Loss Comic Meme Explained: 2024 Viral Post Meaning

By Gillian Blum Posted:
Loss comic meme panels

A recent post started online discourse re-thinking the internet's collective reaction to and usage of a meme known simply as "Loss," and has many questioning what exactly this internet in-joke is.

Every so often, something will hit the internet, and like a mating call attract Tumblr users from 2008 onward to look up, realization in their eyes, and say "Oh my god it's 'Loss.'"

Recognizing "Loss" is like being Rick Rolled, but if "Never Gonna Give You Up" was actually about an extremely dark topic. It's like saying "I lost the game," but if losing the game had actual consequences beyond one's own aggravation.

It is an iconic meme to so many people from forums and sites such as Tumblr, despite its genuinely grim subject matter, and its recent resurgence has proven the internet's inability to lose "Loss."

What Is Loss Meme?

"Loss" is a four-panel webcomic installment by Tim Buckley about a man learning his wife had a miscarriage. There is no dialogue, it is drawn in a minimalistic manner, and is quite devastating at its core.

Loss meme, showing a man running into a hospital, speaking with a receptionist, speaking with a doctor, and finding his crying wife after she had a miscarriage.

An installment in the webcomic "Ctrl+Alt+Del" by Buckley, "Loss" focused on the series' main character Ethan, a stereotypical video-game-obsessed nerd. Some of the webcomic's jokes come across as insensitive, others shallow, but evidently it did have an audience.

Given the comic's tendency toward crude or cliche jokes, many were shocked that "Ctrl+Alt+Del" attempted to tackle a serious topic like miscarriage, with some even finding it insensitive.

The character who says he is going to "curl up and weep" because his robot friend is better at video games than him may not be the best outlet for a genuine attempt at talking about a topic that leaves many real people with real trauma.

Additionally, with the webcomic's tendency toward minimizing situations to simple attempts at humor, there was no easy way for it to effectively talk about such serious  subject matter without breaking its formula. Unfortunately, beyond its exclusion of dialogue, "Loss" looks more-or-less like any other installment of "Ctrl+Alt+Del."

As such, in a manner similar to the way people brutally made fun of 2022's Morbius, the internet has mocked "Loss" mercilessly for no less than 16 years.

Spread of the Loss Meme

The charm of "Loss" as a meme is in its adaptability. Sure, "It's Morbin' Time" is recognizable, and a rogue "The Mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell" will often cause a nice chuckle. But "Loss" can be hidden extremely sneakily where people may least expect it.

The four panels of "Loss" can be diluted to a four-cell grid, with a single vertical line in the upper left, two vertical lines, the second one slightly shorter than the first in the upper right, two vertical lines of the same height in the bottom left, and a vertical line next to a horizontal line in the bottom right.

A four-cell grid, with a single vertical line in the upper left, two vertical lines, the second one slightly shorter than the first in the upper right, two vertical lines of the same height in the bottom left, and a vertical line next to a horizontal line in the bottom right.

These represent the somewhat more elaborate drawings in the four-panel "Loss" webcomic.

The single vertical line is Ethan running into the hospital, the two vertical lines are Ethan standing (the taller line) and the receptionist at the hospital sitting (the shorter line), Ethan speaking to the doctor (the two even lines), and Ethan (the vertical line) standing over his crying girlfriend laying in a hospital (the horizontal line).

So, the four-panel | ⏐| || |_ appears all over the place, making many constantly question "Is this 'Loss?'"

"Loss" can be obvious, such as with this pun:

Loss Meme with weights

Or, it can be sneakily hidden, such as this seemingly innocent post about a Nintendo Switch:

Loss Meme with two Nintendo switch controllers.

Sometimes, "Loss" goes a bit meta, such as in these two examples:

Loss Meme made of tiny Loss Memes
Loss made up of the word Gold, two gold pieces, the words Comedy Gold, and a vertical line next to a horizontal line.

As a rule of thumb, beware of four-panel grids, as they could be hiding "Loss" inside.

In fact, Marvel Comics even managed to sneak "Loss" into one of its actual, canon books, Gwenpool Strikes Back Issue #1 by Leah Williams and David Baldeon:

A four-panel comic of Gwenpool and Spider-Man talking. The two heroes are arranged in the shape of the Loss meme.
Marvel Comics

(And before considering that this could be a coincidence, it is worth noting that Gwenpool Strikes Back is full of memes, jokes, and internet culture references, including a "Tag Yourself" in Issue #3)

In 2024, 16 years after "Loss" first released, people are questioning if it really deserved the more than a decade of ridicule the internet subjected it to.

@JoePostingg posted the original "Loss" comic on X (formerly Twitter), saying it was "perfectly fine" and that the infamous hatred "was some kind of collective psychosis:"

"This was a perfectly fine comic, the insanely hostile reaction to it was some kind of collective psychosis."

This post has sparked a lot of discourse on "Loss," with some concluding it is fine in isolation, but does not work within the larger context of the "Ctrl+Alt+Del" webcomic.

Others have responded harshly to the critique of this iconic meme. User @Lol8ball responded with a reminder of the aforementioned webcomic context, highlighting the "rigid four-panel structure" as part of where it failed:

"Loss is so old now that people have forgotten why it was a laughing stock by everyone.

Bad gaming webcomic trying to tackle 'Serious' character arcs with all the tact and grace allowed by Tim B^Uckley sticking to this rigid 4 panel structure he uses to make jokes about Gaylo."

@Comrade_Waluigi was more blunt, simply posting that "WE’RE NOT DOING LOSS REVISIONISM."

Still, the fact that "Loss" discourse has continued into 2024 just proves that no matter how long it has been, users online may never stop questioning "Is this 'Loss?'"

- About The Author: Gillian Blum

Gillian Blum has been a writer at The Direct since 2022, reporting primarily from New York City. Though she covers news from across the entertainment industry, Gillian has a particular focus on Marvel and DC, including comics, movies, and television shows. She also commonly reports on Percy Jackson, Invincible, and other similar franchises.