Pages 47-137 (MSPA: 1947-2037)
Act 1, Part 2 of 3
Here’s a retroactive “title picture” to streamline this blog series a bit (see post 30 for an explanation of these). You’ll see a lot of these soon, unless the first picture I previously used in the post already makes a good title picture.
One-man birthday party?
Continuing from where we left off, John leaves his bedroom to go to the first floor of his house, to sneak around and obtain his discs of Sburb. We see a living room filled with clown pictures which suggest that his father is obsessed with clowns, a birthday present, and his grandmother’s ashes. It’s also mentioned for the first time that John hates Betty Crocker, marking the first indirect mention of one of the comic’s main villains, although the whole evil Betty Crocker thing would for a long time thereafter remain merely a joke. Besides the numerous clowns, there isn’t much remarkable in John’s living room, especially compared to what we see with the other kids.
Immediately after we learn the ashes are his grandmother’s, John topples them in a lampshadedly predictable fashion. Then, he opens one of his birthday presents from his father: a clown doll, which becomes a major plot point in the most convoluted way possible. Things being major plot points in the most convoluted ways possible is a recurring theme in Homestuck: the clown doll is just a single link in a massive chain of events that is connected on one side to Mr. Egbert thinking his son likes clowns, and on the other side to Rose prototyping the doll. The chain of events involves both Betty Crocker and Insane Clown Posse and, mainly through Jack Noir, leads to the universe’s destruction, which is actually not all that big of a deal because the universe was already left behind by our heroes.
After this, John talks to his other friend Rose, who is portrayed as the “smart one” among the kids. They discuss Sburb, and Rose correctly guesses that he is wearing a silly disguise to sneak around and avoid his father—why is that? This is a moment exemplifying the human emotion of friendship that is worth discussing. Rose clearly knows John well if she’s able to guess that he’s wearing a disguise. She probably can predict his behavior patterns due to their friendship, or maybe because she finds him to be predictable. That’s kind of Rose’s deal, analyzing and knowing stuff.
Maybe this moment is foreshadowing Rose’s future role as a seer? It’s probably not quite foreshadowing as in Hussie planned it from the start (which is not the case for most of Homestuck’s plot), but maybe “retroactive foreshadowing” so to speak (see also the picture below). The role of a seer is also held for a time by Jade but in a different way, where her dreams give her visions of the future that essentially manipulate her into causing the things that are meant to happen, to happen—things being simply meant to happen, whether they’re beneficial or detrimental or both to our heroes, is another recurring theme in Homestuck.
John goes on to screw around in his dad’s study, and then comes the first sound page: John playing a haunting piano refrain. All sound pages, and some non-sound pages, are made using Flash; this one is pretty simplistic, but later sound pages become truly stunning animations where a whole bunch of stuff happens—the first such animation is the one that concludes act 2.
The title card’s sun “retroactively foreshadowing” Vriska.
When John leaves his house, windy sounds play as florid poetry is narrated and John looks outside, and the word “HOMESTUCK” appears in the sky, creating Homestuck’s title card depicted above 82 pages into the story. The narration remarks that John has a feeling it’s going to be a long day. He then goes to the kitchen for an encounter with his father, who sees through his son’s disguise, and so John fights him video game-style in the comic’s second interactive page (first was a page where John examined his CD games in the part I covered last week). John uses his smoke pellets to set off the smoke alarm and distract his father, and get his dad’s PDA and the Sburb beta. This means that even though John got Sburb for his birthday, he essentially stole the beta—something I noticed on my first read-through in which I regrettably skimmed everything.
Before we go on, I’d like to note something about how heavily the tone of Act 1 differs from what Homestuck is like now. Three in-story years and countless large-scale events later, when John meets Roxy and upon her request tells her his whole story, he starts with:
JOHN: i heard about this awesome game, or at least one i thought was awesome, and i wanted to play it with my friends.
JOHN: but it wasn’t so easy to start. i had to get it from the mail, which meant sneaking around the house while avoiding my dad.
JOHN: which was kind of stupid and childish in retrospect, but blah blah blah.
(Note: “blah blah blah” is there because at this point, Roxy starts tuning him out and considering him as boyfriend material.)
It’s interesting how those childish antics peppered throughout the early acts are brought up and reflected on as stupid much later. But holy balls am I getting way ahead of myself. So let’s get back to where we were.
Back to where we were, John goes to his room, and while he was getting his discs, we learn that he got messages from his other other friend whose name is later revealed to be Jade, and from Dave as well. We don’t learn much about Jade other than that she’s a girl (through Dave’s line “did you do something to curry favor with ladies”), and that she seems to be rather enthusiastic given her usage of multiple exclamation points and heart emoticons. Dave, however, talks to John still more, and they talk about the Ben Stiller shades John got Dave for his birthday.
Homestuck contains what it almost was.
John does a bit more stuff on his computer, including going to MS Paint Adventures to read the webcomic-within-a-webcomic Midnight Crew adventure, and installs the Sburb beta. We learn from the command prompt-style installation window that Sburb was made by a so far mysterious company called Skaianet, a company that the kids’ guardians save John’s father are known to be involved with. Along with his beta, John took a package containing his present from Dave: the stuffed bunny from his favorite movie, Con Air (another object that becomes a plot point in a really convoluted way). Over a thousand pages later, we get to read the rather heartwarming letter Dave sent with the bunny. We don’t read it right away for two reasons. First, because the letter is shown at a time where it’s particularly appropriate: when John reconsiders blasting off to his seventh gate like Terezi made him do in a doomed timeline after remembering his letter from Dave. Second, because at this point it seems out of character for a guy who from what we know doesn’t give half a shit about stuff to write such a letter.
After this, John talks to Rose, who also got Sburb and just established a connection with him, and I’ll end this post at Sburb’s loading screen, a cool animation which Hussie once said was his first all-nighter animation.
Next time I’ll round out act 1 as John, Rose, and the reader get acquainted with the game’s bizarre interface.