Hey all, Zip! here.
It’s my first review! I’m excited, are you? Today, we’ll be looking at one of my favorite categories- webcomics. I love webcomics. There’s just something about the medium that really attracts me. While it’s a medium that suffers from the same problem that any free-to-use medium has (meaning that the garbage to gold ratio is miserably high), it also excels, in my mind, as a medium where anybody can slap together a website and tell a story, tell a joke, show their art, or whatever! Oddly enough, these are the same reasons why I dislike the Kindle and digital literature, but that’s a rant for another day. One day I hope to be able to enter the digital medium of webcomics, but, in the meantime, here is the review of the “end” of Ctrl-Alt-Del by Tim Buckley.
First off, if you haven’t read CAD before, quick pop over to the site and check it out. Tim is a fairly competent web comic author/artist. He’s got a great, supportive fanbase, that supports him enough for a) him to live off of his comic, and b) experiment with the medium without alienating his fanbase. CAD has a history of quirky humor, interesting writing, and engaging characters. It’s worth a read, especially if you like reading comics and don’t want the rest of this content to be a big, nasty spoiler.
Back when I started reading webcomics in 2005, 2006, I read primarily 3 comics. Of the three comics I started reading, I no longer read OOTS because the story’s bloated out of my interest range, and my limited understanding of D&D led the humor to not synch with me as much as it does for others. I only read Dominic Deegan out of habit these days, because Mookie’s art and storytelling has failed to significantly evolve over the years (Also, because he’s really wrecked his main character. No leg, no teeth, and a hell of a lot of psychological trauma, but no significant development comes from these injuries. But, that’s a complaint for another time.) CAD’s the only one I read faithfully… and even then, I’ll admit, my interest in CAD had begun to wane, if for no other reason than that Tim hadn’t decided on whether CAD was a gag comic or a story comic. CAD started off as a gag comic, jokes lasting from 1 to 2 comics, but as time went on, Tim introduced new characters and injected small stories into his series. Eventually, the comic was more focused on the stories than the 1-comic jokes, and this leads to the reason that the comic ended.
Tim’s characters, Ethan and Lucas in particular, had personalities that were too binary, that were too stringently developed during CAD’s age of 1-gag comics, what I like to call 4 panel personalities. These 4 panel personalities are limited- limited enough to be described in a single comic. Ultimately, this means that they rely on stereotypes instead of actual character development. I mean, look at the main characters of this comic! Ethan can be described as creative, zany, and stupid, while Lucas is practically defined by his ability to tolerate Ethan. Even though Tim wanted to develop these characters, they had too deep roots in the gag comic stereotypes, too much of 4 panel personalities. Even though Tim has spent the last 10 years developing these characters, Tim recognized that Ethan, Lucas, Lilah, and Zeke had fallen victim to the injuries of bad writing, and could not continue to limp along.
For seeing these faults in your characters, Tim, I salute you. Even though you have lost your main characters, you’ve really shown an incredible growth as a writer, and as a fan of the series, as a fan of Ethan and Lucas, I respect your decision to retire your characters and I am impressed by your bravery at no longer writing your main characters in a series that provides your livelihood. It has to be a nerve-wracking decision, and I can’t wait to see what you can do when you are no longer “stifled” by your old characters. I look forward to reading the new incarnation of CAD (Or, as Tim calls it, the “Hollywood reboot“)
This being said, I did not like the end of CAD. It’s a better ending than many comics get when they expire- certainly better than AppleGeeks or Hanna Is Not A Boys Name, (No links- these comics are dead, and died in a disrespectful way to both their readers and to their characters, and I’m not going to bother promoting “dishonorably discharged” comics.) These comics just all-of-a-sudden stopped, no blog post, no ending comic, nothing. They stay on the internet as deceased, decrepit fossils of good comics. It’s a shame- I loved the art of AppleGeeks (even if the story made less sense than a donkey on a ferris wheel) and HINABN had a really cool Dresden Files kind of feel, but to leave your readers without so much as a good bye… I find it disrespectful. Back to my point, though, even with a proper “end” to the comic, I still put endings like the end of Rob and Elliot over CAD’s. Why? Rob and Elliot was kind of a stupid comic, and the ending, oh god the ending, was some of the most blatantly stupid humor I have ever read. And yet, for a comic whose existence survived mostly on toilet humor and situational comedy, this ending remained true to its characters and kept in tone with the comic. It may not have had dignity (for Rob, at any rate) but it was done to the tune of the comic, true to the comic’s nature, and I’m sure that the fans appreciated having some closure.
Where does CAD’s ending go wrong? There’s a number of places that have me bothered, but let’s start with the biggest. The story doesn’t make sense, and doesn’t keep in touch with the comic. In the last Ethan storyline (SPOILER ALERT), Ethan is taken into the future, where he is shown that he’s responsible for the robotic catalyst for the apocalypse by his future (alternate timeline future) self, who wants to save Ethan’s future. What.
Where did this come from? While the time machine has been brought up before, it was clearly only introduced it to take the readers to this ending. There’s been nothing in the CAD comic’s archives to indicate that a zany, sci-fi story was the culmination of ten years of character development. This story, these events… they feel out of place, forced. While Ethan has a weird mad scientist kind of deal going every once and a while, CAD was not a sci-fi comic and should not have had a sci-fi ending.
Next, why did CAD ignore 3/4 of its main characters in this ending? Lucas has dissappeared, Lilah is dead, and Zeke is a mysterious robot overlord. To top it off, there’s twice as much Ethan as there was before! Thus the final comics are total Ethan-trips. I understand that Ethan was the central figure of CAD, but at the same time, it’s not a satisfying ending for the fanbase to see most of their characters simply gone, with no resolution.
I could go on, but I’m starting to get a little wordy here, so let me cut straight to the point.
Tim Buckley made a near impossible choice to end his comic because he recognized that he could not develop his characters as he desired, and this leads me to respect his writing and his decision. At the same time, the ending was not the ending a long running comic like his deserved. It was vague, inappropriate, and was not great writing. Tim Buckley wrote in the post that accompanied the end that he had thought about just having Ethan get hit by a truck, but he had wanted to give us a more nebulous ending, one where it was hypothetically possible for anything to happen. Where the ending could be happy or sad, based on whatever we imagined for his characters. While the sentiment is great, Tim forgot one crucial element. The reason he is retiring Ethan and the gang is that he started to feel that his writing was being forced. He no longer had control over the development of his characters, because there was nowhere to expand that would not require a personality reboot. The way that CAD ended, however, really goes against the grain of what he’s trying to accomplish- this ending felt forced. Really badly forced, even. In that sense, Ethan as a character would have been better off being hit by a truck.
That’s enough for today- I’ll try to keep my blog length down a little bit in the future.