Cover of Homestuck Book 1
|Website||MS Paint Adventures|
|Current status / schedule||daily updates on weekdays|
|Launch date||April 13, 2009|
|Genre(s)||Action-adventure, apocalyptic fiction, comedy, coming of age, disaster thriller, drama, parody, science fiction, fantasy|
Homestuck is a webcomic written, illustrated and animated by Andrew Hussie, and is the fourth overall webcomic published on MS Paint Adventures. The series centers on a group of teenagers who unwittingly bring about the beginning of the end of the world through the installation of a beta copy of an upcoming computer game.
The comic uses a combination of static images, animated GIFs, instant message logs, and animations and games made with Adobe Flash. It has been noted for its considerable length—over 7,000 pages and 800,000 words as of August 25, 2015[update]—and complex plot.
Homestuck begins when thirteen-year-old John Egbert receives a beta copy of an upcoming computer game, called Sburb, in the mail. Installing and running the game on his computer triggers a meteor attack on his real-life house, which he survives only by being transported to another planet, thus immersing him completely within the world of Sburb. As John's friends Rose Lalonde, Dave Strider and Jade Harley join the game with him, they learn that they have unwittingly triggered the end of the world, and that it is their duty to play the game and thereby see the story through to its completion.
As they begin to explore the world of Sburb, John and his friends are harassed by a group of twelve internet trolls who have played the game before. Further contact with the trolls reveals that they are not human at all, but an alien species actually called "trolls". As the trolls gradually become more important to the story, the narrative shifts to a side story exploring the nature of troll society and the specific sequence of events that led to these particular trolls entering the game themselves. The trolls' arc concludes with the revelation that winning the game causes the creation of a new universe, and that it was the trolls who originally created the humans' universe.
The story returns to focus on the humans. Increased contact between the humans and the trolls leads to an uneasy friendship between the two groups, as well as the discovery that they must cooperate to try to salvage the kids' doomed game session. They learn that the game has a mechanism for restarting, called a "scratch", and they begin working toward the ability to activate it. Fighting against them is a rogue non-player character within Sburb, called Jack Noir, who becomes nearly invincible in their session and is unique because of it, as the trolls had formed an alliance with their version of Jack Noir. Despite this obstacle, the kids narrowly manage to trigger the scratch, which results in the destruction of the kids' universe — though the players themselves survive by traveling through pocket dimensions that will lead them to the new session.
The scratch causes the humans' universe to restart, with the condition that adolescent versions of the kids' ancestors are playing through Sburb, rather than kids themselves. John's grandmother, Jane Crocker, who had died before the story began, is a fifteen-year-old girl and the protagonist of the new arc. She leads her three friends, Roxy Lalonde, Dirk Strider and Jake English, through their own session of alpha copies of the game. Meanwhile, the original humans and surviving trolls must journey to the new universe over the course of three years, in order to aid the new session and bring it to completion. Threatening their plan is a villainous creature called Lord English, a purportedly invincible time-controlling demon, as well as the still-dangerous Jack Noir.
Meanwhile, in a future Earth transported to another universe, a member of a species known as cherubs grows up. Cherubs, from birth, have two different personalities of good and evil, and one eventually prevails. these two are called Calliope and Caliborn (female and male respectively). They contact the humans, and talk about the upcoming fate of their universe. At first the humans are confused at the changes of personalities, but Calliope explains it to them. Eventually, Caliborn becomes the dominant personality and begins a path of conquest to eventually become Lord English. He begins a game of Sburb alone, and a special type of unwinnable session begins, because the game is supposed to be played by multiple players.
Unlike other sessions, the game in a "dead" session is similar to a game of pool rather than chess. The player's planet is transported into the game, orbiting a black hole. The player must bring 16 planets orbiting the black hole into the black hole, by conquering the planet and detonating a bomb that knocks the planet into the black hole. Each planet must be forced into the black hole (except for the 8th, which the player must knock in last) in increasingly short times. Victory wins the player omnipotence and immortality. Caliborn eventually achieves this, becoming Lord English and wreaking havoc through the humans' and trolls' universe alike.
The kids and the trolls eventually meet up in the new universe, although they are scattered throughout it by the troll empress, known as the Condesce, who is a servant of Lord English. She proceeds to imprison or enslave several of the kids, including Jane Crocker, Jade Harley, Jake English and Roxy Lalonde. The trolls and remaining kids set out to find each other, each with their own plans. They are all fighting on Jade's planet when the Condesce arrives. This ends up causing a massacre where only a handful of characters survive (John, Roxy, and a troll called Terezi) and John, with the help of Terezi (who later succumbs to her injuries), uses retconning powers he acquired during a treasure hunt with some of the trolls a while ago to create a new timeline, while putting his planet and Roxy into an area outside of the story itself (which is not affected by changes to the timeline). The end result is a timeline with a number of changes that prevent the massacre described before from ever happening, and John arrives in the timeline with Roxy and his planet, replacing the versions of them who died in the new timeline. Soon after, most of the major characters, all gathered in one place, devise a plan to tackle the major threats in the session.
Style and development
The basic premise of the comic has been described as inspired by games like The Sims and EarthBound. As in Hussie's prior webcomic Problem Sleuth, the adventure is characterized by time travel, mystery, a complex fictional universe and frequent references to pop culture and previous adventures. Changes from previous stories include an emphasis on contemporary society, such as online gaming and Internet culture, which contrasts with the historical settings of MS Paint Adventures comics Bard Quest and Problem Sleuth. Additionally, this adventure introduced complex Flash animations and Flash and HTML5 games, many making use of music and assets contributed by other artists. This represented a step-up from previous adventures which exclusively used GIF images for animation.
