Let Me Tell You About Homestuck
The internet is so broad a landscape that, as far as cultural groups go, one could divide and subdivide
it infinitely. If we were to brave this chaotic frontier and delve into the abyss, groping wildly for relative
logistic sanity in the churning leviathan of the entertainment sector, the internet might present webcomics as
a hulking raft, a form of familiar, stable, and truly native amusement. Through this medium, comics are now
presented in a way that is both free to the reader and highly accessible, also bestowing upon the creator a
freedom over their intellectual property that few in the industry have wielded before. Ever deeper into the
fray we go, finding all manner of web comic to pursue, the breadth of it including anything from 8bit sprites
adventuring, crudely drawn stick figures slinging insults at each other, or even sprawling epics with layers
upon layers of plot depth paired with painfully apparent Photoshop comprehension. The comic I'm going to
discuss manages to be all of these things at once, and the corresponding group I'm going to turn the critical
eye upon is the zealous mass of its "fandom." I'm going to discuss Andrew Hussie's current project
Homestuck, since it's likely the most obscure-and-yet-ludicrously-popular thing I know about, and it is both
immense and complicated for apparently no reason whatsoever. The art is generally unimpressive, the story is
seemingly haphazard and trite, the fanbase is widely considered a seething horrorterror of darkeldritch
magnitude, and the author himself admits that "Homestuck's really just a warm-up for something
else."(Formspring) However, despite the art and the people and the author's slightly unfavorable e-
mutterings, one thing you absolutely could not call Homestuck is "simple." What else would warrant
merchandise, hordes of dedicated fans to scoop it up, or even on-site ad-space priced at an average of 30 to
100 dollars a day? (Project Wonderful) The story, while criticized, is a story shared and discussed by over a
million (:o) people across the globe.1
The tale itself is rife with intricacy, now sprawling over 4300 pages and 6 acts long, cumulating in a
plot so complicated one of the characters maintains a sub-comic, linked both on the main website and within
the narrative itself through chat logs between the saga's many participants (this is the only form of dialogue,
which is structurally unorthodox to say the least.) The project is also incredibly metaphysically aware, laden
with references to Hussie's previous works and featuring the author's occasional self-insertion, which starts as
a joke but turns into a plot review vehicle that eventually becomes a key part of the main plotline. To
substantiate this complexity the website is updated at an alarming rate compared to other webcomics, often
multiple times per day with individual panels. Most others in digital media execute a single daily update of a
classic three-panel spread, or a full page of meticulous drafting. Andrew Hussie's method is made possible by
the piece's unique format. Here, I refer not only to the "webcomic" format, but to the art itself.
Common criticisms draped upon the project usually cite the simplistic art style. More classically
drawn comics or cartoons tend to offer a clearer representation of their characters, making any supplemental
art sort of chained to the concepts provided. The illustrations in Homestuck are chiefly symbolic, leaving lots
of room for the creative sort to play. It's not out of laziness that Hussie maintains this habit, as he often
proves artistic prowess with "hero mode" panels wherein characters are drawn more thoroughly to emphasize
the significance of an action or event. Hussie continues to use primitive sprites out of concern for preserving
a high production rate for the comic, and also out of tradition. His earliest works were done all in the
program Microsoft Paint,2 and consisted of simple stick-figure exploits in which the audience could submit
actions for the characters to complete, a format he sustained until partway through Act 1 of Homestuck. New
readers thrown by the seemingly pointless wanderings of protagonist John Egbert in the first act lack prior
1 Queried about his comic's popularity, Hussie stated: "...I don't think I pictured the audience getting this big quite this
fast. In 5 years? Maybe. 2 years? No. If it keeps increasing at similar rates, at the 5 year mark it'll be something ridiculous
that I was completely unprepared for in my most fantastical estimates, and I'll probably have to reevaluate what the fuck
it is I'm actually trying to accomplish here. 1 million readers per day as appears to be the case now still seems somewhat
manageable, primarily if I just don't think about it and keep working on stuff. But what if it's like 20 million in a few
years? I don't even know what to think about that." (:o.)
