Ctrl+Alt+Del, Tragically l337 (CAD) is a web comic created by graphic artist Tim Buckley, also known as Absath - a man who claims that drawing is the only thing that keeps him sane. Aimed at the gaming community, it features two hardcore gamers, Ethan and Lucas and follows their lives and loves as they attempt to get by in a harsh world in which newspapers monthly blame their hobby for all the problems with the nation's youth. Over its two and a half years, CAD has seen the characters progress from two gamer stereotypes, loosely based on the artist and his friends into two fully formed characters with their own personalities and lives. It has also seen Chef Brian.
minor Spoiler Warning
CAD's first strip appeared on October 23, 2002. Right from the start Buckley had adopted a simple four-panel layout and established the two main characters; Ethan, Lucas. At this stage the artwork was very basic – hand-drawn, thin black outlines, coloured in with almost no shading. Nevertheless, from the start you can see the character dynamics developing and Lucas' withering look when Ethan reveals his latest plan would become a staple of the series. If the first strip doesn't get you though, the second will. It has ninjas.
In the early strips, there is no coherent plotline and no continuity, the characters are still forming and in this time, almost anything can happen without long-term consequences; both Ethan and Lucas are killed several times in sometimes quite imaginative ways. It was in these first heady days that the strip encountered one of its first running jokes, Ethan would be annoying his flatmate and for some inexplicable reason, someone off-screen1 would shoot an arrow through his heart, killing him and allowing Lucas to make some wry, unsympathetic comment.
By October 31, barely a week into its run, Buckley began shading his characters and developed a little more consistency in their features. On the 11th November, the two central characters were abandoned for the first time,2 making way for a short piece satirising the "realism" of America's Army, these interludes occasionally re-appear throughout the series either whenever Buckley comes up with them, or, alternatively, according to some readers, whenever he runs out of ideas for a storyline.
Over the next month, Ethan was dumped by his girlfriend, a talking, flying bottle of vodka appeared and, in order to ignore real life for a weekend, Ethan became addicted to Asheron's Call 2, but, by early December he would be over it, just in time to discover that his hitherto unknown third flatmate had moved out and a new guy, Scott, was moving in, and he was bringing his penguin with him. Scott and Lucas seemed to get on well; Ethan however disliked the linux-loving web-designer from the start. At least until he discovered that Scott could be tricked into paying both Ethan and Lucas' share of the rent.
Things continued relatively normally until Janurary 14, 2003 when a new character moved in upstairs. Her name was Lilah, she was smart, kind and attractive. She was also a gamer – a very, very proficient gamer. Of course Ethan, and the readers3, fell instantly in love with her. At first their relationship was a bit of a non-starter, Lilah putting her suitor in hospital at least once and it took Ethan until the May 9 to finally ask her out on a date. Nevertheless, almost two years later they are still going strong. In the meantime however, a lot happened including the insane Chef Brian's first appearance and Ethan's creation of a new gamer holiday; Winter-een-mass.
And so it went on, for two years. In September 2003, the artwork changed noticeably again, the strip looking more professional and Ethan's hairdo looking more expensive. In January 2004, Winter-een-mass was celebrated by a not-insignificant number of the show's fans, by the following year thousands of gamers and dozens of gaming shops were taking part with LAN-parties being held in celebration the world over. Even Lucas joined in. The comic is still running and updates on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.
- First appeared: "Nice Melon" October 23, 2002
- Age: 21
- Looks: Brown centre-parted hair, slim build, grey t-shirt with blue sleeves, blue jeans.
Ethan is a gamer, a very hardcore gamer – once an inability to finish Baldur's Gate caused him to become catatonic until a new disk could be procured. Despite a preference for solving his problems with weaponry, Ethan is in fact very intelligent, once managing to raise an X-box to sentience, another constructing a working time machine. Ideally, he would like to be a graphic artist for a computer-games company, but is currently too lazy to get a job any more demanding than a sales assistant in the Video-Games shop, GameHaven. Apparently of Irish descent, Ethan has been known to enjoy a drink or twenty, but he's not an alcoholic, oh no, it's all to do with his "artistic nature." Since May 2003, Ethan has been going out with Lilah, a female gamer who lives directly above his flat.
"If my eyes aren't BLEEDING, I'm not ready to stop playing video games."
Wry and sarcastic, Ethan's flatmate Lucas is also a hardcore gamer, though not nearly as much an addict as Ethan. Often forced by Ethan into the position of being the "responsible one" Lucas can sometimes appear to be sensible, but in his heart Lucas is as fanatical about gaming as his friend and has at least once threatened his computer with violence when it broke down on his day off. A coder, but a slacker, Lucas, like Ethan would like to design games but doesn't have the drive. He earns a living being mean to stupid people as the technical support guy for a local computer shop.
"Blame video games for violence? What are you, a fucking retard?
- First appeared: "My thoughts exactly"December 3, 2002
- Age: 23
- Looks: Unkempt brown hair, glasses, brown goatee, slim build, blue shirt over a black t-shirt with a "power button" design on it, grey trousers, sandals.
Scott is Lucas and Ethan's flatmate, he moved in when their old flatmate moved out and advertised the room without telling them. He is not a gamer, though he did at one point play Ethan and won through his technique of meditating as he played. Instead, Scott's obsession is Linux and all it's open-sourced goodness, and he secretly plots to overthrow Bill Gates and bring down his evil Microsoft Empire. It would seem that Scott is in some way tuned to the emotions of those around him, sensing Ethan's guilt as he bought a Game Cube as a disturbance in the force. He has a penguin called Ted.
"I can dig it"
Lilah occupies the flat directly above Ethan and Lucas, which is lucky since she once sent Ethan crashing through the floor. In a break from the stereotype, Lilah is also a gamer, a very good gamer, something which Ethan claimed should collapse the universe since she is also very attractive. It's not known what Lilah does for a living, but it's possible she still has money left over from when she dated a flashy British millionaire named Christian. She has been going out with Ethan since May 2003.
"Girls play video games too. You'd know this if you left your house once in a while."
Chef Brian is an insane, sentient-toast-killing chef. His friends are the light bulb and the tomato-headed man. He has jumped out of a plane and forgotten to open his parachute and he has chopped off his hand – the surprise causing him to utter that immortal line:
"OH GREAT MERCIFUL CRAP SHIT! A daisy tasty!! Butterfly marshmallow supreme!"
1 Some fans speculate that Absath was a third flatmate at this point, it's at least known that Ethan and Lucas had one. Therefore, since he is also the artist, it might be him shooting Ethan.
2 Ok, apparently the solider is in fact Ethan in the game still, it's a break from the normal run of things.
3 Alright alright, the readers who are attracted to women did.
Begone! This is not for your brains!