For those who don’t know, a “Mary Sue” character is one who is based on the author him/herself, and interacts with the regular cast. The difficulty with this is to ensure that the Mary Sue doesn’t take over the story, because it’s still about Daria and friends, and in the end, the readers aren’t nearly as interested in the author’s character as the author him/herself is. The ideal Mary Sue fic involves the author only as much as is necessary to the plot, and only as a new point of interest on what is still Daria’s show.
Therefore, the award for best “Mary Sue” fic goes to…
“THE NEW TEACHER SERIES”
What makes this one so good? Apart from the fact that Ben is an excellent writer in general, he’s placed himself in the ideal position for this kind of story to work: he’s a teacher. This way, he can interact with the Daria cast, observe, contribute enough to the story to make it his own, but he never takes over the plot completely. The story is still about Daria and company.
Actually, Ben makes for a pretty interesting character in his own right. I don’t know how close the character of Ben Breeck matches the real Ben Breeck, but the character comes across as a likable guy in a near-impossible situation, that of a teacher at Lawndale High. Many of us have imagined life at Lawndale as a student, but consider what a teacher there must endure: DiMartino’s explosive personality, Ms. Li’s paranoia, Kevin’s oafishness, and of course, Daria’s razor wit. It would be enough to drive one mad. Maybe that’s why Ben starts swinging a wooden sword around halfway through the series. Actually, he’s the kind of guy I would like to have had for a teacher.
But enough about Ben – let’s look at the way he handles the crew. It takes Daria several stories to even begin to warm up to him, which is entirely fitting of her – after all, it takes a while for her to warm up to anyone. But she does, and she does enough to actually join a school activity. It’s a rather fitting one too. Jodie is instrumental in all that, and I particularly liked how the author (I’ll refer to him that way, to avoid confusion with his character) portrayed her as not being above a little manipulative behavior. With parents like hers, how could she not have picked up a few tips?
Without reviewing each of the stories in the series individually, I will point out some highlights. In “Courtroom Trauma” I enjoyed the comparison between Family Court and Actual Court. “Open Season” showed the new, smarter Quinn dating they guy who made her see who she was – and making it believable. It’s an interesting twist on David. Why wouldn’t he possibly reconsider dating Quinn, if she showed she was more than just a pretty face?
There are two strengths to this series: one is Ben himself, and the other is the continuity of the series. Too many long series of stories get way off-track, and end up unrecognizable as Daria stories. This one, while it takes some of the characters in new directions, never loses focus and never repeats itself. From the look of it, Ben seems to have planned the whole thing in advance, and it makes for better reading. I suspect the series hasn’t ended yet – I hope to see more.
“The New Teacher Series” can be read here