|Current status/schedule||Main storyline concluded as of October 25, 2016|
|Launch date||April 13, 2009|
|End date||April 13, 2016[a]|
Homestuck is a webcomic written, illustrated, and animated by American author and artist Andrew Hussie. The fourth overall webcomic published on Hussie's MS Paint Adventures website, it originally ran from April 13, 2009 to April 13, 2016. The comic centers on a group of teens who unwittingly bring about the end of the world through the installation of a beta copy of an upcoming computer game. They soon come into contact with a group of Internet trolls who are revealed to be horned aliens who previously played, and these trolls work with the kids to create a new universe by completing the game.
While normally consisting of a series of single panel pages, Homestuck also utilizes static images, animated GIFs, Flash videos, and browser games. The webcomic also makes use of instant message logs and hypertext links styled as game commands to supplement its structure. It has been noted for its complex and nonlinear plot, considerable length at over 8,000 pages and 800,000 words, and intensely devoted fan community. The webcomic has drawn comparisons to Ulysses due to its high reading difficulty, and Homestuck has been cited as the first great work of Internet fiction.
The success of Homestuck has resulted in the creation of numerous related projects and sequels. Fans have significantly contributed in various capacities to these works as they had during Homestuck's original run.
In 2009, on thirteen-year-old John Egbert's birthday, he receives a beta copy of an upcoming computer game, Sburb. Installing the game on his computer triggers a real life meteor storm, which he survives only by being transported to another dimension within the gameworld. John's friends Rose Lalonde, Dave Strider, and Jade Harley join him in the game along with their guardians, and they learn that playing the game has inadvertently triggered the destruction of Earth and must beat Sburb to create a new universe.
John and his friends are attacked by a ruthless villain known as Jack Noir while exploring the game world. As this is ongoing, John and his friends are also harassed by a group of twelve Internet trolls whose own session of Sburb was a failure that they blame the kids for. Among them, Karkat Vantas, Kanaya Maryam, Terezi Pyrope, and Vriska Serket each develop a relationship with the four humans, and the trolls are revealed to be an alien species simply called "trolls". The narrative shifts to a side story arc about the trolls and the specific sequence of events that led this group to play their own session of the game. The group and troll society as a whole is manipulated by the enigmatic Doc Scratch, who serves an even more mysterious master. The trolls win their session and a new universe – the universe the kids inhabit – is created. Before they can claim their prize, they are attacked by Jack Noir and forced into hiding, where they begin to troll the kids via a chat program.
Returning to the present, the two species cooperate to salvage the kids' game session. However, Vriska sabotages key events which results in the kids' accidentally empowering Jack Noir from a simple adversary to an seemingly-invincible monster. Rising tensions among the trolls eventually boil over, and some begin to attack and kill others; almost half the group (including Vriska) dies before Karkat manages to restore order. From Doc Scratch, the kids learn about a game mechanism called the "Scratch" that allows the humans to reset their session to escape Jack but will also inadvertently summon Lord English, Doc Scratch's master who seeks dominion over all of reality.
Executing the Scratch resets the kids' universe, and versions of themselves become guardians to a new group of players, who are versions of their own ancestors. As a result, John's late grandmother, Jane Crocker, is fifteen years old and the protagonist of the new arc. She leads her three friends Roxy Lalonde, Dirk Strider, and Jake English – the mother, brother, and grandfather of Rose, Dave, and Jade, respectively – through their own session of the game, while the original humans and surviving trolls journey through dimensions to the new post-scratch session over the course of three years.
The post-scratch version of Earth quickly becomes dominated by the Condesce, the sinister former troll empress now in service to Lord English. In lieu of trolls, the four post-scratch kids interact online with two alien cherubs,[b] the siblings Calliope and Caliborn. While Calliope becomes a fast friend of the group, Caliborn resents their camaraderie. After the post-scratch kids enter their session, the two cherubs play their own version of Sburb in a session that sees Caliborn cheating to win by having his sister assassinated.
When finally uniting in the new session, the kids and trolls enact a plan to create a new universe and to defeat Lord English, the Condesce, and Jack Noir; the latter of whom escaped from the original doomed session. John Egbert develops new powers allowing him to retcon previous events within the Homestuck narrative. In the ensuing conflict, only John, Roxy, and one of the trolls, Terezi, survive. With Terezi's guidance, John retcons key events in the narrative, most notably Vriska's death, setting up a timeline with a clear path to victory. In the retconned narrative, the kids and trolls defeat their enemies in a giant battle and create the new universe. The comic ends with Lord English fighting an army led by Vriska, Caliborn becoming Lord English after gaining unconditional immortality, and the remaining living heroes about to enter their newly created universe.
