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Webcomic / Ctrl+Alt+Del

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Ctrl+Alt+Del is a Two Gamers on a Couch Webcomic, following the adventures of two guys, a girl, and a robot who alternate between sitting around playing video games and getting up to wacky hijinks. Created and written by Tim Buckley (no relation).

The comic strip has undergone three separate iterations:

Over the course of its history, the webcomic has accrued a suite of recurring storylines:

  • Ethan and Lucas: The original and most famous storyline, starring Ethan, Lucas, Lilah and Zeke. Originally starting out as a gag strip, on-going stories would become more and more common, usually spurred by Ethan's antics. As noted above, it ended just over a decade after it first began.
  • Sillies: Black and white three-panel strips like you'd see in a newspaper, these would often be used to provide quick gags based on current events, usually while an ongoing storyline was running in the main comic. Has a tendency to go on long hiatuses.
  • The Console Wars: A comic that uses a war setting as a metaphor for the actual Console Wars (game publishers are weapon manufacturers, for example). While it has the most frequent hiatuses, this is by necessity, as it only updates when major events happen in real life, such as the release of new tentpole games or systems.
  • The Campaign: The Players in a game of Dungeons & Dragons, with their adventures depicted as Imagine Spots within the fantasy setting (but often interrupted by their own antics at the table). Is the current iteration of The Players, a set of four Players who represented Players 1-4 of a multiplayer game, and were famous for brutally murdering each-other on a regular basis over petty misdeeds.
  • The Starcaster Chronicles: Starring retired and jaded space cop Cort as he stumbles upon the Starcaster, an incredibly powerful superweapon that can alter the state of galactic politics simply by who happens to have one. Is notable for being a Story Branching format where Patreon subscribers can vote on story decisions (it's then uploaded in full on the main site with the decisions revealed later).
  • Analog and D-Pad: The current iteration of the Ethan and Lucas storyline that started in 2014, and essentially a continuity reboot of an earlier comic with an identical concept. Here Ethan and Lucas are the titular super-heroes, struggling for recognition as they fight crime in Omnitropolis as they balance running a brick-and-mortar games store. Also features Scott as a good guy, Lilah as a budding news writer, and Zeke as a liberated ninja robot learning their way around human culture and why they shouldn't murder all of them.
    • Starcaster is heavily inspired by an earlier storyline, Ethan McManus: Space Archeologist, which (similar to Analog and D-Pad) recast the characters of the main storyline with the same CYOA structure, only in an Indy IN SPACE! setting that time.

On top of all this, the comic also has "One Shots" that comment on particular events, either being wholly self-contained, set within one of the existing stories above between their arcs, or even a fictional depiction of Buckley's real life as a gamer and parent.

Not to be confused with the three-finger-salute/Vulcan Nerve Pinch or the Belgian and socialist political book of the same name. Or the keyboard command that the comic gets its name from, for that matter.

There is also an animated adaption, Ctrl+Alt+Del: The Animated Series. Its site is here.

This webcomic contains examples of:

