Comic: Just Us Sues
Creator: Sharra Veltheer
Schedule: Every other Wednesday
Most stories are driven either by the plot or the characters. A good story will balance both, but it’s rare to find one that doesn’t have an emphasis on one or the other. Both types of storytelling have their advantage as well as their potential pitfalls, but when used together well, the result can be truly memorable and excellent. However, when both are used poorly, the results can be very unfortunate. Just Us Sues is a stark example of a webcomic that fails to deliver on both storyline and character development.
The website is powered by Wordpress and runs like a blog. This is a pretty significant problem because the navigation for blogs are ill-suited to something like this. Webcomics can work nicely in tandem with blogs like Wordpress and Tumblr, but they’re an awful choice for the comic itself because the pages are always viewed in the order they were posted. Anybody who wants to browse the archives will find themselves scrolling all the way down the page to get to the beginning, essentially seeing the entire thing backwards. There’s no way to automatically move to a specific post. Even in a gag-a-day comic where continuity is irrelevant, the constant scrolling and loading gets tedious pretty quickly. On top of that, the site design isn’t very interesting to look at. There are several free hosting sites out there that are a much better choice for a webcomic than a blog. Wordpress is good for a lot of things, but this isn’t one of them.
The art is bland and unmemorable. There’s no color and rarely a background. When there is a background, it’s underwhelming. Worse still, the characters are all drawn so alike it’s honestly hard to tell them apart. They all have the same face and they’re just generic-looking chibi characters. There’s no depth or personality present in the drawings. Sadly, the same is true of the writing as well.
As the title suggests, the premise of this webcomic is poking fun at Mary Sues, a slang term for overly-idealized characters meant to be wish-fulfillment for the writer. The term was coined by Paula Smith in her parody fanfiction, A Trekkie's Tale, where she creates such a character intentionally to illustrate how contrived and boring a story can be when the protagonist is only written for the author to live vicariously through them. Long before the term 'Mary Sue' existed, people were already aware of this writing flaw. George Eliot even wrote an essay on the matter in 1856,outlining the major issues with such characterization. Anybody who wants to parody or satirize this subject will find themselves in good company, but it takes a certain amount of skill to pull off. The writer of Just Us Sues demonstrates no such skill.
Mary Sues are not known for being very compelling and granted, the same is true here, but for a different reason. The supposed Mary Sues aren't really Mary Sues at all, but rather just a cluster of one-dimensional stock characters. Even the traits assumed to be ‘Sue-like’ are trivial and exist merely as throw-away gags. Nobody has any motivation or history, much less any potential to be wish-fulfillment for the writer. An actual Mary Sue would be more interesting than this. The comic seems like it wants to be a parody, but it never does the exaggeration a parody does. It just sort of expects the audience to assume a character is a Mary Sue because the author said so, but that's not much of a punchline on its own. As a character-driven story, it’s a failure.
If the characters are dull, that puts the plot at risk right away. Even when the events are the main focus of a story, it’s hard for an audience to care if they aren’t invested in the people. In this case, though, even the story doesn’t have anything notable. The thin plot is based entirely on a gaggle of supposed Mary Sues crashing some girl’s home. Aside from the posts introducing the new squatters, there’s nothing to really follow from there. The rest of it is just some non-sequitur gags or somebody performing a mundane task. There's no thread to follow or even an explanation of where these people came from. They're just kind of there and they don't do much. The plot doesn't hold up, partly because there really was never a real plot to begin with.
This webcomic is a failure on all accounts. The art is lazy, the writing and characters are forgettable, and the website itself is completely inappropriate for supporting an online comic. The premise of a cast of Mary Sues invading a normal person’s home could be a good comedic opportunity, but not even the premise really comes into play. The only thing Just Us Sues succeeds at is being completely boring.