Session Eight: Back in the Saddle

11/22/09 – 1/15/10
pages 886 – 1152

Oh man, the updates. I admit, every time I’ve got to MSPaintadventures.com I’ve automatically been clicking on the forum link to see what people are saying in the comics discussion instead of focusing on reading my allotted pages. Enough time has passed that I’ve absorbed it and can re-focus. I’m back in the saddle again, ready for adventure.

Our scene opens in a kingdom entrenched in darkness.

I mentioned before about slow builds and how they give the audience awhile to adjust to new ideas, especially in early Homestuck. Whenever we see some new feature we’re intrigued and interested, but not baffled. Everything’s been foreshadowed so we’re expecting something, even if we’re not entirely sure what. This is a clever approach when you consider how strange the setting we’re dealing with is and how much we’re capable of taking in stride.

Dad is not taking to captivity. If part of Hussie’s goal was to see how likable he could make a character with no eyes and no voice, this was a good way to go about it. You can’t help but feel for Dad. He didn’t ask for this. He was humbly going about his business celebrating his son’s birthday and suddenly his house is ransacked and he’s dragged off by monsters to some mysterious fortress. This reminds me of the Bugs Bunny principle, Bugs can be as mean as he wants so long as he doesn’t start the fight. Notice that during his strife with John he never used his fists, just a cake. We don’t see all of what Dad is capable of until a moment when we can feel justified in cheering him on.

Of course he’s not above using cake on imps, any trick that works.

We are now…

the Peregrine Mendicant on her journey through the skies.

We establish two things about her quickly, one that she has a bar code on her wrist like WV, and second that mail is serious business. Like many things in Homestuck  this is a joke, and yet not a joke. PM is a defender of the light of knowledge, free communication and the exchange of ideas, all themes that are at the heart of this story.

Considering what she’s already sacrificed and how much more she has to go through, that tear makes a lot of sense.

PM has a look at the monitor device in her little pod and we finally see the fourth screen.

PM recognizes the girl and tries to contact her. Interestingly, in spite of the time bending powers we’ve witnessed, trying to access this monitor before the audience has seen Jade enter The Medium causes it to malfunction. This seems, once again, to link these devices to the people reading the comic, to us.

Computer explosions have a fairly large role to play in this story.

Meanwhile, Rose is still wandering around Skaianet Laboratory even though it’s due to be unestablished in mere minutes. She finds a child’s tea set, scarf and bedroom, with wizard and cat dolls. The theory is that this is Mom’s room since later we will establish that her bedroom in the house has nothing but booze and a transportalizer in it. You do have to wonder about the woman.

I grudgingly admit that the wizard dolls are cute.

We also see more examples of Rose’s prominent silly side (as brought to us by reader commands I do not doubt) as she decides to “Wear the Scarf. Be the Rider.”

Moments from fiery death, that’s all I’m saying.

But isn’t it always the way when you do something goofy, someone always turns up to see it.

John in the interim is going about collecting that grist the crude ogres dropped, which means descending down into his father’s bedroom.

Does he dare the clowns?

Jade has made it to the foyer where Grandpa Harley awaits. I notice that he has more trophies that could only come from an Sburb session, not to mention a rather curious fireplace.

Jade runs into a globe while trying to dart through the foyer. She decides to sneak past instead but is foiled once again by her narcolepsy.

Jade’s introduction has been less about breaking the established pattern so much as throwing a chink in it. Her strife(?) with Grandpa Harley calls back to the flute mini game, so we know it isn’t for real. Just as the bass turned out to be Jade’s true instrument, someone else will be her true Guardian.

I find Jade’s argument with her dead grandfather to be cute, understandable and tragic all at once. The line “He was so much easier to deal with when he was alive” says a lot. We do tend to build up versions of people in our heads, especially people like parents and grandparents. You just know what your grandmother is going to say about you spending so much time reading webcomics when you’re supposed to be working, right?

PM survived the explosion by the way. She and the metal sentries are friends now.

Rose and her new friend go back to examining gadgetry. She’s found an appearifier. This one is locked on to Jaspers from nine years ago, back when Rose would have been about four. She and her cat are undergoing one of their therapy sessions, which says everything we need to know about her childhood. Rose attempts to create a time paradox and ends up creating more slime, but this time we start to see ways in which that slime might be useful.

If this is Mom’s real bedroom then it was probably her who was messing around with the appearifier. Appearifying and alchemizing seem to be tied in directly to the sort of void powers Roxy has now. So can we attribute her lack of success to excessive drinking?

Anyway, on screen Jaspers tells Rose a secret and then vanishes from even the sight of these strange reality distorting devices.

His body washed up in the river about a week later. I’m really happy that this mystery wasn’t dropped as the comic evolved, it would have driven me nuts. The “Chorale for Jaspers” sounds like a slowed down “Showtime” with cat noises edited in but I’m not a music person so I might be mixing up the tunes involved.

Hey, remember Trickster Mode?

Homestuck wear the scarf be the rider
Wear the scarf. Be the rider.

Rose realizes what happened to Jaspers body; she fulfills her temporal obligations and formulates an escape plan.

Ten seconds to spare.

Bec, it turns out, is immune to Jade’s special sight which must mean he is somehow invisible to Skaia itself, hmm… He doesn’t turn up, quite, so Jade goes looking for the package that dropped from the sky while she was playing her bass.

John meanwhile is in his father’s room, which turns out to be… disappointingly ordinary.

Homestuck Dad's room

Turns out John never bothered to actually ask his dad what he did for a living, he just assumed he was a clown, but now it seems like he was an ordinary business man.

Though that may depend on your definition of “ordinary”.

Who’s this guy?

In an interesting twist on the kids’ introductions, it’s Andrew Hussie who tries and fails to enter a name for our new character.

Though that has a nice ring to it.

When that doesn’t work he “takes another stab at it” (how appropriate) and commands the fellow to state his name and rank. This it seems is Archagent Jack Noir who oversees things in the Dark Kingdom. He watches events through his Fenestrated Walls, of which he only has three because the fourth was stolen.

Psst, it’s in Jade’s room.

Jack harbors a deep hatred for his mandatory attire, especially the hat. This is a crucial plot point. We see him summon someone who looks awfully familiar to deal with the prisoner.

The bar codes once again establishing the sort of being we’re dealing with.

The black queen makes her first appearance, taking issue with Jack’s wardrobe.

Pictured: Dad, taking care of business.

Dad is the image of an impeccable father figure, he had better birthday presents for John stashed in the back. I bet that stupid harlequin doll was meant as a gag gift. I can remember when I had a strict policy about saving the biggest present for last. Anyway, John starts with the smallest.

I remember being disappointed when the Array fetch modus was introduced because it was too useful. John soon fixed that of course, though now I wonder if Array is what he’s using all the time. Next, he unwraps some gushers, and then finally some spiffy new threads. Remember when the characters in this comic used to change their clothes?

John plays around with his new inventory system and goes for the Gushers, but…

IS NOTHING SACRED?!?

Jade attempts to retrieve her package but first she has to face down her devilbeast. The first time I ran into this strife I found it boring. Now I realize how important it is, it establishes Bec’s powers. If I’d paid closer attention, Aradia’s later use of Bec Noir as a transportalizer might have made sense to me.

Homestuck Bec the first guardian

I’m not a huge fan of “Dissension” though I do like “Carefree Victory” as a contrast. The former feels over dramatic, though I suppose this is an important moment, one that I overlooked initially.

Jade is all tuckered out after that. Bec tucks her into bed, awww.

Rose has made it back to her mother’s bedroom, which as I mentioned has no bed.

Mom’s alcoholism has been downplayed in light of recent events, but I do think it’s terrible. Rose might have been overstating the differences between herself and her Guardian, their passive aggressive struggle, but she has a legitimate complaint to make. This is some weird bullshit even for a comic.

Also, it’s a hell of a fire hazard.

While Rose’s house goes up like a Molotov Cocktail, John messes about creating more punch cards to alchemize, and Jade is all snuggled up in bed and having sweet dreams when this thing appears.

This is Jade’s dreambot, it’s synced up with her dreamself.  She uses it to obliquely foreshadow the distant future.

Dream Jade attempts to climb into bed but can’t sleep. She feels this heavy metallic presence pressing down on her. I realize, belatedly, that Jade’s narcolepsy might well spring from her dreamself’s chronic exhaustion.

Dreamselves can fly. This is one of those things we just accept.

This is the second time (I believe) that we see the GT initials. The first was during in-universe MSPA’s intermission.

There’s a gentle jab at the audience, teasing us about having to wait to find out what’s in this package. This brings us back into the past.

Things to note: the month on the calendar and the scribbles on the wall.

John and Jade discuss birthday presents. I think having all his friends birthdays fall close together probably makes them easier to remember. Anyway, it turns out that all the kids have been dealing with trolls. Jade in particular has had to cope with twelve of the motherfuckers for years. She’s actually come to be amused by some of them. John decides to change his chumhandle to throw them off. I remembered reading something Hussie wrote about this on formspring so I went and sifted through the old archives to find it.

There is further rationale for John’s defection from the pattern, from GT to EB, which possibly will never be explained in the story. What caused him to defect was the trolls, a group ostensibly lead by CG, whose name obviously implies cancerous disruption within a genetic system, or a DNA code. His cancerous influence causes a defect in the full string of genetic characters, from GT TT TG GG | CG GC GA AG AC CA TA AT TC CT AA CC to EB TT TG GG | CG GC GA AG AC CA TA AT TC CT AA CC. This is the nature of cancer, to corrupt genetic data. There may be additional relevance to the fact that John defected to ectoBiologist, the name of a pseudo-science sounding similar to carcinoGeneticist. In fact, I believe this will prove to be relevant later on.

We all know that Homestuck failed biology forever when it comes to how genes and cancer work, but I still find this interesting. It shows two things about Karkat. The first and foremost being his harmful influence on the universe he created. The second is the tendency of people to fall in line behind him, to do what he says and imitate him even when they don’t like him.

Back in the present, such as it is, John and Rose have made it back to their respective rooms. I find Rose’s dedication to continuing to play amazing, and yet what else is there to do? She does, rather pointedly, ask after Dave and her response to John’s statement that he’s probably off fighting his Bro is somewhat flat.

