Webcomic pioneer SUTU (aka Stu Campbell) has been a regular fixture on our digital comic of the year awards with titles like Nawlz, Neomad and Polaxis. However his latest pioneering work, These Memories Won’t Last, is also his most personal, dealing with his grandfather’s dementia and fading memories. But can this trailblazing digital comics creator (working under his own name for the first time) continue to push boundaries with such an intimate subject matter?
Writer: Stuart Campbell
Artist: Stuart Campbell
Price: FREE via memories.sutueatsflies.com
Our rating: [star rating=”5″]
The story in These Memories Won’t Last is told via a parallaxing website that sees the images appear from the top while the captions and panels appear in from the bottom. The story sees Stu’s grandfather suffering with dementia after his wife dies and is told in a slice of life style as Stu mixes his own recollections of his grandfather’s declining health with anecdotes from his grandfather’s life. It’s incredibly intimate and powerful stuff, and reminiscent of the best slice of life books, especially Harvey Pekar.
Visually, Stu has always had a unique artistic style, with an anarchic and angular style that brilliantly suited his futuristic tales. However for These Memories Won’t Last he has paired things down, using a simple hand drawn and shaky style with a minimal colour palette that looks like they have been taken from a sketchbook or diary, which helps to give the story an even more intimate and personal feel.
As well as the story scrolling top to bottom, animations are also triggered as you scroll to further emphasise the story. This helps develop certain scenes, such as the one where Stu’s grandfather has a flashback to World War 2 as the room morphs into a battlefield on screen. While in other scenes backgrounds animate to give motion to scenes which otherwise could have been very static. It’s more fantastic digital innovation from this ground-breaking story-teller and although this, and the constantly moving text, can be a bit nausea inducing it also adds to the disorientating feel of the story and can be seen to mirror his grandfather’s shifting memories.
Stu’s story-telling is also aided by an atmospheric soundscape from Lhasa Mencur. Sound is a contentious issue in digital comics circles, but like the best Madefire motion books (such as Mono: Pacific), The Memories Won’t Last uses atmospheric ambient music, mixed with pertinent sound effects, to augment the scenes rather than over power them. This works especially well on scenes such as the previously mentioned WW2 flashback, but also adds an extra element of haunting atmosphere to further emphasise the disorientating feel of the story.
As we approach the end of the story, the screen starts to become more foggy and by the end almost the whole screen is masked in white, which means when you scroll back to revisit things, the story has all but vanished. It’s a poignant final moment for what is an utterly compelling and brilliantly innovative piece of story-telling, that more than deserves the accolades which are heading it’s way. Combining innovation and emotionally complex story-telling is never easy, but Stu has managed to do just that, to create a story which is both heartbreakingly real and technically dazzling to reinforces just how much of a pioneer SUTU is in the world of digital comics.