Here’s something that often surprises a lot of my nerd peers: I’ve never read Homestuck. Outside of one aborted attempt sometime during high school, I managed to surf right through the comic’s peak years of popularity around 2011-2012. I have countless friends who were into it at the time, sure, but beyond what I’ve learned from them it’s all a complete mystery to me.
Until now. Given Hiveswap Act I’s recent release, I figure it’s now the perfect time to do what has been a long time coming: attempt to read Homestuck in its entirety and, of course, document my experiences on here for your viewing pleasure.
Here’s a quick list of what I know already:
Homestuck is about four 13 year olds who play a game together.
In Act IV, they meet a bunch of weird gray zodiac aliens online. These are the trolls. Fans love them.
At some point in the canon there’s some weird swap where the kids’ parents ARE the kids but it’s in a different universe?
Because the cast wasn’t already big enough, there’s also ANOTHER set of trolls who are the main trolls’ ancestors or something.
I’m not quite sure who the villain of Homestuck is, though. I think there’s a big anthro wolf involved at some point? There are also some green aliens who might possibly be evil as well.
Andrew Hussie himself apparently shows up in the canon so maybe he’s the villain?
Everyone dies several times but always gets better.
And now, with all of that out in the open, we begin our awful, strange adventure with the iconic scene of John Egbert standing alone in his bedroom on his 13th birthday.
It’s April 13th, 2009, which is a familiar date to me because I know that 4/13, is, like, the Homestuck day. John being 13 means he was born in ’96. Good for him! I was born in May ’94, which means I could’ve kicked his ass easily had we met at that time.
John’s first action is to try and find a pair of arms, which I’m assuming is commentary on how he infamously lacks them. We realize that we have been tricked, however, when he instead pulls out a pair of fake arms that one might find on a mannequin. What a gag!
These arms go into the sylladex, a pink inventory system of sorts, and this is where I start wrinkling my brow in confusion. I know that Homestuck has a lot of weird adventure game humor and that’s kind of its thing but this is something that didn’t vibe with me as a teen and doesn’t vibe with me now. I love adventure games, but something about inventory shenanigans just doesn’t elicit the same type of joy.
John (or “you”, anyway; I’m not quite sure who’s calling the shots here) goes through the rest of his magic treasure chest and finds a ton of weird yet very specific stuff relating to magic tricks. He takes out some smoke pellets and the sylladex system immediately starts to complain. You see, John can’t use the fake arms in his inventory anymore because the smoke pellets are now on top of the stack – and you CAN’T defy the stack order, of course. If Andrew Hussie manages to keep these weird inventory jokes up for all 8,000 pages, I’ll be both impressed and horrified.
Next to a stoic birthday message from his father is a poster that requires a hammer and nails to be put up. We learn now that when John picks up more than four items, the oldest one physically falls out of his inventory. Admittedly that’s kind of a fun take on inventory systems, but I’m still reading all this with my arms crossed.
After some shenanigans, John finally manages to hammer his poster to the wall. It’s for a movie called Little Monsters, which I’d never heard of but is a real film about a boy who discovers monsters under his bed. Thematically relevant perhaps? Probably not.
John is bitter that something called SBURB was supposed to have its beta launch on the 10th, but it doesn’t seem to have worked out. SBURB, I believe, is the game that these kids play throughout the story. It’s pronounced “suburb”.
He gets a message on Pesterchum, which is a messaging client on his computer. Pesterchum uses this sort of very specific and faux-fancy vernacular that is endemic to Homestuck. Words like “chummy”, “chipper”, or “rancorous” can never really be used in everyday speech, but they’re kind of funny ironically.
Someone with the screenname turntechGodhead starts pestering (AKA messaging) John. I’m assuming this is Dave Strider because his text is in red and as we all know that is Dave’s color. They have a cryptic conversation about the hit film Little Monsters and the SBURB beta. Dave isn’t too eager to play it, but I know what this comic is about so tough luck, Dave.
To check if the beta might have finally arrived, John goes to check the mail, because this is an age before instant digital download of all computer games. However, before he can get to the mailbox, his father pulls into the driveway. John, like any self-respecting young person living with their parents, doesn’t want to get pulled into a long conversation with his dad so he decides to stay holed up in his room.
Dave keeps pestering him about the game despite reportedly not caring, and then gives John some tips on how to handle his sylladex. There’s something called a strife specibus to which he’s supposed to allocate a hammer and hell if I know what that means.
His hammer becomes permanently affixed to his specibus and haha I understand this joke because isn’t John’s main weapon throughout the story a big blue hammer? Can’t pull a fast one on me, Hussie.
We learn a very small bit more about SBURB by reading its review in GameBro, a PRINT MAGAZINE. Can you imagine getting your game reviews from anything other than YouTube or aggregate sites? This particular review is pretty uninformative since Game Bro didn’t actually play SBURB, but it does have some classic 2009-era bro puns. Brotel Rwanda, indeed. We also learn that the game is about playing house, which, based on how far I’ve read, isn’t necessarily false.
John then puts together a hat and some funny glasses as a disguise so he can go downstairs and get the mail from his dad. We learn that his dad has a weird obsession with clowns – or, rather, harlequins, as he prefers to call them.
Normally I would pass off this mention of Betty Crocker (with even a link to her Wiki page!) as just a weird one-off joke, but I did click through to the page in question, as you can too, and it contains a few choice facts about her role in Homestuck, so…I guess we’re in this for the long run.
John takes the opportunity to burn this issue of GameBro in the fireplace. He looks upon a portrait of his deceased Nanna, who I know is a character at some point. I guess she comes back as a ghost? But then he topples her urn! John, what is your DEAL?
Not before receiving a freakishly large harlequin as a gift from his father, he uses his capchalogue system (which is the same thing as the sylladex?) to put her ashes back in the urn, but it will never quite be the same again. I hope you’re pleased with yourself, John.
Back in his room, John gets a Pesterchum message from another friend, tentacleTherapist, which sure sounds like, uh…something. TT types with purple text and proper grammar, as 13 year olds are wont to do, so this must be Rose Lalonde. She’s very excited about SBURB and encourages John to go downstairs and check the mail. Will John finally make the ultimate sacrifice of speaking with his father in order to get his game?!
Not until he perfects his disguise, no. He enters his father’s study and changes hats. While he’s at it, he also plays a haunting piano refrain – a surprisingly good tune! This is the first instance of a Homestuck page having sound, and I’m actually excited to get to some of the other music later on.
At LAST John goes outside to check the mail, but to no avail; it has already been taken by his father. He’s going to have to do something, but before that:
The title sequence.
Along with some ominous sound design, this text down below has really got me a bit intrigued about what kind of creepy stuff is to come next for John and pals. This is such a weird dark spot of suburban teen angst among all the weird jokes, and I suspect it’s moments like these that make Homestuck ultimately worth reading.
Or I hope so, anyway. There’s got to be something in between all these movie references.
NEXT TIME: John finally acquires and installs SBURB? God, I hope so.