They discuss what to do next and John points out how the imps have trashed his room. Rose says that his room has always looked that way to her and provides pictures to prove it. John’s aghast and believes for a moment that she must have doctored the photos before realizing she’d have no reason to do so. We, being astute readers, noticed the scribbles on the wall back when he was talking to Jade in December. Did I say that John’s false epiphany about his father was useless? Not entirely so, it seems to have dropped the scales from John’s eyes, and thus ours as well. Or perhaps it was the Crocker Gusher revelation, one or the other. I wonder again how much the kids’ perspectives influence what we see. I also note that when confronted by Rose about his posters, John starts typing in ALL CAPS.

Back in the future…

WV has run into problems, mainly there’s no way down off his pod. Fortunately, someone left a bunch of cable hanging from some kind of harpoon up on the ruins. He dashes inside to appearify the cable but ends up with the blue package instead. There is a note.

The interesting thing about chess people is how incredibly faithful some of them are. They don’t really know Jade but they’ll do anything to deliver her package for her. This doesn’t have anything to do with alignment either. WV and PM both share this dedication to helping others. I find it endearing even if it’s part of their programming and not entirely born of altruism. Jack Noir and his gang certainly aren’t so trustworthy.

Considering the chess people are so black and white, we’re about to meet one who’s a little more grey.

Meet the Aimless Rebel. He only gets one introductory panel, and he’s preparing to take down WV and PM.

Rose not only manages to focus on the game while her house is burning down around her, she helps John through his mental break.

TT: I might have to adopt a different building strategy.
TT: Stick to more load-bearing walls, and blockier shapes, especially since grist has been easier to come by lately.
EB: ok, but you really must be running low on time by now, right?
TT: Right.
EB: STRIIIIIIDEEEERRRRRRRR!!!!!

Homestuck Prospit reveal

Dream Jade jams on her bass for us. It turns out that “ohgodwhat” from her remix list was simply the introduction to this piece, which is “The Beginning of Something Really Awesome”. This is an entirely appropriate selection for the animation that names Prospit. It’s also a long time favorite on my Homestuck playlist.

Dream Jade goes exploring, which causes Dreambot to also go out flying over the island. We see in the two images the similarities between the settings. There is a strong relationship between the island with the Frog Temple and this golden planet.

Jade sees someone familiar.

WV manages to restrain himself from eating the deliciously green letter long enough to read it.

I don’t think I noticed the first time through, but when PM first sees WV she goes for her sword. The only reason she doesn’t attack him is that AR beats her to it.

The artwork in the exiles story is often more striking than that of the rest of the comic.

AR fires on both of them and they end up taking cover behind the same rock.

Back on Prospit, Jade goes to check out her neighbor in the next tower. Now we know what Jade meant when she said she was literally waiting for John to wake up.

I was so enamored with the idea of dreamselves once upon a time. I don’t know as the comic ever found time to really explore to concept. They ended up being dismissed as “extra lives” when they felt like so much more.

John plays around with alchemizing, trying different ways of combining cards. He makes himself even more new clothes, some wearable computer glasses, a gigantic hammer, some healing ectoplasm gushers, ghost hand gloves that allow him to remotely wield the gigantic hammer, a razor blade umbrella that will sadly never see use, and the Betty Crocker Barbasol Bomb.

This would be what Hussie calls retroactive foreshadowing.

He finds out that you can also remake items by playing around with hole punches. He uses this method to save his Ghost Dad poster (ugh). I feel like the question “What would the combination of the Problem Sleuth poster and the hammer have made?” got answered at some point and I’ve forgotten it. Does anyone remember?

There’s also the Wrinklefucker.

So awesome.

This is how the tradition of holiday grist spending, hoard building came to be. Doesn’t your heart warm at the thought? I know mine does.

Meanwhile, on the roof…

Homestuck Bro Versus Dave

I was worried this flash would give me feelings the way the last one did, but actually it’s very quick. This is the strife where Bro breaks Dave’s sword and the record on his shirt, also the one where Lil’ Cal is torn apart. This is something else I struggle with. Lil’ Cal is a juju, we have been told, so that means he can’t be destroyed unless a copy is introduced into the timeline. I know there are people out there who have charted this puppet’s timeline. Does anyone want to explain how this works better than I can? Finally, if we’re going with the theory that Cal was influencing Bro’s behavior the whole time, does this affect how Bro behaves later? Many people have been pointing out how Bro does seem to want to protect Dave. Perhaps he was briefly freed from the evil mannequin’s malign influence?

On a side note, I find “Versus” to be a much more bearable rendition of “Beatdown.”

There’s another animation only two pages later, it’s an expanded version of John’s dream earlier. This time we get Jade’s perspective as well, and we learn what was up with that meteor that crashed. Actually, she was dreaming about Bec’s arrival on planet Earth, which is another thing we now know to be tied in with Sburb and Skaia. We also see Bec preventing Jade from entering the Frog Temple. I like how the pesterlog is incorporated into the animation so that the conversation doesn’t feel separate from the surrounding events but properly part of the overall flow. Jade’s next chat with John is considerably less annoying now that we know what’s up. Jade decides to sneak out her window while Bec’s taking a nap and we see the events that led up to WV appearifying the package in the distant future.

Rose has been hard at work.

Dave regroups and finally gets in touch with Rose. She is in her room, contemplating the fire outside and her birthday present to John. We head back in time to see what prompted this facetious show of sentimentality. I find John’s letter to Rose to be surprisingly mean. What’s so depressing about an interest in horrorterrors? Who asked you, John? Anyway, Rose must have decided he meant well because she accepts the gift. This segues into the first conversation we see between Rose and Kanaya. It is hilarious in hindsight.

By contrast, John’s letter to Dave is surprisingly sweet and encouraging. He’s definitely right about Dave needing to break free and forge his own identity apart from his Bro. Like I said before, Dave doesn’t just wear those glasses as a joke; he makes them part of his identity and I don’t think it’s anything to do with irony. Again, in light of recent events and Dave’s admission of feeling totally unloved through his first thirteen years of life, this gift obviously meant a great deal.

This segues into the first conversation with Tavros. It was hilarious then, it is hilarious now. I can’t help but notice that Dave uses Rose’s ethnic wedding joke. Now we can attribute it to them being related, rather than being written by the same dude.

Meanwhile, AR is still trying to decide if he wants to shoot the interlopers on his self proclaimed territory. He’s an interesting fellow. Unlike WV, he hasn’t entirely rejected the kingdom he came from and he’s still struggling to enforce it’s laws. The ban on depicting amphibians for example.

Retcon spotted.

He’s found one of Grandpa Harley’s weapon stashes and he can’t let go of his old sense of order. He’s even less able to break free of patterns than WV is. PM too is not entirely free from old habits, as her nearly avoided attack demonstrates.

This is probably some kind of coping mechanism. Yeah…

PM reads the letter from Jade, but it’s instructions don’t quite match up.

Until AR takes a hand in things.

WV distracts AR, getting himself blown sky high in the process, so that PM can deliver Jade’s package. Which arrives many years in the past on a young girl’s birthday.

Thus John sends a package so late that it arrives several years early.

Inside the package is a T-shirt with a blue slime ghost, to match with John’s green slime ghost (I hadn’t realized before but John and Jade are wearing each other’s colors, green ghost and blue atom), and some packets of pumpkin seeds. In his letter, he thanks Jade for introducing him to Rose and Dave. Since Jade doesn’t know any of these people she’s intrigued. She decides to ask her grandfather to let her plant pumpkins in the atrium and try out gardening.

Remember what I said earlier about Karkat’s influence over people? This is a trait he shares with John. Subtly, gently, without really meaning to, John shapes the course of his friends’ lives. The changes he makes are so small, yet so fundamental, that they affect everything.

But enough of that, it’s time for another story transition.

Jack is preparing to finish Dad off himself when…

You release the prisoner. He is free to go.

It’s these little touches that keep Jack from being someone I straight up hate.

Jade uses a Legend of Zelda reference to reach the Frog Temple and Dave’s finally installing the beta. I love their little exchange.

TG: alright im installing this game finally
TT: Where doing this man?
TG: yeah
TG: you could almost say
TG: where making this
TT: Go on.
TT: What is it where making this?
TG: TRANSPIRE
TG:
TT: Excellent.
TT: Let’s make shit take place.


I don’t have a lot to say about Enter other than that it’s still one of my favorite moments in Homestuck. There are a lot of little links being connected, Dave breaking the wizard’s arm, Jade retrieving Dave’s copy of Sburb, Nannasprite writing that letter and sending it off to John, the pod WV found being the cork of the bottle Rose broke to gain entry to the Medium.

All the kids’ entries are a reference to some kind of beginning. John’s was about sacrificing innocence in order to gain knowledge and humanity, and thus mortality. Rose breaks a bottle like she’s launching a ship on its maiden voyage. She also takes a leap of faith, which is quite an act for someone who has been shown up to this point as being deeply distrustful of others. She’s mentioned her doubts about Dave’s reliability on multiple occasions, well-founded doubts it must be said. He comes through at the last moment, but the video seems to make a point of it being Jaspers who saves her in the end, not Dave. Though it could be argued that Jaspers was able to save her because Dave did was he was supposed to before running off after the birds in his room. Perhaps I’m reading too much into a moment that was simply meant to build suspense, but I don’t think we’re meant to give Dave any credit for saving Rose, not yet.

We zoom out from John’s house as the scope of our story expands yet again.

And so Act 3 ends.

Before I go anywhere I want to show you something Draconaes made for me over on the forum, ’tis a thing of beauty.

Behold!

You too can join The Roxening.

So yes, my 2k word limit was a polite fiction that I never managed to maintain. I either need to cover fewer pages or say less. The trouble is, it’s hard to follow one piece of narrative in Homestuck to it’s conclusion because the whole thing jumps around so much. Well, if you’ve made it to Session Eight, you’ve proven a willingness to read. Now we’re on Intermission. The Management would like to take this opportunity to remind you not to bleed on the suits.

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Session Seven: Fruits On The Loose

10/13/09 – 11/21/09
pages 759 – 885

This is not the last time a letter to or from John will fill a story break. Nanna’s knowledge of the future is going to have an in-game explanation, so to speak. This is something I’ve always appreciated, the way characters never just know things “because magic.” There’s always an interesting reason behind it. Nannasprite might descend into blurb speak here but she nevertheless earns my respect; she shares my views on ensuring regular mealtimes for teenagers.

Act 3 proper begins with the introduction of our much portended fourth player. Poor Jade, the arc of the story has guaranteed her an uphill battle in the popularity poll. As I mentioned before, Dave hit the sweet spot and now Jade’s left in the mud.

This is an apt representation of Jade’s entry into the story.