The initial style of the webcomic was developed to be advanced by fan contributions, with the fans deciding what actions the characters would take. However, once the fan base had grown significantly by 2010, Hussie moved away from this style because the fan input method had grown "too unwieldy and made it difficult...to tell a coherent story." While Hussie now controls the main plot of the story and the characters' actions, he still "visits fan blogs and forums" to figure out small things to add into Homestuck.
Although the majority of Homestuck was posted serially, with a few pages added at a time, Hussie decided to add the final acts in one update. He named the time period he was taking to finish the story a "gigapause". Hussie explained that he wanted to have the ability to tell the remainder of the story in a non-linear fashion by writing and illustrating the storyline and then revising the chronology. The "gigapause" began on October 16, 2013. Hussie announced that the hiatus had almost reached its conclusion on September 27, 2014, although he had not fully completed the story. Homestuck "gigaunpaused" on October 16, 2014, and server crashes occurred as a multitude of fans visited the site. Plans to regularly update the webcomic were posted by Hussie soon after. Again, the website was placed on a short pause until April 13, 2015 while new content was being created, and will likely reach the story's conclusion in the following months.
A significant amount of merchandise has been sold through Hussie's shop, company and record label What Pumpkin, including "T-shirts, hoodies, pins, books" and fan art prints. Fans have also been "recruited" to make music for the webcomic. The music has been bundled into albums, with nine major soundtrack albums having been released thus far, in addition to fourteen side albums. On April 13, 2014, the fifth anniversary of Homestuck, Paradox Space, an anthology spin-off webcomic, was launched.
Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff
Early in Homestuck, Hussie introduced a webcomic contained within the main story titled Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff. The webcomic, drawn within Homestuck by character Dave Strider, is intentionally poorly made. The comic strips have become independent of Homestuck: a mockup of the website on which Dave Strider hosts the comic is available on the MSPaintAdventures website. TopatoCo produced a print publication collecting the strips. The press release from TopatoCo described Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff as "the worst comic strip ever".
On September 4, 2012, Andrew Hussie announced a Kickstarter to raise funds to develop a Homestuck video game with a (then-unannounced) game studio (later revealed to be The Odd Gentlemen). Development began in 2013, with the finished product expected in 2014. Kotaku noted that the project had raised "more than $275,000 in hours". More than 80% of the $700,000 goal was pledged in the first day. The game reached the full $700,000 of funding in fewer than 32 hours. The campaign also reached certain "stretch goal" amounts, whereupon Hussie added Mac and Linux support onto the proposed game. Digital Trends writer Graeme McMillan commented that the campaign was approaching, at the time, the record for most successful comics-related Kickstarter campaign, whose previous record was held by The Order of the Stick campaign with $1,254,120. The Kickstarter eventually raised $2,485,506, making it the "fifth game on Kickstarter to pull in a full seven figures" and the third highest funded video game in Kickstarter history at the time. An additional PayPal-based fundraiser was created to accommodate those who could not donate via Kickstarter's available methods.
The special contribution items for the campaign included digital and hard copy versions of the game and the game soundtrack, along with "exclusive sticker sheets and T-shirts, plush dolls of in-series plushes like Senator Lemonsnout and Pyralspite Plushie and primo appearances in the final product."
The size of Homestuck's fan community was described by Lauren Rae Orsini, staff writer for The Daily Dot, as in the millions, with around a "million unique visitors" coming to the site daily. At one point, one of Homestuck's Flash animations caused Newgrounds to crash when it was uploaded, due to the strain the number of views put on the servers. Actor Dante Basco is noted as a fan of the webcomic, having been urged to read it by friends telling him that the character Rufio, which he played as in the 1991 film Hook, is featured in it. This interest in the webcomic led to a friendship with Andrew Hussie and resulted in the creation of a new character, Rufioh, with Basco's "typing quirks and personality".
When a temporary hiatus was announced in early July 2012, fans of the webcomic began creating a multitude of fake screenshots of a fictional anime version of Homestuck, with some including subtitles and logos of various Japanese TV channels.
Reception and impact
Lauren Rae Orsini, in an interview with Andrew Hussie, asked Hussie whether, because of the immense size of Homestuck and its fandom, with more than 5,000 pages and 128 characters, Hussie considered himself in control of the comic. Hussie responded that he felt Homestuck was "still under my control", but that the background of Homestuck as a movement "is not under my control, and never really was." Orsini also suggested, in a separate article, that the effort put forward by people who finish Homestuck is an example of effort justification.
Homestuck was compared to James Joyce's Ulysses by PBS's Idea Channel due to the webcomic's length and complexity. Lori Henderson of the School Library Journal described Homestuck as being "mostly black and white with splashes of color and a minimal amount of animation", but that it worked for the webcomic and that because the "characters are a little goofy-looking and are often shown without arms", it only "adds to the charm". Mordicai Knode of Tor Books explained that Homestuck has to be discussed separately between what it is as a webcomic and what its plot actually is. Comparing it to hypertext fiction and the genre's attempted use in physical novels like Pale Fire and House of Leaves, Knode concluded that "Homestuck is the first great work of genuinely hypertext fiction. If that puts it in the same breath as Ulysses, then so be it."
Bryan Lee O'Malley, creator of the graphic novel series Scott Pilgrim, described Homestuck as a "massive undertaking of deftly-handled long-term serialized storytelling. It's well-written and thoughtful. It has things to say."
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