Jun 13, 2013

Homestuck: An Introduction

By Ian Cory

If you’re reading this, it means Homestuck has returned. That might mean a lot to you, but chances are it does not. As such, this article will be part announcement, part advocacy (and apparently, all alliteration). Luckily, the former will almost certainly necessitate the later.

So first, the announcement. As part of our ongoing mission to talk critically about interesting art and pop culture phenomena, I will be doing weekly coverage of Homestuck as it enters the home stretch of its run. Due to the somewhat unconventional nature of Homestuck’s update schedule, this might cause some weeks to be significantly more eventful than others. To offset any lull periods, I’ll also be discussing older sections of the story that relate to current pages, pointing out as many visual and textual callbacks as I can, and generally trying to break down what makes Homestuck, Homestuck. My goal is to approach Homestuck from a serious critical perspective without tumbling down the stairs of cultish fandom or getting too caught up in wild speculation about where the comic is heading. I believe Homestuck is an incredible and groundbreaking piece of art, and should be treated as such by the critical community at large.

“Okay, but what is Homestuck and why should I care?” you say. Here’s where the advocacy comes in. At its core, Homestuck is a webcomic. Sometimes it’s a video game, other times it’s a flash animation, most of the time it is sequential images pared with text. Homestuck is also massive, with its total word count peaking over 700,000 and still growing. After four years of nearly continuous daily updates Homestuck has grown into what is perhaps the Internet’s first transcendent story. It is certainly a work of art that could only exist on the Internet, and tells a story that might only make sense to someone well versed in Internet culture.

But beyond being the living embodiment of what Scott McCloud dreamed of while writing Reinventing Comics, Homestuck is important because it’s really fucking good. Andrew Hussie started the comic with a sharp and irreverent sense of humor, and as morphed into an excellent dramatic writer without losing an ounce of what made him and his work funny in the first place. I have read no other author who so deftly captures what teenagers sound like when talking on the Internet while also treating them with dignity and respect*. Homestuck may occasionally veer a bit too deep into smartass-post-modern-meta-humor but Hussie always matches those moments of excess with compassionate and emotionally resonant content.

I don’t really want to tell you much about the story, as I believe it that some of the more insane narrative leaps it takes are best read from a blank slate, but in the most simplified terms, Homestuck is about a group of kids growing up on the Internet. Again, that’s it at the most basic possible level; the story is rife with visual symbolism and themes that far outstrip the scope that such a description implies.
If you decide to take the plunge, I’d recommend not reading my coverage, as it will be filled to the brim with spoilers. If you’re already caught up, excellent! I am excited to take this journey into the unknown and the absurd with company. See you in a week.

*The closest I’ve seen is in Margaret by Kenneth Lonergan, one of my favorite films of all time.

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