There’s a few ways in which this manifests. For one, I find it telling that our first description of Jade is as a silly girl who partakes in silly antics. I don’t think Hussie had any other personality traits planned out for her. Notice how the majority of her introduction focuses on her belongings and situation rather than her personality and personal interests. This is always a really bad sign in Homestuck. If all we know of a character is that she’s the heiress of a multi-billion dollar baking fortune and has a bit of a thing for detectives, or that he lives on an island and… I don’t even know, has some people with crushes on him, then we’re in for a rough ride.

She’s at a further disadvantage given the conversations we’ve already seen. Dave and Rose were introduced early and got to serve roles in the tutorial phase of the story. We saw them helping John out, explaining things and solving problems. We’ve gotten to know them through their interactions with one another and with the world around them, the best possible way we could come to know them. Jade’s role so far has been to provide foreshadowing, to feed the audience mystery crumbs and bait our curiosity. This makes sense from a narrative standpoint but makes her look awful as a character. There is no reason for her to be so coy with her best friends. This is something the sprites do which the kids complain about, but there is, once again, an in-game explanation for this behavior. Jade is just being obnoxious. John might be too obtuse to believe her about dreamselves, but Rose could certainly be persuaded to listen. Because she’s been stuck in this role, all of Jade’s exchanges with other characters have been brief and cryptic. The main thing we know about her is that she possesses information she shouldn’t have had access to, and even this will turn out to be through means that are common to half of all Sburb players and nothing to do with her personally.

Finally, there was no way Jade could have been introduced at this point without it being annoying. We’ve just partaken of the thrill and perplexity that is WV: Ascend, and now we’ve got to stop and look at this silly girl’s stuffies.

None of this is to say that Jade is a bad character. On this read through I can pick out the hints of her personality even early on. She’s not nearly as silly as she seems. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that she is the most practical of the kids. She is the least easily distracted, the most straight forward thinker, and a focused go-getter. What impresses me about her is that she’s all those things without being presented as some kind of alpha girl who is driven to be perfect at everything, quite the opposite. She has no image that she’s trying to protect. She is the most emotionally open of the kids. John probably still beats her out as most openhearted, but only because in some ways he has no sense at all. Jade simply does what she sees as best, regardless of personal cost, without hesitation. That is heroic.

But before we can see any of that we have to wake our heroine up.

What pumpkin?

We see where that pumpkin WV appearified originated from. I do think Jade’s note is a nice touch. Hussie trapped himself into repeating the same jokes over and over. I know that feeling. I set a precedent of coming up with punny titles for each of these sessions even though I could already see the bottom of that particular barrel the first time I reached into it.

It’s notable that Jade’s interest is in horticulture, as contrasted with Kanaya’s interest in gardening and landscaping. It implies a more scientific frame of mind.

I proceed to spend way too much time playing around with the flute. We then see a terrifying number of potential fetch modi. Jade, predictably, goes for the Memory modus. There’s another recurring gag to get through and then we examine Jade’s colorful reminders. Jade is in sprite mode so she only has four fingers.

Retcon spotted.

The teleporter… excuse me, the transportalizer bears a striking resemblance to an appearifier. They must all come from the same manufacturer.

One thing Jade has going for her is a proper appreciation for fresh produce.

Jade’s bedroom and list of interests are a good example of what I was getting at before. Every kids’ situation had to be weirder than the last, which means the list of her stuff takes up two full pages and her Guardian is a WORLD RENOWNED EXPLORER-NATURALIST-TREASURE HUNTER-ARCHEOLOGIST-SCIENTIST-ADVENTURER-BIG GAME HUNTER-BILLIONAIRE EXTRAORDINAIRE(sic) as opposed to a simple scientist or rapping puppet pornographer. We’re told that Jade knows nuclear physics and is a skilled engineer as well as a prognosticator, but all this feels like puffery since we haven’t seen her in action. I do take note of the interesting window-like device in the corner.

We’ve been hearing quite a bit about Jade’s mysterious pet. Now we get the full name Becquerel. (He’s named after one of the discovers of radioactivity, Antoine Henri Becquerel. We know he’s famous because spellcheck recognizes that name while failing to acknowledge that “puffery” is a word.) She’s going to go feed him, but only after checking in with John. The page where she captchaplogues her rifle is one of the ones that won’t load an image on my computer for some reason. Will these mysteries never cease?

Speaking of mysteries, the image on Jade’s shirt changes and we see our first example of a wardrobifier. This is setup for a poll to decide what symbol she’ll wear. I’m not counting but this feels like it’s taking even longer than Dave’s introduction. Anyway, squiddles…. squiddles. These things will become relevant in the only way they conceivably could, as avatars of the horrorterrors who dwell in the furthest ring. I think we all felt something like that must be going on the first time we saw Teletubbies. I’m tempted to call this session early, but I look at the log and decide I can plow through this. We should all be grateful that Manthro Chaps didn’t become a thing.

We could have had 6,000 more pages of this.

A Taste For Adventure comes up on my playlist and lifts my spirits. The atom wins the shirt poll and we see something interesting in the form of the volcano that powers the geothermic generator for Jade’s house. If anyone can remember WV: Ascend by this point, this gives us an indicator as to Jade’s location, not just geographically but in the grand scheme of things.

Also, that’s a good use of coloring, very pretty.

We get some foreshadowing about Jade’s desire to become a human animal hybrid. There’s something very mad scientist about her monologue. I’m surprised that in the alternate universe where she grew to adulthood on Earth she focused on robotics rather than genetics. Jake’s lucky the monsters he was fighting weren’t created by his own grandmother. I suppose it was her love of nuclear physics that lured her away from the mystery of the gene. That’s neither here nor there, however. I find Jade’s dismissal of the idea of fursuits and fursonas to be indicative of her ultimately serious personality. Also her box is definitely not magic, it is a Gadget Chest.

Jade is not amused.

I like how Hussie takes a moment to make fun of his own wordplay, joking that “refrigerator” must be a wacky variation of “REFRIGIFYIFICATOR”. We examine the remaining contents of the chest and Jade demonstrates the inaccuracy of Magic 8 Balls by asking hers if today is John’s birthday.

This actually turns out to be correct.

Magic Cue Balls on the other hand are a hundred percent accurate but cannot be read.

These things are terrifying.

There’s a fake memory match game. I feel a little robbed, Memory being one of the few games I’m actually good at. I wonder if the captions here represent Jade’s thoughts. “FROZEN FUCKING TUNDRA” doesn’t sound like her, but I know who it does sound like. Probably best not to dwell too much on this, we are breaking the fourth wall here.

Congratulations, you advance your matching skill to the new level: YUKON HERO: LEGACY OF THE FROSTBITE AMPUTEE.

I love Hussie’s little wordplay jokes about “rude hunger” and “fresh fruits”, though I wonder if younger readers catch them. On the other side of things, he throws around the word “retarded” as an insult with troubling regularity. There’s been an in story apology of sorts for any and all gay jokes, but it’s the use of this word that most bothers me. We’ve all become accustomed to swearing, but I find there are certain words that break right through people’s calluses. Words like “stupid”, “retarded” or “idiot”, we hear them less often so they still retain their meaning, and that meaning is often connected to painful childhood memories. I’m not saying these words should never be used, but rather that one should be aware of their impact before using them. I’m typing this as someone who has frequently written or said things that have come off as harsher than I intended. </sermon>

Anyway, Jade irradiates some steak for her pet, as you do. She needs to get it to him before the depleted isotopes settle down but that doesn’t stop her from playing her bass for us. I said she was the least easily distracted of the kids, not that she wasn’t easily distracted.

Homestuck page 822 package drop
A blue package this time.

I really enjoy the Gardener bassline, it feels right for Jade.

She finally turns on her computer. I’m pretty sure this is the first time we see the TrollSlum along with the ChumRoll, the handle twinArmageddons catches my eye since I thought he’d sworn never to contact any of the humans. We loop back around to the message she sent John, showing where we are in the timeline. There’s a long message left by Dave. He complains about her sleeping, which is probably meant as a reminder in regards to her narcolepsy, but his message is time stamped 11:14pm. There’s at least a four hour time difference between them. I’m guessing Dave forgot and is messaging her at about 7pm his time. Though I suppose it could be 11pm his time and 3 in the morning for her, in which case he’s an insomniac, something I can relate to. Either way, he’s so lonely.

He just wants to give her this remix he made.

This remix exchange seems to be a regular thing. I take it the original artist’s symbol is on the left and the remixer’s on the right. Dave’s latest piece is a remix of Explore from WV:Ascend. Crystalanthemums is a remix Jade did of one of Dave’s pieces. The ones they’ve worked on together are the best, how sweet.

Jade heads on over to MSPA, which is finishing up a weird tangential intermission.

The Pogo Ride and toilet jokes really do fit right in with that idea.

While we’re on the subject of good music, Dead Shuffle by Mark Hadley really sets the mood for the Midnight Crew flash. It almost makes you want to read that comic. I think this is the first time we see the Prospit and Derse stage as well.

We loop back around to infamous smirk chat between Jade and Dave. The first time I read this, Jade seemed over the top with her giggly girl flirting. Now that I’ve seen what she’s responding to, she comes off as the more restrained half of this duo.

This conversation segues into an animation of Dave being soundly defeated by a puppet. Beatdown is not my favorite tune, I find it heavy and repetitive, though it grew on me given time and remixing.

Homestuck Cal Dave beatdown
Gosh, why does Dave have so much angst about talking to Dirk? I just don’t get it.

Next up, Rose is messaging Jade looking for frighteningly accurate while infuriatingly nonspecific advice. Given the plot constraints upon her, I suppose Jade does her best. I can’t help seeing Jade’s statement that Dave will come around and help Rose out, he just has a lot of work to do first, as being more than a reference to puppet death matches. She mentions that Rose has a lot of work to do as well but specifies that she means finding a power source and a stable net connection. This gets us two screens of Rose descending the ladder beneath the cat mausoleum.

Which isn’t the least little bit ominous.

Finally, John shows up and Jade is able to ask about her birthday package. This time we get an animation of how John’s boss battle is going. It’s not going well, but on the other hand Harleboss is fun listening.

Homestuck Nannasprite heals
On the upside, we establish Nannasprite’s healing powers.

We even head into the future to get an establishing character moment for the Peregrine Mendicant.

It’s like we’re being taunted with all the more interesting things we could have been doing.

