Creator: Stuart "Sutu" Campbell
Length at time of review: Complete
My grandmother was a cartoon connoisseur. She remembered the classics of her days: The Road Runner, Tom and Jerry; she thought that Rugrats was the crème de la crème of entertainment. She used to watch kiddie shows with me and my brothers. More often than not, she stayed in our home country and visited for only weeks at a time. When she got sick, she stayed with us for over a year.
I have only two distinct memories of her. My brothers and I were watching Lilo and Stitch, and then we hear a thump. We go to the next room, and my grandma had fallen on the floor as she tried to come to our room and watch with us. And she couldn’t get up by herself. My brother and I had to hoist her up to her knees and then pull her up onto her poster bed. The second one was the next day when she refused to eat any of the pureed fruit mash that even my youngest brother had grown out of.
If I was older, like Grandpa Sutu in this webcomic is, I probably would not explain my worries into a beautifully written and drawn short comic in HTML5, but the heart of the tribute would be there. "These Memories Won’t Last" is exactly that kind of tribute.
You would think such a piece would suffer from emo pretension, but it doesn’t. Sutu interjects happy memories of his grandpa throughout his commentary on his decline. This is an extremely short comic, but feels as though it captures a life.
We begin with Sutu’s narration of how his grandfather’s health took a dip after his grandmother’s death. Before the story could threaten the reader with too many feels, Sutu interjects an amusing anecdote of his grandfather fixing his roof’s antennae in his underpants.
Why is an old man pushing 90 on the roof in his underwear? He wanted to avoid a tear.
With each new anecdote, Sutu sheds a light on all the different facets of his grandfather’s intelligence. By the end of his prank with his commanding officer during World War II, he becomes a man who is clever and full of life, despite his age and illness telling the world differently.
Sadly, his great personality and stories don’t save him in the end. Dementia catches up with him. His memories fail, and he falls deeper into his illness.
Who would want to share the spotlight in their own tribute?
In "These Memories Won’t Last," Sutu devotes most of his narrative power on developing Grandpa Sutu alone in his decline. Although his daughter, neighbor, commanding officer, grandmother, and grandson make an appearance, they are hardly fleshed out.
This could be due to the lack of dialogue between the characters and narratives that describe only Grandpa Sutu, or the fact that having a family member slowly forget you diminishes your relationship with them.
Towards the end of the comic, the reader is treated to conversations that show just how far Grandpa Sutu’s dementia is. He forgets about things he’s given to Sutu and blames his daughter for stealing his dentures. He lashes out at hospital staff after falling into a psychotic episode. It’s then we reach full circle: Sutu realizes that Grandpa is forgetting the world, and the world is forgetting him.
Art and HTML5
There is really nothing I can complain about in his story. The only thing I have any qualms about is his use of HTML5. My internet practically imploded while trying to load his work. It was annoying to have Google repeatedly cry, "Aw snap!" as I scrolled down through the comic.
The musical score, while good, could benefit from having a better transition to other scores. It may have been part of the plot to suddenly switch up the music, but it was more jarring at happy memories than it should have been.
When the comic loads, an eerie electronic hum starts up no matter which tab of your browser you are using. As you begin to scroll down to read the comic, the distant sound of an ocean can be heard, layered with the ever-present sound of the strain of the rope carrying the story.
Personally, I would have been ecstatic to have just listened to the creaking rope that sounds lighter at happy anecdotes, and heavier during Grandpa Sutu's battle with dementia. The snap at the end of the line when he unfortunately does forget his story is perfectly timed. It’s like a pop-up book with sounds for adults!
I like the line art, and would have loved to have more time to appreciate it. The comic makes use of a blue rope, which represents Grandpa Sutu’s memories and lifeline, and a red thread of Sutu’s narration that literally ties the story together. As you look at the drawings on the screen, they fade away, like memories. But depending on how fast your browser loads, they look like half-finished drawings. Thankfully, the words fade away much slower than the pictures. Scrolling was also difficult on a Windows laptop, and handled better on a phone or Mac.
In short, he’s not the average webcomic creator. He doesn’t spare us music, moving graphics, or classic newspaper-like sketches. Sutu uses the webcomic medium to its fullest.
In a medium as varied as webcomics, it surprises me that I find few comics that delve into the fear of the end. Not an imaginary end where the hero wins and saves the day, or when the demons of the nether regions succeed in conquering the world, but an end that we will all face: death.
Grandpa Sutu had a memorable life. He survived a war. He immigrated to another country. He raised a family and saw children to the second generation. And yet...at the end of it all, did it really matter? Did his life change or impact the world or make it better?
His last line in the comic is "What have I even lived my life for?" It rings true as the rope snaps on the weight of his memories. What have all of us lived for? The cliché goes that "we live on in the people who remember us," but what happens when the next generation fails to do that? Your memory fades away into the cesspool of human history.
Most of us won’t be like Aristotle, Muhammad, or Jesus: we will be forgotten. The memories of us won’t last, whether in our family lines, our work, or even our own minds. "These Memories Won’t Last" is an existential piece as well as a tribute to Grandpa Sutu, and a lively, touching, and honest one at that.
|Scores (out of 5)|