Hephaestian Shonen; Abraxian Tsundere
It’s time to talk about Davekat
This has been sitting in my asks for centuries, and while ive brushed up against them I’ve never QUITE felt confident doing Davekat meta — Dave and Karkat were simply too complex, even individually. Something always felt missing, and I had trouble feeling like I was really adding to the conversation coherently.
But now…now I finally feel ready, so let me try to explain. This is far from All There Is To Say on Dave or Karkat, but I think it’ll probably be a good start.
So LETS DIVE INTO…The animes.
To understand Dave and Karkat’s relationship to anime, we first have to understand them through the eyes of Caliborn. Caliborn is a seismic force in shaping both of their lives, and Homestuck — especially from Act 6 onwards but really for its entire run — is partly the story of how Lord English caused and controlled literally everything.
In other words, Caliborn’s mastery of the Mangas and attempt at writing Homosuck was just practice. Homestuck itself, as a story crafted by Lord English, is the anime he truly wished to create, and everyone in the cast is just living out his fantasy — until they escape it.
Caliborn’s Denizen — Yaldabaoth — is our guiding light here.
Yodelnoodle is an ancient god that comes from obscure sects of Early Christianity, and is essentially an interpretation of the God of the Old Testament — YHWH, Yehovah, etc — as a Demiurge.
The primary traits of the Demiurge are:
- An inability to grasp the world of ideas
- The flawed power to shape and create the entire physical world
- A degree of evil, or at least arrogance bordering on cruel hubris
So the Demiurge is the God who creates the whole universe — but can’t really think, and is kind of a bad artist. As a result, the world is full of pain and suffering.
This echoes how Lord English creates the reality of Homestuck — and in fact, LE’s biggest symbol of universal dominion is taken from Yaldyboggart himself: The physical Sun.
Homosuck marks the angry red sun that Dave and Terezi — on Beta Earth and Alternia, respectively — see as Caliborn’s red spiral symbol, which means that like the Green Sun, we can see the Red sun as a mark of Lord English’s dominion and influence over a world.
But Homestuck likes to play with its sources of inspiration, and the Demiurge was originally a Greek concept, not a Christian one. We can see Yaldabaoth in Homestuck as indicative of the status of Patriarch of a divine pantheon, but Caliborn draws from other deities of similar standing as Yaldabaoth proper.
Included in these are at least the Egyptian Patriarch Ra — who seems to frame a lot of Lord English’s actions on Alternia and his Egyptian motif — and the Greek Patriarch Zeus.
When Caliborn locks John and Dave away inside Homestuck, for example, he echoes the Greek myth where Zeus defeats Typheus/Typhon and traps him under Mt. Etna, the very same volcanic mountain where some of Hephaestus’ forges were said to reside. This connection established, let’s start with Dave.
Hephaestus was the God of the Forge, responsible for giving the Olympians their armor and weapons. So we can understand Dave’s Hephaestian role as being of Service to the Gods in general, but in particular to Zeus, and so to Yaldabaoth.
Dave’s role in his Sburb game is a direct echo of Hephaestus — his role is inherently servicial. He’s the one who generates the HARD CASH $$$ that lets the other Beta kids make all the weapons, outfits and tools they can dream of without really worrying about resources. Davesprite even gives John Hephaestus’ very own divine hammer.
He also spends pretty much his whole game helping his friends in their own endeavors, rather than taking initiative himself — the first half of his arc is spent running errands on Terezi and Rose’s behalfs, the latter is spent personally assisting Jade’s frog hunt, and the whole thing is capped off with rushing off to save Rose’s life even when she’s literally on a suicide mission.
He also happens to be uniquely helpful to the other components of Lord English — Hephaestus assisting the components of Zeus. He speaks to Equius the first time he interacts with Caledfwlch, the sword that is apparently Lord English’s only weakness, and destroys the sword, which Equius is predictably, erm…pleased by.
And he’s also the one who wakes Gamzee up to his true purpose, enabling Gamzee to take his place as one of Lord English’s most pivotal allies. As with Equius, Gamzee rewards Dave’s service with some degree of homo-eroticism.
But Dave’s wider narrative seems to be built specifically about Hephaestus’ mythology in relation to Zeus as a father figure. Which brings us to Homestuck’s other Yaldabaoth representative — Dirk, specifically Bro.