There’s also a walkthrough for punch card alchemy written by John. For all that John comes off like a fool, this proves he can be pretty observant and that his coding is good enough to allow him to create the punch card calculator. (Actually Gankro made it, whoever he is, bless him for his valiant service in the name of Homestuck.) He also calls Dave a “whopping stupid horse butt” which strikes me as a tad harsh, but then he’s probably right that Dave will never read it.

Meanwhile, Rose has made it to the laboratory.

What is Skaianet? Who built it? Why? How? All questions I still ask myself.

Whoever it was, they show a distressing tendency to stick to what they know.

We aren’t going to find out now because we have to watch Jade descend through the layers of her grandfather’s various collections. Big game trophies and mummies kind of make sense, but why knights? Where did he get them? I suppose it’s an embodiment of his admiration for chivalry? Never mind the blue ladies, we’ll just walk on by. Grampa Harley’s strangest trophy is blocking the transportalizer.

So I believe it was established that this thing is not a denizen. Can anyone leave a note in the comments if they know what it is supposed to be?

Someone’s pestering Jade even though she logged off pesterchum. Why, it’s another establishing character moment.

I remember how offended I was by this brief exchange. I didn’t love Jade but I couldn’t condone name calling. I had no idea who this guy was but I hated him instantly. Thank goodness she gave him the boot.

Back at Skaianet Laboratory, Rose has discovered that hub SN_LAB0413 is unlocked, because of course it is. She also finds yet another platform with the interlocking triangle symbol on it. A certain word turns up again as well but I roll my eyes and move along.

Rose attempts to plug her laptop in, which uproots her tree modus and sends her stuff scattering everywhere.

Ah, the frustration on her face, if only she knew.

This prompts her to switch her modus over to less aesthetically appealing but more practical leaf mode. She also turns off auto-balance since her concern for structural elegance is at an all time low, though I find it worth noting that she does care about such things in the first place.

Her investigation turns up yet another ominous count down, which brings us yet another in turn.

It ticks down and the Peregrine Mendicant is off to join the Wayward Vagabond.

Meanwhile, Dave attempts to abscond from his Bro but no luck. I remember finding this animation distressing the first time I saw it. Perhaps its the color palette and the music that make it feel harsh and nightmarish? Maybe if this animation had turned into an epic battle of fetch modi as originally intended I’d have laughed. I’m not opposed to cartoon violence and this is obviously supposed to be making fun of long battle sequences in games and shows. I don’t think we’re meant to feel that Dave is in any danger. I’m also rather reminded of watching my 95 pound black lab wrestling with my neighbor’s 12 pound Yorkshire terrier poodle mix.

Homestuck Dave versus Bro beatdown
My mom’s relationship with her older brother was a bit like this. Dad told me she called my uncle an asshole during the receiving line at their wedding. These things take time.

On the other hand, Bro probably knows or suspects that this is the last duel he’ll ever have with his little bro, of course he would want it to last.

Rose, who is still waiting on a session invite and rescue from imminent death by the way, has made an interesting discovery.

It’s a map of all the Sburb session and, interestingly enough, future meteor impact sites. This was when I began to feel on my first read that Sburb and Skaianet were definitely not on the up and up. Rose finds not one but two meteors heading for her location, almost as if the spaces rocks had tracked her to the lab. We also see where the two biggest meteors are heading.

Hi Dave! Hi Jade! We can see your houses from here!

But first things first, Rose needs to get back in touch with John. I love this scrolling introduction into our first boss fight. (First if we don’t count Bro, he’s probably an optional fight.)

Homestuck Rose Ascend

Homestuck John victory dance
Hooray for teamwork!

Congratulations and leveling are in order. John has obtained the vaunted Boy-Skylark rank.

John goes to collect his loot but a lot of the grist has scattered down over the lower section, including a piece wedged into the hole above Dad’s room. What could be down there?

We will delve into this and many more mysteries in our next session.

Session Six: The Mayor of Can Town

9/10/09 – 10/11/09
pages 614 – 758

We’re back to being the other guy and suddenly I understand why John and Dave are such good friends.

Kill joy

We get down to some serious punch card alchemy at last. I’d forgotten that carved cruxite dowels are referred to as totems (and that it’s an alchemiter, not an alchemizer, woops). The controls on that cursor are apparently fine enough to allow a client player to work the buttons on all the devices. There’s also the atheneum, a name I always loved, in which to store things. So much of Sburb is only useful at the very beginning when everybody is still in the house. It leads me to believe that Hussie thought more of the story would take place actually inside the kids’ houses (and then there’s name too). I seem to recall reading somewhere that he thought the kids would need to construct towers in order to read Skaia and the battlefield. The idea reminds me of the tower in Problem Sleuth. Or maybe I’m on the wrong track and having Rose do things was just a time saving measure.

I find the precision of these grist counts suggestive, building must have been meant to play a larger role.

When I read this section for my notes, the page where John first creates the deformed rocket pack wouldn’t load. I’ve actually run across a couple of pages that had this problem. I was going to write something about the fragility of data and how surprisingly easy it is for media that relies on technology to disappear. I was going to mention Kid Radd, which is something of a spiritual predecessor of Homestuck, and how newer browsers made it unreadable. But when I went back the page loaded up fine, so now I don’t know. And when I Googled Kid Radd I found an unofficial mirror site that had updated it.

The loss of this moment would have been a tragedy.

The excerpt from ‘Wise Guy’ is one of the amusing little bonuses that make Homestuck interesting; it’s just so odd. The art tends to be quick, and sometimes messy, for the sake of the fast paced update schedule so it can be easy to overlook the amount of work that went in to creating this comic, the dedication to detail it took. Also, the excerpt provides us a way into exploring the true brilliance behind punch card alchemy.

Now we’re getting somewhere.
Behold the glory that is the Pogo Hammer.

Rose pesters John to get an update on his doings and John borrows a line from Dave.

EB: well bottom line is…
EB: he’s awesome
EB: that’s really all there is to say on the matter!

I wonder if this was an impromptu paraphrasing or something that has been repeated often already? The way the kids repeat each other’s words is common behavior, especially among younger people. Groups of friends, families, and communities tend to develop an internal language over time. I’m reminded of this every time I have to explain to someone eating dinner at my parents’ house what a “snaffler” is and it’s inherent differences from a “sniffler”. As I mentioned a post or two ago, Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff was meant to aid in the creation of this kind of internal reference. This is a rapport that the readers are invited in to as we spot the repetitions, and maybe even start using them ourselves.

Back in the recap, John tests out the Pogo Hammer on the imp on the Pogo Ride and ends up catapulting himself into the air, and I spot another retcon.

If I were a more invested person I’d create some sort of counter.

Rose rescues John from a nasty fall and there’s pretty cool series of vertical panels showing us the state of the house and leading up to an ominous reveal.

http://mspaintadventures.com/?s=6&p=002542
Uh-oh X 2 combo!

The ensuing chat between John and Rose is interesting, not just because it establishes that Rose can’t use the Sburb cursor to interact with anything John is touching, but for what she has to say about it.

TT: The game probably regards that as a kind of cheating.
TT: In a way, thieving you of your free will as an adventurer, and the need to advance by your own skill and ingenuity.
TT: The server player is just a facilitator.

This is curious considering everything we will learn about the nature of the Light aspect. Without rules you don’t have a game, or a story, but it is worth pointing out that Sburb is actually curbing the players here, insisting they follow the quest path laid out for them to achieve success. All the characters break with this established route in one way or another.

Also, Rose doesn’t trust Dave.

TT: I have no idea what the hell Dave is up to, or if he’s any closer to recovering the game.
TT: There’s some stuff I’d like to try, in case he doesn’t come through.

That’s a grim thing to say given that Rose heard… Wait, did Rose hear what Nannasprite had to say? She knew about it even before John stopped throwing his tantrum. Maybe she read the spritelog. Anyway, Rose knows the earth is doomed, and even if it wasn’t her house is on fire, and she’s still invested in experimenting with the game.

While John drifts off, Rose checks the Excursus which keeps track of the recipes for every alchemy combination. I had this fan idea that someone, say Sollux, could create an Excursus Compendium for every player in the game, then combine it with his program that allows him to decode captcha code. Anyway, Rose attempts to get the code for the Sburb disc and finds out that it’s unreadable. Do me a favor, gentle readers, and keep these things in mind for later.

And then her generator dies.

John has a dream full of foreshadowing and wakes up to have a chat with Jade. He’s finally on to her. We see one of John’s weirder traits at work in this conversation. He calls Jade out for knowing things she shouldn’t, and then dismisses Rose and Dave’s claims that she has spooky powers. Jade is coy and really rather obnoxious in response, though she does have the courtesy to alert John to the fact that his roof is about to be invaded.

The first boss battle is about to go down and John is on his own. He scurries around trying to prepare for battle, noticing that his trick handcuffs have gone missing, and then he’s cornered at the highest point of the house. And… it’s time to go see what’s up with Dave.

Because you were dying to know.

Unlike poor John, Dave gets a cool flash animation to show us his ascension to the highest point in preparation for his battle. Dave is just cool like that. This ascend theme is going to become one of the recurring images in the comic. I’ll discuss it next time we see it. Right now we have to deal with the results of this X2 psyche combo.

This moment is disorienting even now; it must have been so much stranger for the people who were reading at the time. I love it. It’s firmly in the territory of old text games, for which confusion was a core component of play. This is where the user generated commands reach their epitome. We explore this new setting and the captions become more reminiscent of old games than ever.

You are now holding a can of gravy.

There’d been a lot of speculation as to who this guy was and the comic goes out of its way to establish that the Wayward Vagabond is not an imp, and to provide us with clues as to his true nature.

Poor WV, captchaploguing is for humans.

We know that he does not have fangs, his carapace isn’t strong enough to break through metal cans, he has a bar code on his wrist that brings back unpleasant memories, and he is very hungry. This perhaps excuses some of his earlier behavior.

The Mayor of a Ghost Town trope over on TV tropes used be called Mayor of Can Town (a much snappier title), which is what led to someone entering the “Become the Mayor of Can Town” command as joke. Yet, this is another valuable clue as to sort of character our Wayward Vagabond is.

Fairly elected mayor’s are good.

WV has seen the ugliness of monarchy first hand.

We explore some more and WV consumes a few more non-food items. He picks up some chalk and I realize just how fundamental characters scribbling on walls with colored chalk is to this story.

He also finds a light shining in the ruins.

WV uses the chalk to expand Can Town. The caption makes a joke about blue trees (the green chalk is missing, ahem), but when I think about it I’m not sure that WV would have ever seen a green tree. He expands westward, laying out his new city is the pattern that seems most reasonable to him.

