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Arthur, King of Time and Space Arthur, King of Time and Space

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Arthur, King of Time and Space


One of the reasons fanfiction has the undeserved bad rap it possesses is a phenomenon known as Mary Sue, in which (briefly) the writer inserts among the characters of the beloved copyrighted property a new character for the writer to identify with. Everybody does it, usually when they're new writers, and consequently a Mary Sue story is usually (not always, but usually) horribly written and a Mary Sue character unreasonably, undramatically talented, skilled, accomplished and charming.

However not all fanfiction stories are Mary Sues - and not all Mary Sues are fanfiction. Comixpedia this week has a link to a webpage comprising a suggested Original Fiction Mary-Sue Litmus Test. I decided to run Arthur through it. Like golf, high score is bad; listed here are only the questions Arthur scores on or that I had to think twice about.

Does the character have the name she/he has because she/he is or corresponds to a mythological figure (e.g. Oberon, Adonis, Iblis, the archangel Michael, etc.)? [1 point] Okay, yes. I'm tempted to score only half a point, since I'm retelling the myth, but there is the whole jumping-around-in-time thing, so I'll play by the rules.

Is the character a teenager or in her/his early twenties? [2 points] Uh, at the moment, yes, though that's because I'm telling his life story and started at the beginning. Another temptation to halve the score, but no, full score.

Are one or more other characters attracted to her/him? [1 point] Yes, Guenevere and Morgan both are or eventually will be attracted to Arthur personally (rather than merely pursuing the High Queenship). Good thing the score isn't a point per attracted person.

Does the character have an appearance unsuited to the time or place (e.g. perfect hair prior to the invention of shampoo, a woman wearing pants in 1805, etc.)? [5 points] Uh ... I was going to score Arthur on this one, but on second thought his hair and appearance are no more anachronistic than anyone else's in the strip, so no score.

Does the character have a clone or identical twin? [7 points] Near miss! His future wife does. No score.

Is the character related to royalty? [4 points] Um. He's not related, he is. So's everyone else. No score.

Was the character an illegitimate birth? [1 point] Only in the accusations of his rivals for the throne. No score.

Does the character consider her/his beauty/talent/skill/etc. a curse? [5 points] Arthur never expected or wanted to be king. Five points.

Does the character have a faithful pet or animal familiar? [1 point] That isn't a dog, cat, horse, or bird? [3 points] One point.

Does the character "just know things"? [2 points] Arthur's very intuitive in war or politics, though he hasn't really had to call on it yet.

Does the character have a major quirk in common with you? [2 points] Contemporary Arthur is a prospective cartoonist though there's nothing in the legends about Arthur being an artist. Two points.

Does the character have any particular skill at which she/he is widely known to be the best or among the best? [6 points] Um, another near miss - that is, or will be, Lancelot.

Is the character, or was she/he ever... (add points for all that apply)

Does the character share more than one of your hobbies or interests? [1 point] Well, contemporary Arthur is a prospective cartoonist, a prospective screen actor and a screen sf fan. One point.

Does the character have the same taste in music as you have? [1 point] In books? [1 point] In movies? [1 point] [Add another 5 points if you said yes to all three.] Eight points.

Does the character have the same religious or spiritual beliefs as you? [2 points] Huh. I'm not sure. No score.

Have all of the other characters heard of her/him? [2 points] He's their king, dammit. No score.

Do all of the other characters end up liking/respecting/fearing her/him? [3 points] Well, he's their king. Er, I suppose that doesn't mean they have to be impressed. Three points.

Do all of the other characters like/respect/fear her/him immediately? [4 points] No score.

Does the character reform a villainous character? [3 points] Nnnguhh spoiler, three points.

Does the character die a romantic death (e.g. suicide, execution, battle wounds, broken heart, etc.)? [5 points] Battle wounds, five points.

Does the character die in her/his beloved's arms? [6 points]Nnnguhh three points (half score).

Did you cry while writing any scene involving the character? [10 points] I think I have, though not necessarily on this project, yet. Ten points.

Do you draw the character, or ask other people to draw her/him for you? [2 points] It's a webcomic, dammit. No score.

Is the character someone you would want to be friends with, assuming she/he would be receptive to friendship with you? [2 points] What do you mean, "assuming"? Arthur likes everyone ... same as me ... Two points.

Do you take any negative feedback about the character as a personal affront? [4 points] Ask again when I've had any. No score.

That's all the questions. Arthur's final score is 53. According to the scoring on the webpage: 51-60 points: Uber-Sue. You've got one hell of a Mary-Sue on your hands here, and it's not going to be easy to set things right. But do your best. There may be hope for you yet.

All right, let's try it again but leave out scores Arthur gets on account of things that came with him before I started writing him: the five points for dying of battle wounds, the one point for having a dog, the ten points for crying while writing (something I've never done writing characters I created myself), etc. Now I come up with a total of 21, about which the scoring says: 21-30 points: The Non-Sue. Your character is a well-developed, balanced person, and is almost certainly not a Mary Sue. Congratulations!

So the qualities Arthur has that make him a cliche are, by and large, ones he brings with him to my webcomic from the myths. Well, duh. After all, where do cliches come from?

Webcomics I read mornings: Peanuts, General Protection Fault, User Friendly, Sinfest, Kevin & Kell, Real Life
Webcomics I read middays: Calvin & Hobbes, Least I Could Do, College Roommates from Hell!!!, Wapsi Square, Dandy and Company
Webcomics I read evenings: Something Positive, El Goonish Shive, Irregular Comic, Count Your Sheep, Sluggy Freelance, PvP
Webcomics I read Monday-Wednesday-Fridays: Megatokyo, Skirting Danger, Queen of Wands, Loserz, Penny Arcade
Webcomics I read Tuesday-Thursdays: Digger, Striptease, As If!
Webcomics I read Mondays: The Whovian Observer, Her: Girl vs Pig, AppleGeeks, Framed!!!, Boxjam's Doodle
See also The Belfry Comics Index, Comixpedia and Websnark.

Arthuriana sources I use or recommend:
Arthuriana - the Journal of Arthurian Studies; the website of the quarterly journal of the North American Branch of the International Arthurian Society.
The Camelot Project at the University of Rochester.
Camelot In Four Colors: A Survey of the Arthurian Legend in Comics
Mystical-WWW - The Arthurian A2Z knowledge Bank which has encyclopedically-arranged entries on the characters of the Arthurian legends.
Le Morte Darthur: Sir Thomas Malory's Book of King Arthur and of his Noble Knights of the Round Table, Volume 1 and Volume 2.

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