2 Hence the host website address, home to Homestuck and his other adventures, being mspaintadventures.com.
knowledge of this practice, and as a result this causes some to give up reading. Some are deterred by the
comic's mammoth length, acquired over two and a half years of production. Those who stick it through,
though, typically come out as dedicated serial readers, community members to one of the vast assortment of
online Homestuck lightning rods, fanartists or fanfiction writers, voice actors, or sometimes even producers
of fan-made music. Many choose to start their own adventures, creating sprites of themselves or others in the
style of the comic and embarking on journeys employing the same structure as the main storyline's.3 The
creative freedom is one aspect of the comic that serves to elicit rabid appreciation of Mr. Hussie's work;
however, the art is but one part of why the comic is so widely adored.
The music, the playable levels, and the epic scope of the tale itself all contribute to the addictive
nature of Homestuck. Indeed, the creator accepts an assortment of the work generated by his fans; working
closely with the elite few in private to create fitting aural or visual backdrops for the story's many epic flash
animations. He also uses the cream of the crop of fan art in choosing members of the community to help
supplement his sprite animation with more detailed versions of the heroes. However, the ambiguity of many
points in the story, the way the author wields both cliffhanger and open mystery, even the varying methods
by which people decide to converse, all result in highly compartmentalized multi-faceted subgroups.
There are four primary groups to the fandom, as defined recently during the comic's longest update
hiatus.4 These are 4chan's riotous Homestuck General image-board, the relentlessly long-scrolling blogs of
Tumblr, the tidy and official MSPA website's own various forums, and the broad range of artistic talent to be
found at DeviantArt.
3 This is surprisingly simple to do, as the aforementioned structure surrounds the playing of an intricate game, called
"Sburb." Whether or not it was Hussie's intention to make such pursuits so attainable is yet another topic of much
heated debate between the subroups.
4 This lasted the entirety of two months, preceding the end of Act 5 and concluding in a 13-minute flash animation that
both resolved and opened a number of plot pathways. The fandom sort of began to collapse upon itself, and collectively
started its own fanadventure starring humanizations of each subgroup embarking on their own Sburb quest. In my
analytical mindset, this sounds nothing short of vaguely terrifying. From the inside, though, the end result was somewhat
magical-- especially in the layers of metaphysical depth achieved. Consider the following page:
This is a fan art of a group of people based on other groups of people that discuss a comic.
This is a group of people pretending to be that fan art.
This fan art of a group of people pretending to be the fan art of a group of people based on groups of people that
discuss a comic.
...Yeah, maybe `vaguely' terrifying doesn't quite cut it.
This is not to say other groups don't exist,5 or that these parties are free of overlap-- on the
contrary, the communities still acknowledge themselves as one homogenous assembly, and fan works are so
often shared and shifted between each other it results in an extraordinary, incestuous slurry. All four hold
different levels of respectability,6 though, and aren't shy of vociferous inter-fandom condemnations. All
things considered, it is somewhat bizarre to contemplate; somewhere in the world, there are people sitting at
their computers and doodling websites made into people, and imagining them going on a quest together.
Others are stationed before microphones, reading lines of a chat log between two imaginary people and
posting the product for community review. Yet others are spending their own money on buckets of grey
body paint, wigs, modeling materials and paint to make horns, all with the intent to attend some convention
in costume as a thirteen-year-old alien from a comic on the internet. Each set of the fandom tends to find
these practices less or more acceptable than others, though extremities and exceptions to the rule are both
frequent and ubiquitous. The one variable that remains universally steadfast is that they all, without fail,
worship Andrew Hussie.