He can’t help himself.

WV’s drawings are always important. We see the entire layout of the Incipisphere in chalk long before we do in the comic. He even includes Prospit and Derse, which have barely been hinted at before this point.

In addition, I find his drawings to be rather pretty.

There’s also the enigmatic monitoring device WV was using to communicate with John. I’m still not sure I understand everything about these monitors, though I feel strongly that they have something to do with transdimensional windows.

I don’t know if the fact that Sburb seems to rely entirely on a mouse while the monitoring modules only have keyboards is significant in any way. Maybe Sburb is a newer technology, though when it comes to this game the word “newer” probably has no meaning. We establish the reality altering powers of the device again when the tab button unlocks a second hatch.

Prospit spills forth its bounty.

WV can barely contain his joy and hastily consumes quantities of diet cola. I feel obligated, nigh fated, to mention that one of the things that dimmed Tab’s popularity were suspicions that it was carcinogenic. Anyway, the Tab cans are naturalized into Can Town and WV, logically enough, tries the escape key next.

Which brings us to the log, a feature that I have found very useful indeed. I feel like this scene is meant to tie the action of the comic directly to us and our own computers.

WV tries switching to the other four monitors, which are locked so that they show only staticky images.

This serves a double purpose, it indicates that this is Rose’s monitor and shows us that Zazzerpan (or whatever his name is) has lost a hand.
We see that the other monitors are not locked into the same timeline as John’s.

Entering the command “Home” starts a count down at 4 hours and 13 minutes.

Because of course it would.

This also locks WV out of the keyboard. He rather desperately reverts to being the mayor and ruling the cans with a carapace fist (firm, yet polished, and supple as the situation demands). He sets up a militia on his district and enacts a training battle.

It’s a chessboard. Yes, I know it’s a chessboard. The captions dance around ever calling it that. We haven’t actually met the chess people yet, and it’s interesting to contemplate what they think of the game chess. Do they know of it or is it simply ingrained in them by instinct? WV is a character who has tried hard to break from the patterns of his kingdom, and yet he can’t help being trapped by them. When he plays out his game, white loses. WV is so upset by this that he breaks a black pawn.

Meanwhile, there are mere minutes left on the timer. We skip ahead to meet another new character.

The Peregrine Mendicant.

Back inside, WV has decided it’s time to leave. In fine adventure gaming tradition, trying to exit causes a metal grate to block the ladder hatch. WV uses a touch screen menu to access other parts of the facility. One room is locked, but a room indicated by some interlocked triangles is available. We’re about to learn the fine art of appearifying.

Is appearify a word that WV just made up? Think about it. It’s in the caption; he’d have no way of knowing the official terminology. Or is this word being communicated to us by someone else, a narrator perhaps.

Anyway, he appearifies a pumpkin. Pumpkins are the easiest things to work with in terms of materializing and dematerializing, as we have since learned.

Appearifying seems more complicated than alchemizing, in my estimation. It involves determining coordinates in both space and time. Fortunately, WV has a gift for judging distance. He is able to use the appearifier to retrieve his stuff. We establish that appearifiers cannot deappearify things, that would be too complicated, obviously. He uses his trusty “knife” to carve open the pumpkin and eat the innards but the narrator spares us the sight of this. WV is so good at this point that he’s able to rescue the firefly from the amber.

We’ll call her Serenity, for no reason at all.

He then attempts to obtain the rotten pumpkin that “disappeared” after he was first introduced, and we see what happens when you try to use an appearifier to create a paradox.

Slime is another thing that will turn out to have unexpected importance to this comic.

Among WV’s many talents is an ability to translate Morse code on sight. Serenity uses it to tell WV to stop fooling around and get out before the timer finishes counting down. He uses the appearifier to remove the grate and attempts to make his escape, to no avail. The comic attempts to leave us with a 5X cliffhanger combo but it doesn’t go. It looks at though we have no choice but to do it. We are making this happen.

The song here is “Explore”, one of my favorites. This animation is also one of my favorites. It’s the first time we see the scope of this story that spans time and space. First off we establish that the facility WV has been messing around in is on the site of Rose’s house (note the wizard hand), which means that the barren wasteland outside is Earth. Next we learn that it didn’t take many years after John’s house was destroyed for the planet to be reduced to this stage. A tree, reminiscent of the one that allowed John entry into the Medium, grows on the site of his house and sprouts a metal pod with the Sburb symbol that the Peregrine Mendicant is approaching. The action travels back in time to show  one of the spirographs we’ve been seeing around, notably during the Sburb download sequence and in animations of Skaia, send a meteor towards Earth. This is the first direct confirmation we get that the meteors aren’t just coincident with the release of Sburb, but directly tied to it. A frog temple is built on the site of the meteor impact, beside a volcano, the pterodactyl flying overhead is a nice touch. We then go back to the characters we know, connecting their actions with everything we just saw. Furthermore, this is the first time we get a proper look at Bro. Finally, WV touches down at the frog temple and walks outside to explore.

Phew, that was a lot. But it’s the end of Act 2.

And also the end of this session. Join me next time when we finally get a look at our fourth Sburb player.

Feature Interlink

I’ve been too busy for note taking this last week so I thought I’d take a moment to mention a topic that’s been on my mind from the beginning but that I haven’t found a way to work into a regular recap.

Feature Interlink, as defined by Michael D. C. Drout in his lecture series ‘Singers and Tales: Oral Tradition and the Roots of Literature‘, means a linkage between the form of a work and it’s content. He uses it for an explanation as to why some works of traditional storytelling haven’t survived the years with the same popularity as the Odyssey or the Finnish Kalevala. His theory is the more a work is altered from it’s original form, translated both out of its original language and from verse to prose for example, the more of its interlinks are broken and the less memorable it becomes.

This phrase delighted me. It perfectly encapsulated an idea I, and many others, have been discussing for years but haven’t had specific words for. Namely, an academic explanation for “Adaption Decay” (that link goes to TV Tropes, beware). We all know that different forms of media lend themselves better to different kinds of narrative, but explaining why this is becomes tricky. I was so taken with it that I emailed Professor Drout to ask him about the origins of the idea and he replied: “Feature Interlink” is apparently a term I invented in Tradition and Influence in Anglo-Saxon Literature: An Evolutionary, Cognitivist Approach, which was published by Palgrave in 2013.

His reply included a PDF of an excerpt from that book where he uses the term to explain elements of medieval poetry. His example of a feature interlink is the use of harsh sounding words and a non-typical meter to communicate the horror of worms devouring the body after death in a wisdom poem. The idea is that it’s not simply the words themselves that communicate meaning but their sound and the way they are presented. This more subtle means of transmission is lost in a strict dictionary definition translation of the work. Furthermore, the variations on standard meter and story patterning are lost on modern readers who are not members of the wisdom poetry tradition.

I started reading and listening to Drout’s work through his Tolkien scholarship, but his main research is in tradition, how it works, how it’s transferred and how participants interact with it. We’re all members of a living tradition that we nowadays refer to as pop culture. One look at TVtropes.com shows how we all have access to this vast array of shared knowledge and reference that we’ve osmosed through lifetimes spent consuming media. Someday, perhaps, I’ll write about Homestuck‘s relationship to our broader tradition, but right now I want to keep the focus on the small details that embody a work.

Homestuck has been called the first great work of hypertext fiction.  Hypertext fiction being a genre of electronic literature, characterized by the use of  hypertext links which provide a new context for non-linearity in literature and reader interaction. This is interesting because Homestuck is not a choose your own adventure story. The path the reader follows through the narrative is more or less straight. The hypertext links are a defining feature of the comic but that’s because they’re being used as another form of communication. There are many branching forks in the narrative but we don’t choose between them, sometimes a page will be covered in nodes from different paths as in Doc Scratch storyline or through the changing panels on this page. One of the major motifs of the story is the idea of fate and the question as to whether or not the characters have any free will or control over their choices and actions. This idea is communicated to us through a format that implies the possibility of choice but in the end steers us inexorably back to the main path, the alpha timeline.

On another level, Homestuck is a story about what it’s like to be friends on the internet. We watch characters who are in constant communication with each other while being isolated by vast stretches of time and space. We see an embodiment of this strange combination of alienation and intimacy as the kids share their thoughts and feelings via text while pursuing their own goals and objectives, for the most part, independently. These individual quests are all meant to be contributing towards a poorly defined but deeply important shared outcome. Each character ends up literally living on their own separate planet and at the same time they are being brought together by Skaia, a great force of creativity and inspiration. The whole setup works very well as a metaphor for the internet. The ideas explored in Homestuck are built into the very foundation of its presentation.

All this is just to say that throughout this reread I’ve been paying special attention to all the ways Homestuck uses it’s unique format as a means of communicating additional layers meaning. I’ve been thinking about all the elements that might have been lost if the comic had been a book, or an animated cartoon, or a movie. I always aware of the feature interlinks but once I start paying specific attention to them I realized they were everywhere. Making note of them has been fun, though it has also brought out my tendency towards wordiness.

I do hope at least some of this post made sense. I’d like to give special thanks to Michael Drout for answering my email and being such an excellent lecturer that even a non-academic such as myself can understand him. Next time, I’ll hopefully be able to resume the recap with one of the most meta characters in the whole comic.

Session Five: Proboscalypse Now

8/7/09 – 9/8/09
pages 443 – 613

Homestuck page 444 heat suspends time itselfDave’s cinematic in unquestionably about his class.

You don’t even know what’s up with this sick heat. The sun threatens to set but won’t step off. It’s staring you down, like the big red eye of a hot needle skipping on a groove its tracing ’round the earth. While lingering in midair its heat seems to suspend time itself, stretching it like warped vinyl.

My guess is that “Knight of Time” was the easiest one to imagine in advance, as far as Homestuck goes, that’s nigh self-explanatory. I do love that line about heat suspending time. That’s a feeling we’ve all had during one summer or another. The background noise is eerie given the imagery, fire raining down from the sky while Dave looks out his window, totally oblivious. The silliest misattributed quote yet breaks the mood, but extracts a smile from me nevertheless.

We are still following the pattern of the opening arc and now it’s time to explore Dave’s apartment and learn about his Guardian. Oh boy.

