The Webcomicker

Who watches the watchmen?

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Ctrl+Alt+Del jumps the shark!

Ding-dong the bells are going to ring! From Ctrl+Alt+Del

Ok, I waited awhile, but now I'm going to say something, because apparently no one else in the world of webcomic criticism (by which I mean Websnark, Phil Kahn, Fleen, Comics Rock and Comixpedia, the only criticism sites I read) cares about what goes on in the Ctrl+Alt+Del strip itself, and only sees fit to mention when Tim Buckley does something controversial.

Anyhoo, this week saw something HUGE happen in Ctrl+Alt+Del. Something monumental. Something shark-jump worthy.

Ethan and Lilah got engaged.

Now keep in mind the definition of the term "jump the shark". To jump the shark means to fundamentally change the premise of your strip (it applies to other media as well, but we're talking webcomics here). Jumping the shark isn't the characters embarking on some crazy new adventure. It isn't even the addition of deletion of a major character. This can often accompany a shark jump, but by no means signals one. For example, Questionable Content recently introduced a new character in the form of the OCD girl upstairs, but it has by no means changed the premise of the strip.

No, jumping the shark implies a much more fundamental change, a change in the very premise of the strip. And for Ctrl+Alt+Del, that premise has been Ethan and Lucas, living together and driving each other crazy. Even recently when Tim Buckley played out the huge storyline of the apartment burning down, when didn't see the premise change. We just saw the setting change.

But now... things are different. If Ethan and Lilah get married (and presumably they are. Them breaking up would be a bit too much drama for Ctrl+Alt+Del, methinks), the relationship dynamics are going to change. Ethan's going to have new concerns and responsibilities as a married man. Being Ethan, he'll probably ignore the majority of them, but still. The relationship between a man and a woman changes when they get married. And your relationships with your friends change as well. The whole gang is probably still going to live in the same house, but it'll be different when one of the sets of people is married.

I think it's cool that Tim Buckley is willing to let his characters evolve like this. I get bored of webcomics that have their couples dating forever and the relationship never advancing *ahem*PvP*ahem*. If you're going to do a comic with a story, let the story advance, don't just pretend that it's advancing while desperately keeping your premise the same. Let things evolve and change.

Now, as I say this, I hope that Tim Buckley actually does let his characters evolve and change naturally, and the comic doesn't just become "Hey everything's exactly the same except Ethan and Lilah happen to be married now". I want to see marriage change them, like it changes real people. Heck, at some point I'd love to see what Ethan would be like as a father (and let me tell you, it'd be comedic GOLD).

So, let it flow, Buckley. Let it flow.


At 4:57 AM, Blogger Peter C. Hayward said...

You mean you don't read Weekly Webcomic Reviews!? How do you sleep at night?

At 8:27 AM, Blogger Mr K said...

I'm afraid I don't read ctrl alt del anymore. The whole plotline with the house burning down, and indeed where whatsherface tried to kill... ok I've forgotten his name too, which has ruined this sentence. Anyway, that didn't grasp me, so I stopped reading. Still, this is an interesting development, which shows that Buckley is interested in trying out new ideas. Cool.

At 10:23 AM, Blogger Kneefers said...

I've been hoping that someone would talk about this. I had a little blurb about it on Eyeballing It, but whenever I talk about CAD I feel like nobody really gives a crap.

At 11:08 AM, Blogger Tangent said...

Um... I thought this was what Jumping the Shark means: "This is the point where something cool went past its peak and into its decline. This is the point where everyone knows its over." (Websnark)

I don't see this as causing the strip to decline afterward. I mean, this ain't Moonlighting, ya know. ;)

Robert A. Howard, Tangents Webcomic Reviews

At 3:01 PM, Blogger Gilead Pellaeon said...

Ok, so clearly there are webcomic review blogs out there I don't read. I'll add you guys to my list, and try to read what I can. There are only so many hours in the day.

As for the proper definition of "jump the shark", I read the Wikipedia article on it, and I guess my impression of the phrase was a bit off. It is typically used in a negative sense, referring to some fundamental change in the premise which is ultimately detrimental and leads to the downfall of said media property.

So I guess I need to come up with some clever new catchphrase to encompass the concept of "a webcomic funadmentally changing its premise, but not necessarily in a bad way". Any ideas?

At 5:11 PM, Blogger Andrew Araki said...

Cerebus syndrome?

At 5:46 PM, Blogger Kneefers said...

Well, Cerberus is for a change that deepens characterization and shifts the focus of the strip from humor to story and drama.
I'm not sure what something like this would be called, though.

At 8:41 PM, Blogger inkbrush said...

Well, to be specific regarding the usage of "jump the shark," it is almost certainly used in the negative. I'm pretty sure.

I'm pretty sure because the origin of the phrase references an episode of "Happy Days" where Fonzi waterskis over a tank with sharks in it. The episode in question was laaaaaame. It was the beginning of the end for "Happy Days."

"Happy Days" was a phenomenally popular series in its day, but the final few years were really horrendous. It hurt all the more because we loved the characters involved. (Fonzi's Jacket is still in the Smithsonian Institution.)

"Jump the Shark" is almost always used in a pejorative sense. To be honest your usage of it here to mean, "a fundamental change," is the first time I've heard anyone use it that way.

Hope that's helpful.

At 1:31 PM, Blogger E. Burns said...

For the record, I don't typically bring up ctrl-alt-del because I don't actually read it. Nor, to my knowledge, does Wednesday.

"My shoes are too tight, and I have forgotten how to dance."

So, it's up to you! It's up to you!!!!

At 6:54 PM, Anonymous The Shan said...

Tangents right, jumping the shark refers to a lame gimmick used to desperately boost falling ratings - as seen when the Fonz literally jumped a shark on Happy Days.

I still read the comic, but I'm not a big fan anymore and I really hated the miscarriage story arc, it was completely pointless.


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