Depending on the story, Hephaestus is sometimes Zeus’ son, sometimes Hera’s. We’re going to roll with Hephy as Zeus’ son here, though, because Dave is biologically Dirk’s kid.
Zeus was not particularly kind to Hephaestus. One of the more notable myths between them involves Zeus kicking his son off of Olympus, the fall leaving the God with a permanent limp.
Bro breaking Dave’s sword and hobbling his strife specibus can be seen as a mythological echo of this tale, as it leaves Dave metaphorically limping not just with an inefficient weapon, but with a damaging sense of inadequacy and self-loathing.
But the more insidious and interesting dynamic at play here isn’t between Bro and Dave, but between Lil Cal and both Striders.
Dave is Caliborn’s favored Hero, his Alpha Male protag. Given that we know Bro was influenced by Lil Cal enough that he picked up some of Caliborn’s catchphrases and interests, Cal might’ve also excacerbated Bro’s desire to “train” Dave into Heroism.
Maybe because of this training, Dave is often linked to the male protagonists of heavily anime-inspired JRPGS — he brushes paths with Final Fantasy 7’s Cloud Strife’s Buster Sword early in his adventure, and the SORD… is a reference to the Cadalbolg, the ultimate weapon of Tidus, the protagonist of Final Fantasy 10.
Caladbolg’s acquisition happens to involve an overly complicated quest with significant parallels to Dave’s own ultimate sword, Caledfwlch. Dave has extensive character arc parallels with Tidus, too — including the daddy issues. And notably, Dave always rebuffs these weapons associated with traditional heroes, distancing himself from the archetype.
And what about Lil Cal’s influence on Dave himself? Just as Gamzee learned the truth about Homestuck from Lil Cal and Doc Scratch, Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff’s vaguely prophetic and metatextual qualities might be caused by Lil Cal whispering in Dave’s sleep, feeding him bits and pieces of Homestucks’ greater reality.
Dave’s early struggles with his sexuality and toxic, controlling behavior towards Jade in particular are likely also influenced by Caliborn’s virulent homophobia and misogyny, expressed through Lil Cal — Caliborn’s childish view of sexuality and intimacy, turned into a blade Dave turns onto both others and himself.
And the rumors that Dave would be the one to kill LE likely also stem from this source. Caliborn tries to empower Jake in the hopes of someday getting his ass kicked by him, prompting him to take his last name as Lord English. Training dudes he particularly likes into heroes who can beat him is sort of what he does.
So while Dave’s mythology includes being helpful to the various iterations of Yodelnoodle, it also includes someday Serving him defeat — which he achieves by destroying Union Jack. This event, like Jake’s beatdown of Caliborn, is also helpful to Lord English, since it spawns the black hole that sends Gamzee and the Crowbar to Caliborn’s side.
But Dave also subverts and denies his connection to Lord English entirely by the end, focusing on fulfilling that mythological parallel in service of Dirk instead of Caliborn.
In turn, he gives Dirk the chance to subvert his association with old Yogurtboner, letting him perform an act of redemption and penance that, hopefully, will help Dirk make some peace with the dark legacy of his various splinters as he seeks out his own path.
So that’s Dave’s Caliborn-enforced role as a Hero covered.
What about Karkat’s casting as a Heroine?
Abraxas is so heavily implied to be Karkat’s Denizen that it may as well be explicit. Abraxas and Yaldabaoth are the only denizens of explicitly Gnostic origins, and Karkat describes his denizen as the opposite of Yaldabaoth — weak and small where Yaldabaoth is the largest and most powerful.
Karkat interprets this as Sburb accounting for his own weakness, but that’s a superficial reading. What cements Karkat’s denizen as Abraxas is his description of the denizen’s all-knowing nature and processing of every factor of Karkat’s state of mind, as well as Karkat’s own subconcious understanding of the dynamic playing out between them.
Sure, all Denizens know a shitload. But they aren’t all known for this kind of omniscience: Cetus is mostly known for being cryptic, and Yaldabaoth in particular is described as being extremely aggressive, with extreme choices for his players. By contrast, Abraxas comes off as extremely informative.
This makes sense, because Yaldabaoth is a God with absolute power over physical reality. Abraxas presides over reality in its totality, but his true home, origin, and source of power is the realm of thought —
the World of Ideas.
