What is Homestuck?
“Let me tell you about Homestuck.” As the meme goes. If you haven’t heard about it, Homestuck is a flash based web comic by Andrew Hussie that is part dark comedy, part coming of age story. It gained a wave of popularity in the last 4 years, with some people getting it, and some not.
There’s a lot to Homestuck. It parodies pop culture and subcultures while sparing no expense. Its references are so well ingrained into the comic that even if they pass over your head, you won’t feel left out. It even references Andrew Hussie’s past work in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.
Now, you should be a nerd, whether it’s in literature, noir, film, theoretical physics, video games, anime, or any subculture like memes and trolls, you have to geek out about pop culture in some way to get it.
There’s a ton of depth to it as well. I won’t even begin to go over how it references 90’s Adventure Games, or its ton of running gags. Those are things you’ll need to discover for yourself.
It’s worth noting that Andrew Hussie, creator of Homestuck, actually gained some popularity with his flash animation “Jailbreak,”
which was submitted to Newgrounds long before Homestuck was even a twinkle in his eye.
If Homestuck is a great webcomic, why didn’t I like it?
The answer to why you might not have liked Homestuck could be a number of things. So lets cover them.
The most obvious reason is you did what any sane person would do. You jumped right into Homestuck from Act 1, Scene 1, with no real idea of what Homestuck is other than that it’s popular. That’s what people do.
And that’s why you didn’t like Homestuck. Homestuck has some amazing plot points, great artwork, fun animation, and nifty little games. Unfortunately…
… You don’t find a lot of those in the beginning of the series, and the first 3 Acts are a bit slow and kinda boring. It feels awkward, the plot gets mired down in random jokes and storylines, and there’s excessive setup for the first 4 main characters we meet.
However the first 4 Acts are necessary to make sense of the rest of the story, and skipping them is ill advised. You can still jump into meeting the more fascinating Trolls in Act 5, but their role in the story is such a profound twist, it’s not worth it to ruin that by skipping straight to them.
You may also not like the fanbase. A lot of Homestuck’s audience is a mix of young and socially awkward. It is a coming of age story, after all, so it makes sense Homestuck’s primary audience are in the 12-17 demographic, with a strong periphery audience in the 18-24 range. A lot of them attend conventions as well, with easy to create costumes and messy face and body paint.
You may also have looked at Homestuck’s artwork and found it juvenile or amateur. While the first few panels are largely the style Andrew Hussie sticks to in the comic, you begin to realize it’s a choice of style, the way it’s drawn is intentional, and that it actually grows on you. I explain why in the “giving it another go” section. Plus his animation becomes superb later on.
Why should I give it another read?
We’ve talked about why Homestuck may have turned you off. Certainly Homestuck isn’t a living ball of perfection, at least not in the first 3 Acts. However, it gains huge momentum and credibility as it goes, becoming a powerhouse of ingenious, original storytelling. It has elements of dark comedy, satire, parody, and heavy drama working in its favor, and it will downright give you goosebumps, leaving you wanting to know what happens next.
Lets discuss why you may want to try it again by bringing up the parts of Homestuck that has given it such a fervent fanbase.
We’ll begin by addressing those who love video games. Homestuck parodies and satires games well. It mocks game currency, and sometimes the black monsters almost feel like a nudge at Kingdom Hearts, though they aren’t. I don’t think. Sburb, the game that kicks off the adventure, does a good job of parodying oldschool CD Rom gaming with friends, and the “Ghostbusters MMO” in the later part of the series is a hilarious nod to the MMOification of everything. The “Specibus” seen early in the series becomes a running gag for half the comic and is a nod to Adventure gaming in the 90s.
It doesn’t stop there though. Andrew Hussie also went to the trouble of adding Flash based games into the comic, which while only serving to add a sense of interactivity, were nice to see on the rare occasion they had and definitely added to the flare.
Example 1 [S][A6I3]
Example 2 [S][Act 4]
There’s also a lot of smart stuff, like theoretical physics including time travel and alternate dimensions, afterlife, ghosts, creation theory and strong thematic elements and symbolism. While it’s mostly done to further the narrative, there’s a lot to wrap your head around, and plenty to theorize and ponder on. It has some really deep stuff.
Infact, I have to praise his approach to theoretical physics. He handles paradox time and space, creation theory, and other complex issues with a lot of depth, but still keeps a lot of humor and silliness intertwined to keep it from feeling overwhelming or dry. A lot of other writers who use time travel and space continuum often fall short of this.
If you’re into movies and celebrities there’s tons of references to famous celebrities, not the least of which are Nicholas Cage and the movie Con-Air. Charles Barkley is also referenced, as well as some old comedians and sci-fi movies. If you like the Noir theme, then there’s tons of that as well.
Anime gets a minor reference as well, but not as much as you might think. Odd considering how closely the fan-base crosses over. However there’s a clear reference to Gurren Lagen in there.
If you’re a big fan of Avatar: The Last Airbender, then it may interest you to know Dante Basco, voice of Prince Zuko and the actor who played Rufio in the movie “Hook”, has given a gracious nod and has shown a lot of interest for Homestuck. He’s even gone as far as voicing Dave Strider in his blog.
But maybe you’re still stuck on the animation. You just don’t see how it can make a dramatic scene good, and how can you take the narrative seriously when everyone is some sort of western chibi thing? Like I said though, Andrew Hussie is actually a superb animator and drawer. He changes his art style for more dramatic scenes, and alters the characters body shape as they grow older. This is suppose to be a Dark Comedy, so he uses the chibi to accentuate the comedy portion.
Don’t take my word for it though, allow me to reference two exemplary flash animations he does for the comic. There are spoilers in both, but I suggest seeing them anyways as you won’t understand why they’re spoilers.
This first one shows off both animation styles in the comic.
You can see for the more dramatic, important scenes he uses a non-chibi style, while his dramatic scenes are drawn more realistic.
This is a great example of how complex the story has become, and how well he can draw and animate.
This scene is purely drama, and thus never uses the chibi style. Actually, his animation is far more fluid at this point in the story.
As for the fanbase, there’s really nothing I can say to explain that away. Just know there’s some justification for their obsession.
[For a more indepth discussion, check out this article by Brian O’Malley, creator of Scott Pilgrim, as he interviews Andrew Hussie.]