Right from the get go we’ve got a sense that Dave is suppressing something about his Bro. He’s focusing real hard on the ironic humor aspect of the handcuffed and be-thonged puppets, and thinking about no other connotations whatsoever. It’s even more interesting since Dave’s relationship with Bro stands in such contrast to John’s and Rose’s with their Guardians. John complains a lot about his Dad, and later we’ll see build up for a false epiphany that comes to nothing. Really, the two of them have a normal (for Homestuck) and loving relationship. Even the complaining is normal. Rose is locked in what she sees as a battle of passive aggressive wits with her mother. She heaps a great deal of scorn on her in regards to the excessive drinking that goes on in the Lalonde household, though later Rose will confess to always having held a deep respect for her mother. Dave insists that everything Bro does is awesome but there’s obvious cracks in the facade. There’s an innocence in his desire to see Bro as an unquestionable hero rather than as the person he is. He doesn’t want to admit that there might be a level of sincerity to these “jokes”. Now, it’s not that I don’t think Bro is awesome, but there’s more ambiguity to him than Dave wants to deal with. Young Strider here tends to resist (non-ironic) nuance out of instinct. There’s still a question as to whether or not Dave will ever come to terms with his childhood memories even in present-day Homestuck. (Like right now too, but I’m guessing this never gets resolved. Some things in life are unsolvable.)

Last session, Jade pointed out that Rose and Dave mean the opposite of everything they say. I wonder for a moment if this extends to the captions. How much does Dave’s irony and Rose’s cynicism affect what we know?

We finally get our first look at the famous rapping ventriloquist dummy when he appears behind Dave.

All the kids are easily distracted but Dave is like a kitten that’s gotten loose in a fiber studio. We are going to spend a long time wandering around this apartment. We check out Bro’s computer and are informed that he knows Dave knows the password and doesn’t care. He’s not secretive about what he does, it’s Dave who’s misinterpreting. Do smuppets really bring in billions of dollars a year? The two of them live in what appears to be a one bedroom apartment, so I’m guessing that’s an exaggeration. It is sweet that Bro keeps up with Dave’s comics (like that drawing Dad has taped to the fridge in the Egbert household).

I’ve decided the captions are an accurate reflection of Dave’s thought process given this page. And the bit after Dave gets spooked by another of Lil’ Cal’s sudden appearances. “You are starting to flip the fuck out. Without losing your cool of course.” I still laugh at his message to John, though in retrospect I also feel bad for him. Who can blame him for being nervous? Poor kid.

The next pesterlog is a loop back around to a conversation we’ve already read, the one that opened last session in fact. This gets at what I wrote awhile ago about shifting perceptions in Homestuck. Coming back to this exchange through Dave’s point of view changes the whole feeling. Before, it was setup for the exposition that was about to take place. The two of them came off as cavalier and distant; they reminded me of the chorus in a play you might recall. Now, what jumps out at me is Dave’s anxiety, his need to keep in constant contact with his friends in order to maintain his cool. This multi-layered understanding is one of the great pleasures of this kind of narrative.

This also brings us back to John and Rose and their efforts to progress through Sburb. Rose deploys the Punch Designix and points out that the house and its environs are fulls of little monsters dressed in colorful clown costumes. I surmise from the caption commentary on this page that the line “John: Confront Pogo Ride to prepare yourself for Nanna” indicates that we have returned to user generated commands.

I have no idea if the Pogo Ride mini game ever worked. It’s a neat idea at least. Rose gets proactive as client player.

I like to think John would have alchemized a new one at some point. Or Nanna could have fixed it.

I love the way items used to level up. Hussie had so much fun making up the names for new levels that he extended it to everything. There is nothing not to love about the phrase “Archimedes’ Aquacradle”. The comic establishes more rules around Grist and the collecting thereof and we see Rose starting to build.

Brave new world that has no building inspectors in it.

John is obligated to make a reference to Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff which Rose pretends to ignore in favor of talking about the tasks at hand. The purpose of Dave’s webcomic was to give the kids something to make in-jokes about, to give us a feel for how long they’d known each other and how close they were. I know I’m on record as not being terribly amused by Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff’s antics, but the Alpha Kids really could have benefited from something like it.

Meanwhile, inside the kitchen, we establish that Nannasprite is a ghost of many talents.

Have I mentioned how much I like her?

There’s a really great fight scene involving John, a living room full of imps, the Pogo Ride, a hammer, a cruxite dowel and a refrigerator. Then John and WV resolve their differences while Rose uses the safe in Dad’s study to take out more imps. She does a lot of things in the background while John communicates with WV.

This is where screaming into a velvet pillow became Rose’s thing.

Now we finally get to see our first instance of punch card alchemy. I do love this stuff, though there’s no reason to discuss it in detail right now. I can’t imagine any other story where punch card alchemy would be an idea so totally at home and feasible. Alchemization by this point has become so familiar to readers that it hardly ever enters the comic at all.

The way we’re walked through the process is brilliant too, with John experimenting with cards in order to preemptively answer questions readers would no doubt have had. Such as, “What if you just mashed the keys?”

Also, this happens.

We get ready to move things upstairs and Rose points out to John that she can’t see anywhere in John’s house that he hasn’t been, like into Dad’s room.

Before we can head out though, we need to check out the contents of the safe. There’s an old copy of Colonel’s Sassacre’s giant tome (like the one John had in his magic chest), a guide to shaving, and some old newspaper clippings.

I love the “Crocker Facility Leveled!” headline in the bottom left.

There’s one of Dad’s touching fatherly notes and an empty captcha card. Picking it up leads quite naturally to the disposal of the carved cruxite that created John’s entry object. I recall this as another pattern, the code of the entry item is always lost, probably it’s paradox space at work again.

There’s some more fiddling with the designix and John whittles down his deck some more, don’t worry he’ll soon be able to make all the cards he wants. Apparently, John can throw his hat away even though he can’t put anything down, ever. We establish that Colonel Sassacre’s book is plenty big enough to take down an imp and then John scrambles up the tiny rickety stairs Rose made for him.

And meanwhile…

And we’re back to Dave. Bro is moving stuff around on him and Dave knows what that means, it’s time to prepare to throw down.

This is what I meant about Bro by the way. This thing freaked me out so much on my first read.
I am with you man.

That said, Dave’s initially creeped out by his accidental participation in a puppet snuff film but after he plays along quite enthusiastically. I really hope that was fake blood.

You really didn’t have to push that button, Dave.

I still really enjoy this scene of Dave gearing up for the duel with Bro, even though the battle animation that it was meant to be building towards was edited out when Hussie ran out of time to make it. I used to read Scott Adams’s blog as a wee nipper and I remember one entry he wrote discussing how humor has to work on multiple levels to be funny. He had a list of things that contribute to a humorous situation; I don’t remember every bullet point but I do know that absurdity, cleverness and cuteness were on it. Dave in the kitchen touches on all these points. The situation and the setting it’s taking place are absurd, then there’s the cleverness of the wordplay going on with Dave’s fighting with his fetch modus, throw in a bit of the unexpected whenever we discover some new level of Bro’s insane hobbies, and finally the strange but undeniable cuteness of Dave Strider and it’s all just irresistible. This is the scene that really started to win me over after my initial dislike.

This isn’t even part of the world ending game. These are the daily trials and tribulations of Dave Strider.

Some miscellaneous notes: Dave apparently knows the scrabble points value for every letter of the alphabet off the top of his head. I though this was surprisingly dorky, but then realized that scrabble would provide valuable training for anyone using a hash map fetch modus. Bro probably had Dave participating in nightmare scrabble marathons to get his vocabulary into shape. The first time I read this comic I was distressed by the uselessness of the Strider kitchen and Dave’s comment that he has to live off food squirreled away in his closet. It was quite early in the morning by that point and I come from a family who puts a lot of emphasis on fresh food (raising our own beef for example), so this went right to my heart. It can’t all have been bad times, it’s heavily implied that some really sweet fort building used to go down. Dave’s “hilariously abusive” childhood has become sort of a thing. I have mixed feelings about it. Probably I’ll discuss it at a later point.

Let’s close this session with another looped back around pesterlog that I skipped over mentioning the first time. I love this conversation for the similarities between Rose and Dave it sets up. They both have a talent for wordplay and a certain turn of mind that I will call “sick” for lack of a better term. They use this talent in different ways but in the end they finish up in the same place.

TG: you dont seem to harbor any sympathy for the fact that ive burrowed fuck deep into lively, fluffy muppet buttock
TG: im whirling in the terrible cyclone at the epicenter of my own personal holocaust of twitching foam noses
TG: its like a fucking apocalypse of perky proboscis here
TG: like
TG: the proboscalypse i guess
TT: Are you going to start rapping about this?
TG: what no
TG: no listen
TT: Prong of flesh bereft of home
TT: Found solace ‘twixt a cleft of foam.
TG: no oh jesus
TT: Of apocalypse your thoughts eclipse
TT: A painted pair of parted lips
TT: That dare through kiss to stir the air
TT: That teases tufts of orange hair.
TT: And though faces flush in lovers’ fits,
TT: Hands snug in plush as gloves befit.

A combination of doctors appointments and my own tendency to be distracted meant the notes for this session sat on my desk for awhile. I did venture into the forums searching for other active bloggers and found this spreadsheet. It wasn’t exactly what I was looking for but it is interesting. Next time I think I’ll do something a little different.

Session Four: World Building

 7/30/09 – 8/5/09
pages 419 – 442

We open with dialogue between Rose and Dave. This is something I really miss in latter day Homestuck, this… meta-ness, is that the word I’m searching for? What I mean is the way there are two characters commenting on the actions of two other characters while remaining wholly separate from the main exchange; it feels almost Shakespearean to me. As an additional layer, we have our shrouded mystery player (WV) also watching and commenting on the action via the link commands at the bottom of the page.  This sense of playfulness about the format, this willingness to use every available option, seems rather missing from Act 6.

As an aside, scrolling through the log, the commands really start to peter out by 2011. Doc Scratch locks them right before the end of Act 5 (this is indicated by an [o]). They make a bit of a comeback when the Alpha kids are introduced, but not really. Caliborn’s the only one who makes use of them before long. I can’t decide if this is something that’s intentional or if the command function is just one more thing that has fallen by the wayside over time. I was leaning towards the former until I really took a look at the log. This is a shame, because I’d have liked to see this feature played with once we had more controllable characters in the same vicinity. (The whole concept of the readers “playing” as the characters might be out the window but that’s another post altogether.) Also, it’s going to make navigating my way through this reread difficult as I won’t have any landmarks to indicate what page I’m currently on. Well, best not to burn any bridges until we’re already across.

On a marginally less dour note, Dave provides us with more information about Lil’ Cal.

