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 710,000 words as of November 11, 2014[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. 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.
The kids and the trolls eventually meet up in the new universe, although they are scattered throughout it by the Condesce (the troll empress), 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.
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 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. They must knock every planet into the black hole, except for the 8th, which the player must knock in last, in increasingly short times, to go back to their planet and fight a nearly impossible battle against the planet's forces. If they win, they gain omnipotence and immortality, able to destroy, create, and do anything they please. Caliborn eventually achieves this, becoming Lord English and wreaking havoc through the humans' and trolls' universe alike.
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 comic contained within the main story. The character Dave Strider was the author of a satirical webcomic strip called Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff. Parodying poorly made amateur comics, Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff is drawn in an intentionally grisly style. The comic strips have become independent of Homestuck; a mock-up of Dave's website is available on the MSPA site. 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. As an example of the community's size, one of Homestuck's Flash animations caused Newgrounds, a flash game and animation site, 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."
- "MS Paint Adventures". MS Paint Adventures. Retrieved August 18, 2013.
- "MS Paint Adventures: Statistics". readmspa.org. Retrieved November 11, 2014.
- Mordicai Knode (September 18, 2012). "Homestuck is the First Great Work of Internet Fiction". Tor Books. Retrieved September 18, 2012.
- McGown, Justin (October 17, 2011). "Homestuck fans prepare for webcomic release". The Tartan. Carnegie Mellon. Retrieved October 23, 2011.
- Lauren Rae Orsini (August 2, 2012). "Inside the strange, brave new world of Homestuck". The Daily Dot. Retrieved January 13, 2013.
- Meeks, Elijah (December 3, 2010). "Interview with Andrew Hussie, Creator of Homestuck". Digital Humanities Specialist. Stanford University Libraries & Academic Information Resources. Retrieved April 4, 2012.
- Jessica Roy (September 10, 2012). "A Noob’s Guide to Homestuck, the Favorite Webcomic of Internetty Teens Everywhere". Betabeat. Retrieved September 11, 2012.
- Baio, Andy (November 9, 2011). "Arcade Improv: Humans Pretending to Be Videogames". Kotaku. Retrieved November 10, 2011.
- Faircloth, Kelly (October 3, 2012). "Stuck on Homestuck: How Andrew Hussie Turned a Tumblr Craze Into a Teenage Empire". Betabeat. Retrieved October 6, 2012.
- Hussie, Andrew (October 17, 2013). "Gigapause: Commence". MS Paint Adventures. Archived from the original on October 19, 2013. Retrieved October 17, 2014.
- Hussie, Andrew (September 27, 2014). "Giga-Almost-Unpause, Probably.". MS Paint Adventures. Retrieved October 17, 2014.
- Hussie, Andrew (October 16, 2014). "The Itinerary.". MS Paint Adventures. Retrieved November 5, 2014.
- Lauren Rae Orsini (September 3, 2012). "Behind the wonderful and weird soundtrack to Homestuck". The Daily Dot. Retrieved September 13, 2012.
- Cruz, Larry (September 19, 2014). "The ironic awfulness off ‘Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff’". Robot 6. Comic Book Resource. Retrieved October 17, 2014.
- "Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff Hardcover PRESS RELEASE" (Press release). Easthampton, Massachusetts: TopatoCo. January 20, 2013. Retrieved November 20, 2014.
- "Homestuck Adventure Game". MS Paint Adventures. Kickstarter. Retrieved September 4, 2012.
- "The Odd Gentlemen are making the Homestuck Game". The Odd Gentlemen. June 21, 2014. Archived from the original on September 13, 2014.
- Kate Cox (September 4, 2012). "Homestuck Kickstarter Raises Over $275,000 in Hours to Make Game of Comic That Makes Fun of Games". Kotaku. Retrieved September 4, 2012.
- David Daw (September 6, 2012). "Webcomic Kickstarter Raises $500,000 For a Game in a Day". PC World. Retrieved September 6, 2012.