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    Tropes pertaining to the original series 
  • Alt Text:
    • The Annotated Series.
    • Before the revamp, the alt-text was just repeating the name of the strip. Post-revamp, it's now the de facto name of the strip since they're now untitled.
  • Animated Adaptation: Uses different storylines than those of the comic itself. It wasn't well received and nearly put Blind Ferret Entertainment out of business. One of the creators that produced season one had this to say:
    Ryan Sohmer: We produced Ctrl+Alt+Del season one. Never again. Lost HUGE amounts of money.
  • Art Evolution: A slow one, but after stagnating for quite some time, the comic has gotten much more dynamic, moving away from its infamous Cut and Paste Comic status. The Analog and D-pad arc in particular shows a drastic change (for the better) in art quality.
  • Artistic License – Law Enforcement: Based on Lilah's word, they were going to cavity search Christian after she indicates him as a terrorist in an airport. They don't seem particularly concerned about the implications of filing a false police report, nor pissing off someone who has demonstrated a willingness to spend lots of money to satiate his own petty whims.
  • Ascended Extra: The colored "players" are the main recurring characters post-reboot
  • Author Avatar: The main character, Ethan, has an outstanding physical resemblance to Buckley, and Buckley admitted he based the character on himself just how most of the cast are based on real life friends of his.
  • Bad Future: In an alternate timeline, Zeke decides to conquer the world after being convinced by a fellow robot. He succeeds.
  • Becoming the Mask: Meta example, but the current Something Awful mock thread has moved on to drawing fan art (ban art) of Buckley's characters, often in an attempt to fix the flaws in his writing/art/characterisation. This has led to the horrible realisation:
    We are the CAD fans!
  • Big Damn Heroes: Rory saves Ethan with a fire extinguisher attacking the Hawaiian Mafia.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The ending of the main storyline. Ethan gives his life in a Heroic Sacrifice to stop the annihilation of two universes, never making it back home, never getting to say "I love you" to Lilah one last time. Everyone mourns his death, but eventually moves on. Zeke reveals himself, saying that he's just "trying to find his place in the world." Lucas learns to love again, marrying Kate and having a son which he names after Ethan. His legacy is remembered in the form of "The Ethan MacManus Church of Gaming". We're left with an image of Lilah looking up at said church with a proud but sorrowful smile.
    • The alternate ending featured in the collection book is also this with Ethan actually surviving this time and instead getting sent many years into the future with Lilah now an old woman who tells him to go and live his life without her.
  • Bound and Gagged: Happens to Lilah in one strip when she's kidnapped.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Done quite literally in this strip.
  • Broken Aesop: The comic makes it clear it's wrong to be a "console fanboy," in one strip even having God personally squash one. However, there are issues with this, since the fanboys are always Gamecube fans, the evil Gamer King in an early strip used a staff with a golden Gamecube controller on top (versus Ethan's Xbox one), Ethan playing a Gamecube is referred to as a "sin against the gaming gods," he mentions that turning the Gamecube into a robot would result into a girl robot, and doing the same to a Playstation would produce a gay one while the Xbox appears to be perfect and sinless.
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • Rob. Very seldom will anyone say anything remotely nice to or about him. Ethan once pushed a vending machine on him purely For the Evulz and then jumped on top of it with Rob still lying under it. Rob's hideous crime? He's a "frat boy" who only likes a handful of super-popular games like World of Warcraft and Halo.
      • And Counter Strike. Lots and lots of Counter Strike.
    • Faildruid, a hapless World of Warcraft player/character who happens to be a bear (and later an owl-bear). His crime is basically being a very naive newbie.
    • Nintendo in the Console Wars series of strips takes a lot of this, with the "Weeyous" (Wii U) in particular being a subject for ridicule. Although if the most recent couple strips are any indication, the tide is turning.
  • Cain and Abel: Rory and Ethan.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: Since the miscarriage, there have been more purely dramatic strips and less gags, culminating in the Grand Finale where Ethan dies in a Heroic Sacrifice to save two timelines.
  • Chainsaw Good: This strip: [1]
  • Character Development: Ethan suddenly acquires competence when he uses his cellphone as a wire. It's been theorized that this has something to do with Ethan and Lilah moving from boyfriend-girlfriend to married couple, where Ethan's behavior wouldn't really work. Or he did it as part of his daily seven seconds of focus.
  • Cheaters Never Prosper: Ethan trying out an RPG-themed rewards system (one of his rare, not-actually-that-bad ideas) at his game shop when he encounters a Gamer Chick who's trying to manipulate the system by buying ten games at once to get an eleventh one at a discount and then returning the first ten games. Ethan seems to get the upper hand after he sorts out the rules, but then she moves on rigging the tabletop games by, um, paying the entrance fees for a band of hobos for a prize that's only a percentage of the money she paid.
  • I Have Boobs, You Must Obey!: Lilah fully exploits this on Ethan. Then Ethan tries it...... and fails.
  • Hypocrite: Lucas tells Kate they can see other people, then is hurt and offended when she actually does. Then has the balls to make her apologize to him when it was his idea to move to casual in the first place.