Style and development
While nominally a webcomic, Homestuck consists of a combination of static images, animated GIFs, and instant message logs. Generally, pages included a single panel, and navigational links to successive pages are phrased similarly to commands in interactive fiction games.: 28–29 : 1038–1039 Additionally, unlike previous works from Andrew Hussie which exclusively relied on GIF images for animation, Homestuck introduced complex animations and browser games made with Adobe Flash, many involving contributions from fan artists. According to academic Kevin Veale of Massey University, Homestuck used these various methods of engagement to manipulate its readers’ experiences in order to tell a multilayered non-linear story.
The basic premise of Sburb has been described as similar to games like The Sims, Spore, 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.
The initial style of the webcomic was developed to be advanced by fan contributions, with the fans deciding what actions the characters would take. Later, 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 controlled the main plot of the story and the characters' actions, he still "visit[ed] fan blogs and forums" to figure out small things to add into Homestuck. However, throughout its run, content within Homestuck would cease to be updated in several named pauses. The most infamous of these pauses was the result of Andrew Hussie taking a full year to solely focus on the production of Hiveswap in the gigapause.
On April 13, 2016, Hussie released the final chapter of the webcomic: a nine-minute-long animated short titled "[S] ACT 7". Hussie stated that an epilogue to the webcomic would be released at some point in the future. In late 2016, the comic updated with a credit sequence and more panels in the form of a Snapchat story. By the end of its run, the entire work contained over 800,000 words across at least 8,000 pages.
After its completion, writer Ben Tolkin said, "Do I recommend Homestuck? Should you drop everything and start reading it? You can't. Homestuck is over, and I mean over, not just that it isn't updating. 'Homestuck,' the masterpiece, was the event, the community, the shifting pace of updates, the constant chatter between fandom and author. Homestuck is done. If you missed it, you missed it." Rob Beschizza added that reading Homestuck now would be "like buying a DVD of Woodstock. It doesn't matter how well they played or how pretty they were; what mattered was being there."
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 ten major soundtrack albums having been released thus far, in addition to eighteen side albums. On April 13, 2014, the fifth anniversary of Homestuck, Paradox Space, an anthology spin-off webcomic, was launched.
On April 13, 2019 – exactly ten years after Homestuck started – The Homestuck Epilogues began. The Epilogues are presented in purely text format with no images, completely abandoning the webcomic genre and instead being styled similarly to Archive of Our Own fanfiction. Alongside Andrew Hussie, it was also written by multiple fan writers. Though released for free online, the Homestuck Epilogues were also given a physical release.
On October 25, 2019, a sequel was launched, titled Homestuck^2: Beyond Canon. Homestuck^2 has been written by a team of writers based on a story outline by Hussie, and the project had funding from Patreon. However, as of March 2021, Homestuck^2's about page states that the work was "updated regularly for about a year until it was paused indefinitely. The creative team is now being commissioned to finish the story privately. All content will be posted here at once when the story is complete." According to a February 2021 post on Homestuck's Patreon page, "Homestuck^2 is going to be completed, but this Patreon will not be charging patrons anymore." Snake Solutions, a company commissioned to write and illustrate Homestuck^2, has reportedly shut down.
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.
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". In 2017, TopatoCo announced a second Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff book, co-written by Dril, co-drawn by KC Green, and funded through Kickstarter.
On September 4, 2012, Hussie announced a Kickstarter to raise funds to develop a Homestuck video game. 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 MacOS 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, which was previously 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.
While development was going to initially done by game studio The Odd Gentlemen, production was later moved in-house to What Pumpkin. This coincided with a change in the game's art style from 3D to 2D. Development began in 2013, with the finished product expected in 2014; the first episode was later released in 2017.
Additionally, Homestuck has led to the creation of two visual novel games: Hiveswap Friendsim and Pesterquest.
Intensity and size
Initially, Andrew Hussie allowed fans to contribute suggestions to the story via the MS Paint Adventures forums, but this was later depreciated when the work got more popular. Throughout much of its history, the size of Homestuck's fan community was in the millions, with around a million unique visitors coming to the site daily. At one point, one of the webcomic's Flash animations caused Newgrounds to crash when it was uploaded, due to the strain that the number of views had put on the servers.
According to writer Lilian Min, much of Homestuck's success was driven by its fans.
Actor Dante Basco is a known 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".
Toby "Radiation" Fox, best known for his later creation of the videogame Undertale, was a noted member of Homestuck's official Music Contribution Team. Amanda Brennan, an Internet historian, has credited much of Undertale's initial success on Tumblr to Fox's association with Homestuck.
Reception and impact
So begins Homestuck, Andrew Hussie's webcomic/cartoon/video game/mixed media art project that went on to take over every convention with a sea of grey body paint, surpass War and Peace's word count, raise $2.5 million on Kickstarter and then suddenly disappear, leaving its fans either desperate for more or wanting to forget it ever happened.— Reuben Baron, "Let Me Tell You About Homestuck, the Internet's Most Ambitious Comic"
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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 at the time, 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 has been compared to James Joyce's Ulysses by PBS Idea Channel due to the work'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 said 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". NPR named it among its top 100 reader favorite comics and graphic novels in 2017.
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