- Graeme McMillan (September 5, 2012). "Homestuck Kickstarter Nears Game Goal In Less Than Three Days". Comics Alliance. Retrieved September 5, 2012. At the time the article went to print, the Kickstarter had been running for just over one day.
- Ryan Rigney (September 6, 2012). "What The Heck Is Homestuck, And How'd It Get $750K On Kickstarter?". Wired. Retrieved September 6, 2012.
- "MS Paint Adventures: Hiatus news posts". Readmspa.org. Retrieved January 24, 2015.
- Lauren Davis (September 9, 2012). "Crowdfund a Homestuck video game, gruesome dog costumes, and Golden Age baked goods". io9. Retrieved September 9, 2012.
- Graeme McMillan (September 6, 2012). "‘Homestuck’ heads towards new Kickstarter record". Digital Trends. Retrieved September 6, 2012.
- Curtis, Tom (October 4, 2012). "Homestuck becomes the third highest funded game on Kickstarter". Gamasutra. Retrieved October 6, 2012.
- Tipps, Seth (October 5, 2012). "Homestuck Kickstarter closes at $2.4m". Develop. Retrieved October 6, 2012.
- Gallagher, Danny (October 6, 2012). "Kickstarted: Homestuck". GameTrailers. Retrieved October 6, 2012.
- Lauren Rae Orsini (October 1, 2012). "The most popular, epic webcomic you've never heard of". CNN. Retrieved October 6, 2012.
- Romano, Aja (December 21, 2012). "From Homestuck to Hollywood, actor Dante Basco breaks the mold". The Daily Dot. Retrieved January 2, 2013.
- John Funk (July 6, 2012). "Diehard Webcomic Fans Invent Fake Anime". The Escapist. Retrieved July 6, 2012.
- Lauren Rae Orsini (September 7, 2012). "Behind Andrew Hussie' Homestuck Adventure Game". The Daily Dot. Retrieved September 7, 2012.
- Lauren Rae Orsini (September 6, 2012). "Is Homestuck the "Ulysses" of the Internet?". The Daily Dot. Retrieved September 13, 2012.
- Mike Rugnetta (September 5, 2012). "Is Homestuck the Ulysses of the Internet?". PBS Idea Channel. Retrieved September 5, 2012.
- Lori Henderson (September 11, 2012). "A Mom’s Adventures in Homestuck Part 1". School Library Journal. Retrieved September 11, 2012.
- Bryan Lee O'Malley (October 2, 2012). "'Scott Pilgrim' Guy Interviews 'Homestuck' Guy: Bryan Lee O'Malley On Andrew Hussie". Comics Alliance. Retrieved October 6, 2012.
- Lori Henderson (October 9, 2012). "A Mom’s Journey into Homestuck Part 2". School Library Journal. Retrieved October 9, 2012.
- Lori Henderson (November 28, 2012). "A Mom’s Journey into Homestuck Part 3". School Library Journal. Retrieved November 30, 2012.
- Lori Henderson (December 11, 2012). "A Mom’s Journey into Homestuck Part 3a". School Library Journal. Retrieved December 18, 2012.
- Lori Henderson (January 22, 2013). "A Mom’s Journey into Homestuck Part 4". School Library Journal. Retrieved January 23, 2013.
- Lori Henderson (February 25, 2013). "A Mom’s Journey into Homestuck Part 5". School Library Journal. Retrieved March 13, 2013.
- Lori Henderson (September 9, 2013). "A Mom’s Journey into Homestuck Part 5A". School Library Journal. Retrieved September 10, 2013.
- Lori Henderson (January 6, 2014). "A Mom’s Journey into Homestuck Part 5B". School Library Journal. Retrieved January 22, 2014.
- Liz Ohanesian (January 12, 2012). "Homestuck Has Me Hooked". LA Weekly. Retrieved July 1, 2013.