If you spend a lot of time on the Internet, or have recently been or befriended a teenager, you may have heard of a webcomic named Homestuck. The comic’s illustrator recently began a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign to create an adventure game based on Homestuck. To date, it’s raised almost a million dollars. For an adventure game! Yeah, it’s safe to say people are really into this thing. So what’s the deal?
What the fuck is Homestuck?
Launched in 2009, Homestuck is a serial, interactive webcomic about a gaggle of kids who become friends over the Internet and begin a “reality-altering video game that brings about the end of their world.” According to Know Your Meme:
The story revolves around 13-year-old protagonist John Egbert and his friends Rose Lalonde, Dave Strider and Jade Harley. It is revealed that the fate of humanity revolves around their performance in the game Sburb. During the course of their adventures they befriend several members of an alien race called trolls. The humans use an instant messaging program called “PesterChum” to converse with trolls, who use a program called “Trollian” to respond back.
Contextualize this, plz.
Homestuck is part of a larger collection of comics originating on the popular site MS Paint Adventures, all written and illustrated by Andrew Hussie. Mr. Hussie has attracted a cult following among “Homestucks,” fans of the comic, most of whom are young, Internetty types.
So it’s just a webcomic? I don’t get it.
Well, not really. Homestuck is a truly multimedia experience, with over 7,000 panels amassed since its inception. The earlier installments of the comic were created to be like an old school choose your own adventure, composed of crude line drawings and interactive flash elements. Mr. Hussie originally solicited reader participation, implementing suggestions from readers into the comic until the audience got too large and intense to be able to sort through all the feedback. Eventually, as the stories progressed, the drawings became more and more in depth. Mr. Hussie uses Photoshop to create them, while occasionally implementing Flash elements. Music created entirely by fans has also been incorporated into some of the installments, yielding multiple volumes dedicated to the music used in the series.
So, through the highbrow lens, it’s kind of like an experiment in different types of media?
Yes. In Mr. Hussie’s own words:
While the story includes hours of animation, and thousands of relatively static panels, the overarching experience is actually more similar to reading a book. There’s a good deal of dialogue between characters, as they chat to each other over the internet during their adventure. The result is an unusual media hybrid. Something that reads like a heavily illustrated novel, frequently interrupted by cinematic Flash sequences, and sometimes even interactive games. It’s a story I’ve tried to make as much a pure expression of its medium as possible.
Okay, so there’s an intense fandom surrounding it?
Yes. The original Homestuck fans originated in the MS Paint forums, where Mr. Hussie would take requests for plot twists. Eventually, fans also cropped up on 4chan and the PennyArcade forums. There are bastions of Homestuck fans on websites like Livejournal, Tumblr and deviantArt. There is tons of fan art and fan music dedicated to Homestuck.
According to the FanLore Wiki:
Homestuck has a reputation for being a difficult fandom to “get into”, for several reasons. The story starts quite slow and it takes a while for the plot to emerge, which disappoints many people who followed other fans’ recommendations. By now the comic is very long and the plot is often convoluted and difficult to understand, which makes it very hard to catch up. Joining the fandom is also complicated because it is spread over several different platforms and websites.
What kind of people are into it?
As far as Betabeat can tell, the core audience of Homestucks is comprised of teens and early twenty-somethings, many of whom are into webcomics, anime and manga. Because the plot is about befriending people on the Internet, many might be into tech and other Internet subcultures. A lot of them are also into cosplay.
Why are they so obsessed with it?
Let’s tap into some fan wisdom for this answer. Writes one Tumblr fan:
The story is really witty and complex. I think people like to talk about it so much because it feels like a victory to even get to the point where things are right now. It has over 6000 pages and holy shit, the beginning is the slowest thing ever. I think people just feel proud to stick with it for so long, you know? Not to mention that the plot is batshit nonsensical, but amazing.
Basically: it’s hard to say, you kind of just have to read it for yourself.
How does this obsession manifest?
Aside from keeping up with a 7,000 page long webcomic, a lot of Homestucks are really, really into cosplay. Like full body paint, expensive costumes, the works. There are conventions and etiquette to go along with these conventions. People create fan art and fan music. There are videos of fans reacting to the longer installments of Homestuck. While there is a largely followed directive that Homestuck stays SFW, there is also a community of people who proliferate the kink meme, creating creepy sexualized fanart.
What’s the deal with buckets?
Buckets are kind of an inside joke in Homestuck. The trolls, which are a completely different species from humans, consider buckets a sexualized object. According to Know Your Meme, “Any time a bucket is mentioned, trolls become embarrassed as if they had been exposed to pornographic material. Buckets and pails have become synonymous with sex in the Homestuck fan lexicon.”
Okay, this all sounds interesting. How do I become a Homestuck?
Wow, you’re brave. We guess you can start with the very first comic. Godspeed.