A largely overlooked trait of Karkat’s is that he’s essentially the troll version of the Second Coming of Christ. And in Gnostic Myth, Christ isn’t an envoy of the God from the Old Testament, since that was entity was represented by Yoobieboobie.
Instead, Christ was an Aeon (an Idea-God, sort of like an angel that only exists as a concept in its natural state)— the original partner to Sophia, the spirit of Wisdom, in fact — sent to Earth by Abraxas to save humanity from Yadlenadle’s malicious will.
But even that doesn’t capture the full scope of the deity. Abraxas is described as the embodiment of the duality of all things — it’s not so much that it created existence, as that the experience of existence itself is a symptom of Abraxas’ relentless self-expansion.
Abraxas is itself, but it is also every Aeon, and every idea and thought in the world of ideas, and every manifestation of those ideas as they’re expressed in the world of matter. It is a being of married opposites and duality, and that means Yaldabaoth is an just another facet of it’s being, too.
Abraxas. Is. Everything.
So it’s no surprise that its Christ-like envoy is identified by the symbols 69 — a union of opposites, like an ouroboros.
And like Abraxas’ other representative — Jake English — this influence over all things means Karkat has some thematic sway over the story’s two most influential characters: Calliope and Caliborn.
Jake influences the Cherubs largely through his name — Callie carries the idea of English by speaking with a faux British accent, while Caliborn carries it’s physical form by taking Jake’s name as Lord English.
Like Karkat, the Cherubs both renounce hemotyping, speaking with variants of his grey. And both initially speak with different halves of Karkat’s All-Caps quirk — Callie capitalizing the U’s, Caliborn taking the rest of the alphabet.
Once Caliborn kills Callie, he completes Karkat’s quirk by taking her U’s as a trophy. Just as with English, Caliborn carries on Karkat’s Abraxian influence through blunt, physical reality.
Again, its Callie who takes on the spirit, carrying the Vantas legacy by wearing the symbols of the Sufferer on the cuffs of her sleeve. She’s obviously the Cherub more sympathetic to the Sufferer’s teachings, so this is no surprise.
Karkat, too, is a being of duality — he internalizes Alternia’s toxic culture more than almost any other troll, so Lord English’s influence poisons him as surely as it does Dave.
But as much as he wants to be the world’s baddest, cruelest, bestest troll on the surface, Karkat simply can’t commit. His nature is too bound to his compassion and connection to everyone around him.
The most obvious way Karkat connects to both Cherubs, however, is his symbolic connection to their Bloods. We’ve now confirmed the ancient theory that Karkat’s mutant red blood — matching Caliborn — is a deviation from the mysterious Lime Blood Caste —matching Callie. The Sign of the Signless is the True Sign for the entire rank, containing both crimson and lime hues.
There’s even a possibility that Karkat’s showcased a degree of the fearsome limeblood powers that Callie spoke about when he was calming Gamzee — the ability to pacify the cult that carries out Lord English’s will on Alternia would certainly be grounds for genocide, after all.
This has massive implications for Hiveswap, because it means learning anything about Limebloods might now tell us about not only what powers Calliope might be able to develop later into her life, but Karkat’s potential powers, as well. But that’s enough mythology bullshit. Let’s talk about what you all came for:
==>PSYCHE: DISCLAIMER INTERMISSION
Ok, quick point I feel is worth making here?
While Caliborn “ships” Davekat, and while he does seem to orchestrate most of Homestuck’s plot all the way up to [S] Credits, I’d really hesitate to say that Davekat exists as a result of his influence.
There’s nothing pointing that way in terms of Dave and Karkat’s arcs, and Caliborn’s interest in Davekat seems to have little to do with actual attraction to dudes and everything to do with overwhelming misogyny.
More to the point, Caliborn makes it pretty clear that Davekat’s appeal to him rests on Manga’s nature and the ability to just…draw boys who look more like girls, basically. Caliborn would not be pleased with this:
Because Dave and Karkat, together in actual physical reality, would just be a pair of dudes who like to kiss and cuddle and stuff. What Caliborn likes is a very overtly Anime approach to gay relationships, where it’s very clearly defined who’s the Seme/Manly Dude and who’s the Uke/Girly Dude.
