So, then... let's chat

Monday, June 2, 2008 | 12:46 AM | by
Warning: Spoiler Alert! Check the comic before reading!

Ok, so I'll bet some people just said "That's it, I'm not reading this comic anymore!", and that's fine, I respect that decision. Thank you for reading.

For the rest of you, I'm sure you're curious about my motivations for this particular turn of events. I know some of you remember (because you've been emailing me about it) a few months ago I said I was going to talk about the pregnancy storyline, and then I never did. I never did because I knew that when we got to this point in the story I was going to have to talk about it, and since I'd be saying pretty much the same thing in both instances, I chose to just wait until now.

One of the common themes I heard was "Why are there comics about pregnancy? This is supposed to be a gaming comic!"

I know that everybody has their own idea of what Ctrl+Alt+Del is "supposed" to be. Some people feel it's a video game comic and the character stories are just filler, or don't belong, and some people think it's a story comic and the one-shots are just filler. Most times it's categorized as a "gaming comic", which is fine and understandable. When asked directly though, I describe Ctrl+Alt+Del as a "gamer comic" or "a comic about gamers". Semantics, perhaps, but an important distinction for me. While the strip has always and will always have its foundation firmly rooted in gaming, it's not the only topic I want to tell jokes and stories about.

Telling different stories, switching back and forth between storylines and one-shots, and not restricting myself to one genre/categorization is what keeps me interested in creating the comic. I can spend a few weeks telling a story, and then when it ends, rather then having to launch into another story arc, I can do a bunch of one-shots about, well, whatever I feel like. What's in the news, what new games I'm playing, silly stuff, movies, anything. Then I get recharged and start itching to tell another story, and so it goes, back and forth. None of it is "filler", it's all as much a part of what makes up Ctrl+Alt+Del as anything else.

Same thing with the non-game-related story arcs. The characters in the strip are gamers, and so they have a passion for video games, and a lot of what they do and talk about focuses around games. But being a gamer is not the only thing that makes up a person's life, and there are a lot of experiences people go through whether they're a gamer or not. That's why I don't love the "gaming comic" categorization, because it gives the impression that video games are the only topic that belongs. I can't argue with the categorization, because there is clearly a very heavy video game theme in the comic, but I also don't have to restrict myself to the categorization either, if that makes sense.

On the other hand, I'm sure the people who were complaining "Waiter, there's some plot in my gaming comic!" already left at the beginning of the newspost.

Another one I heard a few months ago was "If they have a baby then the comic strip will become all about parenting and not gaming/It will be BabyFest 24/7Ethan will get totally serious and grown up!"

If a baby was introduced to the strip, Ctrl+Alt+Del would not suddenly convert into a parenting comic strip, with changing diapers every other strip, etc. This is a comic, and I don't need to show every mundane detail of these characters' lives. They are rarely seen eating, and I've never shown them going to the bathroom. Do you think that they just never shit? Of course not. It's just naturally assumed that some everyday stuff goes on around whatever is shown in the comic. Same thing with a baby (Yes, I'm comparing parenting to shitting. Can you tell I'm not a Dad?). There would of course be some baby-centric storylines now and then, but nothing says it has to take over the whole strip.

Becoming a parent changes people, without a doubt. But it doesn't necessarily change people into responsible, uptight working stiffs with no sense of humor. Especially in comicstripland. If Ethan became a father, there would be some changes, some forced growth. But he'd still be Ethan.

Here's one I think I heard mentioned a while back, and that I anticipate being mentioned: "Tim will never do a miscarriage because then the comic strip will become all sad and depressing".

Again, I disagree. A miscarriage is definitely not a joke, and I have no intention of making light of it. And it can be a tough and emotional thing for couples to go through, speaking from personal experience. And I know that it's often much harder on the woman than on the man. However, I also know that it doesn't necessarily turn you into a sad, depressed sack of tears for the rest of your life. People can move past it, and heal.

This falls in with what I was just saying above. Yes, a miscarriage is a very sad occurance. But nothing dictates that I now need to follow Ethan and Lilah through every second of their sad emotions, putting us right in the middle of it where, yes, it would be a bit depressing. There are a number of supporting characters in the strip through which I can tell the story, or I could break away completely with some one-shots and come back to join the characters post-ground-zero, when the pain isn't so fresh, to show how they handle it.

Now I'm sure some of you are wondering what my motivations were for this particular story path.

As I've said in the past, the grand plan for the comic and its characters has been written for years. I knew that (and how) Ethan was going to propose to Lilah when I introduced her into the comic. I knew when he proposed that shortly before the wedding Lilah was going to get pregnant and then miscarry, and I had to wait two years to write it. I know what happens next, and I know how they handle it. I know what happens even further down the line. I know what Scott is doing in his room. I know who moves out and when. I know who dies and who doesn't die. And I know that, through all of it, Ethan is still Ethan, Lilah is still Lilah, and Lucas is still Lucas, and they are all still gamers.

And more importantly, I know that I have a storyline that can keep the comic going for a long, long time, and most importantly, keep me anxious to write the next part for you. Because for me, there needs to be more there than just playing games. The characters and their lives need to be interesting enough that I want to keep writing about them while they play the games.

So in part, this just serves to set up the next part of the story. On a base level, it's just a good twist. Conflict makes for interesting story.

On a deeper level, I really have a desire to stress test Ethan and Lilah's relationship, to see if there is really something there that would keep them together despite Ethan's antics, and I decided that this was the best way to go about it. I know from personal experience what it can do to a relationship. Some many years ago, long before I started the comic, I was in a relationship and we suffered a miscarriage. Now, this relationship was toxic to begin with and doomed to fail regardless, so that the miscarriage was the straw that broke the camel's back came as no surprise. It was a pregnancy neither of us wanted in the first place, so the event didn't effect me nearly as much as it would, say, a couple who was trying for a child. Still, I saw the emotions it can bring up first hand, and I saw how it could truly hurt someone. It's a tough thing to handle because it's nobody's fault. There's nobody you can blame.

It can cause a rift in a relationship without someone having to be the "bad guy", as in infidelity or lying. And I wanted to see if and how Ethan and Lilah's relationship could weather it.

And also... I wanted to see if I could write it. If I could pull it off. Call it creative curiosity, I guess.

So, that's all I really have to say on the subject. Read on, or don't, that's your call.


Monday, June 2, 2008 | 06:55 AM | by
Some people have been telling me they've been having trouble getting email through to me. We (and by we, I mean Pierre) did some work on the email servers last night, and for a while email was turned off. I'm sure he'll get whatever the problem is worked out today, but in the meantime, if you really need to email me, you can use absath (at) ctrlaltdel-online.com, which seems to work. It all goes to the same place.

My trash folder.

I kid, I kid.

Emails- A thank you

Monday, June 2, 2008 | 09:32 PM | by
In the six years I've been doing this comic strip, never before have I gotten so many emails on a single subject in such a short amount of time. I've spent the last couple of hours reading emails, and I still have about 800 left to go. There are just too many for me to possibly respond to them all, but I want you know I am reading them. You took the time to write me, and I am determined to read each one.

And I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your overwhelming support.


Wednesday, June 4, 2008 | 08:33 AM | by
I'll update the front page a bit later. For now, have this.