TG: dont tell john this but i think he might have been right about the puppets
TG: theyre sort of starting to freak me out a little
TT: You’re referring to your brother’s collection?
TG: i mean dont get me wrong i think its cool and all
TG: the semi-ironic puppet thing or whatever
TG: or semi-semi ironic
TG: man i dont even know
TG: im just starting to think some of this shit is going a little far and its kind of fucked up
TT: I’ve seen his websites.
TT: I like them.
TG: haha yeah well YOU WOULD
TG: oh man i wish lil cal wouldnt look at me like that
TG: with those dead eyes jesus
TG: sometimes i dream that hes real and hes talking to me and i wake up in a cold sweat and basically flip the fuck out

Also, interesting that Rose likes Bro’s websites. I like how this conversation ends with Dave checking to make sure John’s alright. It bookends nicely with his cavalier opening conversation gambit.

Now, Nannasprite has some info she’d like to dump. Huh, like the bucket that was positioned over the door which she dumped on John’s head.. Haha, I just got that.

Good one, Nanna.

We get a new kind of log, a spritelog, which allows us to read spoken dialogue. This is where it’s established that typing quirks carry over into speech, hence why none of John’s sentences are capitalized. I don’t take the quirks to be indicative of speech patterns (except in Karkat’s case) so much as they’re epithetical; they call the character to mind in the same way the text color does. I think of them as closer to handwriting than dialect. In addition to their other quirks, sprites have the ability to underline keywords (I always want to click on these).

There’s a lot going on in this conversation, and I find that my take on it has become more complicated since I last read it. I’ll do my best to summarize and then take it piece by piece.

By biting into the blue apple, John simultaneously entered and created The Medium, a “ring of pure void, dividing light and darkness” that exists inside the Incipishere, which is in turn a place that exists outside John’s universe and thus outside of time as he’s always known it. Above the Medium, beyond seven gates, in the heart of the Incipisphere, is Skaia.

Homestuck Skaia

Skaia is a dormant crucible of unlimited creative potential, because of this, there are forces of light charged with defending it and forces of darkness charged to destroy it. The two were in stalemate until John’s arrival (remember the primary paradox of Paradox Space, things don’t exist until introduced into the comic and then they have always existed) gave the battle shape through the kernelsprite. When the kernelsprite “hatched”, it sent copies of itself to the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness and the “true war” between good and evil began. This is a conflict that the side of light is destined to lose, without exception. On top of this, the forces of darkness have kidnapped Dad. Why is all of this happening? Well, that’s The Ultimate Riddle and it’s up to John (and us) to figure it out.

Homestuck page 424 kernelsprite hatch
A kernelsprite in the act of propagation.

Phew. It’s been awhile since I considered any of this, probably why it was a good idea to do a reread. For the last few years I’ve been thinking in terms of game instances or sessions and it’s hard to remember what it was like before I had all the information I do now. I tend to focus in on words like “void”, for example, in a way I never did before.

There’s a lot of what I can’t help but think of as bread crumbing going on, with all the talk of gates. So much of this is going to get bypassed when the kids’ session goes off the rails. Nannasprite scolds John for thinking in video game terms, and yet that’s what I at least have irresistibly reverted to.

NANNASPRITE: No, John. You are not inside a computer or software or anything like that! Try not to be so linear, dear. The software that brought you here was merely a mechanism that served as a gateway! Its routines in a way served to invoke this realm’s instance, yet it stands independently of any physical machine, and somewhat paradoxically, always has!

It’s this distinction that sets Homestuck apart from other stories of this kind. Though if anything, this does show how difficult it is to separate content from the mechanism of its delivery. Nannasprite’s statement here is going to be called directly into question by later events.

Back in the day, I was very excited by the use of the word “medium”. Time has only served to reinforce that initial impression. Hussie has a way with words and this one was particularly well chosen. I’m going to toss out some definitions.

  • a middle state or condition
  • something intermediate in nature
  • an intervening substance through which a force acts or an effect is produced
  • an element that is the natural habitat of an organism (as in a culture medium for growing bacteria)
  • surrounding objects, conditions and influences; environment
  • an intervening agency, means, or instrument by which something is conveyed or accomplished
  • a person claiming to be in contact with the spirits of the dead and to communicate between the dead and the living
  • one of the means or channels of general communications, information, or entertainment in society
  • a particular form of storage for digitized information such as magnetic tape or discs
  • (adjective) about halfway between extremes

The plural of medium is media.

All of those definitions factor into The Medium in one way or another. When I first read this conversation, the connotation that sprang to mind was the “substance through which an effect is achieved” and the “instrument through which something is conveyed”, an artist’s medium in other words. The way the kids all played musical instruments, probably combined with the fact that I was raised by an artist (medium can also refer to the liquid mixed with pigment to create paint), made this an automatic assumption. Now the one that stands out to me is “the element that is the natural habitat of an organism”. The Medium is also the realm that exists between light and darkness, between Prospit and Derse as we will come to find. It’s the environment in which most of our story, the kids’ struggle, is going to take place. All stories are middles in a way, the chronicle of change between a start point and an end. Homestuck is in many ways about the internet and internet culture as a means of communication; four internet friends continue to communicate via computers and phones even when all lines have been severed, and they do it with a lot of reference humor to boot. And of course, it’s impossible to ignore the one about transacting with the dead when Nannasprite is floating right there.

Homestuck Incipisphere

I have a lot more trouble with the Incipisphere, possibly because for years I thought it was “Incinisphere”, as in “incinerate”, until someone on the forums pointed the error out to me. In my defense, mine was a cooler word. I confess, the first word that comes to mind for Incipisphere is “insipid”.  The second word that comes to mind is “precipitate” , which when I Google it means: 1. verb cause (an event or situation, typically one that is bad or undesirable) to happen suddenly, unexpectedly, or prematurely. *Cause to move suddenly and with force. *Send someone suddenly into a particular state or condition. 2. (chemistry) Cause a substance to be deposited in solid form from a solution. I must admit, that does all fit better than my initial reading. Perhaps it even counts as foreshadowing.

I always thought it was erroneous that Nannasprite referred to the “big picture” as the battle between light and dark, but upon closer reading I see that she actually means Skaia. I find Skaia easy to forget about, probably because in Homestuck lexicon it is a “passive” force. (If I live long enough, we will discuss in depth all the unfortunate connotations of “passive” and “active”, in particular in relation to the idea of male and female only classes. That is some word choice with which I take definite issue.) Skaia drives the action of the story but rarely enters it, at least directly.

This is an album cover by minty (mintyfizz.tumblr.com).

Here my word parsing falls apart. Skaia has vaguely heavenly connotations, that almost goes without saying. I find theism, by itself, boring so my mind didn’t really turn in that direction. And I’ve never watched the Terminator movies so that passed me right by. At the time, the idea of a crucible of pure creative power made me think of the Orm from The City of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers, another work I’ve reread so many times that it’s strange to think there was a moment when it was new to me. The Orm is the source of creativity in Zamonia, but the description that interested me was the Orm as a name for the energy one derives from being engaged by a book. I’ve experienced it quite a lot, while reading The City of Dreaming Books for example, which I consistently chose to do over eating since it was 2010 and I hadn’t discovered audio books yet so my only time to read was on lunch break and the only room where we were allowed to have food was too noisy. I needed the sustenance of story far more than calories. I suspect, though I have no way knowing, that the Orm might be a reference to the concept of the sublime. This is a topic I would find difficult to explain even were I not already over 1,900 words into this post. Indeed, I struggle to explain it to myself. The only reason I bring it up now is because as far as the experience of the sublime goes, after a certain point, good and evil are irrelevant. Which brings me back around to the war between the forces of light and dark.

Homestuck eternal stalemate
Riveting…

Why even have it? John, in one of his moments of insight, gets right to the heart of the matter.

JOHN: ok, i think i get it now!
JOHN: so i guess the battle against good and evil is sort of irrelevant? well, i don’t know, that all sounds kind of weird, but in any case, we build the house to get to these gates, and then i can save my dad!

But it has to be there. Why? Well I have thoughts but let’s wait until Prospit and Derse enter the picture. Right now the purpose is that a completely futile battle between light and darkness makes good mental preparation for the next bit of news.

NANNASPRITE: Yes, John!
JOHN: and then after that, we solve this ultimate riddle thing and save earth from destruction!!!
NANNASPRITE: Oh no, I’m afraid not!

NANNASPRITE: Your planet is done for, dear! There is nothing you can do about that!
JOHN: oh…

Two more things to mention before we leave this charming little exchange behind. I never realized before that it’s both John and WV who respond “ME??” when Nannasprite asserts that the balance of power between light and dark was shifted when “you” arrived. This is actually true of both them, come to think about it. Finally, the music Skies of Skaia by Mark Hadley is really great.

After all that anyone could be forgiven a little tantrum.

I haven’t been mentioning Betty Crocker when I should have been. That’s such a weird thing to say… So yes, a combination of the Batterwitch’s machinations and WV shouting at him set John off, though we can assume the earth shattering (ha) set of revelations primed the explosive.

This is one of those images used to demonstrate the inexplicable nature of Homestuck.

Rose gives up drubbing John’s noggin with the bunny’s box and decides to update her walkthrough. We get an interesting tidbit of her conversation with the stuffed corpse of her house cat via the captions. She blames him for getting her into this mess.

Meanwhile, WV and John have what on Sherlock they’re always referring to as a bit of a domestic. What this means for us is that the captions and the command links proceed to insult one another. That is until WV’s finger slips and he accidentally turns off caps lock. This has the effect of changing his text to lower case and opens a hatch inside his metal bunker. Canned goods, a potted plant and a book of etiquette spill out.

Handy

I would recommend giving Rose’s walkthrough a read. It’s not just informative, it’s entertaining. The amount of information she manages to pull from Nannasprite’s info dump is downright impressive and it says a lot about her. The line “We appear to be engaging an instance of a dimension with a highly flexible set of parameters, and a series of objectives surrounding an equally flexible mythological framework” shows that she’s already on the track of putting together an explanation she will share with Dave years later. I’m not sure now whether I find it funny or sad that her questions will take so long to be answered (in story and out). It’s interesting that Rose mentions that she believes that each player’s entry creates a separate instance, an independent game session, for each player given that her walkthrough is going to serve as a guide to the trolls, and they’re going to have some wrong impressions of their own.

The strange thing is though, in our instance of this dimension, there are four receptacles for divided kernels, not three. Does this mean we are “destined” to have a four player chain? How could the game “know” such a thing?

How indeed.

