Homestuck in review: The Internet’s first masterpiece

Andrew Hussie’s maximalist epic was new art for a new age

All of the characters in Homestuck, as of 2012. The main villain of the series hadn’t even been introduced yet. From

What is Homestuck?

One of Hussie’s less-weird early comics.
A screen from the 1980 game Mystery House.
The first panel of Jailbreak.
The first page of Problem Sleuth.
A panel from Problem Sleuth, featuring the main character using his tommy gun/typewriter to shoot strongly worded letters.

But really, what is Homestuck?

The first panel of Homestuck.
Quintessential Hussie riffing in an early Homestuck chapter. By the finale, this character is riffing on how to grow up with only masculine role models, and why his sarcasm masks anxiety over his path to adulthood.

If asked to define it, “a story that’s also a puzzle” is as close to true as any answer I’d give.

Why is Homestuck?

Problem Sleuth’s final panel.

The hero approaches three doors. Which will you choose? Obviously all three doors will be suggested with a large enough pool of suggestors, plus plenty of clever non sequitur “option D” commands. Knowing this, which door the hero goes through was always up to the author, whether he pre-planned it, or merely delayed the decision until the suggestions were made.

[There] will always be tension between the author and the suggestors, whose main purpose is to leave their distinctive personal stamp on the story, and as a result, often resort to the outlandish, the overly elaborate, or the non sequitur. These are fine to embrace in small doses, but they are poison to a cohesive story if resorted to regularly.

But that said, I don’t want to marginalize user input’s role in forming the story either. Some things, many things, enter the story that I just did not anticipate. Catch phrases especially seem to blossom through user commands. Things like “shit just got real”, or “punch ___ in snout to establish superiority”, or “ride ___ like mechanical bull”. All those and plenty more were originally authored by random users, who’s names I’ve long forgotten or never even knew, and unfortunately are relegated to a great pool of anonymous yet critical contributors to this story.

One of Homestuck’s most famous animated panels.

While the story includes hours of animation, and thousands of relatively static panels, the overarching experience is actually more similar to reading a book. […] The result is an unusual media hybrid. Something that reads like a heavily illustrated novel […] It’s a story I’ve tried to make as much a pure expression of its medium as possible.

You said this was a review. How is Homestuck?

An early attempt to map the relationships of some main characters, later complicated by the reveal that many characters’ parents were, uh, also their biological children.
Typical progress in Twitch Plays Pokemon.
Twitch Plays Pokemon fanart, from
Andrew Hussie writing Homestuck, while in Homestuck.

When you […] have your expectations subverted in in some way and say HUSSIE’S TROLLING US AGAIN, you sound silly. You sound like you don’t understand what trolling is, or what I’m actually doing here.

I’ve been trying to shake off all of my fans so hard for so long with my every story decision, but they are all such tenacious sons of bitches. I am the mailman. You are the yappy little dog. This site is my pant cuff.

There is a little truth to it, in the sense that creating alien kid characters who were both internet trolls, AND literal trolls could very well have been a kind of racial avatarization of my own semi-trolling tendencies as an author, which had been on display well before their appearance. Psyche-outs, cagey self referential stuff and the like, it’s all a little spunky, and I remain aware of this, and this stuff does fall into a certain class of trolling. Totally granted.

It’s all fuel for getting readers riled up a bit, and if you read it and get this itchy, agitated feeling in the back of your mind, that sensation is called “being trolled”.


None of this should be taken literally as a head-on attempt to troll the reader. It’s just not that black and white. The purpose here is still entertainment, and humor, and advancing the plot in ways that have not become clear yet. I think in working on the troll stuff I have learned a little about my own policy toward satire. It’s never absolute. Everything I mock is always embraced in some way.

There is a very real component of this that resembles a huge social experiment. I’m not just putting pressure on the limits of a story’s format. I appear to be doing this with the psyche of the readership as well. I have discovered many obscure buttons which can be pushed. I am taking extensive notes.

The meta-saturation of the story continues to fuel my interaction with the readers, and listening/responding to them probably keeps the relationship between the narrative and the reader still feeling like it is an open channel, even though suggestions have been closed for a while.

The story is really a kind of dialogue between the readers and author. There is always a sense that the story is aware of the individual reader, and the readership overall.

Jesus Christ. Holy shit. I meant like… this is supposed to be a review. How is it? Like is it any good?





Homestuck cosplayers at New York Comic Con 2012



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