This is a common Yaoi trope that ends up looking more like…well, this:
Than any actual mlm people out there. That covered, lets get back to it.
I am extremely lucky to be blessed with many talented friends. And in this case, that luck paid off long before I even actually made friends with the friend in question.
Because everything I could ever really say on Karkat’s end of the Hero/Heroine dichotomy was already said, better than I ever could, in a post by my pal saccharineScorpion written in December of 2011, years before Davekat or any of this Caliborn stuff was even a thing.
Some of the images on it are deprecated by now, so I’m just gonna let her do the talking while I back her up with notes, slight grammar edits, and updated images. All the following text was written by her.
“Here’s a surprising thing I want to suggest:
Karkat, for most of the comic, has very little effect on the plot.
I know this seems a bit weird to think of at first–I mean, he interacts with so many characters, and he’s very close to being a protagonist! But, let’s think for a second. Most of his influence in the story is based on character over plot.
[…] His duties boil down essentially to helping the others with their issues, usually romantic in nature. For all his bluster and bragging, Karkat is a nice guy — not a “Nice Guy,” but a decent good person who happens to be male.
He is a rarity among trolls, and his personality allows him to keep the team together through the game without letting themselves get caught up in their own personal dramas. He is an archetype that TvTropes refers to as “The Heart.”
In it’s simplest form, KK’s relationship with [his close friends] can be summed up as such:
CG: I HATE YOU, YOU SUCK
CG: WAIT OH SHIT WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU
CG: OH GOD NO NO NO NO NO
Obviously it’s a bit more complex that THAT, but in the simplest form, Karkat can be classified as a Tsundere: harsh and abrasive on the outside, soft and caring within.
Karkat’s biggest role in the story [ED’s Note: at time of writing-Dec. 2011], the culmination of his mediation and “tough love”, is the pacification of Gamzee.
This was a really good arc in that instead of resorting to killing as everyone else had so far, Karkat followed his ancestor’s footsteps to bring about an answer that DIDN’T have to result in more heartache.
But there’s something about the way he calmed Gamzee.
Where else have you seen an emotional, harsh-but-secretly-sweet character calm their friend/ possible love interest (who, based on the dynamics of moirailliegence, Gamzee is) who is going through a breakdown through a tender hug?
Why, just about EVERY SHOUNEN ANIME EVER!
See, this is The Big Secret I’ve realized about Karkat: he has the traits of basically every Shounen Main Female. He is abrasive. He is aloof and sarcastic.
Yet he is easy to cry, and easier to care. There are references to his strength, but it’s only really ever seen in passing. He is the glue that holds the other characters together.
He has complex love-hate relationships with those he cares about most. His biggest impacts on the plot have to do with helping others. In short, he is a very emotional character, and a very emotion-based character, which is fitting of the character based around the sign of Cancer.”
So yeah. Karkat isn’t a girl, but he’s deliberately crafted in the mold of traditionally female Anime heroes, despite the fact that he grows up believing in and wanting to be exactly the sort of violence fueled hero that Caliborn tried to shape Dave into becoming.
From there, Latia gets into some fandom commentary, making the interesting point that while Karkat was beloved by the 2011 fandom, a lot of older anime fandoms often hated the kind of female character he represents.
Much like Homestuck takes on other historically reviled subjects — like furries, juggalos, alternate sexualities and so on, this artistic choice seems like a deliberate subversion of a common social hypocrisy — this one in particular rooted in misogyny. Homestuck at its finest.
But in retrospect, what strikes me is how, relative to his popularity back at the height of the fandom — when this post was made — Karkat, even more than most of the characters, has fallen relatively out of grace with the fandom. Much like Homestuck’s canon itself.
He’s still celebrated by shipping fans, of course, but a large chunk of the fandom mourns his arc as an example of Homestuck’s “missed potential”. Because Karkat’s popularity back then came with strings attached, you know?
The celebration of Karkat, at its height, always came attached to the hype for Homestuck proper — the way possibility always seemed around the corner, and it seemed like every arc was headed in increasingly exciting and interesting directions.
And for Karkat in particular, there was always a sense that his relative “powerlessness” was temporary, a burden to be lifted when his arc finally reached its climax and he tapped into his “Real Shit” — when will he go
God Tier? When will he get Blood powers? When will he start fucking shit up and being a badass like the other kids?