  • Idiot Houdini: Ethan's devolution to this is in large part why the comic has such a hatedom. In early strips, other characters put up with his stupidity only to the extent necessary to keep him as a character in the webcomic. By the time Winter-een-mas rolls around, the universe is bending over backward to turn all of his stupid ideas into outrageous successes. At the comic's end, he did end up getting some comeuppance by getting killed off trying to fix the consequences of his actions. The author admitted the decision behind this was that he was overdue to get some backlash after having things go his way for so long.
  • Ironic Echo: The animated series had a short skit involving the Four Players. One of the players doesn't heal the other after shouting, "Heal me!" The player responds by going to the other player in real time and chopping him up with an axe. The victim replies, "Heal me!"
  • It Came from the Fridge: this strip.
  • Jerkass:
    • Ethan when it comes to customers and Rob due to their limited experience or ignorance of video games.
    • Rory to his little brother Maowio, at least when they were kids.
  • Karmic Twist Ending:
    • Ethan's years of escaping consequences for his actions end when a time machine he created is used to show him a Bad Future resulting from his creation of Zeke. When the same time machine overloads, Ethan is forced to commit a Heroic Sacrifice.
    • Also seen in a few of the deaths from the Space Archaeologist Choose Your Own Adventure arcs.
  • Kick the Dog: Christian. His whole post-miscarriage store plot was to set up Ethan so he could get Lilah back. Putting so much effort to frame a moron so you can get back a girl who left you is both petty and evil, especially when all the money he spent on that asinine plot could have gone into getting whores or dating sites.
  • Kill Streak: Parodied in the strip "Perky", with Modern Warfare 2 having a perk that lets you play as RoboCop after 30 kills.
  • Later-Installment Weirdness: In its final years it rather awkwardly changed from a fairly tame "Two Gamers On A Couch" gag comic that never really had a deep plot, to an extremely dark and character-driven dramedy involving time travel and a quest to prevent the apocalypse. The shift is... rather jarring to say the least.
  • Life Embellished: Tim Buckley describes Ethan as a "stylized version" of himself (his avatar looks more or less like Ethan with shorter hair), and Lucas likewise of his best friend. Ethan has gradually evolved away from this. It's visually apparent in this comic.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Nobody in this strip changes their clothes except for plot reasons.
  • Long Bus Trip: Scott the Linux guy and owner of the penguin, who became Ensemble Dark Horses. Buckley insists they were meant to be one-off characters. Bringing him up on the forums is grounds for instant banning. Strangely they're both featured in the opening of the animated series and occasionally have walk-on roles.
  • Long Runner: It's been running since 2002 and shows no signs of slowing down.
  • The Mafia:The Hawaiian mafia no less.
  • Manchild: Ethan. With hints of Psychopathic Man Child.
  • Secret Test of Character: Kate does this to Lucas by showing up for their date in a fat suit; she wants a guy who doesn't care about appearances, and it appears that he passes. Subverted in that his thoughts show he clearly doesn't, which leads to a Broken Aesop.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Featured a character strikingly similar in appearance to Tyler Durden from the movie Fight Club speaking for the character Ethan with the line "he fell down some stairs" to explain to a doctor the reasoning behind some suspicious facial trauma.
    • Similarly, there's a strip where Ethan imagines himself in a "happy place"—a frozen cave with Ted's hated pet penguin, and a giant mallet. The penguin's even panicking and thinking, "...slide?"
    • To 'The Big Bang Theory'' in this strip.
    • A rare subtle example is a small vocal tic for Embla, which according to seasoned gamers is a match for SHODAN.
  • Sexy Santa Dress: This strip.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Of the 4 people (and one penguin) living in the main characters' house, Lilah is the only female.
  • Smug Snake: Similar to the above example, Christian is smug, and a snake.
  • Snarky Non-Human Sidekick: Zeke, who was made out of an Xbox. Also something of a Robotic Psychopath when he debuted. Now, he's just downgraded to a snarky Robot Buddy with Embla as the new Psycho.
  • Status Quo Is God: Eventually averted but maintained for years.
  • Stepford Smiler: Lilah is starting to look and act like one. It's — unsettling.
  • Sudden Video-Game Moment: The fourth panel in this strip.
  • Tertiary Sexual Characteristics: Embla. Strangely, Buckley said she's not necessarily female.
  • Textplosion: It switched into this for the "Winter-een-mas 2012/Game Games Bowl" story-arc. Tim Buckley has said that doing it in comic form would have taken several months, long past the Winter-een-mas "season," and that he didn't want to do another long-term comic story arc so soon after the "Scott and Ted" arc.
  • That Makes Me Feel Angry: Ethan's reaction to the resolution of a Christian Arc: "That is, all at once, unexpected, hilarious, and extremely satisfying."
  • The Name Is Bond, James Bond: Ethan tries this, and hilariously fails.
    Ethan: The name's Ethan. Mac Manus Ethan. —> . . . . . .
    Ethan: facepalm shit, shit, how did I mess that up?
  • Too Dumb to Live: Ethan. According to Zeke, if you run the data from Ethan's various misadventures, his life expectancy comes out negative. Negative forty.
  • Two Gamers on a Couch: Lampshaded in the very first comic, even. They eventually get armchairs, but whatever. Following the revamp, now four players on the couch.
  • Uncanny Valley: Invoked. The mouth on Zeke's human disguise doesn't move because Ethan couldn't get it to look natural.
  • The Unfavorite: Ethan.
  • Unraveled Entanglement: Ethan somehow manages to do this to himself with duct tape. Even Lucas, who is pretty thoroughly desensitized to his roommate's misadventures, is a bit perturbed by this.

    Tropes pertaining to post-reboot continuity 

Alternative Title(s): Control Alt Delete