On the night of November 28th, 2011, Andrew Hussie opened his personal Tumblr Ask Box for a
little under four minutes. He received over 600 questions, implying a steady rate of two questions per second
(:o). This number sits quivering in shame when compared to the volume of curious quips his Formspring
account once gathered, but that account has since been deactivated in favor of the organization and
accessibility that Tumblr offers. The questioning culprits are now clearly identified as those in the Tumblr
sector of the fandom, whose collective modus operandi is posting fan works to their blogs, or "Tumblrs."
These will appear on subscribers' "dashboards," allowing for a constant feed of Homestuck-related creations.
Some employ the use of their own Askb Box feature by masquerading as the comic's characters and replying
to questions in the form of doodled art. These questions and answers are in turn translated by voice actors
5 I myself maintain a satellite position in the Homestuck Tinychat, all of whom have migrated to Skype due to
technological advantages, and a few of my friends kick around the Steam videogame client chatrooms.
6 This, of course, refers to respect between each other. All subgroups (and individuals within subgroups) tend to have
varying opinions, often depending on which group you're coming from and how far into the fan activities you're willing
to go. Public levels of respect are something I won't even ask myself about, but are often the source of much humor
inter-fandom. Consider: The cover page of this essay. Fan made and self-aware, I think that this demonstrates most
clearly how we rank ourselves amongst the rest of humanity.
into YouTube spots, the more popular7 videos capable of gathering upwards of 100,000 hits within 4 weeks
(Octopimp). One particular YouTube spot has collected x000 hits in the span of x weeks, but for another
Typing "____" into your YouTube search bar will yield a number of results, but none more
unsettling than the first. Sparing you the gruesome details, the video portrays a number of young people
dressed up as Homestuck's grey-skinned, horn-bearing aliens and participating in a ritual not mentioned by
the comic nor sanctioned by the author. As a joke, Hussie mentions in a Troll Romance exposition that trolls
reproduce by atypical means, always involving a bucket to "collect genetic material." Therefore, buckets are
an item of great humor in the Homestuck fandom, and these children decided to interpret "genetic material"
as spit, all taking turns passing around and depositing their own genetic material into a bucket. When the rest
of the fandom discovered the video there was a collective uproar of revulsion and disgust and, while
redundant, no amount of synonyms can describe the intensity of the reaction. Dressing up as comic
characters, or "xosplaying," had already been generally looked down upon by the collective as it was most
frequently practiced by those of
The following paragraphs will discuss headcanons, various __stucks, inter-fandom celebrities,
cosplaying [who does, who doesn't, who cares, the famous ones, the infamous ones], the bucket video
[reactions, both inner/outer fandom], other nearby fandoms and their views on us, voice-acting, conventions,
photo-shoots, shipping, tumblr's "homestuck prom," hussie, his role in the fandom and his [lack of] attitude
Perhaps these are the kids that might smell funny or have little in common with you, that might act a
bit shyly towards you when forced together in some wretched group assignment. These are the kids that wear
too many rainbows or colors, who are more often than not a bit shy of physically, uh, "ideal." These people
are all varieties of freaks, but they're my freaks, and the sheer magnitude of their fervor is in itself admirable or
7 Popularity stems from the casting of a famed voice actor, featuring a talented artist or favored comic character, perhaps
a particularly stimulating title, etc.
even forgivable, in the amount of creativity it generates and the unique position in which the HS fandom is
capable of creating.
Anonymous. "Let Me Tell You About Homestuck." Photograph/Image Macro. Know Your Meme. Homestuck,
Unknown. Web. 28 Nov. 2011.
Hussie, Andrew. "Suppose Homestuck becomes..." Dropbox - Formspring Archive. Web. 30 Nov. 2011.
Project Wonderful. "Advertise on MS Paint Adventures!" Project Wonderful. Web. 30 Nov. 2011.
:o [Hussie, Andrew]. "Ansrews (*ansrews)." mspandrew. Tumblr, 29, Nov. 2011. Web. 4 Dec. 2011.
Octopimp, Alex. "sObEr HaLlOwEeN." Video. Youtube. 31 Oct. 2011. Web. 29 Nov. 2011. <