But that “cool” and “powerful” Karkat never manifested. His arc went a different way, and a lot of fans are soured by that to the point that they believe Hussie was making a mockery of him. I know, because it’s a belief I lived through. I experienced the excitement and wonder and confusion and disappointment. I was there for the ride.
And I don’t fault anyone for wanting to see Karkat get more obvious superpowers — I’m the first to admit it’d be cool and cathartic as hell! I was literally arguing that Karkat’s arc isn’t over and Hiveswap may well clue us into what kind of more obvious powers he may manifest down the line, just a few paragraphs up!
But I think arguing Karkat is a good character because his arc Isn’t Over, Actually, and he could “get cool” down the line would be missing the point.
Karkat’s arc is about how he was always cool and powerful — it’s just that his power manifested in ways we aren’t really conditioned to see as power.
Which I think is kind of a shame. We now have explicit, canon confirmation that Blood has always been about relationships and bonds, and Karkat used that power to nullify the threat of the only enemy in Collide that literally nobody could have stopped otherwise.
Clover’s skill is his infinite luck, and literally no one in the cast was aware of that. Maybe Vriska could have stopped him by stealing his luck, but Vriska wasn’t there, and no one else in the cast was equipped to deal with him.
It would’ve actually been really easy for Clover to screw everything up for everybody simply by being an unstoppable distraction, if he’d gotten to the right place and time. If he’d been focused.
But that didn’t happen, because the luckiest outcome in the field of battle for a horny guy like Clover is finding a new romantic interest. And by unwittingly providing that, Karkat was able to make a crucial difference no one else could’ve made. Everyone has an important job to do.
And stopping Clover is far from the most important thing Karkat did with his Blood powers. Dave’s own narrative victory — his coping with his childhood abuse, and his escape from Caliborn’s perverse, demanding gaze — only happens because of Karkat.
Dave tells us he was only able to find his way out of the prisons his mind was trapped in because he started spending Time with people who cared about him. And nobody gave Dave more care or Time than Karkat, who spent the 3 year meteor journey basically lashed to his hip.
This isn’t even about Karkat deconstructing human sexuality or tearing into Bro or anything like that. This is about the fact that growing up is hard, especially when the people who were supposed to care about you didn’t, and sometimes the best thing you can do for someone dealing with that is just to be a friend.
Blood is essentially the Nakama aspect as much as the Shipping aspect or the Romantic Heroine aspect, if we’re dealing in fandom tropes — it’s about the power of being able to care about someone, being willing to invest in someone, showing up and staying close and continuing to give a shit, even when it’s difficult.
And that concept has always been really important to me, because I’ve been through what Dave went through — I’ve been in that dark place where you feel unwanted and unloved, broken and limping, feeling rejected by God and Father and the world itself. Feeling rotten about yourself. To the core.
I can’t really think of many things nobler than sticking by someone who is going through that. I definitely can’t think of gestures that have personally meant more to me. The people who stuck by me then are people I would die for, and I’d do it gladly, because I wouldn’t be here in the first place if not for them.
That’s the sort of power Blood has. I’m just saying, the experience Dave is describing is pretty real to me, and to many. And I can’t help but wonder how much better off we’d all be if everyone gave that experience the respect I feel it warrants.
But I guess I’m speaking from experience here— projecting onto the text is not my typical M.O., so I digress.
Still, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that every true source of evil in Homestuck is a very larger than life, yet unique and solitary force. Evil, Homestuck seems to suggest, isn’t so much unadulterated malice but simply an immaturity and callousness that makes it easy not to care about anyone else.
So the evil don’t have friends. They have tools and accomplices, to be exploited or worked with as is convenient.
And for all their glory and impact, capital H Heroes aren’t totally dissimilar. Their hearts may be in the right place, but often they’re simply too busy to dive into the messy and complex problems that come with their own feelings, or that of the people in their lives.
Alpha Rose and Dave were the noble last stands of humanity’s rebellion, but you don’t really get the sense they could rely on each other like “our” Rose and Dave do. Grandpa and Bro did their parts to help salvage the world, but both were shitty fathers who left their children feeling wounded and unwanted. Vriska is Vriska, what more is there to say there.
In his last pesterlog, Karkat is quite excited to give a speech. This isn’t suprising, but it has more weight than is immediately apparent. Again, Karkat is the second coming of a Prophet — an archetype strongly associated with giving speeches and communicating ideas in general.
