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.

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