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Monday, February 1, 2016
This memo explains why Marcus, a character from “The Conversion Bureau: The Other Side of the Spectrum” is not a Mary Sue.
First, with the purpose to entertain and/or instruct their readers, writers control their character’s actions to tell the story that they wish to tell. A story outline is written first, and then the characters and their decisions are written to follow and fill in the outline. That is why James Bond can overcome any foe and win over any woman to achieve the “Bond wins and villain dies or flees” outcome because that is the way Ian Fleming wrote his stories. Furthermore, James Bond can be thought of as Fleming’s Mary Sue, as there is not enough hours in the day for one person to maintain so many different skills at expert levels.
Second, what character is or is not a Mary Sue depends upon the opposition, the environment, and the total context that character is in. For example, despite both being trained Marines, a challenging opponent for Gomer Pyle may not be a challenge for Master Chief John-117.
Third, ask yourself this question: Is Batman a Mary Sue? It depends if Batman is fighting an inexperienced subordinate or is fighting a super villain such as the Joker. Is a Super Saiyan a Mary Sue? It depends if the Super Saiyan is fighting a redshirt minion or is fighting a godlike opponent like Frieza. You see, raw power alone does not make a fictional character a Mary Sue.
Now, let’s examine Marcus for any classic Mary Sue traits.
The title of the story is “The Conversion Bureau: The Other Side of the Spectrum”, not “Marcus saves humanity.”
Hordes of groupies are not constantly telling Marcus how smart, strong, and handsome he is.
Marcus is never described as being more muscular than Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime.
Marcus has never starting singing a brand new song that everyone else around him somehow knows the words to.
Marcus didn’t get a phoenix as his animal companion and an Ursa Major as his own mount.
Marcus is not a member of GI Joe and thus does not have a flying aircraft carrier as his command base.
Marcus has never been described as a one man army and does not save everyone near him.
Marcus has one love interest, not a different one every five episodes like Star Trek’s Captain Kirk.
Marcus is unable to save humanity by himself and must rely on friendship, hard work, and planning to do that.
Marcus is not the main character, or even mentioned, in every chapter.
Also, Marcus’s runes give him a fighting chance, not an overwhelming advantage. Marcus is still a vulnerable human being. In other words, Marcus didn’t become Superman.
Take a good look at the cover art. It shows the main characters, including the cannon princesses and Marcus about to fight the Solar Tyrant. These six protagonists against the Solar Tyrant is a key event for a future and so far unwritten chapter. Thus, those characters had to live past the library battle, as the established story outline requires it. In short, while having the princesses kill Marcus was a reasonable possibility, the story outline required him to live via Twilight’s spell.
Using D&D rules, Marcus would have been killed by the princesses or the Royal Guard ponies 9 .99 out of 10 times. But the story outline is not a game simulation and the story outline demands that those characters need to survive to tell the story that the author intends to tell. That is the same reason why Indiana Jones or any other action hero or heroine manages to survive so many battles and then win at the end of the novel or movie.
Note: Without the library battle, the story would be without the contest of strength and/or will that creates the “Fire-Forged Friends” trope.
Note: The author wrote that combat scene to prove to the readers that Marcus could hold his own against the princesses, and because that battle looked cool. Cool combat is a part of the cannon TV series. In the second episode of “A Canterlot Wedding”, the changelings could have blended into the crowds and drank up all the love around them. The only reason why the changelings attempted to take over Canterlot was to have cool fights between the six main characters and the changelings. For example, it was cool to see Pinkie Pie using Twilight Sparkle as a magical machine gun.
In addition, ask yourself this question: When Marcus and Lyra were in the Everfree Forest; why did Marcus decided to return to Ponyville with Lyra; instead of sending her back home and then making a northward beeline for Canterlot, a city visible from Ponyville, to assassinate who he thinks is the Solar Tyrant. Marcus was out for revenge on his “white whale” or in this case a light pink Tyrant. While reading the story, I wondered why Marcus didn’t choose that path, which would have been reasonable given the circumstances. However, having Marcus choose a different path would have derailed the established story outline.
My point for this memo is that what determines if an individual fictional character is or is not a Mary Sue is subjective. While other people do have the right to see Marcus as a Marty Sue, the correct term for an overpowered, perfect in body and mind male character; I also have the right to see Marcus for what he is - a balanced character for the setting, the friends that support him, and the opponents he fights with. You see, there is no right or wrong answer to determine if Marcus is or is not a Marty Sue, because we each have different views on how we define who is a “realistic character” in a setting where mythological creatures, magic, and modern military technology coexist.
That’s all I have to say on this subject.