And the events about to unfold are those that will finally fulfill the Sufferer’s prophetic sermons, and set Trollkind free from the blight of LE. This is a moment Karkat’s life was building to strange eons before Karkat’s life even began.
But it doesn’t actually turn out to be a speech to a crowd of soldiers ready to fight and die under his command. Instead, it’s a speech he delivers alone, a quirk picked up from his best friend and boyfriend’s habit of privately rambling to himself.
And all it turns out to be is a declaration of empathy, and a hope for what’s next. Once upon a time, Karkat would have conceived of this fight as the maximal culmination of his desire to lead, fight and conquer — the ultimate battleground on which to prove himself victorious. But here and now, he isn’t thinking about that.
What we get instead is a rambling look at how knowing Dave this long has changed Karkat — made him reconsider what he valued, made him shift his perspective and grow. A glimpse into how in helping Dave chase off the shadows Lord English cast on his heart, Karkat’s come a long way in breaking the shackles in his own mind, too.
When everyone else is thinking about the present, preparing for the fight that lays immediately ahead, it’s Karkat alone that, while gazing at the star that marks Lord English’s dominion over their reality, gives voice to the promise of the future that exists beyond him.
Karkat doesn’t care about the glory the battle will bring Dave or how cool he’ll get to be (he does get to be pretty cool in Collide). He’s just worried about the moments that will come after the battle, when it’s time to lick their wounds and heal. When that time comes, he just wants Dave to be ok.
Because to us Collide was a climax, but to Karkat it’s just the last obstacle on the horizon, you know? After this, there’s supposed to be peace, and growth, and freedom to play and heal. After this he wants to hang out with Dave again. After this he wants to help bring a world into being, and share it with his friends.
And I lied, I’m not digressing, I’m gonna project some more personal shit again all over this bullshit. Look. Please, whoever you are, whether you liked this or loathed it — if you got this far, thank you. Please, please, please listen, because this last bit is the most important thing I have to say.
I look at the news or out the window nowadays and I feel deeply, deeply scared. The world often feels like it’s turning into a really ugly place, where a great battle between irreconcilable desires is inevitable.
Truth be told, to me it feels like the fight is already here and has already smashed my life to pieces. And everywhere I turn it seems like most are ready and raring to fight some more, without a care for the bloodied and wounded.
And I’m just…not. I don’t want to fight. I just want a world where me and my friends can be happy, and where there’s a future we can all look forward to — together.
So it really matters to me that this is the last message Karkat has to give us.
That the last beat in his story isn’t some over-complicated statement of ideology, or even a profound moment of glory, but just the simple warmth and worried fear of looking out for a friend.
Whatever else can be said about Homestuck as it stands right now, I think that message is really important. I think it’s really good. Not enough people are thinking like that right now, it feels like, and if they are they sure aren’t talking about it much.
So I’m deeply glad Hussie wrote this the way he did, whether or not Karkat ever gets more time in the spotlight of the What Pumpkin Extended Universe’s sun, or whatever the hell the epilogue turns out to be. I know it’s not a grand epic overture or whatever, but honestly, in times like these I think we could all do with going back to simpler lessons in storytelling.
Like the message that we’re all doing the work of society together, we’re all stuck together whether we like it or not, and ultimately righteous victory probably shouldn’t matter to us as much as the well-being of our fellows and friends.
I just wish more people could see that, you know? But I don’t mean it bitterly. That’s why I’m writing this, after all — I believe that with time, more people will. And if me putting my thoughts out there can help shift our collective inertia one centimeter in that direction, then I kinda have to, don’t I?
I feel like I owe it to myself, and to you. So hey, whoever you are, whether you like what I’m writing or not — I hope that somehow, someday, we can be friends. And I hope you’re ok.
Thanks for reading all this. Keep rising.
Credit goes to Griever, author of Jojostuck, for the Dave|Tidus connection. Check out his fan adventure here if you like Jojo’s Bizzare Adventure, it’s a really fun time!
And go check out everything @saccharinescorpion ‘s ever made btw. Pheonix Flair is incredible and excellently gay, all of her short stories and games are amazing, her media analysis ranges from excellent to outright prophetic in this case, and she deserves the support.