering brilliance, and forming gaming-related cults. The vibe is sitcom-esque—imagine Friends if everyone played video games, Chandler was a robot built out of an Xbox, Ross had a pet penguin, and Phoebe was the main character. (It really plays better than it sounds. Kinda like Friends, actually.)
Buckley also produces an online animated series which can be downloaded via subscription, or purchased on DVD. There are three compilation books available at the CAD Store along with shirts, magnets and posters. And Buckley has organized an annual massive LAN party called Digital Overload in Providence, RI.
From the very beginning, CAD set itself apart from the pack, though this distinction eventually disappeared.
Ethan invented the gaming holiday, Winter-Een-Mas. The holiday later became a tradition.
Ethan also established a gaming religion.
Early storyline breaks feature Chef Brian, a humanoid acid trip who cooks.
The recent “serious” storyline.
Drama: Low moving towards moderate. Early strips are disconnected and included some cartoon-style violence. Recent strips have seen several more serious plot arcs and dramatic situations, broken up by non-continuity video game parody strips.
Humor: Appeals to the 18-25 male demographic. Heavy in the video game jokes and geeky sitcom-style plans that cause hilarity to ensue.
Continuity: Moderate to high. Plot arcs will run for several weeks, and be broken up by stand-alone bits. The earliest comics stand alone the best, and set the stage for the running gags and character arcs in the later ones.
Art: Buckley has been criticized for his characters looking similar, though that’s a criticism of his style; you’d never have a problem telling them apart. Panels tend to be a bit static
Archive: Six years of four-panel comics (1000+ strips) plus several months of daily black-and-white “sillies”.
Updates: The main comic updates Monday-Wednesday-Friday. Sillies update daily. Buckley is excellent about keeping his update schedule.
Risk/Reward: Buckley’s recent increase in continuity is a very acquired taste for the audience—if you like it, then it’s easy to get into the “I must keep reading so I know what happens next!” trap. If you don’t, then you can obviously pick up and drop the comic at your leisure. Though the lives of the characters can and will obviously go on for some time, Buckley is very good about wrapping up individual plotlines and creating points where the story stops for a while. It’s fairly safe to assume that if he decided to abandon the comic, there’d be a passable ending.