While Rose thrashes out her walkthrough, we head a few months into the past to see an exchange between her and Jade. I do wish that there had ended up being more of these. I think they highlight the personalities of both girls in a unique fashion. Jade calls Rose out on her tendency to mask her feelings as hostility, which I don’t think either of the boys would ever do so directly. Likewise, Rose has the best memory by far and is capable of pin pointing every instance in which Jade knows something she shouldn’t, and then doesn’t hold it against her. Rose is curious, but she’s also willing to trust Jade and allow her to reveal things in her own time. They’re a match for one another, but there isn’t a sense of competition. What I pick up on from these few conversations is a strong sense of affection and complicity. (Few, I think it might only be two grand total, so that would be more accurately described as a couple. Blah.) I’ll probably revisit this one later.

All we need consider right now is that it was John who started Rose knitting. He sent her the knitting needles and yarn for her birthday. Further, Jade tempted Rose into playing Sburb by telling her there was a chance it might restore her dead cat to life. Is anyone else thinking of Madoka Magica? Just me? I should probably go to bed.

I know this was a monstrous post for such a short span of comic. Next time, we’ll resume a faster pace and encounter more puppets then probably any of us is comfortable with.

Session Three: The Once and Future Strider

6/29/09 – 7/30/09
pages 309 – 418

I did not love Dave upon first meeting. In fact, skimming through my old notebooks I see that I called him a prick. His initial pesterlogs didn’t bug me, much. No, this introduction is what rubbed me the wrong way.

There’s this really cool dude, ok? He’s standing around being all chill, like cool dudes are known to do sometimes. A cool dude like this probably has a real cool name. But he probably wouldn’t just tell you what it was if you asked. He’d be way too busy for that. Busy being totally sweet.

But you could always try to guess his name. And if you were right, he might nod ever so slightly. That’s a cool dude’s way of letting you know there might just be hope for you yet.

Pose a little harder bro, why don’t you? He was so annoying and I had been getting on so well with Rose when he blasted in and hijacked the narrative. But that’s just it, Dave’s ironic cool kid act is a pose and he wears it so hard it must hurt. He reminds me of the boys I went to school with back in 8th grade. Once I realized this, I couldn’t help but think of him with warm nostalgia. After that, he grew on me, especially once I found out he’s Rose’s brother. I possess an obnoxious, know-it-all, jerkass brother myself and thus have a soft spot for them in stories.  Dave is the most pathetic of the four main kids, and by that I mean that he evokes the most pathos.

In so far as I am capable of having a favorite character, Dave is it. There is one other who could challenge him for the top slot, astute readers have probably guessed who given the trajectory of my feelings for Strider here, but all in due time. Dave is a popular choice for favorite and I have some theories as to why. The Cool Kid is so archetypal that I’m shocked there isn’t a TV Tropes page for it (there probably is, just under another name). There’s a definite pattern, think of Matt from Digimon or Marceline from Adventure Time. The first ingredient being blithe bravado that creates a sense of separation, of aloofness, from the other characters, and underneath that the dark past, the doubt, the trauma. This friction between outward demeanor and inward turmoil is what gives the Cool Kid that frisson that makes them compelling.

Also, Dave comes in at a sweet spot in the opening arc of Homestuck. There’s a pattern to how player characters are introduced. We see their introduction page, their fetch modus, their weapon, the house and then their Guardian. As we explore their domicile we also see the associated weirdness that goes with said Guardian’s lifestyle. The most normal kid always goes first. Focusing on John, who is so straight forwardly himself and who lives in a typical suburban household under the management of the most impeccable of father figures, allows us to focus for a while on the little details like inventory systems and the fact that there’s this new game that should be arriving in the mail. Rose’s introduction ups the weirdness to wizardry levels but she still lives a life we recognize, one that is not all that different from Megan Murry’s in A Wrinkle in Time, though with added snark. Dave’s introduction ups the ridiculousness all the way to puppets and that is hilarious. Jade’s introduction is where this one-upmanship sends the story tottering off a precipice. Dave gets to be weird, but still comprehensively so.

Furthermore, and I promise this is the last bit so hang on, there’s more to him. As I’ve said, John and Jade are entirely themselves. John is so pure of heart that he doesn’t even seem to pass moral judgement on others. Either of them is willing to make any sacrifice for what’s right, without question. Rose is so blatant with her grimdark that it’s easy to miss the underlying complexity. Dave wants to be a hero but he’s got that pesky sense of self-preservation. He’s wrapped up in his own image. It’s not enough to be cool, others must see and acknowledge the fact. To this end he downplays his emotions and avoids becoming invested in anything (more on this later). His Issues are the most obvious, and readers love Issues. Also, he’s weird. All the kids are in their own ways, but Dave’s brand of weirdness always seemed directly related to Hussie’s to me. He never hesitates to make an exchange just that much more gross and uncomfortable. Loving Dave is a lot like loving Homestuck.

That said, unlike Rose’s, Dave’s interests are the least pertinent. I think his dark room has some sort of part to play in alchemization and then never comes up again. His love of dead things gets a mention while he’s bonding with Roxy. His love of music remains a part of him but isn’t a critical plot point and he never, as far as I can recall, ever mentions any bands. I was going to say the social media stuff tailed off a long time ago, but then I remembered that he is the one responsible for introducing hashtags to the souls of the dead, so he has that. But still, his interests exist more for characterization than anything else.

The timeline has shifted again, it’s taken a half step back rather than an awkward lurch into the future. This is a much more subtle way of introducing what is going to become one of the trickier mainstays of the narrative. We’re here to see how Dave lost his copy of Sburb. In the meanwhile, we get some backstory on Dave’s shades. They’re another reference to Problem Sleuth, where they had the entirety of the universe imprinted on them. We see just a flicker of this on the page where Dave receives his proper name.

His chumhandle is turntechGodhead after all.

We get an explanation of Dave’s use of irony, as well as his hash map fetch modus. For the record, I think it’s all BS. He’s wearing those shades because John sent them and he’s a sop. The pesterlog (which was preceded by Dave’s earnest wish for John’s happiness in the previous caption) establishes where we are in the timeline.

Dave, in his meandering fashion does some web surfing. I have never really delved into the lore of Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff, Dave’s in-universe creation. Remiss of me I know, but in my defense it’s really, really obnoxious. I make the incredible sacrifice of clicking on the link to make sure it still works. It does. The last page has a giant, smirking, purple squiddle(?) on it. I can’t help but wonder when in the timeline Dave drew this.

Next up is their version of MSPA and the introduction (or possibly reintroduction and I’ve forgotten) of The Midnight Crew. I’ve heard, I can’t remember where, that when Hussie had troubles getting Homestuck going, he considered scrapping it and doing a crime story about Spades Slick and his gang instead. This would seem to be the alternate universe in which that happened. Right now they appear to be nothing but a colorful way of reminding the readers about using the save game feature. I spot my first retcon, there may have been others but this is the first one I noticed.

Note the ghostly arm in the upper left.

Rose and Dave have their first chat and we see their dynamic at work. The two of them egg each other on until, notably, Dave breaks and asks what she wants. She wants him to play Sburb with her and Dave invokes the trope of the Rash Promise.

TG: and look how about this
TG: if you ever find yourself in the position where your life depends on me playing that piece of shit game, then ill play
TG: will that make you happy
TT: More than you know.
TT: It perfectly mollifies my grief over the demise of chivalry.

The Rash Promise is a trope where the hero agrees to do something if some impossible circumstances are met. It is most often seen in medieval folklore and fairy tales, think Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

Meanwhile in the present, in a place where the present may be a concept of dubious merit, we return briefly to John and the voice in his head. Troubling developments in the form of viscous ooze are taking place but we don’t get long to investigate before we’re back following the tale of Dave and the missing game discs. Dave’s weapon is bladekind, of course.

In order to wield his ninja sword he needs to captchaplogue it and equip it to his strife specubus, but woops, there goes some apple juice onto his precious turntables and his copy of Sburb. He dries everything off with a towel and hangs the envelope up to dry when a rambunctious crow flies in through Dave’s window and tries to steal the discs! Then, woopsX2 combo.

I find this too cute.

There was some debate when the Gift of Gab merit badge was introduced late in the comic as to whether or not the characters had been able to speak before its introduction. Obviously they could or how else did Dave shout at and subsequently murder that bird?

Rose yanks the narrative back and we prepare for our second Guardian strife. Her relationship with her mother fascinates me. It’s a much more direct competition, a battle of wits, than anything Dave has going on with his Bro. Anyway, we meet the eldritch princess.

Thanks to John, we know where this is going.

And we see more of Rose’s silly side.

This is an important thing to remember about Rose.

A certain velvet cushion is captchaplogued and then just as we’re about to enter battle…. back to Dave. He has a message from Jade. This is notable because we get a taste of Jade’s weird ability to predict the future. And also for the smirk that launched a thousand ships.

When your character’s mouth is just a line, two pixels make all the difference.

Dave picks up his phone and suddenly we’re back to John. Sometimes Homestuck does transitions so amazing they could move a person to tears, but mostly there’s just nothing at all. Dave pesters John, so in a way we see him jump ahead in time. I also believe this is the first mention of Lil’ Cal. It’s also the first mention we get of a character’s race, but we’ll address all that some other time. I’m coming up to the edge of my word count and there’s important stuff just ahead. This is also the conversation that won Dave his “genre savvy” rank on the Tv Tropes page, in case you were curious.

We jump back and forth between John and Rose, both of whom are in the midst of strife, neither very successful. Mom pulls off some truly stunning puns. Another thing to miss about sylladices (the plural form appeared earlier in the session but I didn’t get the chance to mention it) is that they could be weaponized. After some struggle, Rose manages to retreat to the mausoleum and John puts the bunny back in the box. John levels up and we get some more glorious terms such as “echeladder” and “gel viscosity”, not to mention “ceramic porkhollow” which I think is a holdover from Problem Sleuth.

Also, John picks up a bunnykind strife card. Then he messes around with his inventory some more and we jump back to Rose.

Rose’s mom built a cat mausoleum with an independent generator, make of that what you will.

She makes it back online at last and Dave is pestering both her and John (like clockwork). Also, there was a second retcon smudge on the mausoleum cat’s head that the rain failed to wash away. Meanwhile, John has discovered something weird about his door. It’s back on its hinges after Rose ripped it off earlier. He investigates and…

Homestuck Nannasprite
Why yes, that is a blurry screen cap. Expect more of these.

Coming up next, futility and cookies, our future definitely contains at least one of those things.